August 2009

Juniors return — in book form

The heralded return of Ken Griffey Jr. to the Mariners this season is now a children’s book.

Through a collaborative effort between Jarrett Mentink,Ph.D and illustrator Patrick Carlson, “The Kid Returns” has hit various bookstores in the Northwest.

The 32-page, hard-bound book takes the reader on a memorable journey through the years — from when he was a 19-year-old known as “The Kid” to the 39-year-old father of three and leader in the Mariners clubhouse while winding down his Hall of Fame career.

The author, who operates “Kids In the Clouds”, a children’s book company he formed in 2002, will be at the Safeco Field Team Stores on from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday for a book-signing.

“The Kid Returns” retails for $12.95 and proceeds go to the Ken Griffey Jr. Family Foundation which supports children’s causes throughout the United States, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Seattle and Cincinnati Children’s Hospitals and Disney Children’s Hospital.

— Jim Street

junior photo.JPG

Beltre pays price for not using protective cup

A couple of years ago during Spring Training, Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre explained during an interview that he doesn’t wear a cup — a piece of equipment worn to protect one of the most vital areas of your body.

He said he wore one once, but it didn’t feel comfortable so he never wore one again and didn’t think twice about it.

He was asked if he ever worried about getting hit “there” and he said “no” because he trusted his hands, which always had been quick enough to react to the hot shots hit to him while playing the hot corner.

But in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 14-inning game against the White Sox, Beltre’s hands were not quick enough. A ball hit by Alexei Ramirez hit Beltre just below the belt buckle. The 3B jumped high (who could blame him?) as the ball rolled away.

Beltre had the presence of mind to go after the ball pick it up with his bare hand and try to get the out at first base. He ended up with a throwing error — and perhaps surgery as he suffered a “contusion of his right testicle.”

He somehow played the remainder of the game without showing any outward signs of the severe pain he must have been experiencing. Anyone who has been hit “there” knows what I’m talking about.

Beltre shrugged it off, singled in the 14th inning, dove back into first base to avoid a pickoff throw, went to second on a walk and scored the game-winning run on Ken Griffey Jr.’s single to right field.

Only then did Beltre mention that he got hit “there”.

He was hurt so bad that on Thursday afternoon he was placed on the 15-day disabled list and might need surgery to repair the damage to his right testicle.

“He’s awfully tough. I couldn’t even imagine,” manager Don Wakamatsu said.

And now for tonight’s starting lineups:

Yankees

Derek Jeter, SS

Johnny Damon, LF

Mark Teixeira, 1B

Hideki Matsui, DH

Nick Swisher, RF

Robinson Cano, 2B

Melky Cabrera, CF

Jerry Hairston, 3B

Jose Molia, C

CC Sabathia, LHP

Mariners

Ichiro Suzuki, RF

Franklin Gutierrez, CF

Jose Lopez, 2B

Mike Sweeney, DH

Russell Branyan, 1B

Kenji Johjima, C

Jack Hannahan, 3B

Josh Wilson, SS

Michael Saunders, LF

Ian Snell, RHP

— Jim Street

Saluting a class act

national anthem.JPGAs one of many thousands of Americans who have been involved in a war — Vietnam, 1968-69 for me — there are certain things that stand out.

One of them for me is the way so many Mariners are on the field during the National Anthem.

So I asked manager Don Wakamatsu about it.

“I think it’s important to show respect to all the soldiers who are fighting for us, which allows us to play this game,” he said. “I think it shows disrespect sometimes when guys don’t come out.”

During a recent series against the Blue Jays, I counted the difference. There were 23 players, coaches or other club personnel standing in front of the first-base dugout during the playing of both National Anthems. There were two players from the Blue Jays — one standing on the top step of the dugout and one in shallow left field, in sight.

Among the topics Wakamatsu discussed with his players during Spring Training  was being on the field during the National Anthem.

“It’s not a mandated thing,” he said. “But when you see guys like (Mike) Sweeney and Griff (Ken Griffey Jr.) out there showing their respect for the people fighting overseas, it’s nice. We  have received letters from soldiers all over the world expressing their gratitude, but that’s not the reason we do it.”

They do it because it’s a respectful thing to do.

And whenever a color guard is included in the National Anthem, you will notice that the Mariners don’t immediately walk away after the National Anthem is finished.

“We stay out there until they unholster the flag,” Wakamatsu said.

When the Yankees and Mariners begin a four-game series tonight at Safeco Field, it will be interesting to see how many players from each team are on the field with their caps off and their attention on the latest rendition of our National Anthem.

Call me old and naive, but it seems to me that it’s far more important for every MLB team to be on the field during the National Anthem than how many gladiator helmets are in the bullpen.

— Jim Street

Sun shines, Silva throws BP session

The sun is out here at Safeco Field and a few things are happening on the field.

Rookie pitcher Doug Fister is leaning against the dugout protection barrier chatting on his cell phone, perhaps conducting an interview with a central California radio station discussing his impressive debut last night. He held the White Sox to one hit over six scoreless innings. He is from Merced and attended Fresno State — which, by the way, is the choice of hats today.

Shortstop Jack Wilson went into the dugout after being interviewed by FSN’s Brad Adam.

As we speak, right-hander Carlos Silva and head athletic trainer Rick Griffin are walking in from the bullpen in left-center field. Silva, who has been on the disabled list most of the season, just threw a BP session and it will be interesting to get his take on how it went.

Here are some little tidbits for ya: Ichiro comes into the game with 167 hits and 66 runs scored. He is trying to extend two streaks — 200 hits and 100 runs scored in nine consecutive seasons. The former figures to be a cinch, the latter not so much.

Second baseman Jose Lopez is on pace to hit 22 home runs and 40 doubles. If he does both, he would become the 14th second baseman in MLB history to be in the 20-40 club.

Meanwhile, the lineups are in and here they are:

White Sox

Scott Podsednik, CF

Gordon Beckham, 3B

Alex Rios, RF

Jim Thome, DH

Carlos Quentin, LF

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Alexei Ramirez, SS

Mark Kotsay, 1B

Jason Nix, 2B

Mariners

Ichiro Suzuki, RF

Franklin Gutierrez, CF

Jose Lopez, 2B

Mike Sweeney, DH

Adrian Beltre, 3B

Russell Branyan, 1B

Jack Wilson, SS

Rob Johnson, C

Ryan Langerhans, LF

— Jim Street

Following the law to a T

I feel much better about myself today. I did not jaywalk on my short walk from the parking garage to Safeco Field. I have cut corners and crossed the street illegally for almost every home game during the past eight-plus seasons and the guilt is almost unbearable.  Never again!!!! Not after what happended to White Sox GM Ken Williams on Monday. He had the audacity to cross Edgar Martinez Drive where there actually wasn’t a crosswalk — and was fined $56.

I stood on that same corner this afternoon and watched six people cross the street. Not one of them received a ticket for jaywalking. But, being a good, law-abiding citizen, I walked all the way to First Ave., waited for the sounds of the beep to stop, noticed the white light of a pedestrian walking light up, and walked across the street.

As I got to the other side, about three feet from the curb, a white SUV nearly ran me over. He didn’t get a ticket, but scared the beejeebers out of me. I wondered where Roscoe the jaywalker preventer was when I needed him. Arghh!!!!.

Anyway, if you must jaywalk…do it in chicago or new york, or los angeles, or even bellevue. As Roscoe would say — NOT IN SEATTLE!

As for SUV’s on the road in Seattle — cross streets at your own risk!

As for the game against the White Sox tonight, the lineups have been posted….

White Sox

Scott Podsednik, CF
Gordon Beckham, 3B
Jermaine Dye, RF
Jim Thome, DH
Paul Konerko, 1B
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Carlos Quentin, LF
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Chris Getz, 2B
John Danks, LHP

Seattle
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Franklin Gutierrez, CF
Jose Lopez, 2B
Mike Sweeney, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Russell Branyan, 1B
Jack Wilson, SS
Kenji Johjima, C
Michael Saunders, LF
Doug Fister, LHP

— Jim Street

Ozzie not a big hit with remarks

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sure stirred up a hornet’s nest a few days ago when he promised to retaliate when his hitters get plunked by pitches.

That Ozzie is such a character.

But his comments will be one of the sidelights to the three-game series between the Mariners and White Sox, which begins tonight at Safeco Field.

The Sox have been hit 44 times by pitches this season, compared to 29 HBPs for the Mariners. That would suggest that either the White Sox hit a lot more home runs than the Mariners, which they do — 135-105 — or the Mariners are quicker in the batter’s box and can elude body-seeking pitches.

I think it’s probably a combo of both.

The Sox, by the way, rank third in the AL behind the Indians (65) and Red Sox (47).

Individually, Carlos Quentin is tops on the Chicago team with nine HBPs and Paul Konerko is second with eight.

For the Mariners, Russell Branyan leads with way with nine HBPs, but I have yet to here either him, or manager Don Wakamatsu, complain about it.

Anyway, it’s down the elevator shaft and into the clubhouse to check out the lineup and other tidbits.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

White Sox

Scott Podsednik, CF

Gordon Becham, 3B

Jermaine Dye, RF

JIm Thome, DH

Paul Konerko, 1B

Carlos Quentin, LF

Alexei Ramirez, SS

Jayson Nix, 2B

Ramon Castro, C

 

Mariners

Ichiro, RF

Franklin Gutierrez, CF

Jose Lopez, 2B

Ken Griffey Jr., DH

Adrian Beltre, 3B

Russell Branyan, 1B

Jack Wilson, SS

Kenji Johjima, C

Michael Saunders, LF

— Jim Street

A baseball writing superstar exits

The economy and demise of newspapers around the country has claimed another victim.

This time, Hall of Fame  baseball writer Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News is retiring “early”  because his employer informed him that the paper would not be covering the Reds on the road beginning next season. Too expensive. So Hal, inducted into the Hall of Fame seven years ago, decided that this will be his final year on the beat.

“The hammer fell today,” he wrote, “and it hurts like hell. My run is over– 37 years of bliss, doing a job that wan’t a job. It was pure joy and fun.”

I’m not the only one feeling bummed about the news.

Ken Griffey Jr. heard about it prior to Thursday’s game against the Royals. “It wasn’t  voluntary, and that’s too bad,” said Griffey, who lists McCoy on his short list of good writers, good person, an oxymoron in far too many cases these days of blogs, twitters and what have you.

McCoy, 68, came from the old school of journalism, where “Me, myself and I” were words never used. Nowadays, far more than a Baker’s dozen disguised as baseball reporters use the word “I” more times than they use the word “and”. Arghhhh!!

McCoy covered Junior for nearly 10 years with the Reds, and before that his father, Ken Griffey Sr. during the Big Red Machine era during the 1970s.

When it was announced at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December 2001 that McCoy had been selected as the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame the following July, the first congratulatory phone call he received was from Junior. That  call probably meant as much to McCoy as the honor itself. If not, why would he call me over to his working space in the press room at the hotel and say, “You’ll never guess who just called me.”

Griffey must have some kind of speed-dial on his phone.

About one year after his induction, McCoy had a stroke that left him legally blind. But, with his newspaper’s assistance, he hasn’t missed a beat since.

Anyway, from one old codger to another, here’s a high-five to one of the best baseball writers of all-time. Salute.

— Jim Street

So long to Corcoran and Woodward

From Unsung Hero one year to Unemployed the next.

That’s the case for right-hander reliever Roy Corcoran, who was designated for assignment 10 days ago and cleared waivers on Monday. But, according to the Everett Herald’s Kirby Arnold, Corcoran refused an assignment to Triple-A Tacoma and is now a free agent.

Corcoraan was one of the few feel-good stories during last season’s 101-loss season, when he appeared in 50 games and posted a 6-2 record and 3.22 ERA, He was a hoot to be around, a colorful character for sure.

An injury this spring prevented the popular Corcoran from returning to his ’08 form and he spent more time in the Minors in the Majors.

In somewhat of a surprise, the Mariners just announced that infielder Chris Woodward was designated for assignment, a move that cleared a roster spot for third baseman Adrian Beltre — who was activated off the 15-day disabled list.

The starting lineups have been posted:

Mariners

Ichiro, RF

Russell  Branyan, 1B

Jose Lopez, 2B

Ken Griffey Jr., DH

Adrian Beltre, 3B

Franklin Gutierrez, CF

Kenji Johjima, C

Jack Wilson, SS

Michael Saunders, LF

Royals:

David DeJesus, LF

Willie Bloomquist, CF

Billy Butler, 1B

Mark Teahen, RF

Alberto Callaspo, 2B

Brian Pena, C

Miguel Olivo, DH

Alex Gordon, 3B

Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

— Jim Street

Big night for Morrow, Tui

The news coming out of Tacoma last night was good, to say the least. Right-hander Brandon Morrow finally won his first game of the season — at any level — and third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo continues to improve after missing most of the season because of elbow surgery.

In my opinion, these two guys are important to the future success of the Mariners.

Morrow has gone back-and-forth between starting and relieving so many times that it’s no wonder he has struggled and messed with the “belief system” manager Don Wakamatsu believes in so much. Perhaps last night’s game against Fresno will be the first big step in Morrow’s comeback.

Morrow held the Grizzlies to two runs over seven innings, struck out eight and walked one. He changed speeds and used his slider to complement his fastball. In a word, he “pitched”.

There is little doubt that Morrow has the arsenal to be a successful starter for the Mariners down the road, as long as the organization makes a decision to put him a starting role and keep him there. The Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain has developed into one of the team’s top starters this season after being moved from the ‘pen to a starting role last season. Just as Morrow, Chamberlain needed time to make the adjustment.

Morrow threw 89 pitches during the seven-inning stint and almost half of them were something other than his high-powered fastball.

Meanwnhile, Tuiasosopo has turned things around. After enduring a 1-for-27 skid from July 25 through August 1,the third baseman is 7-for-10 with two home runs and seven RBIs in his last three games.

He still has played only 26 games this season, which has stunted his growth into becoming a Major League third baseman.

In an unrelated matter, the Mariners open a three-game series against the Royals tonight and, among other things, it will be a chance to see shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt for the first time since being traded to Kaycee. He has struggled even more for the Royals than he did with the Mariners, showing virtually no patience at the plate. He is 8-for-57 with one walk as a Royall, giving him a .153 on-base percentage.

Betancourt is just one of several former Mariners on the K.C. team. Others are pitcher Gil Meche, currently on the 15-day disabled list but due back later this week, infielder Willie Bloomquis, batting .265 in a career-high 283 at-bats, outfielder Jose Guillen, also on the 15-day DL, and catcher Miguel Olivo, who is tied for the team lead with 14 home runs.

— Jim Street

Junior socks it to 400th victim

Ken Griffey Jr. added Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter to his long list of home run victims.

Hunter became the 400th big-league pitcher to surrender a home run to Junior, who sent a full-count pitch onto the grass in center field for a three-run homer in the first inning. It was Griffey’s 11th of the season (the first since July 1 against the Yankees in New York) — and 622nd of his career.

The blast also scored Ichiro Suzuki and Jose Lopez, who were aboard via a single and walk, respectively.

— Jim Street