Category Archives: Felix Hernandez

Mariners come home in last place; is it time to panic?

They were supposed to challenge for first place this season.

Twenty-eight games into the season, the Seattle Mariners are in last place, seven games out of first in the AL West. They’ve lost six of their last seven.

What’s up?

“I think the baseball gods are testing us a little bit,” said manager Lloyd McClendon following a second straight walk off loss to the Anaheim Angeles on Wednesday.

I wonder if McClendon believes in the Church of Baseball? You know, the one Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) talked about in the movie “Bull Durham.”

Annie’s philosophy:

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring… which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250… not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. ‘Course, a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. ‘Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.

Baseball gods or no baseball gods, other than Nelson Cruz (,333, 14 HRs, 26 RBI) and Felix Hernandez (5-0, 1.73 ERA ), there’s not a lot to get excited about right now when it comes to the Mariners.

Annie Savoy wouldn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to finding a hitter to sleep with. Other than Cruz, Robinson Cano (.263), Kyle Seager (.255) and Seth Smith (.250) are the only players hitting above .250.

This is a bad baseball team right now. Fernando Rodney has eight saves, but a 5.56 ERA. Hishaski Iwakuma is on the DL, Taijuan Walker (1-3, 8.74 ERA) and James Paxton (0-2, 5.08 ERA) were thought to be can’t-miss prospects, and now you know why they play the games.

It’s frustrating for the fans because the franchise had such lofty expectation coming into this season. The Mariners were considered, by just about everybody, a pretty good bet to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2001.

Seattle opened the season as 12-1 favorites to win the World Series, one of the four favorites in MLB according to the sports book Bovada. The odds have dropped to 33-1 and the Mariners now own the fourth-worst record in baseball.

Is it time to panic?

The Brewers (9-19, .321), Phillies (10-19, .345) and Indians (10-16, .385) are the only MLB teams with worst records than Seattle (11-17, .393).

Catcher Mike Zunino is hitting .177 and the strikeouts (31) keep coming.

Dustin Ackley is off to another slow start, hitting .182.

The team is hitting .236 with an American League-worst .289 on-base percentage. Only San Francisco (63) has scored fewer runs than Seattle (65). That’s an important statistic, right? Scoring runs is the name of the game.

Only Toronto (109) and Boston (95) have walked more hitters than Seattle (90) pitchers. Opponents are hitting .256 against the Mariners; the league average is .251.

Seattle’s also not getting it done on defense. The Mariners are tied for 10th in fielding percentage (.982) and have made 19 errors in 28 games.

I repeat: Is it time to panic?

Will Zunino figure it out at the plate?

Will Cano find a semblance of a power stroke? He’s on pace to hit 6 home runs.

Will Smith, Seth Ruggiano and the Rickie Weeks — three off-season acquisitions — come to life. So far, only Smith has produced and his numbers are marginal at best.

Austin Jackson’s on the DL with an ankle injury, but the center fielder wasn’t getting the job done anyway.

The M’s have already started making moves. Chris Taylor was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and is now starting at shortstop. Brad Miller is reportedly not happy about being turned into a super utility player. And if Miller is the super utility guy, where does that leave Willie Bloomquist? Can a team afford to carry two super utility guys?

What happens to the offense if Cruz goes into a slump, and you know it’ll happen at some point. What happens if Hernandez hit the wall at some point? Will others step up?

Is it time to panic?

As bad as the results have been thus far, I think it’s too early to throw in the towel. Check back after the upcoming home stand. The Marineros play Oakland three times, the Padres visit for two and Boston invades Safeco for a four-game series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Day: Thoughts and links about the Mariners

Before you hear the umpire yell “Play Ball!” today at Safeco Field, here’s some thoughts about the Seattle Mariners, one for every inning of today’s game (1:10 p.m., ROOT TV):

1, The Skipper: After going through Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu and Eric Wedge, I think the Mariners have finally found the right guy to lead this club in Lloyd McClendon. He seems to have that right mix of fire and steadiness. He knows how to keep his veteran stars like Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano happy, and instill confident in the role guys. He’d been a manager before in Pittsbugh, and worked seven years under Jim Leyland in Detroit. Seattle improved 16 games in the win column in McClendon’s first year. He’s got more talent to work with now. It should be, as all of the pundits are telling you, a fun season.

Here’s a really good story by Jerry Crasnick about McClendon carrying the torch as the only African-American manager in the majors.

 2, If Fernando Rodney stumbles, and I don’t know why I think he might, I’m not worried. Yoervis Medina, Carson Smith, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen — part of a bullpen that was as good as any in baseball a year ago — all have what it takes to be closers. Farquhar saved 16 games in 2013 when he was thrust into that role. Here’s an analytical look at why some think Rodney, who had 48 saves in 2014, might fall off a bit in 2015.

3, Expecting big things:   When Taijuan Walker got an opportunity last season, he wasn’t ready for it. Physically, yes, but mentally, no. Now he’s ready to take steps toward establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Walker’s delivery is so smooth and the ball just flies when he releases it. You wonder how he generates so much power. It’s kind of like a Freddy Couples drive. Effortless. He starts the season as Seattle’s No. 4 starter. He might be No. 2 by the end of the year.

4, Reason for caution: I wrote about it last month, and several others have made the same point. The outfielders are going to have to prove to me that they can produce on a consistent basis. Based on what we saw a year ago I think it’s justified to be a little concerned about center fielder and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson (.229/.267/.260 slash line after coming over from Detroit). And, OK, I don’t follow baseball like I used to but I’d never heard of Seth Smith or Justin Ruggiano until the Mariners acquired them. Dustin Ackley? He’s a career .245 hitter. Rickie Weeks is the one piece I’m reasonably confident about. To borrow a quote from Lou Piniella, “He’s a professional hitter.”

5, Experience: I like the fact that the Mariners are no longer a young team. This is a veteran team, with stars like Hernandez, Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Hiashi Iwakuma. There are no rookies on the club. Art Thiel of sportspress.nw writes that the Mariners have no one younger than 24 or older than 34 in Monday’s starting lineup. I also like the fact Seattle won’t be counting on Justin Smoak this season.

6, Speaking of Iwakuma: With King Felix and Walker, and talented lefty James Paxton and  newcomer J.A. Happ garnering a lot of preseason attention, Hishashi Iwakuma tends to get   overlooked at times. We forget how good he is. When he’s got the splitting diving, he’s one of the premier pitchers in the game. Remember 2013 when he was 14-6 and finished third in the Cy Young balloting (Felix was eighth that year). Kuma ranked second in the AL in WHIP (a club-record 1.006), third in ERA (2.66), innings (219 2/3) and opponents’ batting average (.220), fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.40) and quality starts (23), and fifth in opponents’ OPS (.630). He battled some arm issues a year ago, but still managed to make 28 starts and finished with a 15-9 record and 3.52 ERA. The arm was strong this spring, and I think you can look for another All-Star type of season out of the right-hander, who is in the final year of a 3-year, $20  million deal.

7, Beer: Yes, it’s expensive, but the options at Safeco Field are endless. I bet you can’t sample one of each before the end of the season.

8, In case you missed it: This is the preview about the Mariners from Sports Illustrated, Lookout Landing, and a prediction column by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times about the Mariners putting it all together after years of disappointments (there are also links to other previews stories). And Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (his stuff also appears in The Sun) had a good story on Opening Day starter Felix Hernandez.

9, Road trip: The Mariners are in San Francisco to play the defending World Champion Giants on June 15 (Monday, 7:15 p.m.) and 16 (Tuesday, 12:45 p.m.), and the Giants are in Seattle June 17 (Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.) and June 18 (Thursday, 7:10 p.m.). That’s a four-game series I’d like to see.

 

 

If it comes down to pitching, M’s have a chance if they reach postseason

Take a look at these starting rotations and tell me which one do you want for the postseason. And consider that it’s possible to get by with just three starters in a seven-game series. I’d put the staffs in this order. It’s no guarantee for success, but if the Mariners get to the postseason, I like their chances. In addition to those top three starters, Seattle’s bullpen has been baseball’s best.

OAKLAND A’S

Jon Lester 11-7, 2.59 ERA

Jeff Samardzija 4-8, 2.91 (2-7, 2.83 with Cubs; 2-1, 3.09 with A’s).

Scott Kazmir 12-4, 2.53

Sonny Gray 12-5, 2.87

Jason Hammel 9-9, 3.70 (8-5, 2.98 w/Cubs; 1-4, 7.15 w/A’s)

SEATTLE MARINERS

Felix Hernandez 12-3, 1.97

Ishashi Iwakuma 9-6, 2.94

Chris Young 10-6, 3.27

Roenis Elias 8-9, 4.19

James Paxton 2-0, 2.76 (5-0, 2.01 in seven career starts)

DETROIT TIGERS

Max Scherzer 13-4, 3.24

David Price 11-8, 3.11 (0-0, 3.24 in one start w/Tigers after being traded by Rays)

Justin Verlander 10-10, 4.74

Rick Porcello 13-6, 3.06

Anibal Sanchez 8-5, 3.37

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Garrett Richards 12-4, 2.58

Jared Weaver 12-6, 3.59

C.J. Wilson 8-7, 4.74

Matt Shoemaker 9-4, 4.02

Tyler Skaggs 5-5, 4.30 or Hector Santiago 3-7, 3.84

 

And then there’s the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting rotation, the best in baseball and the reason why the Dodgers will be favored to win the World Series:

LA DODGERS

Clayton Kershaw 13-2, 1.82

Zach Grienke 12-7, 3.77

Hyun-Jim Ryu 12-5, 3.39

Dan Haren 9-9, 4.57

Josh Beckett 6-6, 2.88 (Beckett, brought in as the fifth starter,tossed a no-hitter in May)

My Oh My: M’s starting pitching could be so good, but right now it’s not

It was April 2 and what was I thinking?

I predicted the Mariners were going to win the AL West.

I think I might have gone off my meds that day.

I said the M’s were pitching rich.

Well, 15 games into the season, we now know that’s not true. Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker have yet to throw a pitch, and James Paxton has joined those two on the disabled list.

If — and I hate to use that word because, well, you know why — those guys can get healthy, I still think the Mariners have a shot at winning the AL West. A rotation of Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma, Walker, Paxton and Roenis Elias, the Cuban left-hander who continues to show that belongs in the show, matches up with any in baseball.

When I made that April 2 prediction, I said we’d know a lot about this team after the first 16 games — all of them against AL West rivals. Well, one game was rained out, and the Mariners came out of gate 7-8. Seattle’s lost thee straight and is three games behind first-place Oakland, which won four of six against the M’s mostly because Seattle’s bats went quiet.

So what do we know?

Oakland’s clearly the team to beat. Texas and Anaheim don’t look like playoff teams to me. The A’s have the best pitching in the division … but I think Seattle’s starting rotation could be even better.

I’m not talking about Hernandez, Roenis, Erasmo Ramirez, Chris Young and whomever their fifth starter is at the moment. Ramirez should be erased from the rotation and sent to Tacoma, but I don’t know if the Mariners have anybody better right now.

Seattle’s gone from pitching rich to pitching poor in a hurry, but I’m sticking to my guns. If Iwakuma, Walker and Paxton ever get healthy — sooner, rather than later — I still believe the M’s have a chance to win the AL West.

UPDATE: The M’s announced Brandon Mauer would start on Sunday against Miami. Excited? Didn’t think so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball, father-sons & other Thursday stuff

Attended the Mariners’ home opener on Tuesday with my dad and son. Something about baseball and dads and sons that’s special. Mix in my best friend, who is like a brother to me, another son to my dad and another dad to my son and it was a really special day.

But back to that original thought about baseball and dads and sons. Baseball’s different than any other sport and it all starts, I think, with playing catch.  No words are necessary. There’s just something magical about it and the sound of the ball popping in the leather glove.

My dad, now 89, would probably have a tough time playing catch today, mostly because he blew out his arm while throwing so much batting practice pitches to me and my friends while growing up.

Some quick thoughts on the Mariners:

You can’t help but be impressed with the easy-going, relaxed way Robinson Cano plays the game. He oozes confidence and that’s going to rub off on some of his teammates. I think it already has.

It’s so early, but manager Lloyd McClendon seems to be making all of the right moves. We’ll see, but he seems to have a good eye for talent. I like that he settled on Abraham Almonte as his center fielder and leadoff hitter early on. I rolled my eyes at first when he handed the first base job to Justin Smoak, but it retrospect that was a good, confidence-building move. If guys don’t produce, I think McClendon has a deep enough bench and enough talent at Tacoma — Nick Franklin, Endy Chavez, Cole Gillespie — that he won’t hesitate to make a move. He’s already rotating Michael Saunders, Logan Morrison and Stefen Romero in right field.

I was the guy who predicted the M’s would win the AL West. That was mostly predicated on the rest of the division slipping back some, and the M’s strong starting pitching. If it stays healthy, I think Seattle stays in the race all the way. James Paxton’s visit to the DL for a strained lat doesn’t seem serious, but he’s a key element to the rotation. I think the big lefty is just as good as Taijuan Walker, who is working his way back from injury, as is Hisashi Iwakuma. If they stay healthy, I’m sticking to my pick.

Corey Hart gave us a glimpse of what he could do for the M’s on Tuesday. I wasn’t impressed with his first two swings as he fell in an 0-2 hole against Angels starter Hector Santiago. I turned to my son and said, “Is this guy going to be the next Richie Sexson?” A couple seconds later he Hart crushed a pitch for a three-run moonshot home run to left. He lined a ball over the dead center-field fence for a homer in his next at bat. It got out about thisquick. If he stays healthy, Hart could be a steal at $6 million plus incentives.

One more M’s thought: Felix Hernandez is among a lot of MLB players who wear their baseball hats a little crooked, but new closer Fernando Rodney takes that look to a new level. His hat is practically sideways. How does it stay on his head?

More stuff

South Kitsap grad and Chicago Cubs’ starter Jason Hammel got his second win and had a little fun with first baseman Anthony Rizzo after the game.

North Mason grad and Central Washington infielder Kasey Bielec is third in batting (.398) in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Bielec, a junior, has five home runs and 28 RBI for the Wildcats (18-13, 11-9 GNAC). He was 4-for-6 on Sunday in a split with Western Oregon.

North Kitsap grad and former Kitsap BlueJacket Dan Jewitt of the Omaha Mavericks was the Summit League Player of the Week last week. The junior outfielder hit .526 (10-for-19) with six RBI and two doubles. Jewitt’s hitting a team-high .400 for the Mavericks (14-12, 3-3 Summit), starting 15 of the 18 games he’s played.

Drew Vettleson’s still looking for his first hit at Double-A Harrisburg. The Senators outfielder is hitless in 16 at bats. The former Central Kitsap star  was traded to the Washington Nationals by the Tampa Bay Rays organization prior to the start of spring training.

Jason Day and Steve Stricker. If I was in a Masters’ pool, I wish I had one of those guys. Wonder how long Fred Couples will contend? You know he will. He’s always on the top of the leaderboard for a couple days, then he fades. Maybe this is the year he hangs tough?

Richard Sherman’s second annual celebrity softball game will be July 20 at Safeco Field. More information here.

Don’t forget, Willie Bloomquist and Bree Schaaf will be at Port Orchard’s McCormick Woods on Thursday night, helping the Kitsap Athletic Roundtable raise money for the Elton Goodwin scoreboard and Elton Goodwin Foundation. Starts at 6 p.m. Everyone’s welcome. Lots of silent auction items available: Robinson Cano signed jersey and bat, Felix Hernandez signed jersey and ball, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners tickets etc…

KAR auctioning off signed Cano, Hernandez jerseys for Goodwin fundraiser on Thursday

UPDATE: There will also be signed Robinson Cano, Willie Bloomquist and Abraham Almonte bats to bid on. The signed Cano jersey and bat will be part of a package. We’ll also raffle off some items. Everyone gets tickets at the door.

Went to the Mariners’ opener on Tuesday and there sure were a lot of No. 22 jerseys in the crowd?

Want a chance to own your own signed Robinson Cano No. 22 jersey? How about a Felix Hernandez signed No. 34 jersey or signed Hernandez baseball? Want a chance to bid on Seahawks and Mariners tickets? How about Mariners tickets with field access prior to a game? Want to bid on a foursome of golf with carts at Gold Mountain, Kitsap Golf & Country Club and McCormick Woods? How about a $300 gift card to Clearwater Casino?

Want to hear Port Orchard’s Willie Bloomquist talk about his Major League Baseball career, or ask him some questions about the current Mariners?

Would you be interested in learning how Bremerton’s Bree Schaaf transitioned from Olympic bobsledder to Olympic broadcaster? Want to ask her some questions?

All of this is possible if you stop by Port Orchard’s McCormick Woods Golf Course for Thursday’s Kitsap Athletic Roundtable meeting. Things get going with a 6 p.m. social hour. The program starts at 7. There’s no dinner, but there will be a no-host bar.

Tickets are $30 ($25 for KAR members) and $10 for students 18 and under and they will be available at the door.

Proceeds will help build a scoreboard at the South Kitsap High School baseball field that will be named in honor of former coach Elton Goodwin and to the Elton Goodwin Foundation, which will provide scholarship money to South Kitsap students. Bloomquist’s among there the hundreds and hundreds of players Goodwin touched over the years.

A lot of people are donating items for the silent auction. The signed Cano and Hernandez jerseys and trip to a Mariners game with field access will be auctioned off live.

Hope to see you there.

Quick Hits: Kelly, Seahawks, Hammel & more

QUICK HITS AND THOUGHTS

Wonder if the PGA tour will ever get around to correcting the info on Troy Kelly’s bio? It still says he’s a graduate of West Sound Academy in Poulsbo, where he was a first-team all-league guard. Kelly was a first-team all-league guard … at Central Kitsap. Kelly, coming off knee surgery after playing in just 10 PGA events a year ago, gets his 2014 season started next week at the Web.com Tour’s Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in Bogota, Columbia. Kelly gets five Web.com Tour tuneups, and will have 14 more PGA Tour tournaments to earn $577,828 to keep his full-time playing privilege.

I’m looking forward to listening to Bremerton’s Bree Schaaf, who will be covering the skeleton competion at the Sochi Olympics for NBC. Follow her on Twitter @BreeSchaaf. Skeleton will be held over four days, Feb. 13-16. Schaaf was a bobsledder in the last Olympics, placing fifth at Vancouver.

In case you missed it, as I did while playing in Vegas last weekend, South Kitsap grad Jason Hammel several national media outlets reported that he had signed a one-year deal for a reported $6 million with the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander, who spent last season with the Baltimore Orioles, could earn an extra $1 million in incentives, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The Cubs have not confirmed the report, pending Hammel passing a physical. Hammel, 31, was 7-8 (4.97 ERA) in 23 starts and three relief appearances last season. He missed time with soreness in his right elbow.

I still can’t get that first play of the Super Bowl out of my head. Might have been the earliest turning point in the history of big sporting events. Denver’s mistimed snap ended up as a safety for the Seahawks. It was only 2-0, but you had a feeling, at least I did, that it was going to be Seattle’s day.

My buddy, Don Lay, and I chatted with one of Richard Sherman’s proud cousins at the Palace Station sports book on Super Bowl Sunday in Vegas. Yoseph (didn’t catch his last name) grew up in Compton and works for the schools in Las Vegas. He sported a braided pony tail (says long hair is a family trait) and was decked out in Seahawks’ gear. Asked if he thought Sherman would ever be a national figure, Yoseph shook his head. “I thought he might make the NFL, but as a wide receiver,” he said. “That’s what he played in high school.” Yoseph’s phone was full of photos Sherman was sending to family members and friends, some on the day of the game.

How amazing would it be if Hawks’ owner Paul Allen could become a two-time world champion this year? His Portland Trail Blazers have a legit shot.

Anybody looking forward to seeing what Percy Harvin can do for a full season if he’s healthy?

The first recruiting class of Husky football coach Chris Petersen wasn’t highly rated but the coach landed six in-state recruits, including the two best in Bellevue’s Budda Baker and 6-8, 285-pound lineman Kaleb McGary from Fife. That’s huge. Baker, a defensive back, will likely return punts and kickoffs and don’t be surprised to see him on offense, too. I’d envision the Huskies using him on fly sweeps and in other situations where they can take advantage of his electrifying talents.

Willie Bloomquist wore No. 16 the first time around with the Mariners. It wasn’t his choice. The South Kitsap grad was assigned the number when he was brought up at the end of the 2002 season. He wore No. 18 in Arizona, but that number was already taken by Hisashi Iwakuma, so he settled on No. 8 for his second tour of duty.

Speaking of Iwakuma, let’s not go to sleep on this guy. Based on last year, you could make the argument that he could be Seattle’s best pitcher. Yes, even better than Felix Hernandez. Iwakuma was 14-6 in 219.2 innings with a 2.66 ERA and 1.01 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). Hernandez was 11-10 in 204.1 innings with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.

The Alex Rodriguez circus won’t be doing business this year. A-Rod dropped his lawsuits against MLB and the players’ union. It’s pretty much an admittance of guilt. Now the only question is: Will he come back to play in 2015? He’s got to sit out 211 games, so he would be eligible to join the Yankees sometime in May of ’15. He’ll be 39, but there will be plenty of incentive. Rodriguez is scheduled to earn $61 million for the 2015-2017 seasons. 

Congratulations to the Bremerton Knights for winning a Class 2A state bowling title, and good luck to the rest of the local prep athletes and teams as they head into the postseason.

I jumped the gun on that last one. Bremerton leads the state bowling tournament after the first day. Good luck Knights! Same for the rest of our teams and athletes who will be starting the postseason in the near future.

 

 

Report: M’s, Felix talking about extension; Griffey going into M’s Hall of Fame

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Mariners and pitcher Felix Hernandez are talking about an extension. His sources tell him the M’s are considering a four-year, $100 million offer. He offers some other interesting speculation about the Mariners, foreseeing a possible starting outfield of Mike Morse in right field, Michael Saunders in center field and Raul Ibanez platooning with Jason Bay or Casper Wells in left.

And with the M’s still in need of a catcher to platoon with Jesus Montero, Rosenthal suggests free agent Kelly Shoppach as a logical candidate. Shoppach played for Wedge in Cleveland, hitting 21 home runs in 2008 when Victor Martinez went down with an injury.

The Mariners announced Tuesday that Ken Griffey Jr. will go into the club’s Hall of Fame this summer. Induction will take place Aug. 10 at Safeco. M’s play Milwaukee Brewers that day. Griffey’s been a special consultant to the club the last two years. Wonder what they consult him about?

Mariners Fanfest is Jan. 26 (Saturday) and Jan. 27 (Sunday) at Safeco Field. It runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Here’s a list of players who are scheduled to appear along with Wedge and GM Jack Zduriencik.

Seattle’s Taijuan Walker is rated the second-best right-handed starting pitcher in MLB.com’s list of baseball’s top prospects.

What will shorter fences at Safeco Field mean to the hitters? MLB.com writer Greg Johns talks about it in this video.

Here’s a look at Seattle’s top prospects by position.

Blue Jays’ gambles look pretty good; M’s haven’t started rolling the dice

Wish lists for Mariners’ fans, once again, have not been filled as Christmas approaches.
Catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli was available, but not for long. Gone to Boston (3 years, $39 million).
Catcher Russell Martin. Gone to Pittsburgh (2 years, $17 million).
Outfielder Josh Hamilton. Gone. Hamilton moves from the rival Rangers to the rival Angels (5 years, $125 million).
Outfielder Justin Upton. Thought to be available, Diamondbacks keep promising young player who seemed available for the right price early on in free agency.
So far, outfielder Jason Bay and utility infielder Robert Andino have been the only new additions for Seattle.

Excited about that? Didn’t think so.
Seattle’s believed to still be interested in outfielders Nick Swisher, who visited Cleveland Tuesday, and Michael Bourne, who was Atlanta’s starting center fielder last year.
Bourn, 29, is a speedy left-handed hitter. He’s stolen as many as 61 bases twice for Houston, and is a career .272 hitter. Swisher, 32, is a left-handed corner outfielder who brings power (207 homers in his last eight seasons with the A’s, White Sox and Yankees) to the table. Seattle’s bringing in the fences and is desperate for power, but the M’s don’t really have a burner and Bourn’s a legit leadoff guy.
The outfield needs an upgrade, unless you’re happy to go into the season with the five-headed monster of Jason Bay-Casper Well-Michael Saunders-Mike Carp-Franklin Gutierrez.
Would Bourn or Swisher make a difference?
How about this suggestion?
They say the Royals are still in the market for pitching. Package one of the pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen) for Kansas City third baseman Alex Gordon (23 HR, 87 RBI, .303/.376 on-base percentage/.502 slugging percentage  in 2011; 14/72/.294/.368/.455 in 2012). Move Kyle Seager to second and Dustin Ackley moves to left field, or even center field.
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Fans in Toronto, meanwhile, have reason to be stuffing tickets to Blue Jays games in their friends Christmas socks.

The Red Sox and Yankees don’t seem so threatening any more, the Rays, despite a glut of talented players, haven’t broken through and no one will be surprised if  Baltimore pulls an Arizona by going from first to last.
The Blue Jays took a look at the lay of the land and seized the opportunity to make a serious run in the NL East. If you haven’t been paying attention, Toronto added a lot more than knuckleball sensation R.A. Dickey.
Toronto picked up pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, and shortstop Jose Reyes in a blockbuster deal with Miami. They’ve all got huge guaranteed contracts. They also added outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was in the midst of a career year with San Francisco before being busted for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Mix those newcomers with Edwin Encarcion and Jose Bautista, two legit 40-home run guys in the their prime, future star and third baseman Brett Lawrie, and pitchers Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, and you’ve got championship ingredients.
The Jays payroll was at $83 million a year ago, and is expected to surpass $120 million this year.
Yeah, the Jays are taking a gamble. But it seems like it’s a gamble that makes sense.
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The Mariners and Blue Jays joined the American League as expansion teams in 1976. The Mariners are still looking to get to a World Series, and they haven’t done anything this offseason that makes you think they’ve closed the gap to getting there. Attendance is shrinking and how long can Felix Hernandez wait for the M’s to build a winner? Toronto has won two World Series titles. Granted, it’s been a while (1992 and ’93, but the Jays have remained competitive for the most part and are a heckuva lot closer to a third after some serious wheeling and dealing during the offseason.