Not those guys. But there are Ms in the postseason this year. Seriously. Once a Mariner, always a Mariner.
Sixteen — enough for a questionable starting rotation, a damn fine bullpen, and a full contingent in the field — went into the playoffs last week on seven different teams. Plus a couple honorable mentions:
Gotta start with Ron Fairly, whose 14-year color commentary career with the M’s broadcast team got him the nickname Ron Fairly Obvious as he bleated wisdom like “When ya strike out — nothing happens!”
But the Fairly truism that haunted the Yankees in Game Two of the division series was “Y’know, Dave… the best thing about a five-run lead? The grand slam can’t beat ya.” And you know Niehaus had to grind that out in his head for a minute.
Dave was too nice to ask Ron, “Hey genius, don’t you think, if you build up a five-run lead, then you let three guys get on base, then you give up a home run… You’re not done freaking choking?”
Which is what happened last Friday. With the Bronx Bombers up 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the Indians load the bases. Ron’s voice soothed the memories of this Yank fan. No way, don’t worry, the salami can’t beat us. But Niehaus was right, at least if that’s what Dave was thinking about choking, and sure enough, Francisco Lindor belts the dinger, now it’s 8-7, Jay Bruce ties it in the eighth, the game goes to extra innings, and ex-Mariner Austin Jackson walks to lead off the thirteenth (walking the leadoff man was another Fairly Obvious favorite), steals second, and scores the walkoff run on a Yan Gomes RBI single. Sadly for Jackson, this was not his last game-ending turn of this series. See below.
But enough about Ron Fairly. Check out these guys
Doug Fister, Red Sox — The well-traveled Fister (nine seasons, five teams) went 5-9 as a starter for the Sox, then, in his tenth career postseason appearance, gave up three runs in just 1.1 innings pitched. The Sox came back and won that one, but lost the series, and Fister sits at home watching the Astros.
Taijuan Walker, Diamondbacks — That Jean the Hittin’ Machine trade was going to propel the Ms into the playoffs, remember? Yep. It propelled former Mariners Walker and Ketel Marte right in there with the D-Backs. After throwing .500 in 28 starts for Arizona, Taijuan made his first career postseason appearance only to see the Dodgers bat around on him in the first inning. He gave up four runs and took the loss.
Michael Pineda, Yankees — on the DL, again, the Diabolical One nevertheless collects his $7.4 million salary on the 40-man roster. There are those who believe the whole damn world order was thrown off when this dominating fireballer went to the Yankees for Jesus “Ice Cream Man” Montero. Makes a ton of sense.
Tyler Olson, Indians — Yeah, who? The Spokane native made his major league debut with the Mariners in 2015, wandered around between Seattle, New York, LA, and Kansas City for a year and a half before being picked up off waivers by the Indians in the middle of 2016. In 2017’s regular season, and the following is not a typo, Tyler appeared in 30 games for the Tribe, recording a 0.00 ERA in 20 innings pitched. And in the playoffs he continued with another three appearances, allowing just one hit and not a single earned run. Bummer his team fell to the Yanks. Well, bummer for him. Not for the Yanks or for all that is good in the world.
Mike Montgomery, Cubs — at this writing, the 2016 Playin in the Dirt Ex-Mariner of the Year has just one postseason appearance in 2017, giving up two runs in just two thirds of an inning for a monstrous 27.00 ERA. But he’s still in the hunt for the next round as the Cubs play the deciding NLDS game with the Nationals later today. And that’s more than you can say for…
…Carson Smith, Red Sox — and that’s a bummer for him. Carson posted a 0.96 ERA in eleven appearances with the Sox since coming over from Seattle with Roenis Elias for Jonathan Aro and Wade Miley. Jeez, Jerry Dipoto, how’d that all work out for ya… naaah we’re not getting into that now. Carson kept it up in the series against the Astros, pitching twice without giving up a run.
Roenis Elias, Red Sox (40-man roster) — he was there if they needed him, after rehabbing in the minors all year and making just one big league appearance, in September. This guy is a hell of a story.
Brandon Morrow, Dodgers — this one starts to just make you want to bang your head against the wall. The former first round draft choice (2006) was traded to the Jays for Brandon Freaking League, for god sake. He was released by the Jays, then by the Padres, and picked up as a free agent in January of this year. He proceeded to pitch in 45 games for the Dodgers, going 6-0, with a 2.02 ERA. He’s already made three postseason appearances, giving up just one run.
Fernando Rodney, Diamondbacks — that hat, man. Really? OK so the hat and the arrow shooting thing and what not were awesome when he led the league for the Ms with 48 saves in 51 opportunities. But that’s the thing with closers, all the hype and swagger and machismo gets damn old real quick when you save sixteen the next season but blow six. So he went to the Cubs, Padres, and Marlins in a year and a half, settling in for a full season with the D-Backs and netting 39 saves. At age 40, he’s still out there, staying ahead of his Ross Eversoles moment. But man. That hat.
Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks — ahh the prophecy of Seattle sports radio. “Ketel Marte is not going to get you to the playoffs,” they spouted in 2015. Well, yeah. That was true. He got Arizona to the playoffs, even without Jean the Hittin’ Machine.
Chris Taylor, Dodgers — alert reader “Eric of Spokane” insists Taylor will be the the ex-Mariner of the Year. Which only proves Playin’ in the Dirt has a reader. That said… the former weak-hitting Mariner is leading off for the Dodgers in the postseason, still basking in the afterglow from a year and a half ago as his first major league home run was a grand slam. And he’s picked up some power this year, drilling 21 with 72 RBI in 2017.
Adam Lind, Nationals — OK, so this guy is, like, Mister Excitement. He appeared in 126 games for the Mariners, alternating at first base with Dae-ho Lee, and batted .239 before getting released. So the Nationals grab him as a free agent and he bats .303, with another 2-for-2 off the bench in the playoffs. Apparently lightning has struck. A year too late for the Mariners.
Chris Ianetta, Diamondbacks — a .231 career hitter, he went 20 points below that last year with the Ms. this year he hit 20 points above that for Arizona. He appeared in 89 games as a reserve catcher. It’s stuff like this that makes a fan wonder, watching the glorious untouchable hitting coach Edgar Martinez at the dugout railing… what’s he thinking? What’s he doing wrong? And how long are they going to keep letting him do it?
Leonys Martin, Cubs — Leo brings his laughter, his defense, his speed, and his .154 average to the world champions. And he scored the winning run in NLDS game three, as a pinch runner.
Abraham Almonte, Indians (40-man) — someone, probably Rick Rizzs who calls everything “the ___est ______ in baseball,” called Abe “the fastest man in baseball” when he debuted in 2013. Which would be cool if he could hit. But give him credit, five seasons, three teams, hanging in.
Austin Jackson, Indians — last seen waiting at the station watching strike three go by from Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth to end the game, the series, the season for the Indians. Two strikes two outs, everything riding on that ball coming at him, and he was stuck waiting. Think he’ll dream of that one for a while? His Indians choked away a two-game lead as the Yankees swept the next three. But no matter what you think of the Indians, or how much you love the Yankees, man… there is humanity in baseball, and you gotta pity Austin Jackson.
Postscript on Fairly, and if you’re still reading this it’s much appreciated, here’s a real-life glimpse of life in the majors in the 1960s “Golden Era” some of us lucky ones grew up loving. This story was pulled from a Mariners blog post the day in 2006 when Ron announced his retirement from the booth:
In 1965, on the last day of the season, with the Dodgers having clinched the pennant the night before, manager Walter Alston let [radio announcer Vin] Scully manage, over the radio, from the booth. A very hung over Ron Fairly drew a walk (“He didn’t trot to first base. He didn’t really walk to first base. He sloshed to first base”), and Scully thought it would be fun to have Fairly, slow-footed in the best of times, steal.
“For those of you in the ballpark with transistor radios listening,” Scully said, “watch Fairly’s face when he looks over to third and gets the steal sign.” After a double take for the ages by Fairly and a foul ball by the hitter, Scully had Fairly go again, and he made it, thanks to the catcher dropping the ball. At that, Scully retired from managing: “All right, Walter,” he said, “I got you this far. Now you’re on your own.”