Baseball, and the Mariners, started in grand fashion at the end of last week, and in some ways, each has regressed considerably since. But while the Barry Bonds perjury trial, as well as some other negative PR have negatively affected the seasons thus far, as a Mariners fan, there is plenty of positives to pull from the beginning of a season with no expectations.
Also, as Seattle-area resident, I learned some things about our sports landscape, some to be proud of and some less proud aspects.
What I learned
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Charlotte Bobcats trumps the Mariners opener
My girlfriend lives in Ellensburg, and I spent the weekend of opening day there with her. My favorite bar (until then) is within a short walk of her apartment. It has a ton of sports amenities: several HDTVs, a huge HD projector, and individual monitors for each booth, as well as at least two satellite receivers. I know baseball has taken a dive in public interest, but when I asked if the Mariners opener could be put on one of the TVs, the waitress told me that she couldn’t because too many people were watching basketball. The Grizzlies vs. Bobcats game took precedent to the MLB opener, and that is sad.
I’m not the only one in Seattle that is still bitter about Howard Schultz sale of the Sonics
On a day misguidedly and haphazardly proclaimed “Starbucks Day” by the City of Seattle, I was listening to ESPN radio when The Groz correctly criticized the city for proclaiming such a day for a company that was at the center of the loss of one of the city’s most storied entities. Well, the next day we find out that the awesome guys over at sonicsgate traveled to Issaquah to make a statement, and this is how it turned out.
What we learned about MLB
Manny no longer being Manny
Manny Ramirez allegedly tested positive for another banned substance, and rather than face a 100 game suspension he opted to retire. Ramirez has been at the center of some pretty funny controversies over his career: like this, or this, or this. Long gone is the image of Ramirez as the lovable puppy who wants to do nothing more than play, and even longer gone are the chances he makes the hall of fame.
Barry Bonds Perjury Trial
Barry Bonds had no idea he was injecting steroids, just ask him, and the 25 witnesses, many of whom testified to the contrary.
What we learned about the Mariners
Milton Bradley still isn’t a great left-handed hitter or left fielder
Though he’s technically a switch hitter, Bradley’s stronger side is the least desirable one, as he hits better from the right-handed batters box, which accounts for roughly 30 percent of his at-bats. When looking for at-bats for a young, developing Michael Saunders, it is counterproductive to the team’s success to give them against tough lefty starters, when Bradley’s a defensive liability in left field and Ryan Langerhans bat has a very low ceiling in center.
Justin Smoak may be a good switch hitter
Though the sample size is way too small, Smoak hit three right-handed doubles this week. When the team traded for him, after looking at his splits, I inferred that he would be a better hitter from the left side as his 2010 splits indicated that. He appears to be a natural lefty, and his splits will likely bear that out, however, if he’s going to be the power hitter the Mariners need he’ll have to hit left-handed pitcher also, so this week was promising.
Erik Bedard’s left shoulder is intact
Is he effective when healthy? We’ve been saying for years that he is. Is he frustrating when he nibbles the corners and walks batters he was attempting to strikeout, or unduly raises his pitch count? Sure. But for the money he’s making he’s worth the frustration (obligatory “provided he stays healthy).
Michael Pineda is pretty damn good, but could struggle against lefties
Maybe I’m the only one that missed the boat on watching Pineda in spring, but I didn’t have time to watch him, and while watching a Felix Hernandez start is the greatest thing since Randy Johnson, Michael Pineda’s start was dangerously close to as anticipated as The King. Pineda showed command with his fastball, threw a few changeups that drew ugly swings, and showed why his slider will be ineffective against lefties. I wrote a more detailed description of his start here.
Dave Niehaus was awesome
Between the white shoes, the rap tribute, and the renaming of the intersection at 1st Avenue and our own website’s namesake Royal Brougham Way, Seattle did a great job honoring the voice of a generation.