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Tacoma to host Triple-A All-Star Game, but will any Rainiers get voted in?

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Tacoma Rainiers

Tacoma to host Triple-A All-Star Game, but will any Rainiers get voted in?

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While doing my mundane, weekly perusing of minor league baseball player stats a few weeks ago, I discovered the Triple-A All-star game will be hosted by the Tacoma Rainiers on the weekend of July 12 this year. That’s kind of cool for Seattle Mariners and baseball fans alike! The Pacific Coast League and the Independent League on the east coast are always loaded with prospects and promising players, but this year might be one of the best from an overall talent perspective.

While many of the minor league’s best – including Chicago White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada (current leading vote-getter), Oakland shortstop Franklin Barreto and New York Mets shortstop Ahmed Rosario will likely be there, what about the host team? Who from Tacoma has a chance to represent the Mariners?

WHY THIS IS A ‘SPECIAL” YEAR FOR THE RAINIERS

For those of you who haven’t voted for the Triple-A All-stars yet (don’t everyone raise their hands at once), the ballot includes a fair share of players from Tacoma – including Christian Bergman, Sam Gaviglio, Boog Powell, Tyler Smith and Ben Gamel.

If that list of names looks suspicious, it’s because they are all currently on the Mariners team, and contributing on a regular basis (for now…hopefully). I have no idea what the rules are as far as MLB service time and eligibility for the all-star game, but if I had to make an educated guess, I would word it as follows:

Any player currently on a major-league roster at the time of the Triple-A All-Star break will not be eligible to participate in the all-star weekend festivities. If a player was briefly called up or has ‘x-amount’ of innings pitched or fewer at the major-league level or ‘x-amount’ of at bats or fewer at the major league level this season and are currently assigned to the organization’s Triple-A team, then they are eligible to participate in the all-star game.

That’s not even remotely direct from a rule book. I just made that up, but I needed to establish a baseline for the rest of this column.

THE VOTING CONUNDRUM

When I filled out my ballot a couple weeks ago, I was very conflicted with some of my PCL choices. I wanted to vote for Bergman and Caviglio, but I didn’t because they are up with the Mariners. Tuffy Gosewich, however, I didn’t feel compelled to vote for, nor did not voting for him make me upset. (Sorry Tuffers)

I was able to vote for Dan Vogelbach, who was with the Mariners briefly, but not enough to warrant not earning a vote. I also went with Tyler O’Neil – despite his .219 average. He does have 25 RBIs to go with six home runs and five steals.

Gamel, however, did not get my vote either. He might not see Triple-A again, but once the Mariners get healthy, who knows? It can make voting hard – especially if fans don’t know the guidelines.

For example, Cody Bellinger is on the ballot for first basemen. Last I knew he is the current favorite for National League rookie of the year and playing almost every day in L.A. Dodger fans would be pretentious enough to vote for him on the Triple-A ballot anyway. (Zing!)

OTHER PROSPECTS TO WATCH

There should be plenty of talent in Tacoma, even if some of the big-name guys get called up permanently within the next month. Aside from the three I already mentioned – Moncada, Barreto and Rosario – top prospect in Milwaukie’s system, outfielder Lewis Brinson, is putting together a strong season for the Colorado Sky Sox.

Derek Fisher in the Astros system seems to be leading the next wave of prospects to come out of the Houston pipeline. He is expected to make the trip to Tacoma along with Iowa’s catcher Victor Caratini to lead the PCL squad.

On the Independent League side, I don’t know if a lot of Canadians are voting or what’s going on, but barely behind the White Sox multi-million-dollar Cuban superstar investment Moncada in voting is the Buffalo Bisons’ (Blue Jays affiliate) Jake Elmore. Elmore, a second baseman, is hitting a mild .219, with zero home runs, 22 RBIs and eight steals. There are better second basemen to choose from – including Braves top prospect Ozzie Albies – hitting .262 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and 15 steals.

What are the Canadian voters doing to the Independent League voting? At least Rainiers fans have an excuse – all of their players are in the majors.

On a more serious note, if Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies doesn’t get called up soon, he will be a monster to watch in Tacoma in July as a first basemen representing the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (I just wanted to say Iron Pigs).

FINAL THOUGHT

Good luck trying to vote for your all-stars, Tacoma and Seattle fans. Regardless of who gets in for the Rainiers (Gosewich will not), it will be a fun game to watch. Sometimes Triple-A games can be filled with aging players, trying to hang onto a career (Leonys Martin), or simply players who are better suited for the minor leagues than the big leagues (Gordon Beckham), but there is a good side to watching minor league baseball.

I drove to Buffalo back in the day to watch Stephen Strasburg’s Triple-A debut and it was arguably the best game I’ve ever been to. It had a World Series feel to it – seriously. I’ve been to both events, and seeing 99 on the ‘not-so-big screen’ to a packed house of maybe 20,000 cheering on the opponent’s pitcher was pretty awesome.

There will be plenty of star power on display in Tacoma. You might have to cheer for players from other teams this year, but think of it as you are simply enjoying the sport of baseball in an exhibition setting. It certainly doesn’t get much better than that.

The Mariners are winning again, so that’s good. The weather will get crappy-ish again, so that’s not as good, but enjoy your weekend anyway. If you get super bored, feel free to vote in the Triple-A All-Star game by visiting this link.

The Storm bring home the WNBA Championship

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USA Today Img.

The Storm bring home the WNBA Championship

A 16-year veteran. A 2018 WNBA MVP. And passionate city ready for another championship. The Seattle Storm, lead by all-star veteran Sue Bird and 2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart, sweep the Washington Mystics in three games to take home the team's third WNBA championship. 

What started as a blowout Seattle victory in game one, turned into a different story in game two. The Mystics made adjustments and nearly pulled out a tough road win. But Seattle flew east for game three already up two wins with just one more to go. The rest is history and the parade is on for Sunday.

Many NBA players took the moment to congratulate the Storm on their championship:

Let's quickly look at the career of young 24-year-old Breanna Stewart. Since winning her first college national championship with dominant UCONN basketball, Stewart has known knothing but winning and winning big. She went on to claim four national titles at UCONN before being drafted No. 1 to Seattle in the 2016 WNBA draft. Two years later, she can now add 2018 WNBA champion as well as 2018 WNBA MVP and 2018 WNBA Finals MVP to her already very impressive resume.

What a career, so far, for one of the most creative passers, deadly shooters, and influential basketball players in Sue Bird. She is the all-time WNBA career assist leader, a 16-year veteran in the league, and now a three-time WNBA champion. Bird scored 14 points in the fourth quarter in just five minutes to round out a win in game one. A miraculous three-point shot with the shot clock winding down in game two to swing the momentum back in the Storm's favor. And one heck of a shoe game partnered with Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving. And she's not done yet.

What a tremendous season and congrats to the Seattle Storm on another WNBA Championship!

 

 

 

 

Seattle Storm start WNBA Finals defending home turf

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USA Today Images

Seattle Storm start WNBA Finals defending home turf

BY SEBASTIAN PYCIOR

Last week, I’d posted the Storm would go on to sweep… and that didn’t exactly happen, but in a way, thank goodness. We’d never get the chance to be graced by Sue Bird’s utter distaste for womankind in game 5.

No Bird’s not mean, but her jumper was absolutely filthy. Mask adorned, Bird made everything. From flopping and complaining to the refs (probably to buy some time for her team to break) to proceeding to nail timely threes, confirming the veteran’s dominance of the moment. We all like to admit that basketball is “all about the team game” but, Bird reminded us that teamwork is lamesometimes.

The Phoenix Mercury played solid defense, with Brian January chasing Bird down and contesting most of her shots. The Seattle Storm offense got a little stagnant at times in the second half, devolving to stressed out over-dribbling by Bird looking for half of a good screen from a tired Breanna Stewart. Besides Bird’s makes, it was definitely messy.

The Storm obviously won’t be able to replicate a quarter like that in the future, and I’m sure the Storm coaching staff will be back with a brand new attack against the Washington Mystics, opponents heading into tonight’s first game of the WNBA Finals.

The biggest thing to watch on both sides of the ball will be the stars. League MVP Breanna Stewart is playing great so far, and Elena Delle Donne of the Mystics looks to keep the Mystic offensive machine rolling. Here’s how each has been faring in the playoffs thus far:

  Totals Percentages Per Game
  G 3P 3PA FT FTA TRB AST STL BLK TOV FG% 3P% FT% PPG RPG APG
Breanna Stewart 5 9 25 21 24 37 9 5 7 10 0.446 0.36 0.875 24 7.4 1.8
Elena Delle Donne 5 8 21 23 23 60 18 4 4 9 0.458 0.381 1 21.4 12 3.6

*per basketball-reference.com

Elena has been snaring boards and it’ll take all of Stewart’s and Natasha Howard’s will to keeping her out of the paint. The Storm had trouble keeping Brittney Griner out of the box, so it’ll be something to keep an eye on.

In my opinion, the worst is over for the Storm. The Mercury are led by one of the greatest basketball players of all time in Diana Taurasi, and the force aka Brittney Griner. The Mystics are good, but shouldn’t halt the Storm’s grind.

In their last series, the Washington Mystics finished with a scoring differential of 2.8 against an arguably weaker team in the Atlanta Dream. The Storm, facing the Mercury, maintained a scoring differential of -.08.

I’m still holding out for a good ol’ Storm blowout, and I think they hang at least 90 on the Mystics and win by at least 15.

Sue Bird lit up Phoenix, then she lit up Twitter

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USA Today Images

Sue Bird lit up Phoenix, then she lit up Twitter

It was an impressive 4th quarter performance from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird on Tuesday night as she helped her team advance to the WNBA Finals. Bird scored 14 of her 22 points in the final quarter and Seattle rallied back to beat the Phoenix Mercury, 94-84.

Bird suffered a broken nose in Game 4 and she struggled with her shot for the first three quarters of Game 5 of the Conference Finals on Tuesday. But in the fourth, she took over and then she took over twitter.  

After the game, Bird told the media, “I don’t know that I’ve had a fourth quarter like this in a big game in my life, to be honest.”

This will be the Storm’s third appearance in the Finals.

WNBA MVP and forward Breanna Stewart led Seattle with 28 points and carried the scoring load through the first three quarters for Seattle before Bird took over down the stretch.

Several NBA stars took to twitter to give props to Bird on her incredible performance.




The Washington Mystics now await the Storm in the 2018 WNBA Finals. Seattle and Washington will tip-off Game One on Friday.

Washington is playing in its first WNBA Finals in franchise history. The Mystics survived a late push from the Atlanta Dream in Game 5 on Tuesday night to beat the Dream 86-81. Mystics star Elena Delle Donne returned from injury for the final two games of the WNBA semifinals series against Atlanta.

The Storm went 2-1 against the Mystics during the regular season. Seattle won a pair of close games at home, but then lost in Washington 100-77 late in the season.

Storm take a 2-0 series lead in WNBA semifinals

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Seattle Storm

Storm take a 2-0 series lead in WNBA semifinals

It took overtime, but Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm took down the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday, 91-87, to take a commanding 2-0 series lead in the WNBA Semifinals.

Seattle led by as many as 17-points before the Mercury clawed back. Diana Taurisi hit a fade-away three from the corner with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 79, but Seattle would regain composure in overtime to walk away with the victory. 

Breanna Stewart led the Storm with 27 points, while Sue Bird chipped in 19 points and six assists. (FULL BOX SCORE)

The series now shifts to Phoenix where it is do or die for the Mercury. The WNBA Semifinals are a best of five series, so the Strom just need one win to advance.

Game Three is scheduled for Friday at Talking Stick Resort Arena, tipoff is set for 7:00 pm. You can watch all the action live on ESPNews & NBA TV.

Dempsey hangs his cleats up

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USA Today

Dempsey hangs his cleats up

One of the greatest American soccer players in the history of the game is calling it a career. Clint Dempsey announced his retirement early Wednesday. Dempsey has been a thorn in the side of soccer fans here in Portland since 2013 when he joined Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders, adding fuel to the fire of one of the best rivalries in MLS

Dempsey played in 136 matches with the Sounders, scoring 57 career goals and helping the club win its first MLS Cup in 2016. For as good as Dempsey was in MLS, he really made his name on the international stage and abroad. Dempsey had 141 caps with the USMNT, is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals scored in USMNT history (57), is the only American to score in three World Cups, and was voted U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year in 2007, 2011, and 2012.

Dempsey also played abroad in the English Premier League (EPL) with Fulham (2006-2012) and Tottenham (2012-2013). He played in 263 matches and scored 72 goals, setting the record for goals scored by an American player in the EPL. Between MLS and EPL he scored 155 goals for his career. 

Soccer clubs from MLS and the EPL showed their love for Dempsey on social media.

MLB Ballpark improvement disputes may provide more targets for Portland Diamond Project

MLB Ballpark improvement disputes may provide more targets for Portland Diamond Project

As the Portland Diamond Project continues to close in on a location for a site for its mixed-use development that would include a major-league ballpark as its centerpiece, the list of potential targets for a team in Portland may be growing.

Two existing major-league cities are in the process of attempting to get government funding for ballpark improvements. Part of negotiations for such things almost always comes down to teams threatening to leave their stadiums for something better.

And as the PDP gains increasing credibility as a future destination for a team, expect this city to be used as leverage in negotiations in other cities with stadium issues. It's beyond the control of the Diamond Project and simply the way these things tend to play out.

And that may not be a bad thing for Portland. Not all those teams will get what they want and at a certain point, they may have their bluff called – and decide to move. And at the same time, any city providing leverage for existing teams would be looked upon favorably by Major League Baseball as a future expansion site.

To date, it was presumed that Portland has four opportunities for procuring a team – the two potential expansion franchises and the troubled franchises in Oakland and Tampa.

But don’t be surprised to hear this city mentioned as a possible relocation site for the Arizona Diamondbacks and – what? – the Seattle Mariners.

There are serious stadium-improvement issues with the latter teams.

In Seattle, the team’s lease at Safeco Field expires at the end of this season and the Mariners are asking King County for a substantial sum for ballpark improvements.

The Seattle Mariners have issued an ultimatum: Give them $180 million in taxpayer money for their 19-year-old stadium, or they won’t sign a long-term lease.

And in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks have already negotiated their way out of  longer-term lease to one that expires in 2022 – coincidentally a year when it’s figured the Portland ballpark would be ready for occupancy.

The Arizona Diamondbacks can leave Chase Field and end the team's 20-year residence at the downtown Phoenix stadium as early as 2022, Maricopa County leaders decided Wednesday.

The expectation is that both disputes will be settled without relocation of the franchises... but faced with a lucrative option in a fresh city, it would be difficult to know what to expect from ownership of those teams.

PDP leaders have promised that they will use no public money for stadium construction other than what has already been set aside by the Oregon state legislature.

The ballpark in Portland is expected to include a large-scale mixed-use development that includes housing, entertainment and dining options and hotels. The Diamond Peoject is still looking at multiple sites but is expected to make a decision on a location soon.

 

 

Draftsville: A Friday Night Lights Parody Season 2

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NBC Sports

Draftsville: A Friday Night Lights Parody Season 2

What happens when dramatic change comes to the town where fantasy football is king? Find out in season two of this Friday Night Lights parody. Episodes 1 and 2 debut Thursday, August 30 on NBCSports.com.

 

Girardi, Reynolds advocate for baseball in Portland

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nbcs

Girardi, Reynolds advocate for baseball in Portland

Harold Reynolds and Joe Girardi were on MLB TV Wednesday and they both think Portland is a viable option for MLB expansion. Girardi first lays out a plan to make baseball into a new western and eastern conference alignment but then adds that he could see the league adding two teams to make divisions more balanced. One of those two teams could be Portland. 

"I think we need another team in the Northwest, so, Portland"

Check out the full segment in the video below (Girardi mentions Portland around the 1:40 mark).

The Portland Diamond project, of course, took notice.

 

The Oakland A's have a ballpark problem and Portland might be able to solve it

The Oakland A's have a ballpark problem and Portland might be able to solve it

As the Portland Diamond Project studies potential sites for a new ballpark in this town, there's a big worry in the back of my mind:

How easy is it going to be to find a site in this town that doesn't end up mired in controversy and red tape?

In Oakland, where the A's have been searching for a potential location for a new ballpark (and a way to pay for it) for quite a while, a problem has popped up in regard to a possible prime location. The waterfront Howard Terminal site has been identified as a possible place for the ballpark but a mysterious group has emerged to attempt to block such a move:

However, with Howard Terminal still under consideration, a group that bills itself as Protect Oakland’s Shoreline Economy is stating its opposition to idea of a new ballpark at that location. It is unknown exactly who is behind the group, but this comes after the A’s saw a previous proposal–one to build at a site near Laney College–collapse late last year in the midst of neighborhood opposition.

And the reasons for the opposition, outlined in a mailer, sound eerily like some of the same ideas that could be brought forth in Portland:

The mailer ticks off a list of drawbacks to the proposed move, including “severe traffic impacts” to nearby warehouses and neighborhoods and the “hundreds of millions of dollars” in taxpayer-funded infrastructure that will be needed.

The flyer even argues that an A’s waterfront ballpark would force the homeless to move their street camps to make room for fan parking and describes the team’s plan for an overhead gondola to ferry fans over the nearby railroad tracks as “silly.”

In a place like Portland, a waterfront location would be attractive in so many ways and there are locations being studied that would be a big improvement to the site and its economy. But I worry that various groups in this city would attempt to block it, if for no other reason than it's kind of what happens in Portland. You are going to find somebody against everything -- no matter how beneficial it could be to the city.

I have a solution, by the way, for Oakland's stadium problem and it's a little unconventional. That city just doesn't seem able to come up with financing or an ownership group willing to finance, a new ballpark. I'm afraid the only way to get something done down there is for the town to lose its team. But stay with me here, it would lose its team but gain one, too. For years, franchises have used the threat of moving to another city to push municipalities into financing a new stadium.

Why not take that one natural step further?

The A's ought to sell to a group in Portland but stay in Oakland as a lame duck franchise until a ballpark is built here. Major League Baseball should then promise Oakland an expansion franchise as soon as a new ballpark is constructed in that area. Oakland would still have baseball, Portland would, too -- and MLB would have solved its "Oakland problem" as well as be on its way to a successful expansion plan.

For a city that is soon to lose the Warriors and Raiders, this could likely provide the impetus to build a new ballpark. I mean, you can't suddenly be stripped of all your big-league franchises.

Boom! It would be a win-win-win for Oakland, Portland and Major League Baseball..