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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

September 16, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Mariners series with Marlins next year appears likely to be moved

Before I explain the machinations occurring around the Mariners’ scheduled interleague series with the Marlins next June, I wanted to give a mention of a worthy event coming up soon. It’s the inaugural Charity Golf Classic at Jackson Park Golf Course, hosted by the Mariners’ grounds crew.

The event will be held Sept. 25 and benefit Northwest Harvest, a network of food banks in Washington state. The M’s grounds crew has raised over $500,000 for local charities, but they hope to make this their biggest contribution yet. Anyone interested in playing in the tournament or making a donation should contract Bob Christofferson, the Mariners’ head groundskepper, at 206-346-4218.

Now then. The Mariners’ tentative 2011 schedule, released earlier this week, included an interleague road series against the Marlins on June 24-26. Almost immediately, however, rumors began to be heard that the series might have to be moved out of Miami, and it turns out that is likely true. But where it will be moved is still up in the air.

A Marlins official confirmed to me in an e-mail today that it is their understanding the series can’t be played in Sun Life Stadium because of the preparation needed for a U2 concert on June 29.

The official said no decision has yet been made on a new site, which coincides with what I was told today by Mariners officials and also Katy Feeney, MLB’s senior vice president, schedule and club relations. Apparently, because it is the Marlins final year at Sun Life (which they currently share with the Miami Dolphins) before moving into a new facility in Little Havana in 2012, there are issues with their lease that prevent them from having control over conflicts, such as that with U2.

“We’re not at the point yet where any decisions have been made,” Feeney said.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel reported today that the series could be relocated to Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico, where the Montreal Expos played a season before moving to Washington, and where the Marlins this year hosted a three-game series with the Mets, or to Vancouver, B.C.

The Mariners don’t have fond memories of BC Place, the domed facility in Vancouver where Edgar Martinez suffered a severe hamstring injury in an exhibition game in 1993, largely responsible for necessitating his transition from a third baseman to designated hitter. The injury occurred when Martinez attempted to steal second base and was blamed on the soft dirt in the cutout area around the bag. Coming off a batting title in 1992, Edgar played just 42 games in ’93.

BC Place is undergoing a roof renovation that could affect its availability. Another possible site is Nat Bailey Stadium, where the short-season Class A Vancouver Canadians play, but capacity is just 7,000 or so. Heck, if you’re going to play in a Single-A park in Vancouver, or even BC Place, where the preponderance of fans would no doubt me rooting for the Mariners, you might as well move the series to Safeco Field.

Mariners vice president Randy Adamack said the team received a heads-up phone call from Feeney this week to inform them of the issues around the availability of the Marlins ballpark. The Mariners were told MLB is reluctant to make them play in Puerto Rico because of the travel implications. The M’s have a home game against the Braves on June 27, while the Marlins have to travel to Oakland, albeit with a day off in between that the M’s don’t have.

Another possibility, apparently, is to move the game to a spring-training facility in Florida, or even to Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, vacant with the Rays playing a series in Houston on those days. In 2007, the Rays and Rangers played a series at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, which averaged 8,972 fans. The Rays played the Blue Jays there in 2008.

No one’s too concerned right now, because there’s still a lot of time to resolve this, but it’s a situation that bears watching.

Speaking of the newly released Mariners’ schedule, no one studies it more carefully, of course, than Ron Spellecy, their long-time director of team travel. And he has some issues.

“I think again, Seattle gets the short end of the stick,” Spellecy said.

One specific example he cited was a four-game series in Kansas City against the Royals on April 14-17 They play a day game at Safeco Field on April 13, and a night game at Safeco on April 18.

“We’re going all the way to Kansas City for four games, and come right back without a day off either way. Hello?” he said.

The Mariners, Spellecy said, will travel about 52,000 air miles next year — about 10,000 more than in 2010, primarily because of more East Coast trips. The team will have 13 road trips in 2011, compared to 11 this year.

“That kind of messes you up,” he said.

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