Baseball notes redux
Julio Rodríguez was AL Player of the Week, having set a Major League record for hits within a four-game span with 17.
We're now into the final quarter of the baseball season, when things get tense and scoreboard-watching becomes a bigger part of the ballpark experience. Thus, posts here aboard StarshipTim will possibly get even more hardball heavy. I mean, this is the third straight baseball post. So, apologies if you prefer to read about politics or cats or TV or whatever. Maybe I'll try to mix it up a bit as we go through September.
Anyway, last time I posted here it was to rake the manager of Your Seattle Mariners, Scott Servais, over the coals for being a strategic moron. His decisions arguably lost three in a row for the M's and blew a lead in a fourth, losses that came in a critical point in the pennant chase as the team was starting to finally get their act together and deliver on the promise of preseason expectations. I stand by those criticisms as all three of those were eminently winnable games, but what's happened since then has been fantastic.
Maybe losing three (nearly four) winnable games in a row lit a fire under the whole lineup. The Mariners have won seven straight since then, scoring 55 runs in the process and climbing into a Wild Card position and within two games of the division lead. Had they won those three winnable games Scott Servais' dumbness may have lost them, their winning streak would now stand at 18 games. This team is hotter than the sun.
The season-long problems haven't really improved, though; the M's still can't score a runner from 3rd with 0 or 1 out, they still rack up strikeouts at the plate at an alarming rate and, relatedly, rely far too much on the home run. But they've simply been overcoming those deficiencies, delivering the two-out hit after failing to get the easy RBI or picking up a bad bullpen inning with shutdown successor relievers. Just like the Toronto Blue Jays of 1992-1993, a talented lineup can win even when its manager checks his brain at the clubhouse door.
When the sun rose on Moon Day, July 20th, the Mariners were a game under .500, 5½ games out of a Wild Card slot and ten games behind division-leading Texas. From Moon Day forward, they've played 30 games and won 23 of them, a .767 winning percentage, and of the seven losses, six of them—SIX!—could have been won if not for striking out with runners at third base with 0/1 out and/or manager malfeasance with the bullpen. The seventh saw Seattle one run down in the bottom of the 9th with runners at second and third with one out, but guess what happened: strikeout. Just think how good this team would be if they weren't whiffing all the time and/or their manager knew how to handle relievers?
All seven of those losses are going to loom gigantically large when we get to late September and the American League West standings are tight at the top. Particularly since the Mariners close the regular season with ten games against the two clubs in front of them, the Rangers and Astros.
Regardless, though, it does make for a fun and exciting stretch run for the Northwest baseball fan. I'll start saving for playoff tickets.
Also, a while back my friend Dave turned me on to this thing called Immaculate Grid. It's a daily game wherein a nine-square grid requires a ballplayer from any point in the history of the Majors that meets the criteria given in both the row and column. It's a real challenge to the memory. Erik and I have had a semi-daily correspondence about it, comparing our respective successes and failures and musing on why we chose this guy for the Angels/Pirates square or why we remembered that guy at all, let alone for the Reds/Marlins square. And, of course, how dumb we felt by not remembering so-and-so, who should have been bloody obvious because hey, remember who he was traded for and how he was on that playoff team?
The goal with the Grid is to get the lowest "rarity score" you can, which is to say, pick the players least likely to be picked by others that still fit the criteria. My best score thus far is somewhere in the 20s; it's in my wheelhouse when there's a Cardinals row and/or a Mariners column and/or something like a stolen base total or a Hall of Fame stat. It's interesting in part because you access things in your memory from different points in your life. As Erik said (paraphrasing), things you learn when you're 14 are there forever; things you learn at 41 are buried under tons of detritus.
One day there was a Giants/Twins square and immediately the name Dan Gladden sprung to mind. Not sure why, but I think it has to do with a computer baseball game I had as a teenager that malfunctioned one time and had Gladden batting in every position for a Giants team. I recall the screen. I used Don Slaught a couple of times because I remember getting his baseball card. The ones I really like come up when I can use my knowledge of the various trades the Mariners have made over the years—Mariners and Twins? Why, Dave Hollins, of course, the guy the M's got in return for David Ortiz! What a great deal that was (ugh)—or my deeply ingrained memories of all things 1980s Cardinals—who played for the Cardinals and the Braves? How about Bob Horner, one of the worst free-agent signings the Cards ever made, to replace Jack Clark at first base after the pennant-winning ’87 season.
It's a hoot. Even when I feel incredibly stupid when I come up with nothing for Cleveland/Texas and then remember Shin-soo Choo, Milton Bradley, Julio Franco, Toby Harrah, Cliff Lee, and Omar fucking Vizquel only after I've gotten it wrong with a guess based on nothing more than "well, this guy played for a ton of teams, let's try him. Nope, oops."
Best score yet (21.3), thanks in part to a pair of truly awful trades made by former Mariners GM Woody Woodward (Hampton and Felder to the Astros for Eric Anthony; Spoljaric and Timlin from the Blue Jays for José Cruz Jr).