BOSTON — There was some discussion about jinxing a no-hitter by broadcasters on social media when Yusei Kikuchi was flirting with one in New York. This is flat-earth thinking. If Vin Scully says it’s OK to say “no hitter” then the discussion is over.
Just to be clear there is no jinxing the weekly mailbag’s no-hit level of questions each week. It’s dominant with or without pine tar.
As always, these are real questions submitted by the unique personalities that make up my Twitter followers.
It’s instructive to point out that J.P. Crawford and Shed Long are at two different points in their development. Crawford is major-league ready in almost every way. He played in 72 major-league games with the Phillies over the previous two seasons and has four seasons and 261 games at the Class AAA level.
The reason he started the season in Tacoma was to allow him to address some small things with his swing and approach, continue to work on some upgrades on defense and build some confidence. There were also service-time ramifications if the Mariners had started him on the opening-day roster.
For all those reasons, it served in the best interest of the Mariners to have Crawford start in Tacoma and play his way up to the big leagues where he would take over as the everyday shortstop and push Tim Beckham to a utility role. There is little for Crawford to prove in the minor leagues. He’s up in the big leagues now, and he should stay if he plays well.
Long had never played above the Class AA level until this season. He’s played in 32 Class AAA games. There is still a fair amount of seasoning he needs in terms of approach at the plate against the more experienced pitching in the Pacific Coast League and some reps in the field. The Mariners also want him to be able to play some third base and left field, if possible.
The expectation when acquiring him during the offseason was that a full season with the Rainiers would lead to a September call-up and possibly a roster spot next season. The status of Dee Gordon also plays into that timeline. Gordon is under contract through the 2020 season, but he will have some trade value in the coming weeks.
Even if Long plays well in what is expected to a brief call-up, he’ll likely head back to Tacoma. And that’s not a bad thing. He’ll be back. But there’s no reason to rush the development.
Perry Hill is a fantastic infield coach, but he’s not a miracle worker. His best results come with younger players who are more open to change and malleable in their technique. For Hill to fix the fielding inconsistencies of someone such as Tim Beckham, it would take a complete reset of his fundamentals. And it would take months of daily work. Scouts believe Beckham doesn’t have great hands, knows they aren’t great and doesn’t trust them.
“Watch him check his glove to see if he’s got the ball,” an opposing scout texted during spring training.
But you have seen improvement from Ryon Healy at third base. After he struggled early in the season, the extra work with Hill before games and some added confidence have made him adequate to average. He’s committed just three errors in his last 31 games. While he might not make the brilliant plays of Kyle Seager, who will be back by May 25, Healy is making the routine plays, which is the Mariners’ expectation for success.
Well, I guess if your old-school baseball notions rely solely on batting average, then Jay Bruce’s .192 batting average would be viewed as hindrance. But in this era of baseball, where success is measured in other ways, his 12 homers, which are tied for the team high, are of value. His .261 on-base percentage isn’t optimal. But if you are only going to have 24 hits in 125 at-bats, having six doubles and 12 homers out of the 24 is better than all singles.
He also breaks up the power right-handed bats the Mariners roll out there. And you can’t hope to trade him if you don’t play him.
While Andy McKay, the Mariners’ director of player development, once said that the Mariners view all of their minor league players as “prospects,” it’s not the definition that most people in baseball would use. McKay isn’t wrong to have that belief in his players in their system. He can’t come out and say, ‘Well, most of these guys are just organizational fodder to fill our rosters, and they’ll never sniff Triple A let alone the big leagues.”
Realistically, you could view Tom Murphy, Connor Sadzeck and Mike Wright as older, more advanced prospects.
To be clear, just because a player is designated for assignment or placed on waivers, that doesn’t mean they’re a castoff. Often, teams get caught in roster pinches that require moving players off the active roster who are out of minor-league options.
It doesn’t mean they don’t want to keep them. It simply means that they can’t based on their current roster structure. For example, the Mariners didn’t want to designate Shawn Armstrong, but he was out of options and they needed pitching help.
Murphy is a right-handed hitting catcher with power and athleticism. Going into last season, he was the Rockies’ No. 9 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. He was better than any catcher that the Mariners had in the upper levels of the organization. At 28, Murphy is under club control and can contribute for the next three to four seasons even as a backup, while lefty Jesus Ozoria, who the Mariners gave up, had never pitched above the Dominican Summer League and has an 8.31 ERA in the Low-A Sally League.
Sadzeck is 27, can throw a baseball 100 mph and is also under club control for the next five years. He might not always know where that fastball is going, but the Mariners have a lack of hard throwers in their system and they believe they can help Sadzeck throw more strikes. He was once the Rangers’ No. 10 prospect, and he’s been better than expected already. So getting a power arm that will contribute for the coming years for Grant Anderson, who has one year of professional experience, isn’t a bad trade.
They needed a 40-man roster spot, and they felt like Curletta was expendable. There were some in the organization who thought Curletta would clear waivers, so the Mariners could outright him back to Class AAA Tacoma. He had a .245/.303/.400 slash line with two doubles, five homers and 11 RBI for the Rainiers. It’s not like he was crushing PCL pitching in a year where everyone seems to be crushing PCL pitching.
The Red Sox claimed him probably for the production of last season and his disciplined approach, hoping they can get that this season.
The Mariners put Curletta on the 40-man roster following his big 2018 season where he was named the Texas League player of the year, with a .282/.383/.482 slash line, 24 doubles, 23 homers and 94 RBI. Those were good numbers, but he also put them up as a 24-year-old at the Class AA level.
The Mariners have a logjam of first-base types on the big league club. There is a chance that Ryon Healy will be optioned to Tacoma when Kyle Seager returns from the disabled list. Also there is an expectation that Evan White could move up to Tacoma by the end of the season. He’s the Mariners’ first baseman of the future.
Curletta didn’t seem to be part of their plans moving forward. Perhaps, he’ll get a better chance with the Red Sox. Though, they did send him to Class AA and not Class AAA in their organization.
The team has a contract to charter a private jet. And given the length of the trip, there is a determination which model and size of jet is used. The Mariners don’t go in-and-out of airports. Their bus takes them directly on to the tarmac, and they get on the plane. They still go through TSA screening, but it’s usually done at the ballpark or on the tarmac.
I’ve never flown on the team plane. Media that’s not affiliated with the team does not fly on the team plane unless there’s some extenuating circumstance where commercial travel isn’t available. So while the players avoid the chaos that can be a day at the airport, I experience it in all of its goodness. But I’m a man of the people.
For home games that start at 7:10 p.m., manager Scott Servais speaks to the media at 3 p.m. with the clubhouse opening after he’s done. Ideally, I’d like to be there by 2:15 p.m. since sometimes players are out on the field doing early work. And I’m usually out of there at 11:45 p.m. On 1:10 p.m. games, I try to get there by 9:30 a.m.
Well, that seems a little mean. But in the last few days, I’ve got to experience quite a few of them with the controversy surrounding the pine tar on Yusei Kikuchi’s hat and Dee Gordon’s criticism of J.A. Happ after getting hit by a pitch.
There is a superiority complex from Yankees fans, which comes from cheering for a team that has won 27 World Series. Though it should be pointed out that the last title was in 2009. As I’ve said before, I’ve pretty much given up the capacity to be fan of a professional sports team. So I can’t really criticize any fan’s passion or lack thereof.
Always cheer for the original six team if possible in a series … unless it’s the Montreal Canadiens. Never cheer for the Habs. You know the people of Boston haven’t had a championship to cheer or brag about since the Super Bowl, so you have to feel for that three-month championship drought that they are enduring.
Well, the number of professional dog walkers trying to navigate six or seven dogs on a leash was interesting. But there were three dudes dressed in various forms of armor and medieval clothing having an intense and loud battle with what appeared be foam or rubber swords. Not sure which of them was vanquished.
His name was Yellow Dog, and he was the best. Unfortunately he passed away two years ago, and I just haven’t had the will to change my Twitter profile pic. Miss him every single day.
Back when I would occasionally partake in karaoke, I could quite easily do Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend,” Young MC’s “Bust a move” and the “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground. Realistically, most people my age could handle two of those three songs. If you were looking at the non-mainstream songs, I could handle “Back to the Hotel” by N2Deep or “The Ghetto” by Too Short.
If he does, I won’t know it. I’ve never watched a single minute of the show — mostly because everyone else watches it. I’ve also muted everyone on social media that posts about it.
I’ve been told that my personality and vocabulary is similar to that of Al Swearengen. I haven’t watched the show since it was on HBO and I had a TIVO. I probably should binge it to prepare. And I take this line from Swearengen into every mailbag:
“The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man … and give some back.”
I try to stay away from the sandwich chains if possible. Though I don’t mind Potbelly. There aren’t many Quiznos around any more. But I once had a boss at The News Tribune who ate at the Tacoma Quiznos on Sixth Avenue so much that they’d start the only sandwich he’d ever order the moment he pulled into the parking lot.
I’d go Jimmy John’s, then Quiznos and then Subway. But there are times I’d rather have a gas station chimichanga than Subway.
1. House Favorite — pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms
2. Turco — pepperoni, sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon, hamburger
3. Larsen — Canadian bacon, sausage, hamburger, pepperoncini, onion, bacon, extra cheese
I’ve driven from Tacoma to Seattle to have the Texas chili from Jack’s BBQ or the chicken-fried steak and eggs from The 5 Spot or even The Gooch sandwich from HoneyHole. But I have to be meeting buddies at those places. Given that Tacoma has really grown in terms of restaurant variety and quality, I don’t really need to have to go far.
The final fantasy where I win the lottery, marry Scarlett Johansson and purchase large houses in Missoula, Mont., and Maui.