All posts by John Stewart

At last, the Cubs win


“I am a glass case of emotions right now.”

No, this is not a story about Anchorman. But you gotta love that Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was no doubt feeling all the pressure one would expect in Game Seven of the World Series, while playing for a team that had not won in 108 years, picked that quote to describe his mental state of affairs last night. And that David Ross, the veteran catcher who was playing his last game in the majors, had just previously told him “Well, it’s only going to get worse. Just continue to breathe. That’s all you can do, buddy. It’s only gonna get worse.” Wiser words…

Game Seven in the World Series. By default this is a situation that comes with some pressure, right? Each team has won 3 games. Whoever wins this one gets champagne showers, so you know there’s pressure. This is the situation that every kid playing baseball dreams about, being at the plate or on the mound at the end of Game Seven, winning the game for your team and your town and your fans. Joe Biden would probably think of it as a pretty big deal.

Joe Biden, ice cream and a fist full of tens.
Who are we kidding? Biden is too busy living the freaking life.

But this was no ordinary Game Seven, last night in Cleveland. No, this was Game Seven featuring the two teams in baseball with the longest Series droughts – the Cubs’ infamous 108 years, Billy Goat Curse and all, but the Indians sporting a not-too-shabby 78 years of their own. For perspective, the last time the Cubs had won the World Series, American women did not have the right to vote, Jim Crow was still the law of the land, and there was no major league baseball on the West Coast. It was an awfully long time ago. And even the Indians’ last win came as African-Americans were finally in the Majors – Larry Doby and Satchel Paige both played for the 1948 Indians – and Harry Truman was President. Generations of Cubs and Indians fans have never seen their team win the Series.

The 1908 Chicago Cubs
But seriously, guys, can I get a smile here? YOU’RE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.

The Cubs dominated the regular season but had gone down 3-1 in the Series, then come back to make it 3-3. For the deciding game, the Cubs started Kyle Hendricks, he of the best ERA in the regular season, while the Indians countered with Corey Kluber, who had already won two Series games and was pitching on short rest.

Continue reading At last, the Cubs win

How Do They Keep Hitting the Baseball?

At Fenway Park last week, the Mariners took the first game of three from the Red Sox. In doing so, they got a win against the best hitting team in the American League — and in fact in all of baseball. The Mariners are currently ranked second in the AL behind Boston, and fifth in the Major Leagues.

A year ago, if you’d told me I’d be able to write that paragraph this season, I would have laughed out loud. Now, in the Mariners’ 40th season in the Major Leagues, I have the pleasure of doing so.

My editor, who continuously nags at me on Facebook about my lack of baseball writing, wondered… why. Why is this Mariners team hitting so well? How did Franklin Gutierrez hit two home runs and drive in six runs in that game? Why is Robinson Cano, recovered from offseason surgery, having such a great season? How has this team hit 101 home runs — and how is it that they’re the only team in the Majors to have five players with double digits in the Home Run column? The answer, my friends: Edgar Martinez.

Continue reading How Do They Keep Hitting the Baseball?

2016 Campaign Opens vs. the Rangers with #boomstick…and some early-season dugout clearing?


Welcome back to baseball, Major League style. Spring training is over, the games that matter (all 162 of them) have begun, and the Mariners find themselves at .500 going into today’s series finale with the Rangers.

Starting the season in Arlington Monday, the Mariners had a nine-year Opening Day win streak on the line. Unfortunately, despite a one-hitter from Felix Hernandez, the Ms lost 3-2. The King issued an uncharacteristic five walks in six innings, and was hurt by two Mariners errors, both in the fifth, which led to the Rangers’ three runs. This was the first time since 1913 when a team lost a one-hitter on Opening Day. Sometimes it feels like the Mariners are apt at being first in categories where one really would rather not lead.

Fortunately, the middle game of the season-opening series with the Rangers had a much better outcome. FOUR Mariner home runs (following two on Opening Day), including a Nelson Cruz #boomstick shot in the fourth, and three (that’s right, three) in the eighth inning off former Mariner Tom Wilhelmsen.

The eighth also featured the Mariners, including new manager Scott Servais, coming out of the dugout after Wilhelmsen appeared to intentionally hit new Mariner catcher Chris Iannetta. Wilhemsen wound up giving up five runs to as many batters in that inning, so he must have been frustrated. But the real story here was the quick response from Mariners players and Servais, who were quickly out of the dugout and yelling at the Rangers. Sure, baseball isn’t hockey, and no punches were thrown, but the passion and fire on display were a welcome contrast to some previous Mariners teams.

Other good stuff: Luis Sardinas hit his first home run yesterday. Robinson Cano now has two home runs, including a monster first-pitch solo shot off Wilhelmsen yesterday.  And the Mariners bullpen threw four innings of one-hit ball, holding the Rangers scoreless after Iwakuma’s exit at the end of the fifth inning.

I told some guy who keeps nagging me about writing Mariners articles here that I think two keys to the season are how 1) Cano comes back from his injuries last year, and 2) how the bullpen performs. It’s very very early going, but so far both of those things look good.

Mariners FanFest 2016: Ziplines, Whitesnake, Kyle Seager…and more!

[Author’s note: yeah, this is what happens when I put a post into draft and then forget about it. Without further ado, we take you back to January…]

This weekend Safeco Field hosted the latest edition of the annual FanFest event, a way for season ticket holder wannabes to take a look at their prospective seats…and for all of the rest of us to have some fan hanging out at the ballpark.

Although the line was longer than I wanted to wait through, the zipline in right field proved quite popular (Yogi’s “no one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” is rather apropos). The kids enjoyed walking around the basepaths, snapping photos in the dugout, and knocking whiffleballs over the fence in left field.

The Q&A and autograph sessions with Mariners past and present were popular as always. Jay Buhner and Dave Valle enjoyed some time with Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs, but the highlight today had to be Charlie Furbush, who donned an epic hairpiece and shared some of his best karaoke moves with the fans. Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” was good, but Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” really stole the show, despite some technical difficulties. A brief Kyle Seager appearance (Seager: “Who’s your favorite Mariner?”, Furbush: “You!”) generated a lot of applause as well. Furbush definitely seems one of those guys it would be fun to have a beer with; not sure I could keep up with his singing talents, though.

Every year, as we get close to the start of spring training, fans find themselves searching for signs of hope. Will this be the year the catching improves, the starting rotation holds together, the bullpen solidifies, the infield and outfield defense is where it needs to be, and the hitting is timely? We’ll have more on those subjects soon, but at least from the players at FanFest today, there appears to be some of that impossible-to-quantify team chemistry brewing at Safeco Field this year.

Mariners FanFest January 30/31

Pitchers and catchers report next month, and baseball’s winter is quickly drawing to a close (regardless of what the weather may be saying). Spring training is coming!

To that end, and to get fans a chance to meet some of the new players and hang out in the friendly confines of Safeco Field, the Mariners do FanFest each year. This year’s edition runs from 11A-4P both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, kids 14 and under are free.

There are so many things going on this weekend that I can’t list them all here, but highlights include:

* The perennial favorite, Run Around the Bases
* A zip line across the outfield
* Clubhouse tours
* Pitch in the bullpen
* Appearances from, and interviews with, various Mariner players
* See Nelson Cruz’ Silver Slugger award from 2015

and much, much more!

Your faithful baseball scribe is dusting off the keyboard; look for more soon on the Mariners’ many moves this offseason, how the rest of the AL West is stacking up, and more.

These Maddening Mariners

Ketel Marte getting some well-deserved props. Credit: Getty Images/Jamie Squire
Ketel Marte getting some well-deserved props. Credit: Getty Images/Jamie Squire

As the Fall Equinox arrives, the Seattle Mariners are…well, they’re not quite done yet. And that, my friends, is maddening.

As I sat here contemplating the passing of baseball great Yogi Berra, and noodling on something I could put together to appease my impatient editor (what, you expected content more frequently than every 3 months?), the phrase that kept running through my head was the title of this piece.

A team that lost its General Manager (and rightly so, based on performance), whose onetime great hope Dustin Ackley left, finally, because there was just no there there anymore, and whose offense seemed destined to become nothing but Nelson Cruz home runs (welcome as they are, not really quite enough)…suddenly finds itself only 5 games back in the wild card race, with 11 still to play. And three of those are against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are ahead of the Ms in the wild card race.

It’s maddening, I tell you. Not because it’s not exciting that the team still has a…well, a small chance. That’s great. But I am not embarrassed to admit that I had just about written this team off in early August. And while I am thrilled that, as Yogi said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”, for crying out loud could the real Seattle Mariners please stand up? Who is this team?

I’m not about to predict any kind of Mariner comeback here. But. This team has gone 13-6 so far in September. Took 2 of 3 from both the Rangers and Angels. Still has that Cruz fellow, who has now hit 42 home runs. Still has that Felix Hernandez guy. And finds itself only 3 games under .500.

So maybe next time I’ll talk about next year…or maybe next time I’ll talk about a miraculous Mariner comeback. Stay tuned.

Baseball’s back

Baseball’s back — all right! It’s that time of year when all the other sports goings-on take a break, and we relish the crack of the bat, peanuts, and beer…mmm…beer. But I digress.

[Editor’s note: For those NOT wearing baseball-coloured glasses, of course, it’s playoff time in the NBA and NHL, ramp up time for the Women’s World Cup, and right in the middle of the bloody season for MLS. *evil eye to John* But I digress.]

When last we left our heroes, Spring Training was still in progress. Since then, the Mariners started the season with a great series at home against the Angels… and then delivered a very disappointing road trip featuring some surprising (and painful) implosions on the part of the starting pitching rotation. This was… not expected.

Fortunately the Ms arrived home and put King Felix on the mound to turn things around. The King was as good as gold, fanning 12 and stopping a four-game losing streak.

The Mariners' Nelson Cruz, celebrating his walkoff single against the Rangers April 19th.
The Mariners’ Nelson Cruz, celebrating his walkoff single against the Rangers April 19th.

Continue reading Baseball’s back

Mariners Hot Stove Review

by John Stewart

Mariners fans entered Game 162 of the 2014 campaign with as much excitement as we’ve had in a long time. Felix on the mound, a beautiful fall day, and the Ms in striking distance of their first playoff appearance in… well, a while. [Editor’s note: Please forgive John’s lack of specificity on this one. He resides in a country where they still use quarts, miles, pounds and Republican Senator Thad Cochran.]

King Felix was edged out by Corey Kluber for the American League Cy Young Award, but his performance in 2014 was nothing short of electric. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson nicked from
King Felix was edged out by Corey Kluber for the American League Cy Young Award, but his performance in 2014 was nothing short of electric. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson nicked from

Sadly, despite beating the Angels of Anaheim/California/etc., 4-1, the Mariners were eliminated when the Oakland Athletics won their game that same day. And so another Mariners season ended without a trip to the postseason. The Mariners finished 87-75, one lousy win short of that that bloody Wild Card spot.

Pucked in the Head baseball connoisseur and Hair Club for Men after picture model John Stewart loves him some Safeco Field. And why not? It's purty.
Pucked in the Head baseball connoisseur and Hair Club for Men after picture model John Stewart loves him some Safeco Field. And why not? It’s purty.

Yet for the first time in… a while [ahem]… there was a real sense of optimism at Safeco Field. With a league-low ERA of 3.17, Mariners pitching was generally outstanding, both in the rotation and out of the bullpen. The offense, again, was the weakest link, with later-season moves for Austin Jackson and Kendrys Morales proving to be insufficient to move the needle quite far enough. Still, being relevant on the last day of the season was a welcome change from the previous several years.

With attendance up, and some excitement building about beisbol (to be put on hold by many during NFL season, as the Seahawks mount an amazing run toward a second Super Bowl appearance in as many years), it was on to the Hot Stove League, aka the off-season. What did Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik have up his sleeve?

Continue reading Mariners Hot Stove Review

Mariners Roller Coaster Ends on High Note

Any degree of sports fandom tends to affect things at home. My personal connection to the Seattle Mariners, and to baseball in general, is hopelessly intertwined with my personal life. And so it was that last Sunday, with the Mariners’ playoff chances hanging in the balance, I found myself sitting on the Washington State Ferry Yakima, headed south to Anacortes from Orcas Island, checking and re-checking the MLB app on my phone. Were the A’s winning? How was Felix pitching? Had the Mariners scored any runs? Could Texas come back, and give the Ms a li’l help?

Felix Hernandez (left) fist bumps second baseman Robinson Cano late in a season that saw the Seattle Mariners miss the playoffs by a single win. Kyle Terada photo borrowed from USA Today Sports Online.
Felix Hernandez (left) fist bumps second baseman Robinson Cano late in a season that saw the Seattle Mariners miss the playoffs by a single win. Kyle Terada photo borrowed from USA Today Sports Online.

As I learned in the car after we got off the ferry, the Rangers were incapable of mounting a comeback against the A’s (not surprising for a team whose Disabled List outmanned its 25-man roster). Thus ended ended the Mariners’ playoff hopes, despite their final game 4–1 win over the Los Angeles Angels. The win, while gratifying, did not get the team that Wild Card berth we had dared to dream about all summer.

Continue reading Mariners Roller Coaster Ends on High Note

Are the 2014 Mariners the 1995 Mariners All Over Again?

Yes, boys and girls, this is what we call a ‘clickbait’ headline. You’ll get over it.

Manager Lou Pinella became the eighth member of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame this month. Photo cribbed from the interweb.
Manager Lou Piniella became the eighth member of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame this month. Photo cribbed from the interweb.

After watching the one and only Lou Piniella get inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame, in a ceremony that brought tears to the eyes of even grizzled Mariners fans like yours truly, it’s hard not to get all nostalgic for the ’95 Mariners.

After playing all summer without star outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. (aka “Junior”), who had been badly injured in late May, the Ms didn’t inspire much hope for post-season play. The rest of the team fought through the adversity and kept things interesting, but as August began, they were just another bunch of boys of summer playing out the string. Then, somehow, some way, they started winning. The “Refuse to Lose” Mariners had arrived, and suddenly everyone in Seattle and around the Northwest remembered that we had a baseball team.

The ’95 team started August thirteen games back of the Angels. After two of the most amazing months in recent memory — you could not walk down a street in Seattle during a Mariners game without finding someone listening to Dave Niehaus calling the game on the radio — the team finished tied for the division lead with the Angels. That led to a one-game playoff: the Angels had not made the playoffs since ’86, and the Mariners had never been (before 1995 Seattle had only two seasons with a winning record in their 18-year history).

Continue reading Are the 2014 Mariners the 1995 Mariners All Over Again?