Seattle Mariners – Frustrating But Talented

Can This Be The Season?

Mariners won last night on a 3-run homer by designated hitter Adam Lind.  Lind’s walk-off homer is the fourth time the Mariner’s have done that, leading the majors in that category.

The win takes some of the sting out of the horrific month of June which put’s them at 7-14 for the month and for the first time since April 23rd, at .500 for the season.

Granted, we all know that teams will go thru some rough patches and this version of the Mariners does at least, for the most part, stay in games unlike last year, where if the opposing team got any kind of lead, they folded up like a cheap tent.

Injuries haven’t helped matters much with starters Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and Wade Miley out for extensive periods of time.  And the fact that the rest of the staff, sans Hisashi Iwakuma, can’t get past the 5th inning, which depletes the bullpen and in turn, have been battered around by opposing teams.

There are signs of hope though.  James Paxton seems to have found a groove and with his new arm slot location, has been hitting in the 95-98 mph on his fastball, occasionally hitting 100 mph to go along with a good curveball and slider.

Last night’s starting pitcher, Wade LeBlanc just recently traded for the infamous “player to be named later” was thrust into the starting rotation.  The left-hander channeled a favorite Mariner icon, one Jamie Moyer with a quality change-up and pin-point control, holding the Cardinals to zero runs, three hits and one walk in six innings.

The Mariners did there best to give back the game in the eight inning when the Cardinals scored three runs without the benefit of a hit.  Relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit did the most damage, walking the lead-off hitter and then promptly hitting the next one, and then walking the next two to force in a run that tied the game.

Next was the debut of Donn Roach but I can’t blame him for giving up the two runs.  He did what he was supposed to do and that was to induce the Cardinal’s Matt Holliday to hit the ball on the ground.  But the normally sure-handed Mariner 3rd baseman Kyle Seager misjudged the 103 mph grounder for an error and off it went into left field allowing two runs to score.

But baseball is a funny game and more often than not, it allows for players to amend any screw-ups they may have made.  Seager came back by hitting a double and Dae-Ho Lee, the Mariners most pleasant surprise this season, worked Cardinal closer Trevor Rosenthal for a walk, setting up Adam Lind’s heroics in the ninth.

Here are some things we can take away about the Mariners during this nasty stretch:

  • Seventh best hitting team in the American League with a .259 team batting average.
  • Second in the American League in runs scored with 359.
  • Second in the American League in home runs with 110.
  • Second in the American League in RBI with 347.
  • Fourth in the American League with a .326 OPB percentage
  • Fourth in the American League with a .437 slugging percentage
  • Second in the American League pitching staff with 630 strikeouts of opposing batters
  • Second in American League with an ERA of 3.78 runs per game

Newsflash:  Despite recent play, this team is pretty good.

Right now the Mariners are banged up but still in contention for a Wild Card spot.  And with some luck (and hopefully the Texas Rangers go into a spin late), they might even have a shot at winning the American League West title.

What I hope happens when Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and Wade Miley return from their injuries is that they keep James Paxton in the rotation and send Nathan Karns down to the minors to figure out how to get past five innings.

So down the stretch, the Mariners starting rotation would be:

  • Hernandez
  • Iwakuma
  • Paxton
  • Walker
  • Miley

Keep Wade LeBlanc for long relief and spot starts.

With the exception of Walker (and I think that it’s a short term issue), all of the starters have the ability to go at least seven innings each time they pitch.  Now you have an effective bullpen that only needs to work 3 innings a game instead of 5 or sometimes 6.  That can only make the bullpen that much more effective.

Mariners are going to be OK….they have too much talent to be out of it right now.

America Isn’t The Greatest Country In The World – But It Can Be

American Flag

My wife and I started to watch the fine HBO, Aaron Sorkin series, The Newsroom. We had seen it before but with the television season in a downtime and nothing really good on TV, we decided to watch it again from the beginning.

And how poignant that we did so. The opening scene where the main character, Will McAvoy (played by Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels) rants during a college panel, even though this first aired in June of 2012, rings even more true today.

The question a college student asks of all three guests is “What do you think makes America the greatest country in the world?” One guest, far left liberal Democrat, states “Diversity and Opportunity.” The other guest, a far right conservative Republican says that “Freedom and Freedom” is what makes America great.

McAvoy, who really didn’t want to delve into it, agreed with both guests. However, the moderator wouldn’t let him off the hook.

Finally, he lets loose with perhaps one of the best rants that couldn’t ring more true then and now.

Some of the highlights:

  • We’re (America)seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household incomes, number four in labor force and number four in exports.
  • America leads the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries, 25 of whom are allies.
  • Not that this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you are, without a doubt, a member of the WORST.GENERATION.EVER.

After he calms down and gets everyone’s attention, he continues. More highlights:

  • We sure used to be.
  • We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons; we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons.
  • We waged war on poverty, not poor people.
  • We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors, we put money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest.
  • We built great things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy.
  • We reached for the stars and we acted like men.
  • We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior.
  • We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy.
  • We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

The final line that he gives should be a message to everyone under the sun: “The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one – America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

I don’t even suggest that we take direction to make right in the world from a television show. However, media does have a responsibility to inform the American people of what the problem is.

I can remember when the Fourth Estate, did inform the people of issues without bombastic tirades and blame. They reported the facts so that voters could make informed decisions on candidates and issues that affect their lives.

No more. We have stations to the far right and left that seem to think they need to have Jerry Springer like shows to keep audiences enthralled as to what could be said next…and wait, fricking wait to have these shows tell them what to do. How is that allowing any of us to come to our own decisions?

The Fourth Estate is a shell of what it used to be. There are still some sane voices out there, like Leonard Pitts that attempt to be voices of reason. But they are vastly out-numbered, sad to say.

One journalist that I truly miss is Jon Stewart. Yes, the same Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. He pointed out so many pit falls of both the Democratic and Republican parties that it almost wasn’t funny anymore….almost.

At one point, The Daily Show was one of the most watched shows in a demographic that all news shows want: Ages 18-34. In 2006, Indiana University attempted to compare the amount of information of the Daily Show against network news broadcasts. It concluded there was little difference between the Daily Show and other news outlets. Imagine that, a comedy show that informs people just as well as news outlets.

Even more astounding is that in 2009, Jon Stewart won Time Magazine’s Most Trusted Newscaster poll with 44%, 15 points ahead of Brian Williams. Just think about that for a second: A comedy show host was America’s Most Trusted Newscaster.

America is in shambles right now. We don’t trust each other. We are suspicious of people of color. We are suspicious of people who look like us because we feel we are always a target. We have no direction and no one in this country that can get us headed into one.

We turn our noses at our Veterans who sacrificed so much for a country they love.

We have little respect for police because across the country, the police have made terrible, terrible mistakes…and so have the people that reacted badly to those mistakes.

We cheat our children by making teachers one of the lowest paid professions yet requires years and years of school and a Master’s degree. And the teachers at the most critical developmental stages, 6-12 and 13-18 often have to take second jobs and work thru the summer to make ends meet as well as purchase items for their classrooms. We over-burden them with huge classrooms and quite often, can’t give the shy, unassuming kid in the back that doesn’t seem to have any friends and struggles to learn.

So these candidates that want to hold the highest office in the land, being President of the United States, whom ever gets elected has a long, hard hill to climb.

And even if that person was the smartest and most common sense person in the world, the people that we elect to represent us, our congresspersons and senators, have their own agendas on how they want to shape America…forgetting to listen to us.

And therein lays the rub: Congresspersons and senators should not have their own agendas…or more specifically, they shouldn’t have the agendas of deep-pocket special interests groups such as the NRA, Tobacco, Big Oil, Auto Companies and Big Pharma dictate how they govern and allow the interests of these special interest groups come before their constituents.

These special interest groups hold a unique position in politics. They don’t vote congresspersons or senators into office, we do. However, they do contribute to politicians who need funding provided they follow directions on certain bills that are up for voting to be passed as law.

The power of government is no longer for the people or by the people…and anyone out there who thinks otherwise is just fooling themselves. The power of government is greed and information. Media experts who craft a message those candidates repeat ad-nauseam regardless of what question is put to them.

Political debates? The Republican debates that took place were a sideshow and bad ones at that. The Democratic debates, slightly more interesting but still, candidates really never answered questions. Each time, they went back to the crafted message that was beat into them like a drum and stayed on message regardless of the question.

While Donald Trump may not be presidential material, one has to agree that he more than likely told his advisors to stick where the sun don’t shine, I’m gonna say what I want! I may be fearful of him being elected president but I have to give him his props, misguided as they may be.

America isn’t the greatest country in the world…hasn’t been for a while. There are so many issues put there and no campaign slogan is going to make them go away. It is going to take a fearless leader, one who is compassionate, non-judgmental and intelligent to lead us back to greatness…check that, lead us into a different type of greatness, one that has America leading the fights in racism, poverty and illness.

We also need a leader that recognizes that we need to take care of our own first before we can start helping others. Because right now, we are weak because we have all of this bickering, finger-pointing waste of time and energy draining petty crap that just isn’t that important.

Most importantly, that leader, whomever that may be, needs to trust us as much we need to trust him or her.

We cannot expect our hope to have all America’s problems solved in one fell swoop. It is a continuous process that needs to have consistency from president to president, from Senate house to Senate house, from Congress to Congress. We can’t have problems worked and then re-worked and then re-worked again just because a Democratic congress started it and a newly elected Republican congress gets elected.

We must also set expectations for our leaders, make them accountable for what they promise us as we elect them. Special interest groups may have the greed and money to sway elections but they do not hold the most powerful tool that we the people have…and that’s the right to vote.

Realistically, I don’t see America building great things, making ungodly technological advances and exploring the universe in the near future. We cannot reach for the stars just yet. We need to build a solid foundation to allow future generations to make America the greatest country in the world…my vision that would make America great?

It would be a country that revers in its diversity, making it our strength instead of being afraid of it. It would be a country that shares and is cooperative with other countries in science and medicine. It would be a country that is tolerant of all races, all genders and all religions and allow all of these different people to come together to just talk with each other.

I swear that if America had the biggest block party in the world, where everyone pitches in and brings their favorite food and drink, people would begin to trust each other again.

Is it so hard to say hello to someone? Is it so hard to hold a door open for anyone? Is it so hard to offer a helping hand to someone who is down? Is it so hard to show an iota of respect to others regardless of their race, creed, sexual orientation or religious beliefs?

And this is for us men: Being abusive toward women does not make us superior to them…in fact, each time an offense is done to a woman, it demeans the male side of the population. It doesn’t make you strong, it makes you weak. You want to be a “real” man? Then show some damn respect to women, they deserve it…for if not for them, we wouldn’t last very long as a species. Get it? Good, be a man and protect and respect these women for they are the most precious gift we can ever get. They are not property and they are certainly way the heck smarter than we are. SO GET WITH THE DAMN PROGRAM!

America isn’t the greatest country in the world – But it can be.