Some unsolicited advice from the Twitter mailbag that will still be useful: If you are going to be forced into a mandatory 14-day quarantine because one of your parents tested positive for COVID-19 while you are visiting home in Montana, it’s better to do so when the high temps are above 19 degrees and it’s not during election season.
The World Series has been a welcome reprieve — yes, listening to Joe Buck and John Smoltz is better than any of the endless array of negative political ads from both parties — but it doesn’t seem as though it will go seven games. Please Tampa, find a way to give us a Game 7.
Once baseball is done, only the ads will remain until Nov. 3, which happens to be the day when this quarantine ends … hopefully.
It’s an odd feeling waiting for test results that you expect to be positive despite having no symptoms. It’s like watching Fernando Rodney retire the first two outs in a save situation and knowing he will still likely blow it.
Jokes aside, seeing someone you care about sick with this virus, wondering if it will get worse and wishing they’d feel normal again is a pretty helpless feeling. Do everything you can to avoid it.
As always, these are real questions submitted by the collection of social distancers that is my Twitter following.
The information has been pretty limited thus far, which was expected. The Mariners, to their credit, are at least compiling and sending out team box scores to the local media to use as well as posting them on their array of Twitter accounts — @Mariners, @MarinersPR, @MsPlayerDev, @LosMarineros — following the games, which are being played four times a week. There are also some video highlights being posted by those Twitter accounts as well as some of the players participating posting their own highlights.
These aren’t the most detailed box scores with the play-by-play and there is no gameday with pitch-by-pitch information. It is interesting and useful that they are putting maximum exit velocity for each hitter and range of fastball velocity for each pitcher used in the game.
Unfortunately, there is no information provided about the team the Mariners are playing in those games. So when Taylor Trammell and Julio Rodriguez hit home runs on Oct. 17 there was a fair amount of unknowns involved. We don’t know what pitcher they were hit off, what pitch was thrown or the location of it. Thankfully, some teams (not the Mariners) are allowing scouts at their complex to work the games and write reports on players. And a friend, who is a pro scout from another organization, was kind enough to text some background about the two bombs.
On Trammell’s homer: “ … turned around 99 to dead center on the 2nd pitch of the instructs game today … it was loud …”
Video of Trammell’s homer later appeared on Twitter. It had an exit velocity of 111 mph, came off right-hander Samuel Valerio, who just turned 19 and spent last year in the Dominican Summer League.
On Rodriguez’s homer: “… was to RCF on a pitch middle away after he fouled a ball off his foot … felt like he baited the P into a cookie after overplaying the pain factor …”
Rodriguez posted a video of his homer and it showed lefty Walter Pennington, a non-drafted senior out of the Colorado School of Mines, leaving a fastball over the middle of the plate.
A Zoom call with Rodriguez a day later offered his perspective: “It actually hit me really hard. He did leave something in the middle on the next pitch. Maybe he felt comfortable because maybe my foot was hurting a little, but it was right in the middle of the plate so ‘OK, I’ll hit that.’”
Still for those fans who are interested in the prospects playing in these games, this sort of second-hand and delayed information is suboptimal. But it does speak to the informality of these games that often don’t have umpires or don’t always have three outs in an inning due to pitch count.
Not to get all baseball player development philosophical, but the purpose of these games is instruction, repetition and process. The results — a homer or a 99 mph fastball — are great, but this is a way for so many minor-league players and organizations to make up for the lost 2020 minor-league season.
Given how the bubble-type environment that they are trying to enforce — perhaps a working experiment for spring training in 2021 — it seems unlikely that MLB will want to introduce outsiders to the situation for the purpose of televising or reporting on these games. And while there are plenty of diehards and people associated with the players that might watch these games, the investment of trying to televise them likely wouldn’t be worth it, particularly in a year where MLB teams played only 60 total regular-season games without fans.
So unless something changes or the demand grows to the point where MLB or a specific team feels the need to invest in coverage of the games, you may be forced to rely on perusing Twitter (social media hell), incomplete box scores and second-hand information. And for that, I’m truly sorry.
So there’s a little bit to unpack here in this question that really isn’t looking for an answer, but an avenue to vent and provide a little good ol’ Northwest passive aggressiveness.
Yes, I saw Mike Zunino’s homer against the Yankees. I think I saw all four of the homers he’s hit this postseason and the two rocket shots that were robbed for double plays in the World Series.
He was one of the best players I’ve dealt with in a Mariners’ uniform. You can tell a lot about a player by the respect he garners from teammates and how he treats non-baseball staff. He passed in both aspects. So I certainly wanted to see him succeed after he was traded and now in this postseason, and I know I’m not alone.
Zunino ended up being a very polarizing player near the end of his time with the Mariners.
He may be perhaps the lasting example of the poor decisions made by former general manager Jack Zduriencik and the previous ownership group led by Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong. His development through the minor leagues was rushed for all the wrong reasons and the unwillingness to admit a mistake and commit to correcting it never transpired.
In a time where fans/people are obsessed with potential over present production provided, he tantalized with his light-tower power. If he could only hit .235 to .240 and take a few walks, he’d still hit 25 to 30 homers in a season.
But that never happened.
By the end, most fans grew frustrated when the promising stretches were followed up by longer slumps with a myriad strikeouts, so many damn strikeouts.
And the hitting failures, specifically the strikeouts, which we were taught since Little League to be the worst possible and most shameful result, are so easy for any fan — diehard or cursory — to latch on to as the determinant of a players’ success.
To truly appreciate what Zunino did in other aspects of the game — leadership, pitcher preparation, game calling, in-game strategy adjustments, pitch receiving/framing and overall defense — that’s not quite so easy to assess, measure or even recognize.
As someone who experienced the difficulties of catching at moderate level of competition and who endured the atrocity of catching defense provided by Kenji Johjima, Miguel Olivo, Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson and recently Omar Narvaez, my appreciation for Zunino as a player was really never about his offense and Bunyan-level power potential.
You know who wasn’t glad to see Zunino go? Mariners pitchers were not pleased that he was traded. But when general manager Jerry Dipoto and Mariners chairman John Stanton decided to go into this rebuild mode, trading Zunino was a logical move since he had two years of arbitration eligibility remaining.
As for winning or losing the trade? That whole notion has become such a reactionary social media meme to the point where trade analysis in the hours after they are completed have become the norm and often used as true measuring sticks. And because of that, the concept about these trades are winning them. To me, true trading philosophy isn’t about trying to swindle the other team or winning it. It’s a criticism of Zduriencik by other GMs, who often said that they would agree to deals with him and then he would often demand an extra player or change the parameters in the last minute in an effort to “win” the deal. Who knows how many trades never materialized from that. Realistically, the purpose of the trade is two teams trying to address needs, either immediate or expected based on their current organizational plan, and then working out a deal where both sides feel like they got better in some way.
So when the Mariners moved Zunino, whose value was based almost entirely on his defensive profile, leadership intangibles and economic-friendly club control, the return was about as expected. Seattle added non-hitting outfielder Guillermo Heredia and minor-leaguer Michael Plassmyer in the deal to get Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley. Obviously, Smith’s tenure with Seattle was abysmal. And while Dipoto and others in the organization said at the time that Fraley might be the real gem in the deal, thinking they might have found another Mitch Haniger, he has yet to become anything more than a projected fourth outfielder who has fallen on the organizational depth chart behind Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez and Taylor Trammell.
But as venerable columnist and baseball writer Larry Stone pointed out, Zunino will never be more than he is right now — an excellent defensive catcher and leader who will never hit for average, will strike out too much and will pop a highlight homer or two.
If .150ish batting average was the problem, they would’ve released Zunino a few months after trading for him. He hit .165 in his first season with the Rays and they still signed him to a $4.5 million contract last offseason with a club option for the same amount in 2021. Even as cash-strapped as the Rays are as a franchise, Zunino’s ability to handle the Rays’ staff of young fireballers and what he means to pitchers like Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell, then $4.5 million seems like a decent investment.
As for the Mariners’ catching situation, they got a little lucky in being able to grab Tom Murphy, who the Rockies gave up on and the Giants didn’t want. He isn’t as naturally gifted as Zunino behind the plate and on defense. But he’s a better athlete, just as strong, improving on defense and a much better hitter.
Seattle acquired Murphy from San Francisco for minor-league pitcher Jesus Ozoria a week into last season. Surely, the Mariners won that trade? Well, San Francisco had designated Murphy for assignment and they were going to lose him on a waivers claim. So they at least got a young protectable arm instead of nothing.
To be honest, I’m not really a fan of either. I’ve never had Johnny Walker Blue due to salary and lifestyle constraints. I’m guessing I would like a $175 bottle of scotch if someone were to give it to me. I’ve never been a big scotch fan. Though David Montessino, a colleague during my days at the News Tribune, to buy my Lagavulin neat at the Engine House No. 9 in Tacoma.
I’m not some sort of whiskey snob. I don’t have an advanced palate. I usually stick to Crown Royal or Pendleton on the rocks. Though I did acquire a taste for Japanese whisky (no E) on the Mariners trip to Tokyo last season. I try to find sales and sample different brands when possible.
As I’ve written before, I really became of fan of TX Blend out of Firestone Distillery in Fort Worth and I usually try to keep a cache of it. But it’s not sold in the Puget Sound. A recent drive to Denver, with its lower alcohol tax, allowed me to load up on TX Blend and a few different Japanese whiskys.
But then again if you are buying, I will have what you are drinking …
Well, per the form sent to me and my family from the Hill County and the quarantine rules, I know I’m here until at least Nov. 3.
On second thought, scotch doesn’t sound so bad right now.