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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.

July 28, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Twins, July 28: Mariners win, 6-4

TWINS NINTH: After a bunt single by Hicks, Miller ranged far to his left to start a beautiful 6-4-3 double play. Wilhelmsen got Carroll on a ground out to end it. Tom Wilhelmsen will try to close this out for Mariners. MARINERS SEVENTH: Nick Franklin knocked his second homer of the game, and 10th of the season,…

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July 28, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Eric Wedge makes visit to Mariner clubhouse

Mariner lineup

Brad Miller 6

Nick Franklin 4

Kyle Seager 5

Kendrys Morales 3

Raul Ibanez DH

Michael Saunders 7

Endy Chavez 9

Dustin Ackley 8

Henry Blanco 2

Erasmo Ramirez RHP

The big news today is that Eric Wedge showed up to the clubhouse today to meet briefly with the team before they headed out to batting practice. Acting manager Robby Thompson said Wedge was greeted with a round of applause, and that Wedge even induced some laughs during his talk. Afterward, he left the ballpark and went home. Thompson said he spent several hours last night with Wedge, his wife Kate, and their children, and they decided it would be good for him to make an appearance.

“Eric came in and said hello the boys, and had a nice little talk with them,” Thompson said. “He looks great. He’s doing well, walking good, talking, the whole thing. He had a big smile on his face. It’s probably tough for him to leave right now and head back home. As we all know, he’d probably love to stay here. But that’s not the case. He’ll be back soon, though. He’s doing really, really well.

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July 25, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Best wishes to Eric Wedge, hopefully with a reduced-stress future

Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

I have full confidence that those who don’t like Eric Wedge’s pitching changes or lineup configurations or philosophies on aggressive hitting are united today with those who believe he is the man to lead the Mariners to their elusive title. Everyone would like to see him back to full health, and that extends to the media, who can easily put aside any adversarial instincts to hope that this minor stroke is soon behind him.

It’s a scary thing, and I’m struck by a couple of things. One is that Wedge is the second manager in as many years to undergo some form of a stroke. It happened last year late in the season to Dusty Baker of the Reds, who missed 11 games, then came back to manage his team in the postseason. It was a tough road for Baker, as this story details. In fact, when I saw him during spring training at a media session for all the Cactus League managers in February, I was struck by how frail he looked, and how slow and somewhat slurred his speech was. I covered Baker as a player in his final year with the A’s, several years as a hitting coach with the Giants, and then for his first three years as a manager, so I know him about as well as I know anyone in the game. This wasn’t the vibrant, ultra-sharp Baker I was used to, and frankly I was concerned about his ability to make it through this season.

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July 23, 2013 at 3:21 PM

Ryan Braun and the art of brazen lying

Ryan Braun at his press conference in spring of 2012 after his 50-game suspension was overturned

Ryan Braun at his press conference in spring of 2012 after his 50-game suspension was overturned

I sat on a folding chair on the field in Maryvale, Ariz., back in February of 2012, after Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned by MLB arbitrator Shyam Das, and Braun held a press conference to thunder forth his innocence.

In light of the events of yesterday, in which Braun meekly submitted to a 65-game suspension, all of his sanctimonious pronouncements that day are rendered retroactively laughable. I distinctively remember thinking when Braun had finished talking that either he is the most brazen liar I have ever witnessed in person, or he has been the victim of one of the most unjust smear job in sports.

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July 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Mariners need to (finally) capitalize on Astros

Tom Wilhelmsen couldn't hold a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning against the Astros on June 12. Seattle Times photo by Dean Rutz

Tom Wilhelmsen couldn’t hold a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning against the Astros on June 12. Seattle Times photo by Dean Rutz

It appears the schedule-maker has given the Mariners a gift by having them open after the All-Star break with a three-game series against the lowly Houston Astros (“lowly” is now an official part of the their name). What better team for the Mariners to keep up their momentum — a 22-game homer streak, during which time they lead the majors in home runs (37), slugging percentage (.481), OPS (.822) and runs per game (5.5) —  than the one with the worst record in baseball at 33-61?

But we’ve seen this year that those anticipated wins against the Astros don’t just happen by magic. Cleaning up in 19 games against the Astros, newly arrived in their league, and in their division, was supposed to be the Mariners’ ticket to .500. But instead, the Mariners find themselves nine games under at the break, and one game under (4-5) against the Astros.

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July 18, 2013 at 1:52 PM

To trade, or not to trade, is a quandary for Mariners (plus minor-league report)

ibanezwin

Photo by Associated Press

Here’s is today’s Mariners minor-league report, with news of no-hitter by 18-year-0ld Victor Sanchez. And here’s a story about the no-no.

The Mariners are in a weird position. They line up solidly in the seller’s camp: at 43-52, they would have to go 38-29 (.567) the rest of the way just to reach .500. And for all you dreamers out there, they would have to play .701 ball (47-20) to get to 90 wins, which would be the starting point to even entertain the notion of contention. So, in other words, that’s not happening, short of a miracle. But if Jack Zduriencik’s words are to be taken at face value, he will be a reluctant seller, if one at all.

That could be posturing, of course. It wouldn’t help club morale much if guys know they are on the trade block, and it wouldn’t help maximize trade value for opposing teams to know the Mariners planned to clean house. Yet on the other hand, it’s quite conceivable that the Mariners really don’t want to delve into wholesale trading, with all the possible ramifications. So the immediate decision at hand for the Mariners in the next two weeks is to decide what happens at the trade deadline, which has a sub-text, of course: Is the intrinsic value of gunning for, say, a .500 record more important than the possibility of beefing up the talent level in the organization?

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July 17, 2013 at 2:50 PM

Some final thoughts on All-Star Game: Rivera, Fielder, Cano, et al (with special guest appearance by Richard Sherman)

Prince Fielder belly-flops into third on his triple last night. Photo by Getty Images

Prince Fielder belly-flops into third on his triple last night. Photo by Getty Images

Mariano Rivera was officially credited with a hold Tuesday, but I give him a save. As in, he saved the All-Star Game from being a real dud.

I’m a big fan of the MLB All-Star Game, for all its faults, and covering it is one of the highlights of my year (even though myself and a few colleagues who had the misfortune of sitting directly under the press-box air conditioning were the only ones battling frostbite amid a heat advisory in New York City). I believe that just the gathering of luminaries, along with the pageantry, by itself imbues the event with a certain level of charisma. As an example, if you’re a baseball fan I don’t think you can help but be stirred by the juxtaposition of legendary Met Tom Seaver throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, followed by the Mets legend-in-the-making (the tabloids are sure pushing for it) Matt Harvey taking the mound to start the game for the National League.*

*As an aside, Harvey and the Jimmy Fallon folks owe a nod to the Seahawks Richard Sherman for Harvey’s amusing segment on Monday in which he interviewed unsuspecting folks about Matt Harvey. The conceit, of course, is that they are unaware that Harvey himself is holding the microphone – a concept pulled off beautifully, months ago, by Sherman during the Super Bowl.

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July 16, 2013 at 3:19 PM

All-Star images from Tuesday pre-game, plus notes

allstarfelixsigns

Before the American League took the field for batting practice, Felix Hernandez made it a point to greet many of the military personnel on the field and sign as many autographs for them as he could. Here he signs for some Navy personnel, and below he brightens the day of some Marines. I had a better shot until a guy walked right in front of me. Oh, well.

allstarfelixmilitary

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July 16, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Catching up with Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Steve Delabar

allstarjonesbelt

Yes, it’s time for my hallowed All-Star tradition of stalking ex-Mariners. I left David Ortiz and Cliff Lee alone, because the statute of limitations has run out, but I did catch up yesterday with Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Steve Delabar. Yeah, I know Lee was a Mariner more recently than Jones, but I think — check that, I know — there’s more of a visceral connection to Jones. And the fact that two players from the Erik Bedard trade, Jones and Tillman, made the All-Star team, just drives home the futility of that transaction.

Jones was more interested in talking about the WWE belt he brought with him, which he had displayed in front of him at his interview table. He said he planned to give it to the Home Run Derby winner, and in fact I saw a tweet of a picture from Yoenis Cespedes in which he proudly held the belt. Jones said the belt is authentic, given to him by pro wrestler Kevin X (aka Kevin Sharp). Of course, Jones made it clear that he was just loaning it to Cespedes.

“It represents my boisterousness,’’ he said. “This is my present to the Home Run Derby winner, hopefully with a hardcore match right after it. I’m going to keep it. This is mine. But I’ll let him hold it for a little bit.”

Jones had some interesting things to say about Chris Davis, who had the biggest breakout of the first half and is on pace for a run at 60-plus homers.

“He’s walking, he’s having great at-bats, but the thing is, every time he’s putting his bat on the ball, he’s doing damage,” Jones said. “He’s driving me in every time I’m on base. I can’t even steal bases right now because the way he’s going, they’re going to walk him. So I’m in scoring position right now the way he’s swinging it. He’s hitting doubles, and I’m going to score for him, or try at least. He’s doing something special, and it’s fun to watch him.”

Jones said that being teammates with Mariano Rivera in his final All-Star Game “is one of the greatest things I’ve done in baseball.”

Asked about hitting against Rivera, Jones said, “You know what you’re going to get — the cutter — and you still can’t hit it. Think about that. In life, if you know what’s going to happen, and you still can’t do it. And he was great at it. One pitch, a cutter, and people still can’t hit it.”

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July 15, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Felix looks forward to pitching, Iwakuma to cheering on Tuesday

felixsonallstar

Felix Hernandez brought a special guest to his All-Star media session today at Citi Field in New York– son Jeremy, age 4, who seemed to enjoy listening to his dad field questions in both English and Spanish, and even tackling one briefly in Japanese before giving up. “I’m always arguing around with Kuma, so I know a lot of words,” he said.

Hernandez also brought his wife and 7-year-old daughter Mia with him, and his parents flew to New York from Venezuela yesterday. The Hernandez family and Hisashi Iwakuma flew out of Seattle yesterday on a private jet accompanied by Mike Trout of the Angels, but Felix said they didn’t rub in Seattle’s three-game sweep of the Angels.

“We just talked about something else, we didn’t talk about that,” Hernandez said.

Said Iwakuuma, through interpreter Antony Suzuki, another passenger on the plane: “It was quite an experience. I’ve never had the opportunity to fly with an opponent in the past. It was a good experience. You find out what kind of a guy he is with all the talent he has.”

This is Hernandez’s fourth All-Star Game, but he’s actually pitched just once, a scoreless inning in his first one, back in 2009 in St. Louis. Hernandez needed just eight pitches to retire Orlando Hudson, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton. He didn’t pitch in 2011 in Phoenix nor last year in Kansas City, but he said manager Jim Leyland has told him he’ll pitch. He just doesn’t know when or how long, though Leyland has already said that anyone who started Saturday, as Hernandez did, will pitch just one inning.

“I love the Home Run Derby, but I want to pitch,” he said.

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