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Seattle Mariners – A week of mettle tests

USA Today

Seattle Mariners – A week of mettle tests


This past week felt longer than it had to for the Seattle Mariners.

The team hadn’t had a day off since May 7th, unless you count the delayed and later postponed game on the 11thin Detroit, which might have boded more tiresome than actually playing a full nine innings. This delay set off a chain reaction of feet-dragging events.

After the postponed game, the Mariners split a double-header against the Tigers the following day and ended up losing the series on the next day. The day that followed saw them travel up to Minnesota in an effort to make up for a game that was rained out on the 8th of April. The Mariners beat the Twins on that day after yet another rain delay and flew back home, arriving in Seattle in the darkest hours of the night. They managed to go 2-2 within three days and had a whole week of games to go until they were to see another off day.

But Tuesday morning brought even darker skies to Seattle, as a metaphorical storm was brewing for the Mariners front office. On Tuesday, May 15th, Robinson Canó was suspended for testing positive for Furosemide, a known PED masking agent. He is suspended for 80 games without pay and if the Mariners are to make the playoffs this season, Canó would be ineligible to play.

It was a cataclysmic Tuesday morning. Sports media outlets were burning every lead they could to find out every bit of information about the suspension and PED usage. Twitter was divided into three factions; Objective reporters, Canó supporters, and Canó accusers. The Mariners players had just come off a bad weather weekend and woke up to a torrential downpour of tweets and blurbs about their star teammate. But metaphorical rains do not delay games. The show had to go on as the Mariners were set to face the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers the rest of the week.

The Mariners scrambled. They called up Gordon Beckham from Tacoma. They began transitioning Dee Gordon back to second base. They called up Christian Bergman for a start and optioned him back to Tacoma to call up Ryan Cook, the 30-year-old right-handed reliever who had not been on a big-league mound in two years. In the process, the Mariners designated Erik Goeddel for assignment. It was all hands on deck for the Mariners, trying to cover the gaping hole at second base and make the most of what they have.

And thanks to the Robinson Canó foofaraw, the Mariners were given the opportunity to prove that they are the prime example of what a team should be; a true sum of parts working together to win games. A team made up of various players, not just one mega-star.

Out of the six games the Mariners have had without Canó, they’ve won four. These wins included complete games by pitchers, walk-offs, and come-from-behind wins with lineups that not only were Canó-deficient, but sans Nelson Cruz as well, since he was hit by a pitch on Tuesday and had to take a couple of rest days.

This 2018 Mariners team is a team that, even if they are down and out, they find ways to make things work. In wake of the Canó news, they team banded together like brothers, and the fanbase followed suit. Off the field, they have chemistry and on the field, they have grit. Criticize what you will about intangibles, but the Mariners are every bit as talented as any team in the American League. Pitching may still be an issue, but with Canó’s suspension allowing an empty spot on the roster, the Mariners have an opportunity to keep their success moving despite the setbacks.

And that’s the thing about this team. They’ve managed to end this long and terrible week on a high note despite all the setbacks that came their way. Like Safeco Field, the Mariners too have a roof to shield them on the days were the downpour is just too much to handle, and that roof is their comradery as teammates and talent as players.  If they can keep it up, they can be ten games above .500 by Wednesday night and potentially in first place if the Astros drop their next two games. If they can ride this wave of success against all odds, their June schedule might not seem as daunting, as they are set to face the Red Sox and the Yankees, powerhouses of the east.

The Mariners are a bounce-back team this year. It’s time they bounce back from years and years of misery.

The Seattle Mariners will get better 'Dee' at second base

USA Today Images

The Seattle Mariners will get better 'Dee' at second base


In the immediate wake of Robinson Cano’s suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy, the front office of the Seattle Mariners stated that former Gold Glove Award winner Dee Gordon, who was obtained in the offseason via trade with the Miami Marlins and subsequently converted to a centerfielder, would remain in the outfield during Cano’s absence. The rationale was that the long-term plans for Gordon were for him to play CF and any interruption might hinder his development at his new position. But, after a few days of reflecting on the prospect of inserting light hitting Gordon Beckham into the lineup for 80 games, the GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais changed their minds. Gordon has been taking grounders in pre-game and will likely return to second this weekend in the home series against the Detroit Tigers.

An Improvement on Defense

Seattleites, just like the home fan base of every team in the major leagues, suffer through the incessant over-hyping of the prowess of their team’s players abilities from the local broadcasting crew. And despite the insistence of the ROOT Sports team, Robinson Cano has been about league average at 2B for most of his tenure with the Mariners. In his four-plus seasons with on the infield at Safeco and on the road as a Mariner, Cano has recorded DRS (defensive runs saved) of 0, -9 (minus isn’t good), 11 (worth about a win – good), 0, and 2 so far this season, for a total of about 4 DRS. He is solid, steady, and reliable. He is not, by any means, a gold glove 2B at this stage of his career.

The other sabermetric measure of defense reported by Fangraphs, UZR (ultimate zone rating) and its extrapolated companion UZR/150 (for a look at 150 games or roughly a full season – useful in smaller sample sizes), is even less kind to Cano. In 2016, the year DRS rated Cano at 11, UZR placed him at 3.9. The positive trend is the same, but the overall impact of maybe less than half a win versus a full win can be important, as Mariners fans who have seen their team fall a single victory short of the playoffs in recent memory. To be fair, the UZR of -1.7 in 2015 does look better than the DRS -9 of the same year.

By contrast, Dee Gordon, once the Los Angeles Dodgers moved him off of SS, has been pretty darned good at 2B. in 4,462.2 innings at 2B, Gordon has 13 DRS and 14.9 UZR. Cano’s overall cumulative DRS and UZR are greater than Gordon’s (30 and 24.5 respectively), but he has played 17,372 innings at the position, nearly four times as much.

In the outfield this season, Gordon has been less than spectacular. While metrics like DRS and UZR are admittedly not intended for small sample sizes like the fourth of a season that’s been played so far, Gordon currently has -9 DRS in just 341.0 innings and a corresponding UZR of -1.7. By improving the glove in both CF, with say Guillermo Heredia, and by the move of Gordon to 2B in Cano’s absence, the loss of Cano’s bat could, theoretically, be off-set in WAR.

The Present and the Future

The relatively younger Gordon (30), should offer a defensive upgrade over the thirty-five-year old Cano in the short term of half a season. It’s worth noting that Nelson Cruz, the Mariners regular DH, is in the last year of his contract. Cano, signed through his age forty season could easily slot over at DH, with Gordon remaining at second. And as for this season, pitching and defense have been the problem in a still so-far successful season, not the hitting. With Dee Gordon at 2B, one of the team’s deficits should get addressed.

More answers to common questions about the future of legalized sports gambling

More answers to common questions about the future of legalized sports gambling

It's been a few days now since the Supreme Court Decision that will allow states to legalize sports gambling. There were A LOT of questions after the initial ruling came down. ESPN's Brian Windhorst has a great FAQ posted and you should really take the time to read the whole thing. 

Here are some bullet points:

How will teams/leagues make money?
Sponsorships & royalty fees (in theory)

Will players get a cut?
Yes, most of this revenue will be considered Basketball-Related Income which the CBA dictates the players get a cut of. 

What about games being fixed?
There are a lot of safeguards in place and in fact, it's far less likely games would be fixed with legal gambling. Oversight of all betting locations as well as betting limits will help the cause. Keep in mind this type of betting system has been in place in Europe for quite a while, so this is not entirely new territory. 

How will we be able to bet?
TBD. The league wants fans to be able to bet via an app (they already have this in the state of Nevada) but depending on the states' individual plans it might require going to a physical location (casino, kiosk, arena, etc). It also depends if Congress gets involved. 

Read the full story at

Portland Diamond Project launches new website with all your MLB to PDX info

Portland Diamond Project

Portland Diamond Project launches new website with all your MLB to PDX info

There are people all over the state of Oregon and all over the country who have been keeping up on the potential of Major League Baseball to Portland. On Wednesday morning, the Portland Diamond Project introduced its new website to keep you updated on the project’s efforts, goals, and more.

Some of the main objectives for the goal of the ballpark is to build an iconic stadium that enhances the cityscape, while providing a catalyst for workforce housing around the ballpark.

[Read more on Portland Diamond Project’s goals]

A good majority of people who have been following the Portland Diamond Project know that former Trail Blazers TV play-by-play announcer Mike Barrett is a big part of the baseball advisors & executive team. But did you know Craig Cheek who is a retired Nike executive is the Found and President of the Portland Diamond Project?

[Learn more about the leadership team]

Portland’s baseball history dates back 150 years. The tab of the “History of baseball in Portland” on the Portland Diamond Project website has an incredible timeline illustration of the various baseball landmarks in Portland’s history starting with the first Portland baseball club in 1866.

[More on the formation of Portland’s first baseball club and the detailed history recap]

You can join the Portland Diamond Project’s 'MLB to Portland' movement at

The biggest hit of Robinson Cano’s career

USA Today Images

The biggest hit of Robinson Cano’s career


The path to Cooperstown was there.

305 career homers, over 1200 RBIs, closing in on 2500 hits, Robinson Cano has put together one of baseball’s best ever careers as a second baseman, And with over 5 years still left on his current $24 million per year contract with the Mariners, those numbers are sure to inflate.  He has been respected as much for his smooth defensive ability as for his offensive prodigy, and looked to be a lock for the Hall of Fame when he decides to hang up the cleats.  All of that disintegrated Tuesday as news broke that Cano was to be suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball for violation of the league’s anti-drug policy, effective immediately.

While the personal loss of almost $12 million, 80 games of statistics, and a chance at ending the Mariners’ 17-year playoff drought, the biggest hit Cano took was to his reputation.  He will never be looked at in the same way by baseball writers, the gatekeepers of baseball’s prestigious Hall of Fame.  His reputation is forever tainted as it’s hard to know just how much of Cano’s numbers were a product of his use of performance-enhancing drugs and how many were produced by natural ability.  As a lifelong Mariners fan looking for our first playoff run in almost two decades, it’s disheartening.  As a lifelong baseball fan who’s fascination with the game is rooted in the difficulty required to play it, it’s enraging.  And finally, as a fan of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, I am further reminded just how difficult it is to reach baseball immortality.  Tremendous natural ability has to be coupled with longevity, production, and a little bit of luck, all traits essential to a Hall of Fame baseball career.  Cano seemed to be embodying these traits and looked to be on his way to joining the 323 other Hall of Fame players.  But anyone who’s ever been linked to PEDs has never been elected to the Hall of Fame.  Anyone who has this tainted past is immediately written-off by writers as ineligible and Cano will be no exception.

Robinson Cano was sure to be someone remembered for his unusual power, smooth left-handed swing, and gracious roaming of the middle infield.  He had all the makings of a surefire Hall of Fame player.  But now, he’ll be remembered for his use of performance-enhancing drugs, forever overshadowing any successes he’s had on the field.  He just another one of the game’s cheaters, glorifying those who’ve done it clean.  He was supposed to be in the Hall, but the inside of those walls are reserved for those who did it the right way, and unfortunately, Robinson Cano is not one of those people.

Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano will be suspended 80 games


Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano will be suspended 80 games

Reports are out from various outlets that Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano will be suspended 80 games for violating the MLB's joint drug agreement.

Cano tweeted out a statement that he will accept the punishment handed down by MLB:

More to come on this story as it develops and be sure to tune in to The Bridge tonight at 6pm on NBCS Northwest for the latest reactions from Seattle on the news. 

Sports gambling in Oregon?


Sports gambling in Oregon?

In a decision that could have major implications across the country, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor today of New Jersey in the state's challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. This law prevented states from having legalized gambling (with an exception for Nevada). The ruling came down to a 6-3 vote and now allows states to make their own decisions as it relates to legalized sports betting in their state. 

If you happen to have a law degree, you can read the whole legal document here. 

The big question for Northwest fans is how will this affect those of us in Oregon and Washington. While it could be a while before any official decisions are made, Oregon ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of states that would be ready to legalize gambling. Washington is in the bottom pack of states and would be starting from scratch. 

[RELATED: Dwight Jaynes on today's ruling]

The Oregon Lottery used to run a betting game called Sports Action where players could wager on the NFL but strictly in a parlay format which required getting at least three picks correct to win. Single game bets were not available. NBA games were involved with Sports Action for a short time until the NBA filed a lawsuit and forced the state to remove them. Sports Action was first introduced in 1989 and banned in 2007 when it became a roadblock to the state of Oregon being a host site for the NCAA basketball tournament.

The bottom line is this: We do not know a timeline for placing bets in Oregon and Washington and we do not know how the physical process of placing that bet would take place (in person and/or online). It is likely that if either state chooses to adopt legalized sports gambling, that Oregon would be first. With the history of Sports Action combined with the legalization of fantasy sports such as Fan Duel it puts Oregon in a far more likely position than Washington where online fantasy sports such as Fan Duel are not allowed. 

The leagues obviously have a major stake in this whole process. Here are some initial reactions from around professional sports from this morning:

Positive framing – Seattle Mariners pitching

USA Today Images

Positive framing – Seattle Mariners pitching


Despite having lost the series to the Detroit Tigers this weekend, the Seattle Mariners have managed to have a more than decent season so far. Chalk it up to reasonable and aggressive hitting, as well as modest pitching performances.

Modest is a euphemism. The Mariners need to begin working on their performances on the mound before they can take on American League heavyweights such as the Red Sox and Yankees, who lead the league in runs scored. Especially now that Robinson Canó, one of the Mariners’ leading offensive producers, will hit the disabled list due to a hand fracture.

Though the M’s will not square off against the Yankees and Red Sox until mid-June, they have faced their west side counterparts, the Astros and the Angels, but to no avail. Both series against the leading American League West teams were lost, the only series losses up until this weekend’s loss to the Tigers.

In the series against the Astros, the Mariners allowed 21 runs to score while only scoring 6 runs against them. Against the Angels just two weeks later, Mariners pitchers once again allowed 21 runs to score, while scoring 11 against them. These numbers are cause for alarm.

The Mariners pitching staff has, to put it frankly, been less than adequate. Other than James Paxton, all of the Mariners starting pitchers have above league average ERAs. Off of Mariners pitchers, opponents have hit 53 home runs, just four home runs less than the Baltimore Orioles, who lead the American League in home runs allowed with 57.  On the other end, it is a positive that Wade LeBlanc, Marco Gonzales, and James Paxton have FIPs lower than league average, and that’s what gets people like me through tough losses, looking at the positives.

Once of the best things to come to the hill for the Mariners this season is James Paxton. Though he suffered a couple of strenuous outings against the Indians and the Twins to start the season, Paxton managed to bounce back in stellar form. On May 2nd, against the Athletics, he threw 7.0 innings while only allowing 5 hits and striking out a career high 16 batters and allowing only a single walk.

The truest of celebrations occurred just a week later, when the Mariners faced the Blue Jays. On May 8th, in his native Canada, James Paxton needed only 99 pitches to throw a no-hitter, the fifth in franchise history to come from a single pitcher.

Paxton also currently holds one of the highest K/9 average in the American League with 12.65 strikeouts per nine innings, second only to Gerrit Cole’s 13.66 average. Paxton is also one of the American League’s 17 starting pitchers with HR/9 averages of less than 1.0. His 2.96 FIP is currently ranked 7th in the American League and his 1.3 fWAR ranks him at 8th in starting pitchers on the season.

In spite of some command issues and more than a few aggravating losses, Marco Gonzales also has some points of interest in his numbers. He currently holds a 1.77 BB/9 average, ranking him 7th in the American League amongst starting pitchers. He also has the highest groundball percentage among Mariners starters with 42.4%. Unfortunately, he has the highest starting BABIP in the American League with .405.

When it comes to relievers, Edwin Díaz also has impressive numbers. Say what you will about closers, but in the role, Díaz manages has been exquisite. He has one of the highest strikeout percentages in the league with 44.7%, second only to the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman. His opposing batter average is a mere .094 and his BABIP is .143, both ranked second in the league. He and James Pazos are in the top six when it comes to relievers with the lowest WHIP. Pazos also has one of the lowest walk percentages for relievers in the American League with 1.8%, ranking him 5th, while Juan Nicasio is ranked 3rd with a BB% of 1.3. Chasen Bradford also deserves recognition, with his groundball rate of 55.8%, ranking him 12th among relievers in the AL.

Even with all of the positive numbers that surround the Mariners pitching staff, it is important to note that these numbers do not exist in a vacuum. It may be cherry-picking to look at these stats and say that the Mariners have been doing well because of them, but truly, there is plenty of work to do with the team’s pitching.

And that is the issue with the Mariners so far. They seem to be in limbo. Other than Paxton, they have not managed to have a standout performance in their pitching. Every positive that comes into play brings with it larger set of negatives. It may be interesting to compare pitchers to the rest of the league, but when it comes to their performance on the mound, the Mariners need to work toward better strategies for getting batters out.

Keeping the ball on the ground would be the most important place to start. The Mariners have the second lowest groundball percentage while having the highest home run to fly ball rate. The White Sox are the only other team with a lower ground ball rat. They also happen to own the worst record in baseball with only 10 wins in 37 games.

Make of that what you will.

Like it or not, Portland is becoming a big-league city so why not act like it?

Like it or not, Portland is becoming a big-league city so why not act like it?

A few thoughts about the Portland Diamond Project after perusing the many stories that have been written about the drive to bring Major League Baseball to Portland:

  • I'm reading that a lot of "experts" believe our city and the PDP are being used as leverage to get ballparks built in MLB cities (namely Oakland and Tampa). Well, maybe. But I seriously doubt it. The people behind PDP are whip smart and have done a whole lot more work on this project than they're letting on. And they're making offers on some very expensive property and have already spent a lot of cash on stadium plans and other associated projects. I don't think these people would be spending that kind of money without being pretty certain that they can pull this thing off. I have met them and I can assure you this is not a gathering of naive fans chasing an impossible dream.
  • Speaking of property, don't make the mistake of thinking that this group has confined its interest to just the two locations that have already been made public. There are other attractive pieces of property on their plate. And, too, don't put any stock into that artist's rendering of their ballpark. There are many of those drawings and different ones for each potential location.
  • It's very popular to quote studies that diminish the economic impact of professional sports on a community. The argument is that there is really no new money generated and that it's merely a case of money that normally would have been spent on other entertainment options (movies, concerts, restaurants, etc.) is just being transferred elsewhere. But common sense would tell you that it's a different story with a regional franchise like this one would be. Right now, baseball fans are spending their money watching games in Seattle, San Francisco and all over the country. And there is no small number of these people. At the same time, it's a way of bringing the rest of the state into the city -- making Portland more of a vacation destination for the entire region. That would bring new dollars into town that would otherwise be spent elsewhere.
  • I find it ironic that to get a ballpark built in Portland the PDP will be asked to help solve long-term Portland problems of homelessness and affordable housing. Certainly all the jobs this project would bring would help in those areas. I think, though, if this whole thing didn't do ANYTHING about those persistent problems, it's still a worthwhile endeavor if it's going to be practically gift-wrapped for Portland. It's a quality-of-life issue -- an amenity many cities believe is worth spending loads of public money on.
  • There is also hand-wringing that even though taxpayers will not be asked to vote on a bond measure to build a ballpark, there is concern about infrastructure expenses associated with the new venue. That's a joke. The city goes all over the world chasing new businesses to bring to this city that don't provide the same public joy that a ballpark would bring. And the city often provides tax breaks and plenty of street improvements and transportation options for these businesses. Of course the city has to be cautious about expenses -- I get that. But I'm not sure we need to hold the owners of a prospective baseball franchise to a higher standard than some of the pie-in-the-sky business startups that we've helped out over the years.
  • I heard the same concerns about minor expenses when the Rose Quarter was built. People were up in arms that perhaps $25 million would be spent on new streets and other infrastructure for the area. Do you hear any of those people complaining now? I don't care if you're a basketball fan or not, that arena has been a major plus for Portland and the city owes Paul Allen a huge thank you for building it. Without it, we'd still be trying to make that dump next door -- Memorial Coliseum -- useful for something and would have lost the Trail Blazers years ago. There is NO WAY this city would have found a way to build a new arena -- because, unlike just about any other major city in the world, we don't build sports venues here.
  • I'm amused at how many of our civic leaders always preface their remarks about this movement with "I love baseball, but..." Well, do you really love baseball or are you just concerned about offending fans? Yes, baseball fans vote, too. I would ask anyone making such a statement about their love for the sport, "When was the last time that you actually attended a game?" Or if they had EVER seen a big-league game, especially one at a beautiful venue such as AT&T Park in San Francisco.
  • Don't misunderstand me -- it's our political leaders' responsibility to proceed with caution when it comes to spending public funds. But I'd ask them, too, to keep an open mind and not miss an opportunity to change the face of Portland. We are growing and we are slowly coming out of that decades-long slumber of not realizing we're becoming a big-league city -- whether we like it or not. And so why not act like one?