Tag Archives: Seattle Mariners

Who’s worth more? A baseball player or the doctor keeping your wife or child alive?

I opened the papers this morning to read about the Seattle Mariners giving Robinson Cano a 10-year contract for $240 million. The New York Mets apparently have agreed to give Curtis Granderson $60 million over four years. And there was the Jacoby Ellsbury deal with the New York Yankees earlier in the week: 7 years, $153 million.

For these ballplayers who have combined talent and hard work to reach such stratospheric salaries, I say, “Well done.”

But whenever baseball or other sports go through the off-season ritual of courtship by checkbook, I try to get a bit of perspective on what our society is saying in the way we reward sports figures.

Is a first baseman — with an average annual salary of $5.4 millionten 100 times as valuable to society as a high school teacher  — with an average annual salary of $54,000 — inspiring your child?

Is a shortstop — with an average annual salary of $3 million — ten times as valuable to society as an oncologist — with an average annual salary of $278,000 — treating your wife or husband for cancer?

Questioning the relative value of sports heroes to those serving the public is hardly new. Babe Ruth is famously remembered for his answer when asked about wanting to get paid more than President Herbert Hoover: “I had a better year than he did.” I imagine that even way back in the Roman republic, some people pondered the public adulation heaped on gladiators against the physicians of the day.

I still remember a section of a college economics textbook that did an academic proof  that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was worth every penny the Los Angeles Lakers were paying him in the 1970s. Kareem brought people into the arena and had a huge influence on broadcast revenues, q.e.d.

Certainly, pro athletes enrich our lives as they provide marvelous entertainment. I’ve been thrilled to see Ozzie Smith acrobatically turn a double play from short and been crushed to see Billy Buckner watch a grounder go between his legs at first. There’s even value in sports in occasionally seeing the games as morality plays on good versus evil (Red Sox v. Yankees, or vice versa, depending on your accent).

Yet no matter how much I love the game and how much economic sense it makes to pay the players, I still value more the doctors and nurses and teachers and coaches who care for us.

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Who was the best rookie in Major League Baseball in 2011? Freddie Freeman

In the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, this is my rookie year for voting in the group’s end-of-season awards. In the BBA, the Willie Mays Award goes to the top rookie, and here’s my ballot influenced heavily by the great MLB.com statistical rundown on rookies:

1. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta – Braves: Playing virtually every game at 1st base, Freeman posted great numbers with 161 hits, 21 homers, 76 RBI and a .282 average. Those are impressive numbers for a veteran and all the more so for a rookie.

2. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels – A close second in my book, he hit even more homers (29) than Freeman.

3. Jemile Weeks, Oakland Ahtletics – A mid-season call-up, this dude put some energy into the A’s. He hit .303 with 22 stolen bases (although he was caught 11 times.

Honorable mention: Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners (edged out by a step at the bag by Weeks); Danny Espinoza, Washington Nationals; Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs; Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals.

That’s one heck of a rookie crop, and there are others showing lots of promise I’m omitting.

Note: The only players of the above I saw play in person were Weeks and Hosmer.

Can Ichiro reach 200 hits again?

Ichiro Suzuki has slapped out 200 or more hits each year since he joined the Seattle Mariners in 2001, but his streak is in danger.

He went 2-for-4 tonight against Kansas City, bringing his total to 161 (as best as I can tell from MLB.com). That means he’s going to need a lot more two-hit nights if he wants to reach the double century mark.

Even if he doesn’t reach, he’s still putting up good numbers for the M’s. His pursuit of 200 hits is one of the few things about the Mariners to stir much interest in the Pacific Northwest this year.

It would be great to see him pull it off.

The West Coast: A wasteland for baseball offense

AL, NL, all around the game: the West Coast is a barren landscape for hitters in Major League Baseball.

I’m most acutely aware of the offensive struggles of the San Francisco Giants, the defending world champions who rank last in runs, 28th in hits and 25th in home runs.

The Giants play a lot of games against the San Diego Padres, ranking 27th in runs and hits and dead last at 30th in homers.

I was expecting that when I checked out MLB’s team stats tonight, and I figured the Seattle Mariners were likely company in the lower offense echelon. But I was surprised to find that the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers and even the Los Angeles Angels are for the most part in the nether regions of hitting statistics.

I thought the Pacific Coast stood for (Wally) Moon-shot power. For the Bash Brothers. For Barry Bonds. No more.

Since we can’t bring back steroids, I do suggest that some of these clubs reconfigure their stadiums. I recall way back in my childhood that the Indians moved in their fences to try to stoke some run production at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Given how the outfield walls of modern parks like AT&T and Petco are integral parts of the fields, it’s unlikely clubs will want to tinker with those designer dimensions. But I’d like to see what would happen.

I love a good 2-1 pitchers’ duel as much as the next guy, but every few days I’d like to see the local nine rake the walls the way the Yankees and Red Sox do.

Thanks to television, the NFL is truly the national sport

Baseball may traditionally be America’s national pastime, but as a spectator sport football is king. That’s a tribute to television broadcasting.

In a continent spanning four time zones (and I’m excluding Alaska and Hawaii), football has an enormous advantage in capturing the attention of the public. Even in an era of Monday night and occasional Thursday night games, most of the matchups are played on Sundays when most Americans are off work. That concentration of games increases the focus on them, and fans immerse themselves in the games.

For example, this weekend has been the pinnacle of the NFL season with eight teams vying to reach the two conference championships. Many of my friends and colleagues blocked out their weekend to watch the games (I dipped in and out and listened a fair amount on radio). Now that the Jets-Patriots game is over, I’m sure many of them are reliving the details on ESPN, the NFL Network and NFL.com.

The conference championships will also be closely and widely watched, followed by the Super Bowl, which will amass a huge audience of fans rabid and casual.

Baseball can’t match that, even if the network executives would get their dream matchup of the Yankees against the Dodgers or Cubs. A Mariners-Pirates World Series would be a network nightmare, but there’d be no dropoff in audience if the Seahawks faced the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

The NFL is huge, while baseball, lived day by day, inning after inning, is merely big. From spring training through a 162-game regular season plus several rounds of playoffs, baseball is seemingly always with us.

So football games seem bigger, more important by comparison.

I’m a baseball fan first and foremost, but I concede I’m in the minority in this 21st century.

Football is America’s sport.

A tip of the cap to Lou Piniella

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In a graceful move, Lou Piniella has announced he’ll retire after wrapping up the season with the Chicago Cubs. Piniella has distinguished himself as someone who excelled as a player and a manager, a combination that is uncommon if not rare.

I’ve followed Piniella’s career for a long time, dating back to when I picked up his first Topps rookie card* in 1964 and then as he moved briefly into the Indians’ organization as a top prospect who was ultimately dealt away for better times elsewhere. He managed for the Yankees and in Seattle, Cincinnati, St. Petersburg and for the Cubs.

Winning a World Series with the Reds was certainly a career highlight, and he had his most successful playing years with the Yankees. In both roles, he brought competitive fire to the field daily. Thanks, Lou, for all you’ve done for the game.

*Amazingly, Piniella appeared on Topps rookie cards for the Senators, Indians and Seattle Pilots, which also is a rarity.

An American icon: The pocket baseball schedule

CLEVELAND – Besides the crocuses poking their way up through the snow, one of the first signs of spring in northeast Ohio is the emergence of the annual Cleveland Indians’ pocket schedule.

I picked my copy up at a shop counter the other day while visiting relatives. The schedule, neatly folded and tucked into my wallet, will stay with me the whole season — even though the odds of my catching a Tribe game at Progressive Field are just about zilch.

I’ve carried these pocket schedules virtually every year in memory, most often the Indians’ but also the Athletics’, Brewers’, Cubs’, Giants’, Mariners’ — wherever I happened to live.

In this digital age of apps and iPhones, such schedules are analog artifacts of an earlier time. But around Cleveland, they are ubiquitous. I’ve seen them available at drugstores, liquor stores, convenience stores, coffee shops — seemingly everywhere I’ve shopped the past few days.

This year’s model is classy, with Grady Sizemore in profile and Cleveland’s signature building, the Terminal Tower, in the background.

These schedules always are symbol of hope. Maybe this is the year the Tribe will win it all.