Congratulations to the 2017 All Star Coach Winner, Jeni O'Neil who takes home $5,000 for her athletic program! Read more about Jeni at the link below.
BY BRIAN HIGHT
To kick off week three of Spring Training, the Seattle Mariners announced the signing of Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal, pending a physical, returning the legendary outfielder to the MLB team he originally joined in 2001 and played for eleven and a half seasons. While bringing the forty-four-year-old Ichiro “home” to Seattle is both charming and nostalgic, the move is more practically in response to early spring injuries and a perceived lack of depth in the outfield.
Projected left fielder, Ben Gamel, went down with an oblique injury and is expected to miss four to six weeks, casting doubt on who would play LF on opening day. Gamel’s injury, paired with a hand injury to right fielder, Mitch Haniger, and the continuing recovery from offseason shoulder surgery by Guillermo Heredia, who served as the team’s fourth outfielder last season, opened the way for a reunion with Ichiro.
In his 11 ½ seasons with the Mariners, Ichiro hit .322/.366/.418, while stealing 438 bases, scoring 1,176 runs, and compiling 2,533 of his 3,080 hits.
Ichiro declined somewhat with the New York Yankees, hitting .281/.314/.364 in a little over two seasons with 1,106 AB. The decline continued in Miami with the Marlins as Ichiro saw little playing time in the shadows of the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna. In three seasons with the fish, Ichiro hit .256/.315/.325 and managed to join the 3,000-hit club in just 921 AB.
With the late signing, only ZiPS has updated projections for Ichiro to reflect a semi-regular gig. That projection system has the diminutive outfielder participating in 127 games, getting roughly 250 PA, and contributing a .264/.323/.344 slash line for a wRC+ of 79 and a -0.1 WAR.
Hall of Fame Career
In his first season in the majors, Ichiro electrified audiences with his speed and unconventional approach at the plate. In the era of steroids and in the wake of historic single season home run totals, Ichiro was a throwback to another era. In 2001, Ichiro hit .350/.381/.457 with 56 SB, 127 R, and a league leading 242 hits to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP. Remarkably, Ichiro would collect over 200 hits in each of his first ten seasons in the big leagues. He was also a member of the historic 2001 Mariners team that won 116 regular season games, but, alas, failed to reach the world series.
By rejoining the Mariners, Ichiro has a legitimate chance to move up as many as six spots on the all-time hit list. To be fair, by combining statistics from the Nippon league and MLB, Ichiro is already the hit king with 4,358, but “only” 3,080 come in MLB. Ichiro needs 31 hits to pass Dave Winfield, 36 to pass Alex Rodriguez, 62 to pass Tony Gwynn, 64 to pass Robin Yount, 73 to pass Paul Warner, and 78 to pass George Brett. With ZiPS projecting just 60 hits, catching Cal Ripkin, Jr. at 3,184 seems far-fetched but the others do seem to be in sight.
Ichiro Suzuki is a first ballot Hall of Famer, but the hall will have to late at least another five years, as the Emerald City welcomes him back in 2018 to help the Mariners sail through the early waves of injuries in hopes of breaking that long playoff drought. And some milestones should fall along the way.
So all of a sudden, Seattle is a hockey town? Seriously?
I must admit, I'm shocked. Deposits for season tickets for a potential NHL expansion team were taken for the first time Thursday at 10 a.m. online and in just 12 minutes 10,000 commitments -- at either $1,000 or $500 -- were recorded. That crashed the system, but within an hour, it's been said that 25,000 commitments were received.
It took the latest NHL expansion franchise, in Las Vegas, about six weeks to sell 10,000 season tickets. Of course, ultimately the tickets are going to cost a whole lot more than those deposits and refunds will be given to those who aren't serious buyers or who aren't satisifed with ticket locations. And of course, there won't actually be 25,000 season tickets available. The renovated Key Arena won't be that big. To an extent, this was more a test of hockey interest in Seattle than it was an actual ticket sale. And to a greater degree, it was a publicity stunt.
I'm hearing it was done to help the team acquire a list of possible ticket buyers because the expansion team is going to be granted to Seattle as soon as next week. We shall see.
All I know is what I've heard from my friends in and around the NHL -- league commissioner Gary Bettman is nuts about getting a team in Seattle, even though Portland has been a better hockey town than Seattle for only about the last 50 years. You can talk about the professional WHL and the Buckaroos vs. the Totems or the junior WHL with the Winterhawks vs. the Thunderbirds.
In fact, I think I've figured out how all those ticket deposits came in so fast.
About half of them probably came from Portland.
BY BRIAN HIGHT
Last week, as pitchers and catchers reported to Peoria, Arizona, we took a look at the Seattle Mariners infield. This week, with Spring Training games starting up, we’ll take a look at the projected outfield for the 2018 Seattle Mariners. The following players project to play well over 85% of the time at their respective positions, as usual, barring injuries. In an up-coming column, we’ll consider the bench and thus the fourth or fifth outfielders, and Nelson Cruz will be reserved for an article comparing the premium DH’s in the American League. So, here are your 2018 Seattle Mariners outfielders.
CF – Dee Gordon
The Seattle Mariners projected opening day center fielder, barring any unforeseen injury, has never played the outfield in the majors. Dee Gordon, who was acquired from the Miami Marlins this off-season along with international signing money back when the Mariners thought they were in the running for Shoei Ohtani, has played both SS and, more recently, 2B in the majors. While Gordon was a bit overmatched at short (-14 defensive runs saved in 1320.2 innings), he was solid at second with 13 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 4,462.2 innings.
Theoretically, a move from 2B to CF is feasible along the defensive spectrum originally posited by Bill James as far back as the 1980’s in his Baseball Abstract. The defensive spectrum looks like this:
1B – LF – RF – 3B – CF – 2B – SS
Any move from right to left is likely to succeed as each position is theoretically easier to play in that direction. Moves from left to right are usually unsuccessful as the positions get more difficult as you move along the spectrum. Gordon would be making a leftward move on the defensive spectrum and the speculation is that his plus-plus speed – 64, 58, and 60 stolen bases in each of the last three seasons that he’s played at least 100 games – should make the transition all the smoother. But, still…he’s never played the outfield. We’ll see.
As for the bat, Gordon brings a great batting average, if not great OBP, to the Mariners. He has a lifetime .293 BA, but only a lifetime .329 OBP with 4.5% walk rate. With the aforementioned speed, expect Gordon to hit near the top of the lineup, if not lead off. ZiPS projects Gordon to hit .289/.315/.352 with 53 SB and play in about 150 games. All the projection systems are assuming positive contributions on defense and, therefore, range between 1.8 and 2.6 WAR.
Gordon’s offense should be a slight improvement over Jerrod Dyson, who just recently signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s hard to see Gordon being better than Dyson in the field (55 DRS in CF over 3,662.0 innings) but Gordon should stay on the field more than Dyson, who has only once played 120 games, with just 111 last season. This season, Gordon is projected by ZiPS for 34 more games than Dyson and about half a win more. So, if everything goes well with the transition to the outfield, the Mariners improved their play in CF by bringing in Gordon.
RF – Mitch Haniger
In just his second season in the big leagues, Mitch Haniger played in 96 games, starting 91 in RF, and hit a healthy .282/.352/.491 with 16 HR. With a solid weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 129, roughly 29% better than league average, Haniger provided the Mariners a surprising 2.5 fWAR.
The questions going forward for Haniger are whether last season was a baseline performance, leaves room to improve, or sets the table for regression? He was drafted out of college in 2012 and just turned twenty-seven, not a young up-and-comer by any means. The major projections systems are of two minds for Haniger’s 2018 campaign – three see regression – one sees continued improvement.
Fans is the most bullish on Haniger, projecting 594 PA in 143 games with a slash line of .279/.354/.499 and 23 HR. A repeat 129 wRC+ with extra playing time has Fans projecting Haniger adding 3.9 WAR to the M’s season. The Dave Szymborski product, ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System), is the most bearish on Haniger. ZiPS projects only 126 games with a .251/.320/.444 slash line, 20 HR, and a 105 wRC+. In contrast to the 3.9 WAR projected by Fans, ZiPS pegs Haniger at a sub-two WAR of 1.9. Depth Charts and Steamer lean closer to Fans for Haniger’s playing time, but closer to ZiPS in the overall production.
So, do the Mariners have a RF who will perform in the echelon just below All-Star or do they have a RF who will serve pretty much as an everyday player? As the old saying goes, ‘that’s why we play the game.’
LF – Ben Gamel
In left there is much less speculation than in right about what the Mariners will get in 2018. Ben Gamel is a light hitting, slightly below average fielder, who would more than likely be a fourth outfielder on a contender.
In 2017, the 25-year-old played in 134 games and hit a respectable .275/.322/.413 with 11 HR. A wRC+ of 99 placed him a tick under the average MLBer and he contributed 1.6 fWAR. Baseball Reference’s version of WAR measured his 2017 season at 1.0.
Fans is the only projection system to see Gamel with a wRC+ above 100 (105 to be precise), while the others have him in the 80’s. ZiPS is the most bearish with an 85 wRC+. Fans is also the most generous in projecting a WAR of 1.3, while Depth Charts projecting 0.5, ZiPS 0.4, and Steamer 0.3.
If the Mariners find themselves within shouting distance of the playoffs near the trade deadline, an upgrade in left field seems a likely target, perhaps taking payroll off the hands of the loaded New York Yankees outfield in the person of Brett Gardner or some other creative move. GM Jerry Dipoto is nothing, if not creative.
Outfield Grade C with B- upside
There are just too many question marks in the Mariners outfield for 2018 to grade it higher than a C, or simply average.
Dee Gordon has never played the outfield, and while he should transition well to his new position, there could be some rough waters ahead. Mitch Haniger could emerge as a very good player in right, or he could regress to an average player in right. And, Ben Gamel really shouldn’t be an everyday player in the big leagues, according to three out of four projections systems.
The upside for the Mariners outfield as currently constituted is a borderline 4 WAR player in Gamel, a solid 3 WAR player in Gordon, and, with a career year, a 2 WAR player in Gamel. That’s roughly 9 WAR in the outfield. Oh, by the way, Mike Trout projects as an 8+ WAR player on his own.
The downside could be ugly. Picture a lost Dee Gordon in the spacious confines of the-soon-to-be NOT Safeco Field. Imagine a 27-year-old, never really a prospect Haniger reverting to his 40/45 grade. And think about Ben Gamel being Ben Gamel. Then the Mariners outfield could struggle to post 5 WAR.
The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
This weekend, Dominate FC (Dominate Fighting Championship) brings some of the Northwest’s best fighters to Olympia, Washington. Looking to make a big splash in their first event, Dominate FC has six top 10 fighters on their card.
Drew Brokenshire #3 featherweight
Rudy Schaffroth #3 Heavyweight
Joey Elzea #4 Flyweight
Jared Torgeson #1 Heavyweight
Dylan Potter #7 Heavyweight
Elysse Stevenson #10 Flyweight
Drew Brokenshire is set to go to Battle against Charon Spain for Saturday’s Main Event. Drew Brokenshire is the Northwest’s #3 ranked Featherweight. With a win over Eduardo Torres last December, Brokenshire is looking to continue that momentum to capture the 145 lb title.
Originally scheduled to fight against Austin Arnett, plans changed when the UFC called up Arnett on short notice. Brokenshire is an all-around fighter with a great hand and a ground game to match. If he can keep the fight standing up, it should give him a great advantage over Spain. He will definitely have the upper hand in this matchup.
Charon Spain is coming off a win over #9 ranked Justin Harrington. Spain will be looking to continue his win streak as he enters the cage against Drew Brokenshire. Spain has 12 submissions with 3 knockouts so I’ll expect him to try to bring this game to the ground. But with Brokenshire having 7 submissions of his own, I don’t expect an easy submission by either opponent. Spain will definitely have an uphill battle in this fight.
After fighting at Europe’s premier ACB league, Jared Torgeson returns to the Northwest to do battle against heavy hitter Dylan Potter. After a couple of recent loses, Torgeson is looking to stop the slide and pick up a heavyweight title at Dominate FC. Currently with an 18-18 record, experience will definitely be on his side. He has the heavy hands to finish his opponents. With seven of his victories coming from knockouts, he will definitely have to watch out for those hands.
Dylan Potter is starting to put together a good pro record. Currently at 5-3, a win over Jared Torgeson will surely bring him up quite a few spots in the rankings. Doing so well will be no small feat though. This will be one of toughest competitors Potter has faced so far in his career. If he can get Jared Torgeson to the ground, I believe he’ll have a great advantage over him. Four out of five of his victories have been from submission. And with almost half of his losses coming from a submission, I think it’d be wise to pursue this direction.
Also, watch for these great matchups on Saturday:
Eddie Blackburn Vs Dustin Praxedes
Rudy Schaffroth Vs Richard Foster
Joey Elzea Vs Justin Hugo
You can get tickets at:
https://squareup.com/store/vividfightwear if you get them soon. Some Tickets maybe available at the door at the time of the event.
By Brian Hight
As pitchers and catchers assemble in Peoria, Arizona with position players not far behind, it’s time to start thinking about baseball. Barring any last minute free-agent signings, the Seattle Mariners lineup is pretty much set for the 2018 season. Barring injuries, the following players will be in the infield for the Mariners for the majority of innings this season. Let’s take a look at what to expect in 2018.
Catcher – Mike Zunino
Two years removed from a horrendous 2015 season in which he hit .174/.230/.300, Mike Zunino has settled in behind the plate for the Seattle Mariners, posting a solid 3.6 fWAR while hitting .251/.331/.509 with 25 home runs. While Zunino still strikes out a ton – 36.8% last season – he makes up for it with solid defense behind the plate – ranked 13th in fielding runs by Baseball Prospectus – and is recognized by his peers for handling pitchers well.
This season he is projected by Steamer to hit .224/.298/.450 with 25 HR while catching around 110 games and adding roughly 2.5 WAR to the lineup. Zunino will turn 27 before opening day and agreed to a contract in arbitration for this year of $2.975MM. Barring injuries or any unexpected regressions, the M’s should be above average behind the dish.
First Base – Ryon Healy*
The majority of the plate appearances at first base should be by off-season acquisition, Ryon Healy. Healy, who came over from the Oakland Athletics in November, primarily played third but has played first as well. He is a big guy. Listed at 6’5”, 223, Healy hit .271/.302/.451 with 25 HR in 605 PA for the A’s last season. In a very small sample size, Healy seemed to be about league average defensively at 1B with one defensive run saved in 307.1 innings. At his size, he was expectedly below average at 3B, so the switch to 1B may generate more WAR for the Mariners than Healy did for the A’s last season, that being 0.2.
Ideally, it would be nice if Healy walked more – just 3.8% of the time last season for the A’s – which would improve his below average OBP of .302. Perhaps the M’s emphasis on “controlling the zone” could pay dividends this Spring. Steamer projects Healy to hit .259/.297/.430 with 16 HR and 0.1 WAR in 110 games. Depth Charts projections are a bit more bullish on Healy’s playing time at 140 games, but the same slash line of .259/.297/.430, albeit with 21 HR and 0.3 WAR.
However, many scouts have noted that Healy changed his mechanics in 2017 and that the power on display last year is legit, thus discounting many of the projection systems that predict major regression.
Playing on a pre-arbitration eligible contract in 2018 at age 26, Healy could either be a big surprise for the Mariners at 1B or the decided weak link in an otherwise top infield.
Second Base – Robinson Cano
In 2017, the fourth year of his ten year $240MM contract, at age 34, Robinson Cano remained productive at second base. Ranked ninth in the majors for the position in fWAR at 3.2, Cano hit .280/.338/.453 with 23 HR. His hitting and average defense – exactly zero DRS last season – made Cano one of only three Mariners hitters with 3 or more WAR. The other two being Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
For his age 35 season, Steamer projects Cano to put up a stat line very similar to last season – .282/.339/.470 with 25 HR, a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 116, roughly 16% better than league average, and a 3.1 WAR.
However, despite the above average numbers at his position, Cano is no longer one of the premiere hitters in the game. The 2017 campaign saw Cano post the second lowest wRC+ of his career. (The lowest of 86 came in 2008 with the New York Yankees was fueled by a .151 BA in April and speculation that he may have been injured and/or feeling the pressure of a new contract extension.) He also posted the third lowest WAR of his career, the others being that very same 2008 season and his second season with the Mariners when he battled an abdomen injury much of the season.
It’s interesting and possibly alarming that one of the most recent comps for a hitter of Cano’s profile, according to Baseball Reference, is former Texas Ranger 3B, SS, and 2B Michael Young. Young fell off precipitously at age 35, losing nearly seventy points off his lifetime SLG, dipping below .400, and retiring after his age 36 season. Cano isn’t going to retire with four or five years left on his contract, but then maybe the severity of Young’s drop off isn’t in the cards either, but a drop off is coming. But, for 2017, Cano should continue to be one of the best 2B in the league.
Shortstop – Jean Segura
In his first season with the Mariners, Jean Segura, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Taijuan Walker deal, produced 2.9 fWAR at shortstop. While that contribution fell short of what will more than likely end up being his career best 5.0 fWAR from the season before in the desert, last season’s contribution in the middle infield was a major upgrade in the Emerald City.
Segura hit .300/.349/.427 with 80 runs and 22 SB. The 20 HR from the 2016 campaign in Arizona was probably an outlier, but he still managed 11 dingers in a shortened season of 125 games due to early injuries.
This season, Steamer projects Segura to hit .275/.323/.404, which seems a bit conservative given the previous two seasons of over 1200 plate appearances. Segura clearly changed his approach in 2016 and projections trending more back to the light hitter of pre-2016 seem out of whack. With the launch angle and exit velocity revolution of the past few seasons, it’s reasonable to accept up-ticks in contact and power as more legit than in the past. Even with the conservative projection, the 2.0 WAR at SS will ensure the Mariners have one of the more productive middle infields in baseball.
Third Base – Kyle Seager
It’s funny how four years after signing Kyle Seager to a seven year $100MM deal that seven-year deals seem a thing of the past but $14.3MM per year seems like a bargain. Entering his thirties, Kyle Seager has been eclipsed by his younger brother, Corey Seager, in Los Angeles, but remains a solid fixture at the hot corner.
In 2017, Seager struggled at the plate, hitting a career low .248, with his second lowest OBP of .323, and a .450 slugging percentage that reversed a three year upward trend. Still his 3.5 fWAR ranked third in the AL and 8th in all of baseball at third base.
While a return to 2016 form when Seager generated 5.5 fWAR and a 132 wRC+ would be welcome, Steamer does project a slight bounce back for Seager, predicting a slash line of .262/.338/.469 with 26 HR and a 116 wRC+, up 10 points from 2017. And, like his compatriots to the left of the diamond (or maybe the right in a shift), Seager is an average glove at third with 11 DRS in his 8,545.1 innings over seven seasons. Thus, third base finishes out what should be one of the better infields in baseball.
Infield Grade A-/B+
Definitely the strength of the 2018 Seattle Mariners lies with it’s infield play. While there are no plus defenders, the infield is solidly average with no serious liabilities. The upside over most major league rosters comes at the plate. In Zunino, Cano, Segura, and Seager, the Mariners could legitimately have four 3+ WAR players in the infield. The question mark is Healy at first. The projection models are skeptical, but we do seem to be in an era where approaches at the plate are changing with the advent of Trackcast and the identification of exit velocity and launch angles. Look for Healy to perhaps outplay his computer model projections and insure Seattle has all 2+ WAR players in the infield for 2018.
*Editor’s Note – Ryon Healy is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his right hand – ESPN
BY DAVID GOLDEN
Three of Portland’s most promising young fighters will be stepping into the cage each of the next three weekends. Journey Newson, Thomas Patrick, and Cris “Sunshine” Williams all have a lot on the line in their upcoming bouts. As these young fighters are ready for war, spectators will be able to watch things unfold week to week. Let’s take a closer look at the upcoming matchups.
Saturday February 17th –
First up is Impact Jiu Jitsu’s Journey Newson. Newson has been on quite the tear lately having won three fights in row by stoppage. In addition to that, he secured the CageSport Bantamweight Title in his last outing. Newson has a lot on the line in this fight as he is set to make his promotional debut for Combat Games MMA (COGA). COGA is a new stage for him, and it will certainly mean more eyes on the young Oregonian. At 6-1, he is likely two or three wins away from a call up to a top organization, so there is a lot on the line with each fight. On Saturday, he will be facing another fast-rising prospect in Tycen Lynn. Lynn is a Seattle based fighter who is also coming into this matchup with three straight victories. As the two prospects collide, this fight will certainly carry a lot of weight moving forward for the young pros.
Saturday February 24th –
A week later, one of Gracie Barra Portland’s young fighters looks to secure his first professional win as Thomas Patrick takes on Jake Sebastian at Dominate FC 40. Patrick made his professional debut last year in a violent back and forth affair. After coming up short, he has regrouped and is back to try and claim his first pro victory. With a strong jiu jitsu and wrestling game, Patrick has the skills to dominate this fight from bell to bell. His opponent, Jake Sebastian, is a relative unknown. After a three-fight amateur career, Sebastian is turning pro. While he will not have as much experience to lean on, he will have the advantage of Patrick not knowing as much about his MMA background. Patrick is hungry for victory; his very well-rounded fight game combined with an extensive amateur background should help him secure the win.
Friday March 2nd –
Last up is Cris “Sunshine” Williams. Williams will be making his second appearance in the Bellator MMA cage at Bellator 195. After a quick win in his Bellator debut this past December, Williams is back in the cage just three months later. Bellator has a budding star in the uber charismatic Williams, and they know it. A win for him is a win for Bellator who will likely look to bring along the young fighter slowly. If he can build his resume in the same way his teammate Brent Primus did, he could put himself into title contention by 2020. His matchup at Bellator 195 is a favorable one as he takes on Daniel “Lil Scarey” Carey. Carey has good power in his hands, but is far too susceptible to takedowns and has poor head movement. The athleticism of Williams is likely to overwhelm Carey. Expect to see “Sunshine” get his hand raised in this one.
How to watch!
COGA 60 – Tulalip, WA – Tulalip Resort Casino – Watch online at Combatgamesmma.com
Dominate FC 40 – Olympia, WA – Nisqually Youth & Event Center – Tickets available at Squareup.com
Bellator 195 – Thackerville, OK – WinStar World Casino Resort – Watch online at Bellator.com
NBC Sports Northwest today announced the launch of The Bridge, a new daily one-hour talk show about Pacific Northwest sports, with a dose of pop culture and lifestyle. NBC Sports Northwest’s first year-round original program, The Bridge will air weeknights at 6 p.m. ET, with the exception of Trail Blazers game nights.
A multi-platform interactive conversation, The Bridge will debate the sports teams, players and stories that matter, while also celebrating the passions unique to the Northwest. Coverage will highlight all major market clubs, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Seattle Seahawks and Portland Timbers. The Bridge premieres Wednesday, Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Northwest, preceding Rip City Live and the Blazers’ home game against the Warriors.
Analyst and NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio host Aaron Fentress hosts The Bridge, alongside NBC Sports Northwest’s newest member Serena Winters. Winters joins NBC Sports Northwest from Lakers Nation, where she served as the lead reporter and media editor-in-chief. Bri Amaranthus, NBC Sports Northwest’s social media manager, also joins The Bridge as a contributor.
“Northwest sports fans are a passionate, creative and diverse group, and they deserve a gathering place where they can engage with their favorite sports,” said Len Mead, General Manager of NBC Sports Northwest. “With Aaron, Serena and Bri we can start talking with our fans online early in the day, and culminate that conversation on TV every night at 6 p.m. PT before the night in sports gets going.”
In addition to co-hosting the Dwight & Aaron show on NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio, Fentress serves as an analyst on NBC Sports Northwest’s Talkin’ Ducks and Oregon Ducks Insider, and regularly contributes to nbcsports.com/northwest.
Winters joins the Portland area from Los Angeles where she worked for six years as a full-time reporter for Lakers Nation. During her tenure, her posts garnered over 50 million views and 150,000 subscribers. A UCSB alum, Winters has conducted interviews with numerous NBA legends, including Kobe Bryant and Elgin Baylor.
Amaranthus, a reporter and social media correspondent for NBC Sports Northwest, contributes multimedia content to Northwest’s coverage of the Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers and Portland Trail Blazers. An Oregon native, Amaranthus also hosts Sports Talk Live and DuckSquad, and manages NBC Sports Northwest’s social media platforms.
Fans can interact with The Bridge live on Twitter via @NBCSNorthwest and on NBC Sports Northwest’s Facebook page.
Once a year, thousands of baseball fans flock to the small town of Cooperstown, New York to see legends of the game give a speech, unveil a plaque that semi-resembles them, and get congratulated by their fellow legends of America’s pastime. Baseball fans undoubtedly care more about their Hall of Fame than any other sport. In a sport loved by historians, it makes sense that fans love to honor all-time greats. But today, we sit in an uncomfortable intersection for Hall of Fame voting; where Twitter clashes with tradition, saber metrics collides with folklore, and stupidity reigns supreme.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) has been around since 1908 and founded the Hall of Fame in 1936. The first class of inductees featured Ty Cobb (98.2%), Honus Wagner (95.1%) and Babe Ruth (95.1%). Yes, you are reading that correctly. Babe freaking Ruth wasn’t voted a Hall of Famer by one of every twenty voters. This strange behavior by writers has persisted since the Hall’s inception and doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.
There are currently 422 voting members of the BBWAA. They range from TV personalities that occupy bad daytime ESPN shows to less famous people such as Joe Stiglich of the Contra Costa Times. It’s understandable that back in the Great Depression era it was decided that baseball writers had the best perspective of who belonged in the Hall of Fame. Without television, the internet, or even Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball for N64, writers were clearly the best equipped individuals for the job. It’s not a tough argument to make that this is no longer the case. Steven Souza Jr. of the Tampa Bay Rays agrees, as he recently put a Rays beat writer on notice for his snub of Edgar Martinez. With newspapers dying and beat writers covering a host of assignments, it’s plan to see that many voters are under-qualified to be making decisions regarding players they’ve never seen play, in a sport they may have never themselves played or coached.
For those that followed the Edgar Martinez saga over the past handful of weeks, Twitter was the predominant platform. Each writer that revealed their ballot had it blasted over the Twitterverse for all to critique. Percentages were tracked, votes were counted, math was done. Would Edger get in? This all seemed silly, fixed, and disingenuous. Twitter debates ensued over whether a DH should be eligible. Mariano Rivera voiced his opinion that Edgar was the best hitter he ever faced. Votes were tallied. And some writer named Randy Galloway determined Edgar wasn’t a Hall-of-Famer THIS year in his eyes, but would be NEXT year. How that decision is arrived at, one can only speculate. But, it would be naïve to think that some of Randy’s BBWAA peers don’t share his same school of thought.
Baseball writers voting for the Hall of Fame is the equivalent of the general manager from each AMC Movie Theatre voting for the Oscars. Not this years Oscars, but specifically for all movies that left theaters at least five years ago.
The process of deciding who belongs in Cooperstown is due for some tweaking. Ideas? Former players and executives, 20-30 predominant baseball historians (ie Tim Kurkjian), and current Hall-of-Famers should comprise the voting. A popular fan vote could even contribute five to ten percent of the equation. Whoever is voting should all do so on the same day. No more vote counting and tracking, where ballots are revealed prior to everyone finishing their voting.
The system will never be perfect, but there is room for improvement. A change in process isn’t likely to happen soon, or ever. The BBSAA started the Hall of Fame and will be reluctant to give up even a portion of their power. Until that hypothetical day occurs, Edgar is on the fence to make it, Mike Trout won’t receive 100% of the vote in 2035, and beat writers will continue to cast their ballot based on what will get them trending on Twitter and possibly a guest appearance on Around the Horn.
After making time to see most of this season's quality films, I decided Saturday night to take a chance on "I, Tonya" -- what's being generously termed a "biopic" of Tonya Harding.
In actuality, it should be branded "historical fiction."
This story couldn't have been more sympathetic to Tonya if she'd written it herself. My former colleague at The Oregonian, Julie Vader, did an outstanding job of pointing out all the inaccuracies in the movie. I recommend reading it. Vader, along with reporter Abby Haight, were the experts on Tonya Harding -- off the ice and on. In those days, I admit I wasn't much interested in writing about beauty contests on ice -- my cynical take on a sport long known for its ridiculous "judging" -- although I did write about Harding once in a while.
In fact, I was one who was against barring her from the Olympics when she had not yet had her day in court. Then, I remember ripping her because when she finally got to Lillihammer, Norway, and the Winter Games, she didn't even attempt her signature triple axel. On the biggest stage, she didn't have the intestinal fortitude to even go for it -- which is not exactly the Olympic ideal.
I also remember driving to a casino on the coast to watch one of her "boxing" matches. Ugh. She certainly wasn't the fighter this movie tried to portray. It was a mess:
Against Emily Gosa in Lincoln City, Oregon, she was roundly booed upon entering the arena. “The entire fight barely rose above the level of a drunken street brawl,” The Independent reported.
The New York Times famously chimed in on this movie -- and Harding -- recently with a headline that read "Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now." The piece includes a quote from Harding that pretty much sums up her attitude and intellect:
“I moved from Oregon to Washington because Oregon was buttheads,” she said.
But this movie attempts to glorify her and rationalize her -- a convicted felon who plea-bargained her way out of bigger trouble and never served a day behind bars for it.
I am not surprised. We live in an age of revisionist history and a lot of people who aren't interested in seeking out the real truth. More and more I'm seeing attempts being made to paint the early 1990s "Jail Blazers" as a lovable bunch of rogues who were unfairly characterized by a racist media. Sorry, but that's very wrong.
But go see if the Harding movie if you want a few laughs. Margot Robbie and particularly Allison Janney are very good. There are a few chuckles -- mixed with some nasty scenes of spousal and child abuse that, along with a whole lot of gratuitous profanity, make the movie totally unacceptable for kids.