Seattle Mariners Prove Bad Luck is Contagious: Angels’ Slugger Kendry Morales Breaks Ankle Celebrating Walk-Off Home Run.

Kendry Morales is seen here in his happier days, before...the accident.

Even when you beat the Mariners you don’t win.     

The Angels found that out yesterday when their season took a sickening turn while celebrating a dramatic triumph over their downtrodden division rival.     

Kendry Morales, the Angels leader in home runs, RBI’s and batting average, came to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th and promptly did what every hitter does when facing Brandon League–crushing a game-ending grand slam deep over the left-centerfield wall and sending the Angels and their fans into a frenzy.     

As is customary in baseball since the Emancipation of Mimi, Morales’ teammates surrounded home plate as he took a victory lap around the bases. Morales approached the plate slowly, threw his helmet into the air and leapt into the middle of the fray–set to enjoy one of the greatest moments of his young career. The euphoria didn’t last long.     

Morales landed awkwardly on the plate and his leg twisted in a gruesome fashion that would make even Barbaro shudder (R.I.P. my sweet stallion). He laid in the ground in obvious pain for around ten minutes until he was carted off the field while his teammates looked on in stunned silence.   

Rob Johnson. Simple, poor hitting catcher or criminal mastermind? You be the judge baseball fans.

The news came later on Saturday that Morales had suffered a broken leg and would need surgery that would cause him to miss most if not all of the season.  The Angels, already struggling to score runs, will be without their best hitter into the forseeable future and likely lost any chance they had to catch Texas in the lowly AL West. Who’s to blame?   

Many fans and baseball pundits would like to put the responsibility for the injury on Morales and his teammates for an excessive celebration, but one can’t help but wonder if the Mariners and their bad karma played a role in one of sports’ most bizarre injuries since Bill Gramatica and Gus Freotte made football players look like the intellectual counterparts of Derek Zoolander.  

Did Rob Johnson grease up the plate with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (a proud sponsor of Viva La Vidro) while Morales was rounding the bases? Was Morales perhaps blinded by the glare of Milton Bradley’s bling or Ken Griffey Jr.’s smile, causing him to lose his bearings and land haphazardly?  

We might not ever know the answers to those questions, but one thing is for sure, the Mariners and their ineptitude are a danger to the rest of baseball. The team needs to be quarantined, sent to Double or Triple-A, and fast. Their next victim might not be so lucky to walk away with just a broken leg.

Your move Bud Selig.

Plugging a Leak(e): Rookie Pitcher Keeps the Reds’ Season Afloat.

Leake has seamlessly made the transition from college to the pros--and the Reds are benefiting in a big way.

Coming into Spring Training it was Aroldis Chapman, not Mike Leake, who was receiving all the attention in the Cincinnati Reds camp. The Cuban flamethrowers triple digit fastballs easily overshadowed the quiet consistency of the rookie out of Arizona State University. Yet, a quarter of the way through the season, Chapman is still toiling in Triple-A while Leake is doing is best to keep Jason Heyward from running away with the rookie of the year award—not to mention helping the Reds soar to first place in the NL Central.  

The 22-year-old right hander is among a small group of hurlers who went straight to the majors without ever having thrown a pitch in the minor leagues (including such household names as Darren Dreifort, Tim Conroy and David Clyde) and Leake is making it look easy. In eight starts on the year, Leake is 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 42 strikeouts against 22 walks, and has flashed more control with each passing start. Leake’s makeup on the mound and pitching repertoire reminds many of Greg Maddux and the Reds can only hope that their young star has the same kind of career as the “Mad Dog”. Leake also shares another similarity with Greg Maddux—he handles himself at the plate with aplomb (.353 in his first 23 at-bats).

Though most pitchers not named Tim Lincecum struggle initially in the major leagues, Leake has been able to thrive in spite of his size (5’10”) and less than stellar stuff (topping out in the low 90’s). Leake explains his quick success in the major leagues:  

“It’s tough for me to get intimidated. I’m more of a self-competitor rather than competing against people. For example, people worry about or ask questions about who you’re facing. Say it’s Pujols — I’m not really worried about facing him. I’m worried about hitting the glove.”

Cincinnati is 26-20 after a loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night but still sit atop their division despite a slow start and inconsistent pitching outside of Leake. The Reds have built a strong nucleus to contend with St. Louis and Chicago for the next half decade, but few expected Cincinnati to be in contention this soon.

Of course, few expected Leake to become the team’s de facto ace less than a year after graduating from college…but that’s exactly what happened.

Tom Emanski Admits Back-to-Back-to-Back AAU National Champs Fueled by Steroids and HGH, Not Fundamentals.

Steroids are not Fred McGriff approved.

In a scandal that would make even Mark McGwire blush, former A.A.U. baseball coach and the godfather of fundamentals Tom Emanski revealed in a recent interview with Larry King that he administered steroids and human growth hormone to his teenage players in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Emanski gained worldwide fame for his baseball fundamental videos (often referred to as the nine commandments) that stressed a “building block” approach to the sport. Apparently, those building blocks involved bathroom stall injections, steroid cycles and masking agents, not hitting the cut-off man and proper base running.

The cult hero (his commercials have aired over 100,000 times) agreed to an interview with King after a former player threatened to blackmail him, and with Emanski’s net worth rumored to eclipse $70 million dollars, the coach decided it was time to come clean rather than give up his lavish lifestyle. While Emanski didn’t get into specifics about what drugs he administered to players, he did open up about the reasoning behind his decision:

If I wanted a team full of David Ecksteins I would have just taught the kids fundamentals, but hell, who wants to watch that little gnat play baseball? I juiced the kids up because it’s what the fans wanted–frozen ropes, tape measure home runs and pre-pubescent boys hitting 90 miles-an-hour on the radar gun–now that’s entertainment.”

When asked if he regretted negatively influencing the young boys’ lives, 90% of which are now dead or incarcerated, Emanski showed little remorse:

“Would I do it all over again? You bet your rotten old ass I would Larry. These kids came to play for me because they wanted to win, and the best way to do that was with [performance enhancing drugs] not fundamentals. It’s not like I was the only coach encouraging steroid use–just look at Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. To make it in baseball today you’ve got to be willing to make sacrifices…the kids and their parents knew exactly what they were getting into.”

No former players (including an unnamed MLB star) were willing to speak to any media outlets about Emanski’s revelation, but one parent spoke on the condition of anonymity to Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune:

“We knew there was something funny about Coach Emanski, but we couldn’t quite put our finger on it. The soft toss, the exaggerated throwing motion, the kids throwing balls from the outfield into garbage cans at homeplate–let’s just say I was baffled. There aren’t even garbage cans on the field during a game! None of us had any idea that steroids were being used, but maybe the fact that my 13-year-old son was bench pressing 250 lbs. should have been a red flag; I just figured he had good genes. You can believe we [the parents] are going to take this to court and make Emanski pay through the nose.”

Fred McGriff, who endorsed the videos as a young slugger for the San Diego Padres, teared up and shook his head slowly from side to side when approached at a restaurant about the story by a reporter. He didn’t comment any further, but on his way out, McGriff was seen throwing the distinctive blue “Baseball World” hat into an overflowing trash can, symbolically stating that once and for all, Tom Emanski’s videos were no longer “Fred McGriff approved“.

He won’t be the only one shaking his head tonight…Tom Emanski failed baseball and forever tarnished America’s youth.

Is nothing in this world holy anymore?

They Are Who We Thought They Were: Why the Mariners’ Continued Struggles Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone.

Watching the Seattle Mariners is like getting drilled by a fastball. It hurts.

Watching the Seattle Mariners is like getting drilled by a fastball. It hurts.

After yesterday’s excruciating loss to the lowly Orioles it’s time to face the facts–the Seattle Mariners season is over.    

Yes it’s only May, and no they aren’t mathematically eliminated, but have the Mariners given us any reason to believe that they are capable of going on a tear and catching Texas in the AL West? Have they given us any reason to believe they won’t finish in the cellar of the division?   

The first month and a half of  the season has been filled with bullpen meltdowns, fielding miscues and a lineup that would have trouble scoring runs at Double A. Not only are the Mariners losing at an alarming rate, but they aren’t even fun to watch (unless you are a big fan of failed suicide squeeze bunts–happy trails Eric Byrnes). For a team that came into 2010 with such great expectations, Seattle might be the most frustrating and disappointing team in baseball.   

The offseason was filled with talk of a World Series run and a storybook ending to the career of Ken Griffey Jr. New additions like Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman and Cliff Lee were supposed to help Seattle return to the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade. All that speculation looks like a pipe dream now, as the Mariners sit at 12-21, already 6 1/2 games out in a weak division.    

The team is so boring to watch that Mariners players are falling asleep during games (allegedly) and besides recent call-up Michael Saunders there is little reason to believe things will change. The magic that was supposed to surround this team is nowhere to be found and not all the Mike Sweeney hugs in the world can do anything to change that.    

The Mariners looked like a contender on paper but have turned out to be the biggest frauds in baseball. Should we have seen this coming?    

Unfortunately yes. Despite all the optimism surrounding the team heading into 2010, the Mariners were a fatally flawed team. Here’s why:   

1) Mike Brumley’s IQ<60: Seriously, if there is one single person responsible for the M’s poor start, it’s the third base coach. If he isn’t on the payroll of the Athletics, Rangers and Angels, he should be. Brumley has looked clueless all season, sending runners who get thrown out my 15 feet, waving his arms around like a mad man and generally killing any chance the team has of scoring runs. Seattle is a team built with zero margin for error and yet they’ve run themselves out of more innings than I can count. Please fire him Mariners. Please?  

It would take approximately 100,000 Mike Brumley cards to buy a loaf of bread in Slovenia.

2) The Law of Averages: In 2009 the Mariners compiled an 85-77 record despite a negative run differential. The last time that Seattle had a winning record with a negative run differential was 2007; the following season they lost 101 games. The Mariners thrived in one run games last year, but they can’t catch a break in 2010, and are finally experiencing the regression they should have in 2009. Baseball is a game of averages and right now those averages are bitch slapping the Mariners. The team almost certainly won’t lose over 100 games again (I think…I hope…I just don’t know) but they also aren’t going to post a winning record. Happy trails Cliff Lee!   

3) Milton Bradley=Crazy: I won’t second guess the Mariners for trading away Carlos Silva (even as he thrives with the Cubs) but expecting Milton Bradley to play left field and hit cleanup all season long was doomed to fail from the start. There’s no doubt that Bradley is a talented hitter, but there is also little doubt that he has more bats in the belfry than Lady Gaga. I’m pulling for him to turn it around and have a strong year at the dish, but I certainly wouldn’t bet a gem mint 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card on it. The Mariners’ had less of a contingency plan going into 2010 than John Hammond did for Jurassic Park and they are paying dearly for it now.    

4) Catchers Who Can’t Catch (or Hit): How bad is the combination of Rob Johnson and Adam Moore behind the plate? Bad enough that I’m dreaming of the glory days of Kenji Johjima, Ben Davis and Tom Lampkin. Neither Johnson nor Moore has shown the ability to consistently hit major league pitching so they combine for a black hole in the lineup, which might be okay if they were stellar defensively—they’re not. The Mariners lead the majors in passed balls which have led to numerous unearned runs we can ill afford to spare. 

5) Clubhouse Chemistry Does Not Win Divisions: The impetus for the Mariners bringing in both Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney for 2010 was that good vibes and practical jokes would help Seattle return to the playoffs. Nevermind that both Griffey and Sweeney are one-dimensional at best and occupy two roster spots that are virtually worthless to the team right now because they’re great guys! And while manager Don Wakamatsu may be loved by the players, his handling of the bullpen this year makes Dusty Baker look like the Einstein of baseball, and it would be nice to see him show a little emotion from time to time (he’s quickly becoming baseball’s Art Shell). The Mariners roster was built to fail because it hinged on a mythical thing called chemistry rather than a very real thing called talent. Let’s hope the Mariners front office learn from their mistakes in 2010 and puts a product on the field in 2011 that resembles a major league baseball team, because the Mariners are anything but right now.  

Remember when Seattle was 9-7 and looking like a legitimate contender. Yeah, me either…

Ten Things I Would Rather Do Than Watch the Seattle Mariners Try to Hit.

1. Pass a kidney stone.

2. Watch a 24-hour marathon of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”.

3. Attend a Nickelback/Creed concert–front row.

4. Spend an afternoon discussing world affairs with Tucker Carlson.

5. Eat a platter of shellfish–I’m allergic.

6. Take a fastball to the head from Ubaldo Jimenez–without a helmet.

7. Get medical treatment from Conrad Murray.

8. Read any book by Nicolas Sparks.

9. Listen to Fran Drescher narrate the Old Testament.

10. Go for a bike ride with Eric Byrnes.

Mariners Monthly Roundup: April “Who Needs to Hit to Win the West” Edition

 

Franklin Gutierrez carried the Mariners offense in April. Can he keep it up all season?

Record: 11-12

AL West Standings: Oakland, Texas, Seattle, Los Angeles

Top Hitter: Well, being the top hitter for the Mariners is kind of like being the best Hinder cover band, but that shouldn’t take away from what Franklin Gutierrez did at the plate in April. The constantly improving 27-year-old hit .326 for the month with 2 HR’s and 13 RBI’s and was Seattle’s only real threat in the lineup. Guti came through with a number of clutch hits and is a major reason why the M’s are hovering around .500 instead of being in the AL West cellar after a dreadful offensive showing as a team in April.

Top Pitcher: Dazzling Doug Fister may have had to battle for a spot in the rotation during Spring Training, but he looked like a seasoned vet on the mound in April. The 6′ 8″ righty made the most of his home ballpark and defense with a 2-1 record and stellar 1.67 ERA. Though Fister doesn’t throw hard (high 80’s) he pounds the strike zone (only 5 walks in 27 innings) and makes opposing hitters beat him; they weren’t able to do so in the season’s first month (.208 batting average against). Fister took a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Orioles on April 19th and gives the M’s a surplus of starting pitching if he can keep up his strong start.

Biggest Surprise: See above.

Biggest Disappointment: Milton Bradley was supposed to the Mariners’ cleanup hitter in 2010 but responded by hitting only .211 in April and continuing to act like a 12-year-old. Something tells me he is due for a big blowup after watching a called third strike with the bases loaded against Tampa Bay; just a hunch I guess.

Doug Fister looked like an ace in April. But can the offense keep pace with the M's staff?

Griffey Watch: Far be it from me to second guess one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, but it looks like Ken Griffey Jr. should have left while he was ahead after the 2009 season. Through the first month of the year Junior was hitting just .228 with only one extra-base hit (a double) and 4 RBI’s in 57 AB’s. He can’t catch up to even pedestrian fastballs and spends most of his time looking lost at the plate. Jack Zdurinciek and manager Don Wakamatsu will have a tough choice to make with Griffey if he doesn’t start hitting, and soon.

Home Run Tracker: Nine (9). That’s not a typo. The entire team hit nine home runs in one month. Somebody better call Avista because the power is out in Seattle.

Injuries: Erik Bedard (shoulder surgery, 15-day DL–possible late May return); Jack Hannahan (strained groin, 15-day DL–Triple A rehab)

Lingering Questions: Will Cliff Lee’s return energize the Mariners? Will anyone besides Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro hit? How long will it be before Mike Sweeney’s hugs lose their charm? Can someone please hit a home run? Just one?

May Schedule: 2 vs. Texas, 3 vs. Tampa Bay, 3 vs. Los Angeles, 3 @ Baltimore, 3 @ Tampa Bay, 2 @ Oakland, 2 @ Toronto, 3 vs. San Diego, 2 vs. Detroit, 3 @ Los Angeles, 1 vs. Minnesota.

Overall Grade: (B-) The Mariners should be thanking their lucky stars that the rest of the AL West struggled through April because Seattle did not look like a playoff team in the first month of 2010. Their pitching is once again among the game’s best but the offense looks even worse than last season–and they were bad in 2009. The return of Cliff Lee should help the M’s, but unless the team starts hitting they’ll find themselves out of contention by the end of May. Seattle needs to regroup fast in order to live up to their lofty expectations. Things could get ugly in hurry if they don’t…