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NBC SPORTS NORTHWEST AND IHEARTMEDIA PORTLAND ANNOUNCE “RIP CITY” CONTENT PARTNERSHIP

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NBC SPORTS NORTHWEST AND IHEARTMEDIA PORTLAND ANNOUNCE “RIP CITY” CONTENT PARTNERSHIP

NBC Sports Northwest and iHeartMedia Portland today announced a new content partnership in the Portland, Oregon area. The collaboration will rebrand iHeartMedia’s Rip City Radio 620 to NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio. The announcement was made today by Len Mead, GM of NBC Sports Northwest and Robert Dove, President of Pacific Northwest Region for iHeartMedia Markets Group.

Starting January, the companies will bring a new line-up to the community featuring nine hours of combined content simulcast on both KPOJ 620 AM and on NBC Sports Northwest between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. local, with NBC Sports Northwest producing its own three-hour show within that window.

The joint weekday lineup will consist of Rip City Mornings with Dan & Nigel (6-9 a.m. PT), Dwight Jaynes & Aaron Fentress Show (12-3 p.m. PT) and Rip City Drive with Travis & Chad (3-6 p.m. PT). KPOJ will also simulcast NBC Sports Northwest’s Outdoors GPS program. All shows will originate from a new state-of-the-art radio studio being built at NBC Sports Northwest.

“NBC Sports Northwest is dedicated to serving fans across all platforms, so we are pleased to join forces with iHeartMedia to collaborate on programming for Portland sports fans on both TV and radio,” said Mead. “This partnership combines and amplifies the best talent and production teams in the market.” 

 “We are excited to partner with NBC Sports Northwest to bring Rip City Radio listeners the best in local sports programming,” said Dove. “Our combined assets will provide even more access for Portland sports fans across both TV and Radio including enhanced audio and visual content for Trailblazer fans all-in-one destination.”

NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio will be available online and digitally everywhere listeners are via iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s all-in-one streaming music, podcasting and live radio service. Visit iheartradio.com/apps to download iHeartRadio on your favorite device.

Harnessing the reach of iHeartMedia and the regional depth of NBC Sports Northwest, NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio will expand its role as Portland's sports radio home, including live play-by-play of the Trail Blazers, Oregon State Beavers, Hillsboro Hops, and Portland State Vikings games. Programming details will be announced at a later date.

For the first time, NBC Sports Regional Networks this season introduced NBC Sports Gold’s “Blazers Pass,” which allows any fans residing in Blazers territory to purchase select games during the 2017-18 NBA season for $34.99. The package tipped off its first game last night, when the Blazers faced the Golden State Warriors. NBC Sports Northwest will continue to present its traditional TV offering and streaming via “TV Everywhere” of Blazers games, with a record 77 games this season, including the 15 games also available via “Blazers Pass.” Pass subscribers will also receive a complimentary gift package, and will be entered into a monthly drawing for a chance to win a pair of tickets for a courtside experience to a home game. Fans can also enter, at no cost, for a chance to win a courtside experience. To purchase the product or enter to win a VIP courtside experience, go to http://www.nbcsports.com/blazerspass.

NBC Sports Gold - NBC Sports Digital’s direct-to-consumer live streaming product – is available on Apple iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and online at NBCSportsGold.com. NBC Sports Gold is powered by Playmaker Media, NBC Sports Digital’s technology service which provides end-to-end support for companies in need of best-in-class live streaming and VOD solutions.

Baseball group has made offers on 2 sites for 32,000-seat ballpark and large-scale mixed-use development

Baseball group has made offers on 2 sites for 32,000-seat ballpark and large-scale mixed-use development

The Portland Diamond Project, the management group that is seeking to bring Major League Baseball to Portland, has made two formal offers on large parcels of land for the purposes of building a 32,000-seat ballpark and large-scale development.

Formal offers were delivered to “an industrial manufacturing company in Northwest Portland for the property including and immediately adjacent to the company’s headquarters” and to the Portland Public Schools for its Blanchard Education Center and the surrounding property, which is located north of the Rose Quarter.

The plans for the development include workforce and market-rate housing, retail and hospitality development, which PDP says will bring more than 4,500 new jobs to the city.

The management team says it does not intend to ask the city or legislature to create any new programs to fund the ballpark.

Craig Cheek, a retired Nike vice present and the president and managing director of the PDP. said, ”Our team has commissioned a comprehensive economic study of both sites, and preliminary reports indicate both possess the right mix of infrastructure and proximity to Portland’s downtown, which we believe serves us very well and is a best practice in other thriving MLB markets.

“Additionally, both districts have ample room for multi-family development, which can help alleviate Portland’s housing crisis. We’re planning to pave the way for 8,000 new workforce and market-rate apartments to create a vibrant, walkable community around the facility, wherever it lands.”

Others named as part of the PDP include former Trail Blazers announcer Mike Barrett, a managing partner, and former Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson, who is also a managing partner and the group’s strategic business director.

The group has retained the Kansas City firm Populous Architects, which has designed more than 20 MLB ballparks, to design the venue in conjunction with Portland’s TVA Architects.

Irwin Raij, of New York sports and entertainment law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP, has been retained as a legal advisor.

The group says it commissioned an in-depth economic study from Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL), a leading advisory and planning firm for the convention, sports, entertainment and visitor industries, and it found that an urban ballpark in Portland would create 800 construction jobs and 4,500 permanent jobs in the city, with an economic impact of nearly $10 billion over 30 years.

Barrett, the spokesman for PDP, said, “Over the past year we have exhaustively examined commercial properties where we can develop a ballpark for a Major League Baseball team. The social, economic and cultural impacts of having an MLB team here are overwhelmingly positive.”

Milestones to look forward to watching the Seattle Mariners in 2018

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USA Today Images

Milestones to look forward to watching the Seattle Mariners in 2018

BY BRIAN HIGHT

While the Seattle Mariners have played the fewest games in MLB so far this year, due mostly to odd scheduling, travel, and snow days, a lot has happened in the first two weeks of the season. Shohei Ohtani is officially a phenomenon, threatening to eclipse the buzz around Fernandomania from the early 1980’s. Only with Ohtani, the comparisons inevitably go back a hundred years to one George Herman Ruth. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox rivalry is heating back up with two bench clearing brawls in one game. And, already two pitchers have been removed from their respective games mid-no-hitter, a reflection of how pitching rotations are evolving. But, the great thing about baseball is that on any given night you are likely to see something you’ve never seen before.

So maybe Mariners games haven’t been on the highlight reals on Sportscenter (does anyone actually watch Sportscenter anymore?), but that’s not to say there are no milestones to come in Mariners games in the foreseeable future. Using MLB’s Milestone Tracker, we can take a look at some of the moments that should occur for Mariners players as well as while the Mariners are on the field this season.

Hitting Milestones At Home
Coming up pretty soon, likely in the early May series with the Los Angeles Angels of Shohei Ohtani, (or Anaheim or something), Robinson Cano should rip his 522nd double, tying him with three other players in 48th place all-time. If that isn’t so intriguing to you, if he can get to 523 in the same series Cano would be tied with a gentleman we like to refer to as the Say Hey Kid, the one and only Willie Mays. During the same series Albert Pujols of the Angels could play in his 2,606th game and cruise into 40th place tied with Dwight Evans of Boston Red Sox fame.

Speaking of games played, a few weeks later towards the middle of May, Adrian Beltre and the Texas Rangers come to Safeco and the third baseman could play in his 2,850th game, tying him with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio who played his entire career with the Houston Astros. Also, in that Rangers series, Cano has the opportunity to creep up the doubles list and catch Dave Parker in 44th place.

A lot of the milestones predicted by MLB are obviously predicated on health and playing time. That said, if Ichiro Suzuki can remain in the lineup he’s on pace to also inch up the games played list and possibly catch another Mariners legend, Ken Griffey, Jr., in 34th place with 2,671 games played. That could happen by late May. Also, by early June, Ichiro could conceivably get to 3,100 hits which would tie him with Dave Winfield for 20th all-time in MLB. Gather another five hits and get to 3,105 and Ichiro and Alex Rodriguez would share 19th place on the hits list. Oh, and on that doubles list there’s some guy named Lou Gehrig that Cano can catch in late June.

At the very top of the amazing feats list for Safeco this season should come around the nation’s birthday, again when the Angels come to town. Mike Trout is on pace to crank his 1,000-career hit around July 3rd. And the next day on July 4th, if healthy, Albert Pujols could very well join the 3,000-hit club. It’s pretty amazing to consider that Mariners fans will have the opportunity to see, in the span of just a few weeks, FOUR first ballot Hall of Famers play and hit milestones in the persons of Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, and Ichiro Suzuki. (I can make a compelling argument for Trout already having amassed a resume to qualify, but let’s just enjoy what he does for now).

Personal milestones that Seattleites could enjoy, include Dee Gordon swiping his 300th base in late May, Kyle Seager scoring his 500th run around June 1st, Robbie Cano scoring his 1,200th run in the middle of June, and Nelson Cruz launching his 350th HR early in July.

As the season winds down in late August and early September, Cano could continue his climb up the doubles list and catch Manny Ramirez in 31st place with 547. And far more unlikely given playing time, but Ichiro is within shot of George Brett and 3,154 hits that would move him up to 15th on the all-time list. That would have to happen in September, if it’s going to happen at all.

Pitching Milestones at Home
The potential pitching milestones at Safeco this season pretty much revolve around Felix Hernandez and his health. If he lands on the DL, he’s not getting to most of these. But if healthy, there could be some magical moments on the mound in the Emerald City.

Around May 4th, the King’s Court could hang up a K that represents Felix catching Charlie Hough for 46th all-time on the strikeout leaderboard with 2,382. And for projected home milestones, Felix could catch Dennis Eckersley in strikeouts at 43rd all-time around the end of June. That number is 2,401.

Former Mariner closer Fernando Rodney will be in town with the Minnesota Twins on or about May 25th and could catch the Goose, Rich Gossage with his 310th save, moving him into a tie at 23rd all-time. If you like saves, Joakim Soria and the Chicago White Sox will be in the Pacific Northwest towards the end of July and Soria could record his 216th save that would tie him with Dave Smith.

Currently on the DL and equally as questionable in terms of health as Hernandez, CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees come to town on September 7th and, if he takes the mound, Sabathia could be starting his 538th game. That milestone would put the big lefthander in the company of Red Ruffing, the Hall of Famer who pitched for the Red Sox in the 1920’s and the Yankees in the 1930’s. That many starts are good for 31st on the all-time list, pretty impressive given how pitching rotations have changed since those days.

Not bad home baseball for Mariners fans. Let’s look and see what could be seen on TV or in a visit to another ballpark.

Hitting Milestones On the Road
A couple of the rungs of the doubles ladder for Robinson Cano span international borders with the first being in Toronto against the Blue Jays in the May 10th range. A stop in Detroit for a series against the Tigers following the Toronto jaunt may see Cano hit the same number of doubles as “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, Ted Williams. If not in Detroit, then maybe in Minnesota. Hopefully, it will have warmed up some by then.

After possibly tying Junior in doubles in Seattle, Cano’s trip to Oakland might see Cap Anson and Frank Robinson caught and eclipsed. Have you noticed that all of these players are in the Hall of Fame? Just checking.

If given the playing time, Ichiro would continue to inch up the hits list and the games played list over the course of the season. Stops in Arlington and Oakland are the likely locations for milestones to fall.

Pitching Milestones on the Road
Of the Icons of pitching in the history of baseball, Sandy Koufax is truly special. His career was cut short by arthritis in his elbow, but the six years he dominated hitters in the 1960’s has reached legendary status. So, with that history in mind, consider that Felix Hernandez could catch him in strikeouts when the Mariners visit Fenway Park in late June. The mark is 2,396 and ranks 45th in the history of baseball.

A late July stop in Anaheim, could see the King eclipse the deceptive right-handed Cuban, Luis Tiant, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians in the 60’s and the Red Sox in the 70’s, finishing up his career with stints in the Bronx, Pittsburgh, and California when the Angels hailed from the entire state. If Felix can fan his 2,416th hitter, he can share 41st place all-time with Tiant.

Jamie Moyer, Andy Pettitte, Sam McDowell, and Bartolo Colon (assuming he doesn’t get another gig this season), are all next in line on the K list and might fall in either Oakland or Arlington in September. As with Ichiro in the batter’s box, Felix breaking records this season on the mound will depend largely on health and effectiveness.

Next Up in Seattle
So, after the Mariners complete their road trip to Minnesota, Kansas City, and Oakland, they will return home to face the Houston Astros, starting on April 17th. While April probably won’t see any milestones met, May is just around the corner and Mariners fans can look forward to witnessing some history.

Trio of title fights set for Rumble at the Roseland 97

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Roseland Theater PDX

Trio of title fights set for Rumble at the Roseland 97

BY DAVID GOLDEN

This Saturday, April 14th the Full Contact Fighting Federation (FCFF) returns to the Roseland Theater in downtown Portland for Rumble at the Roseland 97. As usual, Kevin Keeney and team have put together an absolutely stacked card that is nearly sold out. With fourteen fights and three title bouts, the team at the FCFF is making sure patrons get their money’s worth at this event.  Rumble at the Roseland 97 is the opener to a weekend at the Roseland Theater that is action packed. After Saturday’s FCFF event, the Roseland theater will play host to Submission Underground 7 Sunday afternoon. The back-to-back events give the weekend a different feel and it is suiting that on one of the biggest weekends of the year; the FCFF brings out their brightest stars. Fighters like Alex Aguilar, Raymond Hill, Sage Farnworth, and most importantly, Keaneo Moyer will all grace the cage. With fighters of this caliber, the event will have no shortage of fight of the night candidates. Let’s dive a little deeper into the card by breaking down the title fights.

Angel Espino (Challenger) vs. Chance Marsteiner (Champion)

This matchup is for the lightweight title and is sure to be a technical affair. The champion, Chance Marsteiner, is a strong wrestler who is not afraid to mix it up on the feet and has proven himself well rounded having wins by TKO, submission, and decision. While he is confident in his striking and submission skills, his wrestling and top pressure are textbook and he will likely look to use those skills on Saturday. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Angel Espino. Espino has one of the most well-rounded games on the card. Even as an amateur, he has shown extreme savvy in the cage throughout his young career. He has the distinct advantage of having Enoch Wilson of Animals MMA in his corner. The two work in tandem beautifully. With Espino’s ability to listen and react to the coaching of Wilson during fights, it would be hard to imagine them not feeling confident leading up to the match. He will need to listen very carefully to his coach if he hopes to get out of any bad position that the champion, Marsteiner, has him in.

Raymond Hill (Challenger) vs. Alex Aguilar (Champion)

This matchup is for the welterweight title and could lead to one of these fighters walking out of the cage an amateur for the last time.  While both fighters are 7-1 and coming off of big wins, it is Aguilar who had the more impressive 2017 and he could be ready for the jump to the pros. With two big wins for King of the Cage and a victorious title fight against the dangerous Stefan Habib at Rumble at the Roseland 94, it would stand to reason that Aguilar is nearing the end of his amateur rope. Raymond Hill, on the other hand, only fought once in both 2016 and 2017. While Hill has less current activity, he still remains a threat to bounce to the pros. That said, should he win an FCFF title this Saturday, look for him to offer up a title defense before leaving. His last fight, while victorious, left many wondering what more the welterweight could offer. Both Aguilar and Hill need this fight to maintain momentum and keep the focus on their respective journeys.

Keaneo Moyer (Challenger) vs. Sage Farnworth (Champion) 

This matchup is for the bantamweight title and is basically a lock for fight of the night. Sage Farnworth is stepping into a rubber watch with one of the sport’s most polarizing personalities in Moyer. Farnworth has largely gone under the radar the last two years but has built up a four-fight win streak that saw him dispatch his last three opponents by submission. This run for Farnworth has been impressive but no one has been in the FCFF’s spotlight more over the last year than Keaneo Moyer. Not only has Moyer be exceedingly vocal in and out of the cage, he has backed up all of his talk with outstanding performances. Having won four straight fights all by stoppage, including winning the FCFF flyweight title, Moyer has made it known that he wants to win a second belt and potentially go after a third title at featherweight. This fight has all the drama a fight fan could hope for. Each fighter holds a victory over the other, there is legitimate bad blood between the two, and both are reaching athletic maturity at nearly the exact same time. This fight will be one that fans will be glad to have seen in person. While this fight will complete the rubber match, it somehow feels like these two will cross paths as professionals in the future as well. Their history is far too rich to be ignored and Saturday night feels like another chapter in their story, not the ending.

Seattle Mariners – Marco Gonzales and the roller coaster of emotion

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Seattle Mariners – Marco Gonzales and the roller coaster of emotion

BY MARIO MARTIN DEL CAMPO 

Marco Gonzales made his way up to the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system with accolades aplenty, but his time pitching at the major league level has not been as admirable. After a major league career that has teeter-tottered between poor and decent, Gonzales is still trying to cement himself as a reliable starting pitcher since his first start in 2014.

But after his first two starts with the Seattle Mariners this season, has Marco truly proven that he is capable of holding down hitters while on the mound? Don’t ask a magic 8-ball; I can tell you now, the outlook isn’t so good.

In his first start this season, Marco Gonzales managed to hinder the Giants’ offense to 6 hits, allowing only 3 earned runs and striking out 2 batters in 6.1 innings. It was a hopeful sign. Gonzales didn’t even register a walk. He had only allowed 1 run going into the 7th inning, a solo home run to Joe Panik in the 4th, which at that point was only the 2nd hit the Giants managed get off the young southpaw.

It wasn’t until the 7th inning that Gonzales allowed his next two runs to score, off an Evan Longoria home run. He was relieved after that at-bat, confident in his performance. The 6 1/3 inning outing was in fact the longest outing Gonzales ever had as a starter at the major league level.

Emotions were running high. The Mariners had just come off a triumphant opening series against the AL Central favorite Indians, which the M’s took two games to one. Fans of baseball in the Pacific Northwest were hungry for yet another win, and the Mariners delivered with Gonzales at the mound. The Seattle ball club had won three games of their first four, and we were all excited to see Marco Gonzales shine again.

Fast forward to Gonzales’ second start, April 9th against the Royals. The bright star that was Marco Gonzales in his first outing dimmed to but a flickering flame in his second. He managed to record all three outs of the first inning by strikeout, but not without allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, and 3 runs in between those strikeouts.

Gonzales, who’s successes come from being a fastball-changeup pitcher with a decent curve, was not showing his command going into this game. In the first inning, he threw his ever-dependable changeup 11 times. Though his changeup did stave off Jorge Soler, it was hit for a single twice, and fouled off three times.

Gonzales was off to a rocky start, but did manage to come back in the second. He retired the first two batters with the help of Robinson Cano behind him in defense, and could have had a perfect inning, had it not been for a play at first challenged by the Royals, which led to Mike Moustakas landing a single. It didn’t matter, Gonzales managed to retire the next batter, Chester Cuthbert, with ease.

Soon after, in the third inning Gonzales allowed a single to leadoff batter Jorge Soler, and a double to the next batter Paulo Orlando. After striking out Royals DH Cam Gallagher, manager Scott Servais quickly pulled his young starter. He went 2 1/3 innings, allowing 8 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. He faced 16 batters and reached 64 pitches.

It is this teeter-tottering of Gonzales’ performances mentioned before that invites worry and fear into the hearts of M’s fans. Last year, Marco had more than his fair share of opportunities on the mound. Though never going more than 5 innings in a single game, Marco appeared in 10 games for the M’s. In those 36 and 2/3 innings pitched, he allowed 22 runs, and posted an ERA of 5.40, staying pretty consistent with his crude career ERA of 5.38.

It hasn’t just been Marco. The pitching staff as a whole for Seattle has tended to work in extremes in these first 8 games of the season. They’ve been stellar, they’ve been phenomenal; they’ve been disastrous as well. Mike Leake has been the only shred of consistency in this small sample size. There is still an entire season to go, an entire season for things to go wrong, but also for things to go well. Maybe the magic 8-ball foretells a brighter future.

Marco Gonzales has a lot to prove. Not necessarily to his team, not necessarily to Mariners fans, but to himself. Two outings is by no means revealing of what truly might be under the hood of this young left hander, but with the track record he’s already placed for himself, it does leave cause to worry.

Whatever the future may hold for the Gonzaga Goliath, only his next start will tell.

A tale of two Felix Hernandezes

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A tale of two Felix Hernandezes

BY BRIAN HIGHT

When pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training and then later when the position players arrived, Felix Hernandez, like virtually every other player in major league baseball, was in the “best shape of his life.” General Manager Jerry Dipoto gushed on his podcast, The Wheelhouse, that it was the earliest he had ever seen Felix throw a bullpen in Spring Training, glossing over the implication that maybe that meant that he hasn’t always been in the “best shape of his life” coming into each season, relying on Spring Training to get in condition, like in the old days of baseball.

Dipoto and the media covering the Seattle Mariners were highly optimistic that a rebound of sorts was in order for the King. His first several outings of the Spring fueled the fire of eternal hope and optimism for a Mariners franchise that has failed to reach the post-season since 2001. Then a line drive comebacker nailed Hernandez in his right forearm, putting him on the shelf for two weeks.

The interruption of the pre-season would inevitably lead to limited innings early in the regular season. But, Hernandez was ready to take the mound on Opening Day for the ninth consecutive season and for the tenth time overall.

The two starts Felix Hernandez has made so far this season could not be more dissimilar. One, opening day, was about as good as could be expected of the thirty-one-year old former Cy Young winner with two years of injury and decline in the recent past. The second start against the light hitting San Francisco Giants was about as bad as it can get. The question going forward is which Felix Hernandez is the “real” Felix Hernandez?

Opening Day

To kick off the season at home in front of a sold-out ballpark, the Seattle Mariners sent Felix Hernandez to the mound for the ninth consecutive season. Those in attendance or watching on television were witness to a flashback treat of sorts.

Hernandez pitched 5.1 innings, threw 83 pitches, 49 for strikes, and allowed no runs, earned or otherwise. He struck out 4 batters and walked just 2. His game score was a modest 66 but given the brevity of the outing it was quite good. Also factoring in the talent of the Cleveland Indians lineup, a team picked almost unanimously to win the AL Central and legitimately compete for the World Series, made the start all that much more impressive.

What was notable about the outing was Felix’s increased use of off-speed pitches, especially the curve ball. While Fangraphs and Baseball Reference do not present single game pitch types or velocity and the data has now been updated for the season with the second game included, my recollection was that he threw the curve ball in the high 20% range, an increase over his career of 7 or 8 percentage points. Also, the velocity on the curve and the changeup were down, a good thing, creating more separation between his diminished fastball and the off-speed stuff, which adds deception to the repertoire that has been missing the past two seasons.

So after just one game, Felix Hernandez had reinvented himself along the lines of CC Sabathia and was ready to lead the Mariners to the playoffs. Then came his second start.

Game Two in San Francisco

The early narrative surrounding the San Francisco Giants of 2018 has been how slow of a start newcomers Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria were off to. The Giants went out in the offseason and acquired the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder and the Tampa Rays third baseman in order to infuse some power into a lineup that has been anemic, to say the least, for the past several seasons. Given his handling of the powerful Indians lineup, Felix Hernandez was set to breeze through this Giants lineup. It didn’t quite go that way.

It was apparent from the get go that Hernandez did not have his command. He walked two batters in the first inning, including walking in the first run of game on four pitches to Pablo Sandoval with the bases loaded. Brandon Belt would score on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Brendon Crawford would bring in Buster Posey for the third run of the inning.

All-tolled, Hernandez would face 23 hitters, delivering just 11 first pitch strikes, walking 5, and giving up 3 home runs, punctuated by the three-run shot by the Kung Fu Panda that splashed down in McCovey Cove. Felix’s final box score read 4.0 innings pitched, four hitters faced in the 5th inning with no recorded outs, 6 hits, 8 runs, 8 earned runs, 5 walks, and just 1 strikeout.

For the Season, So Far

At this point in 2018, after two polar opposite starts, Hernandez is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA, a 16.3 BB%, and just 4.82 K/9. Obviously, this early one bad outing skews the numbers, especially when it was as bad as Wednesday in San Francisco. As promising as the opening day start looked, the most recent start can’t help but sound some alarms.

The question going forward, is which Felix Hernandez will the Seattle Mariners get over the course of the season? My default answer is usually neither. The “real” Felix Hernandez is probably somewhere in between the two extremes, and I do suspect the season long statistics will bear that out. But, I’m beginning to suspect that the path to a solid, if somewhat mediocre, statistical season will be filled with really good outings and the occasional Giants type game.

King Felix’s next start will likely be in Kansas City next week and Mariners fans will more than likely see him pitch in his next home outing against the Houston Astros.

Submission Underground bringing Tag Team matches to The Roseland Theater

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SUG

Submission Underground bringing Tag Team matches to The Roseland Theater

BY 

Submission Underground (SUG) 7 is set to go down on April 15th at the Roseland Theater in the heart of downtown Portland. SUG has become one of the premier grappling events in the country since its inaugural event in July 2017. Since that time, there has been a focus on the huge names that have come to Portland to compete at SUG. From jiu jitsu standouts Gordon Ryan and Garry Tonon to UFC superstars Jon Jones and Urijah Faber, SUG has become the go to grappling event for some of the biggest names in MMA. Big names like these have been a major reason for the young promotion’s success. However, this time around, SUG matchmaker Heather Standing and team are trying something a little different. At SUG 7, there will be a large focus on local talent and some creative twists that promise to intrigue and excite fans. That said, there will be no lack of star power at this event. Former UFC title challenger Jeff Monson will be taking on Fabiano Scherner in the main event and Ultimate Fighter winner Jesse Taylor will be taking on Portland’s own, Ben Egli in the co-main event. If the main event and co-main event aren’t what you’re looking for, how about something new? Something like, oh I dunno, tag team jiu jitsu? Yes, that’s right, tag team jiu jitsu.

Tag Team Jiu Jitsu

This isn’t some joke. It isn’t the WWE; there will be no tables, ladders, or chairs. This is simply an insanely inventive twist on the sport of jiu jitsu that promises to be very exciting. The way this shakes out is pretty interesting. First, each team must have a total combined weight of no more than 350 lbs. There is no limit to how many competitors you can have on a team, only a total weight restriction. The matches will be eight minutes long and the team with the most submissions at the end of eight minutes wins. In the event of a tie, the crowd will decide the winning team by applause. If that was not exciting enough, it gets better. After a tag is made, the person tagging out has approximately 3 seconds to let go of their position. While that is going on, the competitor who has tagged in can advance a position against their opponent! This should make for some wild and exciting exchanges. There will be five tag matches at the event including a great local rivalry match that pits Impact Jiu Jitsu against 10th Planet Portland.

Brown Belt Tournament 

In addition to the tag matches, this event will feature an eight-man brown belt tournament with a $1,000.00 cash prize. This tournament features some standout jiu jitsu practitioners and many with big competition experience.

  • Eddie Ziegler – Straight Blast Gym
  • Howie Mole – Gracie Barra Portland
  • Alex Larmey – Siri BJJ
  • Journey Newson – Impact Jiu Jitsu
  • Shawn Weisenburgh – Mat Chess MMA
  • Matt Kwan – On Guard BJJ
  • Bryan Brown – 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu Jacksonville
  • Chase Davis – Nice Guy Submission Fighting

Eddie Ziegler is coming off a win at last summer’s Fight To Win 39 and is a past SUG competitor, Howie Mole is a multiple time SUG winner, Journey Newson is a former SUG winner and current CageSport bantamweight champion, Bryan Brown is an original member of the 10th Planet Bomb Squad (Eddie Bravo’s first 10th Planet students), Shawn WeisendBurgh is a former SUG winner. The point is, this is a very deep field and the level of talent in this tournament promises to provide an amazing display of technical jiu jitsu.

When people talk about SUG 7, it has a different feel about it. It harkens back to the days of the early UFC. Back then, you would hear rumblings of some unknown fighter from Brazil who once fought off a gang of eight people single handedly. Or some country strong farm boy from Iowa who never wrestled a day in his life but walked on at Oklahoma and became a two-time All American. The simple addition of a tournament and tag team matches has completely changed the way people are talking about SUG. People are buzzing over a slap of the hands instead of the snap of an arm.

From bullied teenager to UFC star: How Paige VanZant remade her life

From bullied teenager to UFC star: How Paige VanZant remade her life

by Serena Winters

Paige VanZant wasn’t always Paige VanZant. Before she was known as a badass in the flyweight division of the UFC, runner-up in Dancing with the Stars or winner on Chopped, she was a freshman in high school, bullied, and looking for a way out.

“I’ll never know why I was a target. It was really a dark hard place for me… I was at my breaking point and I told my dad we have to get out.”

And get out, they did. 

The whole family packed up their things and moved to Reno, Nevada, but for Paige, dodging town wasn’t enough.

“I changed my last name. I changed completely who I was. I decided I had to be a completely different person.”

Dropped out of high school and taking classes at a community college in Reno, Paige picked up boxing.

“I was a brand new me. I wasn’t the same person who grew up in Oregon anymore.”

Paige’s new life escalated quickly. She started picking up amateur fights and before she knew it, was offered $2,000 for a pro fight, which her coach advised her not to take.

But if you know Paige, as much as she is tenacious, she is equally stubborn. 

So, she took it, and she won.

“That put my name on the map to beat someone who had a very extensive amateur record, and in that moment I was like, I was meant for this. I just knew it.”

Fast forward through agonizing weight cuts, switching fight camps and a broken arm in her most recent fight, which was a loss to Jessica-Rose Clark, VanZant has found her way back home.

“Slowly, but surely, I started to realize that those things that happened to me my freshman year (of high school), they don’t define me.”

---

It’s 11:30 AM on a Wednesday, as Paige and I take a seat on a 750-pound tractor tire that was just being thrown around during one of their morning workouts. Paige has just taken off a vest, used to strap her to a rope, which was attached to one of the many tires hanging around the property. 

Tire day is commonplace at ‘The Hill,’ a private property in West Linn, run by strength and conditioning coach Dave Shelofsky, that feels almost as much mental sanctuary as it does elite training.

“I feel like we can get so fixated on what’s going on, on social media, or the media part of things, and being out here and hanging out with a good group of people, you just realize how much it doesn’t matter. It’s meaningless. You just have to do what you love, with the people you love.” 

Paige takes a moment to take in the greenery, when I ask her about what it’s like to be back training, near the place she grew up.  Scanning over the hills, Paige tries to pinpoint spots where she went dirt biking or hunting with her father, which also happens to be the reason for her ’12 Gauge’ fighting nickname.

“I’m a shotgun, I’m hard to handle,” VanZant says with a laugh.

But, behind her bubbly personality, her infectious smile, and her youthful demeanor, there’s still pain behind her eyes. Pain that dates back to her youth.

“There’s that saying that everyone has a chapter of their life that they can’t read outloud….I don’t know if I can physically say the words out loud. If I say it, then its actually real.”

VanZant’s book, Rise: Surviving The Fight Of My Life comes out April 10th.  

For more on her book: https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/paige-vanzant/rise/9780316472265/.

Preview of the 2018 Seattle Mariners – The starting rotation

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Preview of the 2018 Seattle Mariners – The starting rotation

BY BRIAN HIGHT 

As Spring Training begins to wind down, with just over a week until the start of the season, the time to look at the Seattle Mariners starting rotation draws nigh. Despite some nagging injuries that well may alter the makeup of the rotation on opening day, the most likely starting five for the long haul are James Paxton, Mike Leake, Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, and Marco Gonzales, with sprinklings of Ariel Miranda, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Andrew Moore to top it off.

If the Mariners can limit the number of starters in 2018 to just these eight, they will be light years ahead of last season when they led all of major league baseball with a whopping seventeen different pitchers taking the mound in the first inning of games. As a result of the instability in the rotation – no Mariner pitcher started as many as 30 games –  the Mariners pitching staff finished 23rd in fWAR with 9.8 in 2017, ahead of just the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Chicago White Sox, and the Cincinnati Reds.

With no disrespect intended to any of those fine organizations or the cities they proudly represent (well maybe not the Marlins), none of those teams were expected to make a run at the playoffs in 2017 (maybe Texas? maybe Baltimore? Eh?) but the Mariners were wildcard favorites last preseason. A major contributing factor to the 78-win fiasco that ensued was the inability of key members of the starting rotation to stay healthy. To put it perspective, while the entire Mariners rotation notched 9.8 fWAR (Fangraphs version of WAR), Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox accumulated 7.7 fWAR by himself.

So, in 2018 as always, health will be one important key to the Mariners success. Here’s a glimpse at what some of the projection models foresee for the starting rotation.

James Paxton

In 2017, James Paxton made 24 starts and ate up 136 innings for a 12-5 record with a 2.98 ERA. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 2.61 indicated that Paxton was even a tad better than his ERA showed. Of the lowly 9.8 fWAR by the entire staff, Paxton accounted for nearly half, with a fWAR of 4.6.

It would be nice to think that Paxton could start 30 or more games in 2018, but, more and more, that seems like wishful thinking. Paxton is not a young up and comer anymore. He turned 29 in November and has never pitched more than 169.2 innings in a single season of professional baseball. In his rookie season back in 2013, he pitched 145.2 innings in AAA and an additional 24 innings in the majors. Last season was his high-water mark for innings in the bigs.

The various projection systems reflect the skepticism surrounding Paxton’s ability to stay healthy for a whole season. Steamer is the most bullish on Paxton with a projection of 29 starts and 175 innings. ZiPS, however, sees almost a carbon copy of 2017, expecting 25 starts and 134 innings. Two of the other major projection systems used on Fangraphs, Depth Charts and Fans, expect something between those two extremes.

It’s expected that projection systems will vary somewhat as they are each predicated on slightly different models. For instance, Steamer sees Paxton putting up a 3.54 ERA, the highest of the four, while Fans projects a 3.14 ERA, the lowest of the four. With WAR, Steamer and ZiPS both see Paxton as almost a four-win player (3.7 WAR), whereas Fans sees a five-win player (5.2 WAR). While a single win, much less 1 ½ wouldn’t have made much difference in 2017, it would have ensured at least a single game playoff in 2016.

Barring a major bounce back to the form of three seasons ago by Felix Hernandez, James Paxton is the “ace” of the staff. If the Mariners are to compete for a playoff spot he’ll need to pitch like an “ace,” and part of that is taking the bump every fifth day for the entire season. The track record on that kind of stamina and health has been spotty. Can 2018 be different? We’ll start to find out in about a week.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in early August of last season. Had the thirty-year-old right hander begun the season with the Mariners, he would have been the only pitcher to start over 30 games, 31 to be exact. Between the Cardinals and the Mariners, Leake went 10-13 in 31 starts and 186 innings, with a 3.92 ERA, similar FIP of 3.90, and accounted for 3.1 fWAR.

Leake is the epitome of durability with six consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts during tours of duty with the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and now the Seattle Mariners.

True to form, both Depth Charts and Steamer project Leake for 31 starts, while the ever-conservative ZiPS projects 28 starts. Predicted innings vary between 186 by Steamer to 165 innings by ZiPS. Either innings projection would have led the Mariners last season, so Leake looks to be this season’s workhorse.

Continuing the metaphor, Mariners fans shouldn’t expect a thoroughbred racehorse on the mound in Leake, just a reliable innings eating workhorse. With a career 3.98 ERA, all in the NL except the 5 starts last season with the M’s, Leake is projected to have an ERA somewhere between the Fans projected 3.75 and the Steamer projected 4.58. WAR totals also vary from between 3.3 from Fans to 1.8 from Steamer.

There’s nothing flashy about Mike Leake, but in 2018 he could easily be the most reliable pitcher in the Mariners rotation.

Felix Hernandez

If everything goes according to plan, with no setbacks in recovery from the line drive off the forearm in Spring Training, Felix Hernandez should be the opening day starter for the Seattle Mariners for the tenth consecutive season. Fun fact. Hernandez was the opening day starter in 2007 also, but was sub planted by Erik Bedard – remember him? – in 2008. Otherwise, it would be twelve straight opening starts.

But, make no mistake. Pitching in the first game of the season doesn’t make Felix the ace of the staff. James Paxton has the highest upside of the starting rotation but lacks the track record of endurance that a true “ace” would have. So, this staff may not actually have an ace pitcher, in the classic sense of the term, but, for sure, Felix is three years removed from any such status.

The King will turn thirty-two on April 8th and is coming off a season that saw him pitch only 86.2 innings. In 16 starts in 20017, Felix went 6-5 with a middling 4.36 ERA and a worse 5.02 FIP but encouraging xFIP of 4.03, to account for 0.4 fWAR. The previous season was better, but still not King like, with 25 starts, 153.1 innings, for an 11-8 record, 3.82 ERA, but 4.63 FIP, and a 1.0 fWAR.

The velocity on Hernandez’s fast ball has been trending down for years. From his peak in 2007 of 98.5 mph, the last two seasons the fastball has been sub-92 mph – 91.1 in 2016 and 91.2 in 2017. Now pitchers can live in the low 90’s. The problem with Felix has been the velocity differential of his out pitches. Back in 2007, the differential in his fastball and his changeup was close to ten mph. Last season his fastball was an average of 91.2 mph, but his change was 86.3.

Pitchers lose velocity as they get older. It’s just a fact. The question is how do they adjust? If you’re Justin Verlander, you date Kate Upton, get the velocity back, and go win a World Series. If you’re CC Sabathia, you learn to locate and outpitch opponents. It’s still to be seen how Felix will adjust. All reports are that Hernandez looked good in Spring Training, up until he took a liner off the forearm, and looked good in a start this week, so who knows?

The projections range from 28 starts from both Depth Charts and Steamer to 22 starts from ZiPS. The years of 200+ innings seem over, as Steamer places Hernandez at 162 innings and ZiPS places him at 124. All the projection models tend to see the thirty-two-year-old version of King Felix as a competent, middle of the rotation guy, with ERA’s ranging from 4.38 by Steamer to 3.88 by Fans. Everyday contribution of anywhere from 1.5 WAR by ZiPS to 2.0 WAR by Steamer is what is expected from the former Cy Young award winner.

Erasmo Ramirez

Erasmo Ramirez, who will turn twenty-eight in May, was re-acquired from the Tampa Rays in late July of last season. He has been hampered by a lat injury and has only recently begun throwing in Spring Training. But if all goes well, Ramirez is projected to make his 2018 debut in mid to late April.

In 2017, Ramirez made 19 starts, going 5-6 in 131.1 innings, with a 4.39 ERA, 4.43 FIP, and a 1.1 fWAR. Back in 2015 with the Rays, playing primarily against the formidable AL East, Ramirez was quite the pleasant surprise. In his age twenty-five season, he started 27 games, won 11, and had an ERA+ of 104, slightly better than league average in a tough hitting division. Pitching out of the bullpen over most of 90.2 innings the next season, Ramirez bested that mark with a ERA+ of 106. Unfortunately, he’s been under league average since. A bounce back to 2015-2016 form by Ramirez could be huge for the Mariners back of the rotation.

Depth Charts and Steamer both project 23 starts, with, as usual, ZiPS painting a gloomier picture with 13 projected starts. Innings range from 140.2 by Fans to 113.0 by ZiPS. In a reverse of trends, Steamer projects a 4.80 ERA, whereas ZiPS is actually the most optimistic with a projected 4.06 ERA. Finally, Ramirez is almost universally thought of as a one-win player. Steamer has Ramirez at 0.9 WAR for 2018, on the low end, while Depth Charts expects a 1.3 WAR on the high end.

Marco Gonzales

Bringing up the back end of the rotation should be the youngster of the group, Marco Gonzales, who just turned twenty-six in February. Gonzalez was acquired from the Cardinals in late July last season. (Noticing a trend here?)

Coming off Tommy John surgery, Gonzales made his big-league debut with the Cardinals last season. He made 8 starts in 2017, pitched exactly 40.0 innings, with a not so impressive 6.08 ERA. His FIP indicates that 6+ ERA may be a little noisy in such a small sample size, as it came in a full run lower at 5.06. He accounted for 0.1 fWAR.

For this season, Fans and ZiPS project 21 starts at the ceiling, while Steamer projects 18 starts at the floor. Gonzales could account for anywhere between 130 innings, as seen by Fans, or 107 innings, as projected by Steamer. All projection systems see a lower ERA than last season, ranging from 4.70 on the high end per ZiPS to 4.18 on the low end per Fans. Of the most optimistic, Fans also projects Gonzales contributing 1.7 WAR, but Steamer is the most pessimistic, forecasting 0.7 WAR.

Additional Contributors

Probably contributing at some point this season will be Ariel Miranda, who led the team in starts last season with 29 but posted a 5.12 ERA and a 5.73 FIP. Andrew Moore will turn twenty-four in June and also started eleven games last season, posting a 5.34 ERA. And, notably, the Mariners signed Hisashi Iwakuma to a minor league deal in the offseason. The oft injured Iwakuma will turn thirty-seven in April and made only 6 starts last season before heading to the DL.

Ideally, the Mariners would hope to avoid going any deeper into the farm system for starting pitching. Doing so again, like in 2017, would be an indicator things aren’t going that well.

Starting Pitching Grade C- if Healthy

There are just too may “ifs” in the Seattle Mariners starting rotation. “If James Paxton can stay healthy.” “If Felix Hernandez bounces back to form.” “If any number of previously 5.00+ ERA guys develop.” It’s a lot to ask for all of those things to go well, but they will need to if the Mariners are going to compete with the loaded Houston Astros in their own division or the deadly combo of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees for a wildcard (the other most likely winning the AL East outright).

Taking the best-case WAR projections for each of the likely regulars in the starting rotation gets you to 13.5. That’s roughly four wins better than last season when the M’s won 78 games. That, of course, assumes everything else about the team stays the same as in 2017. That 82, 83, 84-win total range isn’t going to get the Mariners into the playoffs. But, the great thing about baseball is that you are going to see something you’ve never seen before. Guaranteed.

Ichiro Returns To The Seattle Mariners

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Ichiro Returns To The Seattle Mariners

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.