Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is featured in a team commerical hawking his special brand of hot sauce.
Since we’re two hours away from gametime and the fate of humanity won’t exactly be settled today in any event, we bring you some lighter fare designed to liven up an otherwise routine day at spring training.
It’s the Mariners TV commericals, one of the team’s better marketing endeavors the past decade-plus. Every team needs to market something and they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not sure how many thousands a video will be worth, but it saves me having to type them all. Anyhow, here are the commercials for your viewing pleasure, falling under a new “True to the Blue” slogan the M’s are using.
As usual, the spots are a collaboration between the Mariners and the Seattle-based Copacino+Fujikado agency, directed by Ron Gross of Mercer Island-based Blue Goose Productions.
1. Hottest Thing in Town
Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez promotes his special brand of hot sauce.
Want to see more? Well then, be sure to watch the videos on the turn of this page.
Remember back when we were saying spring training wins and losses don’t matter much? Well, keep that in mind now that the Mariners today dropped their fifth game in six tries since that 10-game win streak. Today’s 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was secured when Hector Noesi, a pitcher who won’t be anywhere near a big league mound when April 1 rolls around — unless he’s traded to the Astros (get used to these jokes from me, Houston) — yielded a three-run homer to Mark Teahen in the fourth inning.
Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin grounds out to end today’s game.
The Mariners started scraping back from a 5-1 deficit in the fifth on a solo homer by Brad Miller and an RBI single by Brendan Ryan. Miller then doubled with two out in the ninth and scored when a Julio Morban pop-up was dropped in the infield. But Nick Franklin grounded out to the right side and that was the game.
Prior to that, we saw Felix Hernandez toss three innings of one-run ball with 38 pitches, then throw another 12 in the bullpen to get his total up to about 50. That sets him up nicely for a 65-pitch outing his next time out. The Mariners didn’t want him starting the fourth inning and having tocome out partway through once he reached 50, hence the bullpen work.
“I had more command,” Hernandez said of the outing. “More command and there was a good finish on the pitches. It was a little bit different.”
Hernandez said he needed work on throwing from the stretch position, something he tried more of in the bullpen.
“It’s coming along pretty good,” he said. “I’m feeling better and better.”
The home run, he said, came when he left his sinker a little bit up to Hinske. Hernandez also cited “Arizona” as a reason, meaning the air here might have contributed to the blast leaving the yard.
“He was strong and using all of his pitches,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He looked great out there today.”
Felix Hernandez deals to Adam Eaton of the Diamondbacks during the first inning of today’s game.
Just got done the fifth inning, with the Mariners scoring twice on a solo homer by Brad Miller and an RBI single by Brendan Ryan to cut the D-Backs’ lead to 5-3. Felix Hernandez threw 38 pitches over three innings of one-run ball today, the only blemish being the Erik Hinske homer. Hernandez then threw another 15 pitches in the bullpen afterwards, building arm strength for his next outing — in which he hopes to throw 65 pitches. See Hernandez speak after his outing in the video below.
Hector Noesi came in after Hernandez, walked a pair of batters, then yielded a three-run homer by Mark Teahen that made it a 4-0 lead for Arizona. Noesi just looks awful out there this spring.
Another pitcher who has had his struggles, Lucas Luetge, yielded a single to Josh Wilson, a walk, and then an RBI single to Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the fifth that put Arizona up 5-1 at the time. Luetge had a solid start to 2012 but faded as the season wore on and was used less and less in high leverage spots. While many assume he’ll make this year’s squad, that might not be a safe guess considering Luetge has Class AAA options left — unlike last year when the Mariners had to keep the Rule 5 pick in the majors — and two other lefties for the bullpen in Oliver Perez and Charlie Furbush. Luetge has given up 11 hits in six innings this spring and with the Mariners already paying Perez seven figures to be their late situational and set-up guy from the left side, you’d have to think carrying two such pitchers is a bit luxurious for a squad that could have a roster crunch late this spring.
In other words, Luetge will have to step it up.
1:30 p.m.: Erik Hinske opened the scoring in the second inning with a one-out solo homer to right field off of Felix Hernandez. Hinske is a former AL Rookie of the Year from 2002 who I covered in Toronto a decade ago. He has since become a platoon left-handed bat off the bench for several teams, earning the distiction of playing in three straight World Series for three different teams with Boston in 2007, Tampa Bay in 2008 and the Yankees in 2009. First player ever to do that.
Hernandez retired the side in order in the third inning, getting former teammate Josh “Paperboy” Wilson on a flyout, Adam Eaton on a popout to shortstop and a strikeout on Cliff Pennington. If Hernandez is done, he threw 38 pitches total.
1:12 p.m.: Felix Hernandez got the side in order in the top half of the first inning. He retired Adam Eaton on a second-pitch flyout to center, struck out Cliff Pennington, then got A.J. Pollock on an easy groundout to third.
12:30 p.m.: Those of you who read this morning’s earlier post might have noticed Jason Bay batting leadoff for the Mariners. It’s the first time Bay has done that in his entire 10-year career.
Dustin Ackley bats second and you’d have to think that’s where the team would like to have him to start the year. The Mariners have never been sold on Ackley as a leadoff guy.
Felix Hernandez takes the mound for his second Cactus League start. The Mariners have droped four of their last five games after winning 10 in a row.
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong (left) and chairman Howard Lincoln (right) honor Felix Hernandez after last year’s perfect game. Photo Credit: AP
Read some interesting comments this morning by Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, who told Jerry Brewer that the seven-year, $175 million contract given to ace pitcher Felix Hernandez is a sign the team’s ownership is committed to building a winner.
“This signing, given the size and length of the contract, is the best evidence that the ownership group is committed to winning and doing what it takes to win,” Lincoln said. “It ought to remove any doubts about how the ownership group feels and what its objectives are.”
If only things were that simple.
Lincoln is right about the team’s commitment to Hernandez being huge and, frankly, imperative. For fans desperate for some positive sign from ownership, this was a big step indeed.
But Lincoln sounds as if he believes Hernandez is the cherry on the team’s championship sundae. In reality, Hernandez right now is exactly what he was three years ago, the last time the Mariners gave him an early extension — a true ace pitcher on a fourth-place team. Yes, the Mariners should win more than they lose this year and might even secure 85 victories like they did back in 2009, the last time they didn’t finish fourth. But looking at the AL West on paper, few experts anywhere are going to pick the Mariners to finish any higher than the Rangers, Angels and Athletics in their own division.
And unless the Mariners can beat out two of those teams, they won’t be going to the post-season anytime soon.
To make that jump will require more than just locking up Hernandez. Those lessons of the past three seasons — when the team lost 101, 95 and 87 games, respectively, with Hernandez fronting the rotation — should be abundanty clear by now.
The hard, factual history of this team is that the ownership group touted by Lincoln has been cutting payroll ever since the collapse of the world’s stock markets towards the end of 2008 and the decline in personal wealth of Hiroshi Yamauchi and Chris Larson, the team’s two largest owners with roughly 85 percent combined control. Yamauchi did cede his ownership shares to Redmond-based Nintendo of America prior to that for “estate planning purposes” but retains titular control of the team.
That decision to cut payroll by the Mariners coincided with the collapse of the 101-loss team in 2008 — which cost $117 million to assemble — and has enabled a selective, fortuitous retelling of history where the team is concerned.
We’ve spent part of the morning watching the Mariners go through pitchers’ fielding practice and throw some bullpen sessions. Yes, that means spring training is officially underway.
Don’t forget, we’ll have the Felix Hernandez press conference at 2 p.m. PT today from Safeco Field. The Hernandez extension is obviously viewed as a coup by the Mariners organization and is good news for teammates who’ve come to rely on him over the years.
“To us, he is the best pitcher in baseball,” Mariners starter Blake Beavan said. “He’s the kind of guy you can go to for advice, he’s easy to talk to. He’s always been good to younger guys. That’s all you hear from guys on other teams who have gotten to know him, too. Having him on our team is whatwe’ve been built around. So, I think it’s good for Seattle to keep a guy like that for a long time to build around a franchise. He is the face of our team.”
Mariners pitchers take fielding practice this morning in Peoria, AZ.
It’s interesting to hear a guy like Beavan, who is 24, talk about Hernandez, 26, as if he’s so much older and wiser.
“I think I look at him as an older guy because I’m still inexperienced,” Beavan said. “Especially compared to him. He came up when he was19, he’s 26 now and about to be 27. He’s got six years in and he is a veteran whether he’s 24, or 25 or 26. I think everybody looks up to him as a veteran regardless of age.”
Felix Hernandez will have his press conference at Safeco Field this afternoon, but down here in Arizona, the rest of his pitching and catching teammates are preparing for their first workout of spring training. The team is presently meeting with manager Eric Wedge and the coaching staff in the clubhouse. Among those taking the field at 8:30 a.m. PT will be Joe Saunders, recently signed to shore-up the middle of the rotation following the departure of Jason Vargas for the Angels.
Newest Mariners starting pitcher Joe Saunders takes the field this morning for team’s first workout in Peoria, AZ.
Saunders, 31, is coming off a 2012 season in which he was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles and actually started — and won — the inagural wild-card play-in game against the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards last October.
“It was a lot of fun,” Saunders said. “It was nerve-wracking as heck. My numbers in that ballpark obviously weren’t very good. It was just another…you look at it asanother opportunity to prove people wrong. I just tried to go out there and give the team a chance to win. We won that game and then we took the Yankees to five games and lost in New York. It was a fun run.”
Saunders has had the opportunity to pitch in several post-seasons already between his time with the Angels, the Diamondbacks and the Orioles.
“I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to be in the post-season five times,” he added. “It’s definitely a great opportunity, you cherish it. Each and every time you get there, you want to get back there again because you never know when it’s going to come again. So, you just kind of relish it and do everything you can.”
Mariners pitchers and catchers take the field this morning for first workout in Peoria, AZ.
Which sort of begs the question of why Saunders chose to come to Seattle, which has not made the playoffs since 2001. Saunders did, after all, have a chance to go back to Baltimore and was courted by several teams.
“I liked where this organization was going,” he said. “I thought they made some good moves, some good trades. I’m familliar with the division and hoping to have some fun. Try to take another team, hopefully, to the post-season, so we’ll see where it goes.”
ADDITIONAL NOTE 8:30 p.m. PT: The Mariners have just informed us Felix Hernandez will not be available to the media tomorrow. My guess is, his deal won’t be done until later in the day at the earliest, after his physical is taken.
Scratch Michael Bourn off the list of potential long-term pieces for the Mariners. Bourn has agreed to a four-year, $48-million deal with the Cleveland Indians and becomes their center fielder. There is also a $12 million option for a fifth year if Bourn reaches 550 plate appearances in Year No. 4 of the deal.
That means the Mariners are likely done with big-ticket additions for now on the eve of camp opening tomorrow.
As of right now, they’ve got a payroll of right around $85 million. With incentive bonuses factored in, that could climb as high as $91 million or so, assuming no one gets traded at mid-season.
Right-handed starter Jon Garland hasn’t pitched since undergoing shoulder surgery midway through the 2011 season with the Dodgers. Photo Credit: AP
First, it was Jeremy Bonderman, now Jon Garland joins the list of veteran pitchers attempting career comebacks with the Mariners this spring. Garland, 33, hasn’t pitched since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery with the Dodgers midway through the 2011 season and will come to Seattle’s camp on a minor league deal.
He was invited to spring training with Cleveland a year ago, but never took his physical and the deal was cancelled. This year’s physical with Seattle is to be done next week down here in Peoria, Ariz.
I’ve also been told that Joe Saunders will have his physical done at that point as well and only after that will the Mariners announce his major league deal.
The 2015 start date on a five-year contract extension for Felix Hernandez could save the Mariners payroll space now as opposed to immediately launching a new seven-year deal. Photo Credit: AP
Last night, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported that the new contract extension for Felix Hernandez is actually a five-year, $135.5 million deal that starts in 2015 — after his current agreement expires two seasons from now. Initially, USA Today reported it as a seven-year, $175 million contract extension that begins right now and replaces the old one.
From a money and years perspective, there’s no difference. Hernandez has two years, $39.5 million in base salary left on his current deal. Add another five years, $135.5 million to that and you get the initial seven years, $175 million reported.
So, both Olney and USA Today are “right” when it comes to the years and dollar amount.
Here’s the difference.
If we’re continuing with the old contract for two years, then nothing changes money-wise with the team’s current payroll when it comes to a Hernandez extension.
The Mariners are about to give Felix Hernandez millions more reasons to lift his arms in triumph. Photo Credit: AP
Word is, the Felix Hernandez contract talks are still in their final stages and not officially done. A source told me this within the past hour, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. This sounds like haggling over last-minute details, not the overall framework of a deal said to be for seven years, $175 million.
Hernandez is the first step — a big one — in what will have to be others by the team if the hope is to contend by 2014 or 2015. The Mariners could win as many as 85 games next season by feasting on the Houston Astros, but they play in an AL West where three other squads could win 95 or more.
Anyhow, we’ll see what else the Mariners do to upgrade long-term once the Hernandez deal becomes official. How are the Mariners going to pay for the Hernandez deal? Well, they’ll be getting the rough equivalent of his yearly salary coming their way soon as part of a new national TV deal, then stand to make an absolute killing in a coule of years on a new local TV deal.
It’s too early to estimate how that deal would compare to the $7 billion signed by the Dodgers recently or whether the overall TV market will change for the worse before the Mariners can do something with their current ROOT Sports contract. One thing to keep an eye on is what happens with bids to obtain a new NBA and NHL team in Seattle. If those teams get here sooner rather than later, it could create competition in the marketplace either by owners of those teams combining to form their own regional sports network (RSN), or another network like Comcast entering the fray to try to buy up rights.
If either were to happen, the market for TV in Seattle could change dramatically. Such a change could prompt the Mariners and ROOT Sports (owned by DirecTV) to get a new TV deal done between them a lot sooner than the 2015 opt-out date the M’s currently have.
In any event, the Mariners stand to make money. Predictions that the bubble is about to burst on the current RSN market in this country have focused more on long-term than the immediate short-term. Nobody really knows. But it’s a pretty safe bet that even with a burst bubble, the Mariners will secure more TV revenue than they currently enjoy and in the process will take the value of their franchise soaring well beyond the $1 billion mark.
For the time being, smaller fish are being fried. The Mariners have finally added catcher Kelly Shoppach as a free agent signing. To clear a roster spot, relief pitcher Shawn Kelley was designated for assignment.
That might be confusing for some, since Kelley just inked a $935,000 deal last week that avoided arbitration. But it becomes less confusing when you consider the team will only owe Kelley one sixth of that amount if he’s released within the next 10 days. Kelley could also be put on outright waivers and claimed, but then the claiming team would owe the entire salary.