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Baseball is Different in the Pacific Northwest
ALSO: BRAVES FORGE HISTORIC COMEBACK TO CHALLENGE METS FOR NL EAST TITLE
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Did you know…
Mets closer Edwin Diaz, who should get consideration for the National League’s Cy Young Award, last blew a save on May 24 . . .
Between June 1 and Labor Day, the Mets went 51-33 — a 98-win pace over 162 games — but lost 9 1/2 games in the standings to the World Champion Braves . . .
Injured lefty Clayton Kershaw, out of the Dodgers rotation from Aug. 4-Sept. 1 with back problems, had been 10-0 with a 2.19 ERA in 15 appearances against the Mets before a rocky return at CitiField . . .
Max Scherzer, again coping with pain on his left side, went on the IL earlier this week and can’t return to the Mets rotation before Sept. 19 . . .
The Yankees were 38 games above .500 on July 8 with a 61-23 mark — the AL’s best record — but then went 18-28 and allowed the Jays and Rays back into the race . . .
Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo, like Kershaw, is not only dealing with back pain but also persistent headaches . . .
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has become a human target, leading the majors in getting hit by a pitch (23 times at last count) . . .
Mazel tov to Mike Trout on his 1,500th hit, reached by just four previous Angels.
Baseball is a Little Different Here in the Pacific Northwest
By Tom Wilk
At the risk of being controversial, let me start by saying: baseball is a little different in the Pacific Northwest.
Having grown up in the NY Metro area, I’m familiar with teams being close and fans having overlapping knowledge, rivalries, and interests. As a Mets fan, the Yankees were the hated cross-town rival. The Red Sox were the “anti-Yankees.” The Phillies were schoolyard bullies from two towns over. The Baltimore and Washington, DC teams, despite being “just down the road,” were after-thoughts.
Six teams within a 250-mile radius. Fans, especially in New York and Boston, rabid for success and excellence. Fans with generations of loyalty and perspective. Fans who defined the spirit of “allegiance” and “rivalry”.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are nearly 1,000 miles away from the next-closest MLB team. While the Oakland A’s are in the same division (AL West), the sense of rivalry is nothing close to Boston vs. Yankees. Often baseball here in Seattle is more about a great time at our beautiful ballpark, without care for who we’re playing or even who wins.
Attending games in the late 1980’s (in the Kingdome), I was shocked to find that few Seattle fans ever booed. Bad plays, bad calls, bad baseball – yet rarely a complaint voiced by polite fans. Lou Piniella helped change that, but to some extent this cultural difference remains today. Perhaps the biggest difference from other MLB fans in other cities – for the most part, over many seasons, Mariners fans are OK with just being OK.
Here in Seattle, MLB didn’t even appear until 1969 (with failed Pilots, who left for Milwaukee after just one season). Since being created from a lawsuit against MLB, the Mariners have shown up every season since 1977, but have rarely distinguished themselves. For 45 years, our Mariners have rarely been legit contenders for a Championship.
Many current Seattle fans are transplants from other MLB cities, with dual allegiances – a concept unheard of in the NY Metro area. Myself, there’s always a soft spot in my baseball heart for the Amazing Mets, the team of my boyhood that shocked the world in 1969.
The 1995 Mariners put Seattle on the MLB map. That team brought a joy and excitement to the city, as never before from a baseball team. They showed fans what was possible. The 2001 team garnered similar attention with 116 regular season wins. But, ultimately lost to the Yankees in the ALCS.
Since then, Nothing!
Well, not completely “Nothing”. Local fans did learn how to Boo a player when ARod left Seattle to chase the money. Plus, we sure did enjoy watching Ichiro and “King Felix”. We even invented a new baseball term: “Getting Felix-ed” (to pitch a great game but get zero run support).
For the last 20 years, the Mariners have only had 8 winning seasons. No Playoffs. Little Glory. Lots of memories of 1995 and 2001. A techno-fan created a Twitter bot as the “PostSeason Drought Counter”. It’s already passed 3,270 games. Over Three Thousand Mariners games without a playoff appearance! What MLB fan base would accept their team going 20 years and over 3,000 games without even a playoff berth?
In September of 2015, Jerry Dipoto joined as GM. Since then, “Trader Jerry” has executed over 120 Trades. After the 2018 season, he started a Rebuild effort to be Young, Talented and Cheap. His stated goal: “Sustainable Championship Rosters”. Loyal fans have been watching, waiting, doubting, hoping.
The 2021 season finished with 90 wins and huge excitement. Now, here we are, early September 2022. The Rebuild is completed. The 2022 Mariners are built on Pitching and Defense and a young star named Julio.
As I write this, the Mariners are holding a wild-card spot for the American League playoffs. They seem on track for at least 88 wins. The eye-test shows them as a more talented team than last season. They are the type of baseball team, led by great starting pitching and a solid bullpen, that could do damage in any post-season series. As the adage goes: “Great Pitching will always stop good hitting.”
As I mentioned at the start, Baseball is a little different here in the Pacific Northwest.
There are many fans who are new to all this. This is their first legitimate pennant race. Many are still learning about the roller-coaster ride “down the stretch” and the nightly scoreboard watching. Fan attitudes range widely from the highly cynical who say: “Same Old Mariners, they’ll blow it”, to the massively optimistic, already planning playoff lineups.
While some already think the race is over - despite a month of games still ahead - there are a few old guys (like me) who have seen many a pennant race and stretch run. We know from experience that over 25 games nearly anything can happen. Nothing is won yet, but it sure looks good.
After 20 years, this fan base is ready to explode. From kids to grandparents, the PacNW is ready for MLB Playoffs and the chance for a championship run.
I’m tracking “Quality Starts” and enjoying the consistently good play of this Mariners team. I’m cautiously optimistic. I remind myself that even a World Series appearance is possible – a lesson I learned from those Amazing Mets of 1969.
My baseball daydream for the 2022 season?
Seattle Mariners face New York Yankees in the ALCS, win in 5 games.
Then, Seattle vs New York Mets in the World Series.
Game 7, Edwin Diaz trying to close out a one-run win for the Mets… M’s with a runner on 2nd and Julio at the plate.
And here’s the pitch…
Tom is an old-school baseball fan from his days on the sandlots and time spent at Shea. Since moving to Seattle in late 1980’s he’s followed the ups and downs of the Seattle Mariners. Contact him via Twitter [Fastballs&Curves - @tomseaver41] or Email TJW14214@icloud.com.
Braves Could Be On Verge Of Their Biggest Comeback In Divisional Era
By Dan Schlossberg
If the Atlanta Braves win the National League East this season, they will have erased their biggest deficit in the division era (10½ games). The 1993 team was 10 games behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West after games of July 22, then won the division by one game with 104 wins. the Giants won 103 but went home for the winter because there was no such thing as a wild-card winner at that time.
The 2022 Braves have gone 63-24 since the start of June, shaving the deficit to one-half game entering play today. Promoting 21-year-old rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom from Double-A and moving strikeout machine Spencer Strider into the starting rotation were major factors. Harris and Spencer are now the leading contenders for National League Rookie of the Year.
By the time their next homestand starts a week from today, the Braves expect to add a pair of former All-Stars, second baseman Ozzie Albies and starting pitcher Mike Soroka. Both have been performing well in rehab assignments at Triple-A Gwinnett.
To win the division for the fifth straight season, all Atlanta has to do is run the table. Three of their remaining 25 games are against their only rival, the New York Mets, but are scheduled for Truist Park in Atlanta starting the last day of this month.
Despite a current seven-game winning streak that has them on a 101-win pace, the Braves face formidable challenges. They play three in Seattle and three more in San Francisco before returning home for the first of seven games against Philadelphia.
Both the Mariners and the Phillies have been out of the playoffs so long that their fans have probably made other plans for October.
On the plus side for Atlanta is a slate that includes nine games against the sad-sack Marlins and Nationals and nine games in the friendly confines of Smyrna, Georgia.
The Mets have a much easier schedule but must overcome injuries to Max Scherzer and Starling Marte, two of their mainstays.
Should the teams finish with the same record, the Mets would probably be awarded the division crown because they won the season’s series against the Braves. To stop that from happening, Atlanta would have to sweep that end-of-month Truist Park series. It is worth noting that the Braves are the only club to hang a loss on Mets ace Jacob deGrom this season.
Both teams know that things can change quickly. The slow-starting Braves had a 7 per cent chance to win the NL East on June 1, according to Baseball Reference. They are now listed as the favorites in the division, with a 57.3 per cent chance to win it.
The largest deficit any Braves team has overcome to make the post-season is 15 games in 1914, when the “Miracle” Braves went 68-19 over their last 87 games en route to their only world championship in Boston. The team won once in Milwaukee (1957) and twice while representing Atlanta (1995 and 2021).
No team has won consecutive World Series since the Yankees took three straight from 1998-2000. And no National League team has taken two straight since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of 1975-76.
Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has covered baseball since 1969. The author or co-author of 40 books, he writes for Latino Sports, forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and others. His e.mail address is email@example.com.
“You should be able to build a pretty good team at $300 million. If you can’t do that, then that’s a problem.”
— Billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen
Former Yankee Michael Pineda, 33, has been designated by assignment by the Tigers, who plan to audition younger pitchers in the waning days of the season . . .
It wasn’t just his power that made Hank Aaron special but his versatility; normally a fine outfielder, he once played 27 games at second base in a single season . . .
No American Leaguer ever won more than three MVP awards . . .
Even though the Tampa Bay Rays remain alive in the AL East title chase, attendance is so poor that talk of relocating — or building a bigger and better ballpark — remains on the front burner . . .
Houston’s Justin Verlander, though currently injured, is a lock for the American League’s Cy Young Award but the National League trophy is a toss-up among Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Sandy Alcantara, Tony Gonsolin, and Mets closer Edwin Diaz . . .
Absent from postseason play since 2011, Philadelphia took another hit when Nick Castellanos (oblique) was placed on the IL earlier this week . . .
Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki remain the only players to be MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season but Atlanta center-fielder Michael Harris II, the youngest man in the majors at 21, could join them this year. He’s certain to win a Gold Glove.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.