Saturday, April 03, 2004
Offseason veteran pickup Mike Keane opened the scoring 11:32 into the first period, putting a rebound past Ty Conklin. The lead only lasted for 3:39 when Brad Isbister tied the game on a screened shot to tie the game. Though not as quick as with the San Jose game, the Canucks got the lead right back in the first period, on a video review-assisted goal with 2:12 to go in the period.
The second period saw the Canucks add to the lead. Keane tallied his second goal of the game on an outnumbered rush with Trevor Linden. The probable back-breaker of the game came with 32 seconds left in the period, when Brendan Morrison put the puck past Conklin after Petr Nedved gave the puck away in his own zone.
The Oilers snapped the Canucks' string of 17 straight penalty kills in the third period after Igor Ulanov scored (assisted by Adam Oates, who announced his retirement after the game). At 12:55 of the period, Martin Rucinsky got called for a cross check as well as using an illegal stick, giving Edmonton a power play, and possibly a chance to narrow the deficit to one goal. This went out the window for good when Raffi Torres plastered Mike Keane into the boards. Result: Torres five-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct. The Canucks had a power play for the rest of the way, and Mattias Ohlund made good, scoring with 2:16 left in the game, and netting $278 CDN (the Canucks hadn't netted a power play goal in a while) and a pair of Game 1 playoff tickets for a fan from Delta. The crowd rose to their feet for the final minute of the game and gave the team a standing ovation as the final horn sounded, and the division was clinched.
It was Jersey Off Our Backs Night in Vancouver (can you say "better than any promotion the Mariners have ever done?"), and after the game, Todd Bertuzzi gave the jersey off his back, to a huge ovation, and Markus Naslund addressed the crowd; the gist of what he said is in the announcers section after this.
Now, the thoughts from Jeff Patterson, John Shorthouse, and Tom Larscheid. A point comes in the conversation where Larscheid commends Shorthouse for waiting to see how the Canucks came out when they were able to get the first practice time they'd had in a while after the loss at Chicago on the 19th of March. With the practice, they were able to sit back and assess what kind of team they were without Todd Bertuzzi, and what kind of team they were with the additions of Martin Rucinsky, Geoff Sanderson, and Marc Bergevin.
Jeff: People don't want to leave the building, I bet
John: It's packed. The fans are seeing the Jersey Off Our Backs celebration. The Canucks had a good determined effort tonight, and didn't let it slip away
Jeff: It was amazing how they turned it around. The days of practice were exactly what they needed -- they ran the table
Tom: John was right when he suggested he'd hold judgment until they had time to practice, and he was right. Six straight wins, a division championship, and they're roaring into playoffs. The fans have to feel good about their chances
Tom: Bertuzzi is coming out. He's getting a standing ovation...
Jeff: I thought he might be in the building, and it turns out he was. Bertuzzi was emotional. The fans still like him; he was voted by the fans as the most exciting player in the team year-end awards. What was great about this game was how they got it done, and who got it done: Naslund, Morrison, and Cooke were great, Mike Keane, Trevor Linden, and Brad May were great and produced
John: The veterans will be so key. Morrison has always been a secondary leader, but he's blossomed as a leader here lately
Tom: Morrison is highly skilled, he's been delivering the assists lately, and he had been backseated with the dominating personalities of Bertuzzi and Naslund on the top line. Now he's taking more of a role now without Bertuzzi
John: the three stars. 1 Keane (2 goals, took Torres hit late), 2 Ohlund (tower of strength through season and streak), 3 Oates (inexplicably, had a nice give-and-go though)
Tom: Markus still has his sweater on. Henrik Sedin is giving his sweater away now...
Jeff: a week ago, it was "where's the captain"? He has three goals in the final four games and he finishes with 35 goals
John: he's holding the microphone. Markus will speak
Markus Naslund: it's been a rollercoaster, but we finally won the division, and we're proud of that. We're thankful and grateful for all the support you've given us. On behalf of the rest of the players, I thank you. The next time we see you, you'll all be wearing white
Jeff: the Predators are in, the Oilers are not
John: the playoffs will be fun. There were lots of worried fans a couple weeks ago, but now the Canucks are hitting the playoffs up and running. The Canucks are carrying their longest win streak carried into the playoffs
Canuck goals: Mike Keane twice (8), Markus Naslund (35), Brendan Morrison (22), Mattias Ohlund (14)
The Canucks take the third seed in the Western Conference, and still may have not won the right to not face Dallas in the first round. Here's your West playoff matchups...
1 Detroit v 8 Nashville
2 San Jose v 7 Saint Louis
3 Vancouver v 6 (higher seed between Calgary and Dallas)
4 Colorado v 5 (lower seed between Calgary and Dallas)
Chicago at Dallas, Calgary at Anaheim tomorrow. Dallas leads Calgary by a point.
Stanley Cup playoff action starts Wednesday, or at least that's when Hockey Night in Canada starts playoff telecasts, and I think it's a good bet there's a connection there.
By the way, I haven't celebrated one of my teams winning its division since October 2001. It's a good feeling. It's good to have it again.
With third baseman Scott Spiezio unavailable for the start of the season, the Seattle Mariners acquired infielder Jolbert Cabrera from the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-hander Aaron Looper and left-hander Ryan Ketchner.
Cabrera, who can play a variety of positions, will give manager Bob Melvin flexibility off the bench. Willie Bloomquist will start at third in Seattle's season opener against Anaheim on Tuesday.
Two things here...
1) Scott Spiezio's back is worse than originally thought. A bad omen to start the 2004 season.
2) The man who should have been the Mariners general manager, Paul DePodesta, just outworked and outhustled Bill Bavasi.
To echo most of the blogosphere here, WHY DO THE MARINERS EVEN HAVE A MINOR LEAGUE SYSTEM?
It wouldn't hurt to bring Justin Leone up to Seattle. But the thing is, the Mariners don't always do the right thing.
Hey fans, enjoy the Moo Mobile Tuesday afternoon at The Safe. But don't get caught paying $4 for a scoop of Cookie Dough ice cream...
Updated: This is Giovanni Carrara all over again, but this time, it's a hitter, not a pitcher. I hate this.
---Anyways, Billy Packer is an assclown. Go ahead and do a Google search on "Billy Packer assclown" and we'll be in the search results. I've only said that about 22 times at Sports and Bremertonians.
---It's Saturday night and I'm watching the Final Four. Help me.
---Speaking of 1980s' music, if I were to start an album of power ballads, Chicago's "What Kind of Man Would I Be?" would be track #1. I'm a sucker for power ballads. Sue me.
---Back to sports (somewhat)...
---I picked up the baseball preview issue of Sports Illustrated today. SI has the Cubs winning the World Series. I know this is a few days old, but so what. The Cubs aren't going to win the World Series this year, regardless of the SI Jinx.
As far as jinxes go, you have to hope and pray that either Jamal Lewis or Ray Lewis is on the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 2005. Can you tell I'm still pissed off over the Ravens stealing a win over the Seahawks last season? Mike Holmgren still is, so I can be pissed off as well.
---Stanley Cup Playoffs start Wednesday. I'm calling it right now, and the matchups haven't been set yet:
The Nashville Predators will upset the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. If this happens, the city of Detroit must relinquish its fake title of "Hockeytown" for good. A team in "Hockeytown" does not lose consecutive first round series to teams from Anaheim, California and Nashville, Tennessee.
And the Canucks-Flames first round matchup will be the best series of the first round. For some reason, I think Mikka Kiprusoff is destined for a big playoff run. Don't ask why.
---In other hockey news, I'd love to have enough money to buy the Chicago Blackhawks from that scumbag Bill Wirtz. The Blackhawks should always be a big deal in Chicago. But with Wirtz' philosophies, the franchise is not even back page news in the Second City. It's in the damn Classified section, just a page behind the Antiques section.
Hell, I wish I had enough money to own a team, period. Minor league or professional, doesn't matter.
---Enough ranting for now.
---Anybody but Duke.
IT'S NOT REAL, y'all. Think about it. The jump shot he puts up looks like the same jumper he'd take from 15 feet. Can the ball from a 15-foot jump shot go 90 feet? Hell no. There was a guy on the Letterman show last night who was a player on whoever lost (I forgot) in the Patriot League championship game (Fordham/Bucknell) back in 1992, and his show-and-tell item was a video clip of him nailing a full-court shot from under the basket at the other end. That guy had to huck it like a throw from the outfield to make it go 92 feet or so. I don't care how strong LeBron is, there's no way anyone could put up a jumper of that technique and have it go 90 feet without at least a running start or a baseball throw. Lastly, the Michael Vick commercial wasn't real either, so there you go.
The Nike sport-splicing commercials -- also not real. Just digitally inserting the head onto video footage is what it looks like, except for Marion Jones celebrating her score on the vault, a score which really isn't that great if you've watched gymnastics with any semi-regularity (mom and sis watched it a lot around the 1992 Olympics). You can sort of pick it out if you look closely, but the images are rapid-fire enough and your other senses are being fed in the commercial to where you might not notice it.
The Canucks came out very sharp in the 1st period, which was something they had to do considering the Sharks are probably the best first-period team in the NHL. Bucking a trend from the latter part of the season, the Canucks were the first to score in the game, and they did so only 89 seconds into the game on a wrister by Mattias Ohlund. Of course, the Sharks are good in the first period, and kept some pressure on the Canucks. San Jose eventually tied the game with 8:34 left in the period when Scott Harvey pounced on a juicy rebound of a Niko Dimitrakos shot and put it past Dan Cloutier, who was near-prone on the ground. The key goal of the game came when Matt Cooke scored quickly, 31 seconds after the Sharks tied the game. That would be all the Canucks needed as Dan Cloutier was very sharp in net tonight, occasional rebound problems and the one goal aside. Henrik Sedin scored 1:52 into the second period, giving the Canucks an important insurance goal, and goals early or late in periods are somewhat demoralizing to opposing teams. Artem Chubarov put the game on ice with a shorthanded empty-net goal.
Dan Cloutier looked good, and all Canuck fans are hoping his play in the last 5 games will carry over to the playoffs. Dan has given up 5 goals over that stretch. Brendan Morrison notched two assists and has a four-game point streak. Tonight's win was Cloutier's 100th win as a Canuck.
The Canucks collected their 22nd and final road win of the regular season, and this win was their fifth straight, their third 5-game win streak of the season. With tonight's win, the Canucks have clinched home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, meaning they can be seeded no lower than fourth. A win tomorrow against Edmonton clinches the Canucks' fourth division title in franchise history and the first one in 11 years. If something other than that happens, then the Canucks have to hope that Colorado (facing Nashville on Sunday) ends up with the same number of points as the Canucks or less. But let's just hope the Canucks close it out the right way with a win against Edmonton.
Canuck goals: Mattias Ohlund (13), Matt Cooke (11), Henrik Sedin (11), Artem Chubarov (12)
Only one gripe stat -- the Canucks went 0-for-2 on the power play tonight and are 8-for-102 on the man-advantage since the All-Star break. Just store this away and remain optimistic.
Now, the postgame notes with Dan, John, and Tom.
Dan: CGY beat LA 3-2
John: CGY will finish no lower than 6th as a result of that
Tom: I'm impressed. This game says so much about the Canucks' readiness for playoff run. Everyone is on the same page. The work ethic is great on their play without the puck. They got great goaltending from Cloutier. This was a great test. San Jose started out extremely well (15 shots in the first period). The Canucks hung in and scored big goals. The third period was not exciting, but Vancouver kept the San Jose shots long and far from the net. They had to have this win
Dan: San Jose was interested when they had the puck but were not interested when they didn't have the puck
Tom: This is a very good Shark team. San Jose knew couldn't advance in the standings, so they might not have been there all the way
Dan: Cloutier was strong tonight
John: If Cloutier let the long goal in last time, this might have all been for naught. He was very solid, even with the rebound problems. Any team needs a good goaltender for playoff success
Dan: We know his playoff travails, but he is 35 games over .500 in a Canuck uniform
Tom: Cloutier will have 2nd-most playoff experience if Manny Legace starts for DET
Dan: But is it good experience (haha)?
John: Cloutier was 34 below .500 before joining Canucks
Dan: three stars...Cloutier, Morrison, Malik (TV)/Ohlund (building)
Tom: Ohlund and Malik were great on the blue line. Malik is impressive, he's playing with so much confidence. He makes good simple decisions with the puck, and uses his big reach to perfection
John: It's plus-35 for Malik, if he is a plus tomorrow, he breaks Pavel Bure's franchise record
Tom: Mattias is great. He's scored more goals than any Vancouver defensemen and he's scored big goals this year
Dan: the Vancouver Giants won their playoff game over Everett. On Saturday, both Edmonton and Everett are in Vancouver. The Canucks will have a chance to win the title
Tom: Players don't think about the tiredness, or the 82nd game, or the third game in four nights, just try to play the best you can. It means so much to get the division
John: It's a much different feeling than last year. Last year, they lost in Anaheim, then blew a lead in Phoenix last year. They are surging this year, and have a chance to win the division if they win and post their longest streak of season.
Canucks against Edmonton tomorrow. It's on the CBC for all you western Washington residents with Comcast cable.
Spiezio's replacement, at least in the short term, will be Willie Bloomquist. He has shown good range and a good glove at the position but has hit just .197 this spring. There are a couple good-hitting third basemen in the minors, Justin Leone and Greg Dobbs, but both have limitations.
Both Leone and Dobbs are better than Willie Bloomquist.
By the way, Bloomquist is the Opening Day third baseman, in case you didn't figure that out already. Give me my bag.
Depending on how long Spiezio could be out, the club may entertain the idea of trading for a veteran third baseman.
WHY??? WHY??? WHY??? WHY??? WHY???
Dammit, does this organization not believe in its farm system? I'm cringing at the possibility of the Mariners overpaying for Lou Merloni, who's currently in Cleveland. He may be the Governor, but I could care less about that.
Yes, the M's would acquire Lou Merloni before Milton Bradley. That's their style.
In unrelated news, these Nike commercials are still annoying.
Thank you, and good night.
Friday, April 02, 2004
Of course, he grounds out. That's our John Mabry.
Damn, I really should try to make it over to Autozone Park just to heckle the hell out of Mabry. I just hate the guy. If Jim Leyritz were still playing, I'd heckle him too. I hate him as well.
Anyways, there are a few good things about living in Arkansas...
I get to watch Albert Pujols play on a daily basis. Not too bad at all.
Oh, and I get to watch the Texas Rangers suck ass on a daily basis as well. Good times.
P-I notebook -- Raul Ibanez is hitting out of his mind in spring training, Scott Spiezio's status is up in air, they'll put Willie Bloomquist at third (cue up the obligatory brown-nosing Bremerton Sun article to come), Ron Villone's not going anywhere because he has a roster spot and they've already overpaid him, and there's a hilarious anecdote of Dave Niehaus doing broadcasts of simulated games during the 1983 strike, where the numbers cranked out by a professor's computer put the Mariners on a long losing streak and Niehaus had none of that.
P-I AL rankings -- First off, I don't believe the Mariners are anywhere close to being fourth-best in the AL. Maybe a notch or two lower. On this list, if they're better than Oakland at all, they're definitely not three slots better. But if you take the rankings at face value, everything turns out as expected. The Yankees are the top-ranking AL East team, so they'd be in the playoffs. The Royals are the top-ranked AL Central team. The Angels are the top-ranked AL West team. The top-ranked non-division winner? That's the Boston Red Sox, your Wild Card team, according to your Seattle P-I. Yes, this ranking list taken at face value basically says the Mariners as they stand right now are not making the playoffs. I guess I'm mildly surprised because it seemed like there was an air of optimism going through the nightly articles lately. Do I have evidence of this? No, I'm just going with my gut this time; just a reaction to all this optimistic Ibanez talk. Wake me up when he goes 11-for-11 during the season.
The P-I Mariner writing staff puts up their division rankings and playoff predictions. The first thing that is apparent is that Jim Moore is on crack, so we'll just ignore him (Steve Sandmeyer of KJR railed on him yesterday morning, claiming Moore writes about Amber Lancaster the SeaGal in almost every article...I say Amber and Jeff Cirillo account for 95% of his material, with the other 5% being references to his Cougarness). With the five writers together, they only choose two different winners for each division, and never more than that. For all the reminders of optimism I've been seeing in the articles lately, it seemed hilarious to me that Hickey and Andriesen, the day-to-day guys, both have Seattle finishing short of the playoffs. For the record, Art Thiel also has the Mariners coming up short. Moore, as I mentioned, is nuts, though John Levesque has the Mariners winning the division and getting beat in the playoffs before they could win the AL championship.
In a move that is making the Mariners officials scramble to revoke Steve Kelley's press pass (presuming he has one), this article is running in the Times today. I had the Lincoln/Griffey semi-feud in the back of my mind the whole time when these Griffey rumors were circulating, fueling my thoughts that Griffey wasn't coming back. Also fueling my thoughts -- multiple offseasons of rumors and nothing actually happening.
Anyway, the Kelley article is worth it just for this one quote...
There is no room on Lincoln's Mariners for dissent. Freedom of speech is a concept for the Constitution, not the clubhouse.
Game. Set. Match. He could have just stopped the article right there and I would have been fine with it. Of course, it would have been well under Kelley's required wordage, I'm sure, and the article's structure would have seen an abrupt end, but I wouldn't have objected.
Is ther really anyone out there who believes that the Mariners really traded away Jeff Nelson for Armando Benitez because they liked the fact that Benitez could close games and was "versatile"? Jeff Nelson was a guy who had the rings who'd been a champion many times over. Armando Benitez was a ringless headcase (with noted past incidents of unclutchitude) on a team where surely there didn't need to be any more headcases (Cirillo, Cameron, Garcia, Melvin). Benitez' most memorable pitch in his Mariner tenure -- the fastball he grooved to Rafael Palmeiro in this game last September. I still think to this day that Melvin should have left Franklin in to face Blalock, blablabla. It was one of those moments in sports where I knew -- I just KNEW -- what was going to happen next. Fastball in the wheelhouse, three-run bomb, tie game, Franklin gets screwed. I'm not sure if we knew by that point that Rhodes (only job was to get Blalock out, he couldn't do that, and was pulled) should have gone on the DL earlier in the season and that we were being witness to a gimpy Rhodes for most of the season.
...But enough with my incoherent rambling, I need some sleep.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
Last year, I picked the Marlins to finish last in the National League East. You all know what happened with that.
So here they are, my 2004 predictions:
American League East
New York, Boston (Wild Card), Toronto, Tampa Bay, Baltimore
The Yankees and Red Sox will battle until the final day of the regular season for the A.L. East crown. But I see the Yankees coming out on top, barely. The Yankees pitching is not as good as it has been in recent years, but they are still solid. Curt Schilling makes Pedro Martinez better, and vice versa. Boy, those 19 games are going to be fun in 2004. Neither of these teams will win 100 games, however.
This is because of the new and improved A.L. East. Toronto is better. Baltimore is better. And Tampa Bay is better.
This isn't some April Fool's joke, I have the Devil Rays finishing ahead of the Orioles. Lou Piniella is not going to allow this team to finish dead last again. While the pitching is still below par, the Devil Rays have made some good moves, acquiring 1B Tino Martinez and OF Jose Cruz, Jr. Tampa Bay will give the Yankees and Red Sox fits.
American League Central
Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit
The Royals will finish the job in 2004. In contention for most of 2003, the Royals fell off late. But they will be back this season. Juan Gonzalez is going to have a big year. I think playing for Tony Pena is only going to help Juan Gone. The pitching in Kansas City is nothing to write home about, but in this weak division, they should be alright.
And the Tigers will still finish last. Nice job, Pudge. Maybe your boy Uggy Urbina will help you feel better.
American League West
Anaheim, Oakland, Seattle, Texas
The Angels are the most improved team in the American League. I'm scared to think of what Vladimir Guerrero is going to do with a contending ballclub. I'm glad he's in the American League West so I can get to see him play more often. Unfortunately, he's not a Mariner. Too bad, so sad. Same ol' song and dance.
The A's still have Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, and Barry Zito, but their offense has gotten worse. Arthur Rhodes closing? I don't know about that.
And the Mariners...
They will win 88 games. It would be a good season.
However, that's not good enough. That 88 win total would put them in third place, 6 games behind the Angels. Yes, I think this team is 5 games worse than last season. The offseason was underwhelming at best. You can spin all the optimism you want to spin, but the fact is, Raul Ibanez is not a great player. Neither is Quinton McCracken.
There's no way in hell the starting rotation is going to have the same 5 guys in 2004. Someone is going to get hurt. I'm calling Gil Meche. I've called this since last September.
The bullpen is worse. I love the Eddie Guardado acquisition, but the fact that we're talking about Kevin Jarvis being in the Mariners bullpen on April 1 is just enough to make me go vomit all over the place. Watch the M's screw with Julio Mateo, who clearly deserves a better roll of the dice here.
Your 2004 Seattle Mariners, 88 wins, third place. I hope I'm wrong. (Honest.)
National League East
Philadelphia, Atlanta, Florida, New York Mets, Montreal
I predicted the Phillies to win the East last year. I was a year too early.
The karma of Citizens Bank Park will drive the Phillies to their first playoff appearance since 1993. Man I loved that 1993 season. First year of Lou in Seattle, the Giants-Braves NL West race (the last true pennant race before the Wild Card), the Phillies (John Kruk was awesome, still is), and the final seasons for Nolan Ryan and Carlton Fisk. It's been that long.
Anyways, back to 2004. The Phillies solidified their bullpen by acquiring closer Billy Wagner. The Astros are going to regret dealing Wagner big time. Not only did they add Wagner, but also signed former Giants reliever Tim Worrell. Eric Milton is now in Philadelphia, where he will contribute to an already solid rotation of Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, and Vicente Padilla. And Jim Thome is going to love the new ballpark.
I can't help but pick the Braves to finish 2nd. I hate them, but something tells me that Bobby Cox is going to get the most out of those guys. It just won't be enough for them to win another division title.
The Marlins will drop back a little in 2004, but they still have a ring to look back on. The Mets will finish ahead of the Expos, if for the simple reason that the Expos can't possibly finish out of the cellar again.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Milwaukee
The Cubs are without Mark Prior to start the season. Oh well.
The Cubs will win this division, but the Cardinals will give them a run. Notice that I didn't say the Astros. I don't trust a Jimy Williams-team to live up to expectations. And quite frankly, I hope Roger Clemens gets beaned big time. That's right, Roger has to bat now!!!
The Pirates, Reds, and Brewers are horrible. You didn't need me to tell you that.
National League West
San Francisco, San Diego (Wild Card), Arizona, Los Angeles, Colorado
The Giants are not what they once were. However, this year's N.L. West is not as good as it has been in recent years.
It should be interesting to see what Jason Schmidt's status will be. It could play a huge factor as to how good the Giants will be in 2004.
Yes, I'm picking the Padres to win the Wild Card. Why not? They are young, but they are talented. Brian Giles is in San Diego for a full season. Phil Nevin should be healthy for a full season. Trevor Hoffman is back as well. And the new ballpark karma will pay off for the Padres, even though they play in a fricking Litterbox. Oh, and David Wells was signed in the offseason. If he can stay healthy, he will be a great fit in that young Padres rotation.
This will be the final year of Bob Brenly in Arizona. Hopefully, it's one and done for Richie Sexson in the Valley of the Sun as well.
The Dodgers have the pitching, but their offense makes the Mariners look like the Bash Brothers. Expect new GM Paul DePodesta to make some changes in Chavez Ravine. And the Rockies are terrible, even though I expect Jeromy Burnitz to hit 40 bombs in Coors Field.
AL MVP---Vladimir Guerrero, ANA (.325, 46 HR, 138 RBI)
NL MVP---Albert Pujols, STL (.358, 47 HR, 146 RBI)
AL Cy Young---Tim Hudson, OAK (21-6, 2.92 ERA)
NL Cy Young---Russ Ortiz, ATL (20-8, 3.08 ERA)
Sidenote: WHY DID THE GIANTS TRADE THIS GUY???
AL Manager of the Year---Mike Scioscia, ANA
NL Manager of the Year---Bruce Bochy, SD
You're Fired!!!---Carlos Tosca, TOR (April 30), Lloyd McClendon, PIT (May 19), Jim Tracy, LA (July 11), Frank Robinson, MTL (July 23 "resigns")
American League Division Series
New York defeats Kansas City in FOUR GAMES
Boston defeats Anaheim in FIVE GAMES
National League Division Series
Philadelphia defeats San Francisco in FOUR GAMES
Chicago Cubs defeat San Diego in FIVE GAMES
American League Championship Series
Boston defeats New York in SEVEN GAMES
ALCS MVP: David Ortiz, BOS
National League Championship Series
Philadelphia defeats Chicago in SEVEN GAMES
NLCS MVP: Placido Polanco, PHI
2004 WORLD SERIES
Philadelphia Phillies defeat Boston Red Sox in SEVEN GAMES
WS MVP: Jim Thome, PHI
Schilling returns to Philadelphia for the World Series. However, he will not help the Red Sox end their "curse" in 2004.
Quite frankly, I hope the Red Sox Nation suffers for a long time. Remember, most of those fans already have a few championships in their possession. 2 Super Bowl titles in the last 3 years, 16 NBA titles, and a few Stanley Cups.
Am I bitter. YES.
Because you need to remember this about me. I don't want to see other cities celebrate a championship. I've never been able to celebrate a championship. So why should anybody else?
OK, maybe a little over the top there. But it's the truth.
Just to remind everybody, these are not the type of predictions you want to put money on. However, you can bet on two of the managers that I named above to get canned in 2004.
Enjoy the 2004 season. I know I will.
Well, I won't enjoy the inevitable Raul Ibanez 2-for-32 slump.
Starting at third base, #16 Willie Bloomquist.
Yes, Bartolo Colon is really going to crap himself seeing little Willie at the plate Tuesday afternoon in Safeco Field.
For those of you who believe in sample sizes (David and I don't, because we know better), Bloomquist is 1-for-3 in his career vs Colon. Hee-haw.
So there you go. The left side of the Mariners defense on Opening Day could very well be Raul Ibanez and Willie Bloomquist. Why doesn't somebody just put a Sixpence None The Richer CD in my stereo to insult me even more? Where's Cam Neely's dog when I need to see it?
Sorry folks, I wish this whole "Bloomquist to start Opening Day" deal was a big fat April Fool's joke.
Yes, we are one of those "other blogs" of the 20-plus members of the Mariner “blogosphere”, according to the Seattle Weekly.
Oh well, I guess we can't please everybody. I may have more on this later, who knows.
My season preview will be up sometime this weekend. It could be tonight. Tomorrow. Saturday. Who knows. We'll see what happens.
March yielded ~7130 hits on our stat counter for a 31.5% rise in hits from a desolate February, and the erratic on-page counter read something around 31030, putting us at ~8020 hits (33.4% gain) for the month. I believe the former more than the latter.
I should make myself a graph of the month-to-month stuff, but I'll just list the stuff here for our reference...
Month hits (change)
December 6800 (up ~66%)
January 7900 (up ~16%)
February 5420 (down ~31.4%)
March 7130 (up ~31.5%)
Thank you, readers, for another month of caring and appreciating and/or getting ticked off enough at our stuff that you keep coming back. You motivate us and keep this thing enjoyable on a day-to-day basis. Here's to hoping that April gives us a good deal of fun and that I adapt to actual day-to-day game action. It's been quite a while, and I think the anatomy of my gameday posts has probably changed since last September.
Exactly one month ago, Larry Stone came out with this article in the Times. Sorry I had to remind you, but it seems like so long ago, doesn't it?
Also, to help out the readers as well as ourselves, I'll be working on a weekly-updated archive post where each week has its own little description of a couple events out of that week. Consider it a gift to all of you, once I get the thing done.
Lastly, who loves the durability of the left side of the infield so far? Rich Aurilia had the RCIUO in spring training and missed a few games, and now Scott Spiezio might start the season on the DL. That's just great. The only thing worse than having Scott Spiezio at third is having anyone in the system not named Justin Leone starting in his place. After a game today, the Mariners head to the Litterbox to continue the stupid tradition of having an exhibition game in a new park before having the season actually start. It just ruins the sanctity of it all, I don't care what anybody says.
Before the puck was dropped for tonight's Vancouver/Anaheim tilt, the Colorado Avalanche were down 4-2 with 8:31 left in the 3rd period at Minnesota. Unfortunately, Peter Forsberg (2nd game back from injury) and John-Michael Liles had something to say about that, scoring late goals (tying goal occurred with 1:09 left) to force overtime and get at least one point in the standings. This put the Avalanche two points ahead of the Canucks for the Northwest Division lead, with a possibility for a three-point lead. Luckily, it took only 53 seconds of play for Marc Chouinard to put a Stephane Veilleux past Tommy Salo. Chouinard not only gave his team their first overtime win of the year (that is just a stick stat), he did the Canucks a favor.
With the Avalanche sitting only two points ahead of the Canucks heading into the game tonight, the Canucks could retake the Northwest Division lead with a win tonight, because they had the tiebreaker (more overall wins) over the Avalanche. The Canucks standing on top of the Northwest Division was something that seemed near impossible to me after the Todd Bertuzzi incident on March 8th overshadowed a thorough 9-2 ass-whooping of the Canucks on home ice at the hands of the Avalanche. Also, with the Colorado loss, Vancouver controlled their own destiny -- if they ran the table for the final three games, the Northwest Division would be theirs. Of course, if the Avalanche stumble at Columbus or against Nashville, the Canucks won't have to run the table. But it'd be nice if they did.
The Canucks came out strong in the first period, outshooting the Ducks 9-2 (the Ducks didn't get off a shot until halfway through the period), keeping the pressure on and testing Duck backup goalie Martin Gerber.
The Ducks came out a step faster to start the second period (outshot the Canucks 17-12), and were rewarded when Ruslan Salei put a shot off Sami Salo's right shoulder that got Dan Cloutier really couldn't do anything about. A fluky goal, yes, but a goal nonetheless that put the Canucks down 1-0 on a night when they needed two points. Still sluggish, four minutes later the top line of Markus Naslund/Brendan Morrison/Matt Cooke was playing sloppily, failing to clear the puck from their own zone on multiple occasions. Play-by-play man John Shorthouse commented, saying it was "a horrible shift" for the line, when suddenly the guys got control of the puck and Naslund deked to the backhand and put the puck past Martin Gerber to tie the game. It was sudden, and it was key. The hockey phrase here is "against the run of play."
As an aside, both goalies were solid. Dan Cloutier ended up stopping 22 shots (and stopped Rob Niedermayer on a few chances), while Martin Gerber was peppered all nighy, stopping a staggering 41. The Canucks tallied a season high 45 shots a couple days ago against Phoenix, and had 43 tonight.
The third period came. Vancouver dominated on both ends of the ice, and outshot the Ducks 22-4 (!!!). Like I mentioned, though, Gerber was stellar. He was fending off everything the Canucks threw at him. The only aside to the solid goaltending was an incident where Dan Cloutier rushingly stopped a 150-foot screened shot off the stick of Vitaly Vishnevsky, which made color commentator Tom Larscheid's heart jump into his throat. Other than this scare, it appeared that both goalies were stopping everything, the Canucks would take at least their one point, and it was headed to overtime. Martin Gerber had stopped 21 shots in the period alone for the Ducks. After a few rapidly successive faceoffs, a faceoff in the Anaheim zone with 22 seconds left was won by Brendan Morrison, who passed off to Sami Salo, who put a shot (screened by Matt Cooke) just over the shoulder of Gerber (he never saw the shot) and just under the crossbar a second later to end his personal 22-game goal drought (last goal was Feb 11 at Calgary). Jubilation ensued. All the Canucks had to do was skate around and play keepaway for 20 seconds and the Northwest Division lead was theirs once again, after losing it back in mid-January. With their 22nd and final shot of the third period, and their final shot of the game, the Canucks took the two points and their fourth straight win. I think this win may have been better than the Dallas win last Saturday, and I got to see that one.
Canuck goals: Markus Naslund (34), Sami Salo (7)
Here's what Dan, Tom, and John thought about it...
Dan: That was exciting. Colorado scored two late goals in their game and the Canucks scored on their 22nd and final shot of the 3rd
John: The Canucks were determined to win this game. They gambled on a few plays and made me uneasy, but came through. This game proved the importance of faceoffs. Good job by Matt Cooke to screen on the Salo shot
Dan: My show would get hours of calls if Cloutier let in the 150-foot shot
Tom: Clouts had a very good night tonight. Gerber had a great game too. These types of games are important for Clouts. Everything was on the line, they control their destiny, and he has to be solid in games like this
John: Cloutier has only allowed 4 goals in winning streak
Dan: Was it Vishnevsky who screened the long shot?
John: I don't know...my head was down
Dan: Salo may have been hurting when he put the shot through
Tom: Cooke going to net was the key on the goal. He provided the screen. I don't think Gerber saw the shot, which went right under the crossbar over the shoulder
John: It went over his left shoulder. It's Salo's first goal in 23 games
Dan: I liked Brendan Morrison tonight. He had a great pass on the Naslund goal
Tom: Naslund has a 2 game goal streak. The pass to Naslund to tie the game was a beauty. The Cooker is stepping up too, right now he has an opportunity to play with two highly-skilled players on the top line. He has a high hockey IQ
Dan: The 1-1 goal came against the run of play
John: I had slammed the line for a poor shift, but then they made a great 3-way passing play
Dan: 3 stars...Naslund, Salo, Gerber in the arena; Gerber, Jovo, and Salo on the TV telecast
Tom: I like 'em all...Jovanovski is starting to show signs of coming around with his crazy legs and body checks. Salo had the winner with seconds left. Naslund worked hard, though we've seen better games from him, but has scored in 2 straight. Gerber was fantastic. Cloutier could have hit the three stars too
Dan: Rob Niedermayer would think so
John: Clouts had his number tonight. Marek Malik had a very steady game with four shots and had a chance that went off Gerber's shoulder.
Tom: Malik has been brilliant on blueline for the last 2 weeks. He makes a good initial first pass. He's in a zone and is a better hockey player than people give him credit for
John: Malik is a plus or even in all of the last 17 games
Dan: Do the Canucks need to run the table? They might not have to; Colorado can't win!
Tom: We watched a lot of the COL/MIN game. You get the feeeling that this may have been Colorado's big game. I felt Minnesota had to win or tie because I don't see Colorado losing any more games. Nashville is going to have a tough game in Denver, especially because of their travel
John: The Canucks can clinch on Friday in San Jose if Colorado loses in regulation in their next game
Dan: It's wild. The Edmonton win is big for them. Calgary is in the postseason for first time in seven years
Tom: I like Darryl Sutter for coach/executive of the year. Miikka Kiprusoff was a great trade...he's been the Flames' MVP
Dan: It's a great night for the Canucks
Canucks Friday at San Jose. Canucks Saturday against Edmonton.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Marvin Williams, a 6-foot-8 small forward from Bremerton, Wash., is considered the sleeper of the Roundball Classic group and showed it in the first half, throwing down two monstrous dunks.
Folks, Marvin Williams is going to be one of the best players in all of college basketball next season. Expect Dick Vitale to lose his vocal cords because he'll be raving about this kid so much.
One more programming note...
"Chappelle's Show" is on tonight. Three words:
Player. Haters. Ball.
What's the best Metallica track? Come on, it's "Creeping Death".
Anyways, to make this a Metallica-Mariners post, when the M's are in the Bronx May 15, I'll be at the Metallica-Godsmack concert in Little Rock. I can't wait. Too bad it's still a month and a half away.
This will be the first year since 1994 that I will not attend a single Mariner game, home or away. I was going to see the M's play in 1994 when I was visiting my relatives in Washington (I was still living in California at the time), but those damn ceiling tiles...ARGGGGGH! i was thinking about traveling to Arlington or St. Louis this season for a game or two, but there's a little thing called money. 2005, I'll definitely check out the M's, whether it's in Arlington or Kansas City (no St. Louis, because it's more than likely the M's won't play at Busch next season).
If things work out, I'll definitely check out a game or two at Ray Winder Field in Little Rock to see the Arkansas Travelers, the Angels AA affiliate. The San Antonio Missions are coming to Little Rock June 8-11 and July 22-24, so I may have to check that out. Or I may go to Memphis this summer and attend a game at Autozone Park, which is one of the best minor league parks in the country. And hit Beale Street afterwards, of course.
In the meantime (when all in all, we're just like you!), I may be spending Saturday night at the Arkansas Twisters' home opener against San Diego. In case you're confused, the Twisters are an Arena Football 2 franchise. Stone Cold Steve Austin is scheduled to show up and sign autographs and raise hell. Sounds like fun. I went to a Twisters game last summer and it was pretty cool. Hopefully if I go this weekend, they'll win this time...
I'd bring back Charles Gipson in a heartbeat. Especially if it meant cutting Willie Bloomquist. OK, I better not open up this can, so let's just move on...
Finally, a pic of Autozone Park in Memphis. I wish there was a way Tacoma could build a new ballpark for the Rainiers...
Notebook articles first. Times, P-I, Tribune...
Gil Meche had a little trouble in the game, but stretched out to 5 2/3 innings. Scott Spiezio's been having some back spasms, which bodes well for the left side of the infield, as Rich Aurilia has already spent time on the shelf this spring for his Right Calf Injury of Unknown Origin (RCIUO).
Taking into account yesterday's game happenings, I'll list all of these unlikely-to-happen-that-much-if-at-all-during-the-season things that happened, in order from least to most likely --
-- Wiki Gonzalez hit a 2-run bomb, according to the Times, and hit a minor-league bomb the same day according to the P-I, unless I read that wrong
-- Quinton McCracken hit a 2-run bomb
-- Ee-RAHM Bocachica hit a 3-run bomb. I'm probably incorrect here, but I just have it in for McCracken.
-- Raul Ibanez was 3-for-3. This is ranked as most likely out of the unlikelies only because he'll get more chances with which to go 3-for-3.
-- Ibanez and McCracken have a weird incident on a ball in the gap, which went for an inside-the-park homer. Though the result is pie-in-the-sky, I actually see these two having their share of weird outfield incidents over the course of the next year. Hell, this would actually be in my top 10 list of things most likely to happen to the Mariners next year.
Hickey writes a Jose Lopez piece. Of course, the first thing I notice is Jose's unfortunate nickname. Not only is it horribly feminine, it does that forsaken first initial/last name truncation thing, which I hate. Of course, it could be worse. On my high school team, a guy with the last name Ethridge was called "Melissa" (despite surname spelling discrepancies) on occasion by other teammates, which did not sit well with him, and I can't blame him. If I had to be stuck with a feminine nickname and it was a choice between Melissa Etheridge and Jen Lopez, it'd be a no-brainer. There really isn't a choice there.
John McGrath has a short column on the Tacoma pitching logjam.
"We'll have some kids in Tacoma who are good enough to be pitching in the big leagues for somebody else. But there's enough talent in Seattle so that young guys don't have to be rushed." -- Roger Jongewaard
I've been a fan of Madritsch's since his inception into the Mariner organization last year, and to me it was apparent the whole time last year that he should have been the second lefty in the bullpen. There's some debate as to whether he's Major League-ready, but I thought he more than deserved a shot in a role the team has needed to fill since Norm Charlton hit the shelf before the 2002 season. So I loved what he had to say the other day about not getting up to the bigs.
About what Jongewaard said, I don't think Madritsch would be rushed, and I think Jongewaard is using the word "talent" a little loosely in this regard. Ron Villone is overpaid and highly overrated. Terry Mulholland is old, not that good, and sucked in Seattle the first time, but so did Ibanez, so bringing him back fit within the Mariner logic. Mike Myers has Bob Melvin's good side...but if I was Madritsch and I saw that they're going as far as to make Myers throw three-quarters so he can face righties without sucking when I'm sitting here the whole time more than capable to throwing to hitters from both sides of the plate, I'd be irate too.
Self-admitting stat geek and KJR jock David Locke delves into the stat world, referencing fellow blogger and BP writer Derek Zumsteg, and using Pythagorean Wins, Runs against Position, and some win projections to try to say the Angels aren't the top pick in the West. He concludes this with the numbers, but then sees the Mariners' standing with regard to the numbers. Then Locke uses absolutely no numbers to try to prove the A's will hit an unlucky streak and says the Mariners will win the division. I guess if there's one effect of this article, it's that these kind of stats got into a major daily paper, and that half-casual or non-blog fluent Mariner fans might be rudely awakened in a few hours when they get their ink-smudged fingers over to the Locke article.
A Hickey article starts out saying that the Clapper ad is the apparent fan favorite because Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, and John Olerud may be nearing their ends as Mariners.
And that, in essence, is the Mariners' story for 2004. Free agency, trades and general attrition have worked their relentless entropy on the team the Mariners used to be. It was only three years ago when the Mariners set the American League record with 116 wins.
All fact and all Hickey in that paragraph. But can we stop it with the 116 talk already? With only a few keystrokes, that paragraph's mood can be altered; replace "only three years ago" with "three long years ago." Yes, I'm still ticked that this management seems to think it can try to put together a group without a superstar or someone that can carry the team on his back and win the World Series, i.e., they're in love with the 116-win, no World Series appearance mixture. Guess what? I loved the 2000 playoff run way more than the 2001 run, and that's not just because there was one more game. The first (positive) memory that comes to mind about the 2000 run is Alex Rodriguez ringing one off the LF foul pole in the Bronx. I was so convinced that this was their best chance. In 2001, some argued that the Mariners didn't face adversity, since they had minimal injuries and no long losing streaks. The latter part of 2000 gave fans a great deal of adversity, including a brutal eight-game losing streak (getting swept at home by the Indians and Tigers, anyone?) and Chris Widger lining a ball off Jamie Moyer's leg in a simulated game, resulting in a fracture and Moyer being shelved for the year. Yet the 2000 team did get one game further in the ALCS than the much-ballyhooed 2001 team. For me, the 2000 loss was more disheartening, in the way that the David Justice bomb off Rhodes was the series, and the series was over an hour later. With the Williams and Soriano bombs off Rhodes and Sasaki in Game 4 of the ALCS, it was over then, but then everyone had to know afterward that Aaron Sele was taking the mound for Game 5. That was almost as bad as seeing the Yankees tear him a new one in Game 5; it was bad enough for me that I didn't even watch Game 5. I absolutely refused. Enough with this nostalgia, though.
"I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think we had a chance," [Edgar] Martinez said. "That's a lot of why I'm here. A big part of me wants to go to the World Series, to compete, and I think we've got a team that can do that. If I didn't feel that, I wouldn't be here."
Someone's mixing the Mariner front office Kool-Aid into Edgar's protein shakes or something. I'm sorry the brass has done this to you, Edgar. I'm sorry they didn't put their best foot forward for you. I'm sorry they've squandered this window of opportunity they had to win the World Series for you and the Mariner stars of years past that you shared the spotlight with. I'm sorry that our only hope of the Mariners making it to the playoffs is the whole division sucking. I could pull some more out of my general reaction, but to bail myself out here, AAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!!
And now, the article tonight that ticked me off the most.
There are entire Web Sites dedicated to how stupid he is, petitions calling for him to be fired. It's the same thing that greets every GM for every team...
This is something I'm willing to correct myself on, but I have a hard time believing there were Gillick Sucks websites out there in the winter of 1999-2000.
So when the new outfielder is Raul Ibanez instead of Vladimir Guerrero, when the new shortstop is Rich Aurilia rather than Miguel Tejada, people on the Internet and sports talk shows who think the GM's job is like running their fantasy team call for everyone in the organization to be tarred and feathered. But like Bavasi said, at least they care.
Is it just me, or is that acrid smell actually the scent of the Mariner fans being taken for granted? These Mariners are not going to be the Cubs of the AL; no one can convince me the fans are going to stay on after a prolonged stretch of losing or mediocrity. The trend of Seattle sports teams in general over the past 15 years or so supports this. The Seahawks started really sucking, and on came the TV blackouts for the home games. They got off to a great start last year, sold out the rest of their home games, went undefeated at home, and should have gone to the second round of the playoffs. The Sonics had their NBA Finals run and sold out the Key damn near every night (17072 is capacity, I remember these kind of things). The lockout came and went, Vin Baker got fat, the team got worse while the rest of the conference got better, and attendance plummeted. The point is, the Seattle fans support a winner. Under Pat Gillick the past four years, the Mariners have maintained their Commitment to Competitivity with few moves that were absolutely brainless, but little movement at the trade deadline. Fans have stayed in the stands for the most part (looking forward to those attendance figures on weeknights in April though), with attendance no doubt gaining toward the end of last year as everyone presumed they were seeing The Edgar for the last time. Point is, the minute they recognize these Mariners are not as good as last year's no-playoff team, empty seats will be all the rage at the Safe. Even in the latter half of 1999, the year when the Safe opened, they weren't selling out every game because the team sucked.
An aside here (this was originally a this year/last year comparison that was supposed to be in the last paragraph), but this year, Bill Bavasi has made some truly indefensible moves that make me want Pat Gillick back. I'm almost sorry for every bad thing I thought during his tenure. But hey, there's that dichotomy of what makes perfect sense and what the Mariners actually want and get. Miguel Tejada, Ivan Rodriguez, and Vlad Guerrero, or Raul Ibanez, Scott Spiezio, and Rich Aurilia (all grossly overpaid). This even was the case during the GM search -- Kim Ng, Paul DePodesta, or Ned Colletti...or Dave Dombrowski, Al Avila, Mike Port, or Bill Bavasi? Ugh.
[Bill's] father, E.J. "Buzzie" Bavasi, won four World Series rings as GM of the Angels and Dodgers and president of the Padres. Brother Peter was Padres GM and president of the Blue Jays and Indians. Brother Bob owned and operated the Everett AquaSox for 14 years.
Refer to my post from January, where I found out that Buzzie let Nolan Ryan go in his prime. The same post revealed the slogan that appears at the top of this very site.
Bavasi hit the ground running, bringing Ibanez back to Seattle with a three-year contract just 12 days after being hired. There were a few high-profile dalliances with Tejada and Ivan Rodriguez, but in the end, he made deals that were in keeping with Mariners philosophy: good, veteran guys with good character who don't cost too much money over too many years.
Dalliance here is a noun closely related to "low-balling," and dammit, this Mariners philosophy has run its course. I'm sick and tired of it. Now I'm going senile. I'm only 22 years old, people!
"This organization was built over a long period of time and built the right way," Bavasi said. "Being somewhat conservative or careful, you can be a playoff team or nearly a playoff team every year without having to survive those gruesome stretches of years...
Bill's moves haven't been careful or conservative this offseason. As for the gruesome stretches of years, let's just not try to think about it right now.
"You take Atlanta. They used to be the epitome of failure in baseball. But they've put together a system where they can sustain being competitive even while being somewhat conservative financially."
Ted Turner gives a billion dollars to the United Nations and he's financially conservative? Wow. I'd hardly call the Braves (UN donation notwithstanding) financially conservative. You won't see the Mariners picking up Greg Maddux in his prime. You won't see the Mariners picking up a Gary Sheffield, or an Andres Galarraga, or a Reggie Sanders, or a Kenny Lofton (when he was 30 and still pretty good), or a Russ Ortiz, or a Fred McGriff. You can't be financially conservative and acquire all these above-average to top-tier players. And dammit, when will they get it through their heads that when you own a sports team, you're supposed to make your money when you sell the team? This would make everything so much easier.
His team in Anaheim was younger than the one he now oversees. The building of that roster, and the management of a pitching-rich farm system similar to Seattle's in Los Angeles, have him prepared to guide Seattle baseball into its rapidly approaching next era.
Change a portion of that quote to read "...and the management of a pitching-rich and hitting-bereft farm system similar to Seattle's in Los Angeles..." I may be just being stupid here, but who other than Raul Mondesi is a big bopper in recent years that has come out of the Dodger system?
Okay, I'm done railing the Mariners for the night. It's a quarter to 5am (I've already slept some tonight, don't worry), and I have class at 8am, so I can't let myself rant onward much more.
I'll end this post by giving a Happy Trails to the swim and wrestling programs here at Central Washington University. I hardly knew ye. However, I did know Bremerton grad and CWU wrestler Eric Smith, who definitely won't be wrestling here this year. I did not know that Central was the last four-year school in the state to ax wrestling. I'd also like to congratulate the CWU athetic department for running $102k over budget. Nice job, guys.
[Edit ~5:23a -- Congrats to Charles Gipson, who was a late-inning defensive replacement for the Devil Rays in the second game of the series in Japan this morning. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, your place for all things ex-Mariner. Attaway, Charles.]
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
But anyways, I hope this is a better effort here (i.e., the pic is smaller)
Oh, this is in honor of Duke losing by the way. And hell, it's just too funny.
From last Friday's Calgary Herald...
... in the wake of Brad Ference slugging the Flames' Martin Sonnenberg on Wednesday night in Phoenix, some Calgary hockey voices are asking if the two sides of the NHL's scale of justice aren't labelled No Blood and No Foul. While the NHL acted swiftly in two other assaults the same night, suspending the perpetrators, there was a curious silence from NHL headquarters when it came to Coyotes' Ference.
The NHL's delay in dealing with the blindside punch contrasted sharply with the four-game ban quickly slapped on Dallas' Marty Turco for his stick attack on Edmonton's Ryan Smyth the same night or the three-game suspension for Columbus' Jody Shelley for sucker-punching Alex Henry of Minnesota, also during a Wednesday game.
"If [Ference] doesn't get a lot (in suspension),'' said Flames centre Craig Conroy before Thursday's game with San Jose, "then it's like, 'If Sonnenberg doesn't get hurt, then it doesn't matter.' And that's when someone's really going to get hurt.''
Here's where it gets interesting...
Those who've watched the infamous Todd Bertuzzi footage a few thousand times found something sickenly familiar in the sucker punch Ference landed on the back of Sonnenberg's head. Late in a blowout game, a settling of accounts, a loss of control. The blow from the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Ference dropped the Flames' forward to the ice, precipitating a melee late in the third period of Calgary's 4-0 win over the Coyotes.
The difference between the Bertuzzi and Ference sucker shots? Sonnenberg was just dazed and did not sustain a broken neck or serious cuts, as did Colorado's Steve Moore-- the victim of the Bertuzzi mauling. So while Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs, Ference's double minor is the only penalty assessed for his actions thus far.
"We're not learning anything from the (Todd) Bertuzzi incident," said Conroy before last night's game with the Sharks. "That's the sad reality of it. You'd think guys would learn. I mean, look what happened. Last night... Sonny didn't get hurt and it's just a four-minute penalty. But he (Ference) did the same thing (as Bertuzzi).
"As players we've got to show more respect for each other. We can't go around cheap-shotting each other. At some point, you've got to give long suspensions. You start giving guys a year and they're not going to be too keen about sucker-punching a guy from behind, no matter how bad they are."
Looks like what we have here is punishment for the aftereffects rather than the action itself. Is this really the way to stop the madness? Alannah and Jeff have picked this debate apart a few times. If the NHL doesn't levy heavy suspensions toward all of these sorts of acts, regardless of post-act injury, I venture to say it probably won't be that effective and worse yet, more players are going to get hurt. Some players will still be convinced they can get away with it, and sadly, one could say that's what Todd Bertuzzi thought.
Eastern Washington head coach Ray Giacoletti has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Utah. He will replace Rick Majerus, who was forced to resign earlier this season because of health issues. Giacoletti is very deserving of this opportunity and he will keep the Utes among the upper echelon of the Mountain West Conference.
Giacoletti was 69-50 in his four years at Cheney, taking the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament this season. Two things that work well in his favor: One, he's a great recruiter. There's a few guys at EWU right now that should be playing at Washington or Washington State, i.e. Marc Axton. I'm still shocked that Axton isn't playing in the Pac-10 right now. Two, he will schedule a tough non-conference schedule. He's not afraid of his guys going up against the best of the best in the country. It should be interesting to see if he tries to get Gonzaga on the Utes' non-conference schedule.
Why am I talking about Eastern, you ask? Well, I was a student there for a year. I was a student assistant in the athletic department while I was at EWU. I also covered the basketball program for the Easterner, EWU's student newspaper. I was at EWU during Giacoletti's first season (2000-2001). Even then, I knew that Giacoletti was going to be coaching at a big time school in the not-too-distant future.
It's 2004. He's going to coach in the Mountain West Conference. Utah is arguably one of the best basketball schools west of the Mississippi. They have been to the national championship game (1998). They are usually in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Majerus did a great job in Salt Lake City. Now, it's Ray Giacoletti's turn.
As for the future of the Eastern basketball program, look for the Eagles to hire Mike Burns. Burns was an assistant under Giacoletti from 2000-2003, and was on Dick Bennett's staff this past season at Washington State. He's very familiar with the Northwest, as well as EWU.
In other news...
The Yankees lose. THHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHUUUUUHHHHHHHH YANKEES LOSE!
I woke up at 4 a.m. just to watch the game. But I fell asleep. I didn't wake up until the 9th inning, about 7:05 my time here. If it was the Mariners playing in Japan, I wouldn't have fallen back asleep. But I digress.
The Mariners released Eric Owens. Yes, I know Owens isn't that good. But I just wish he could be on the roster instead of Quinton McCracken. Oh, I'm sorry...McCracken is getting paid $1.75 million in 2004. This is worse than Kevin Jarvis' deal IMO. It's that bad.
Hiram Bocachica and Ramon Santiago, I feel your pain. Willie Bloomquist has no business being on the 25-man roster.
John Kruk is going to be great on Baseball Tonight. He tells it like it is, and let's be honest, he's John fricking Kruk. Good call ESPN.
That's a nice little beauty mark on Tennille, eh? (Alex Rodriguez)
Basically tearing a page out of the NHL book for this year, the Yankees wore their pinstripes as the road team and the Devil Rays wore their green tops on gray pants as the home team. I was only about half-awake for this, but the whole atmosphere seemed surreal. I was awake for Hideki Matsui's hit and Jason Giambi's homer (with the odd quick zoom by the camera when the ball went into the stands), but the real weird thing about this was knowing that the ESPN announcers weren't actually at the stadium. It's a detached feeling I'm really not used to, though I'm sure a good portion of soccer fans in the world are used to the "gooooooooooooooal" guy from Univision World Cup coverage doing a bunch of the games on tape but not at the stadium. There was just something weird about hearing Karl Ravech and Harold Reynolds doing the game, but what magnified it for me was that the crowd microphone wasn't cranked up too high, adding to the detached feeling. But enough overanalysis of this.
I only spotted two quotes of any worth today, both from the same P-I article. The first quote was covered by Peter and the more esteemed David.
The other quote I saw was...
[Willie] Bloomquist has in his favor the fact his manager, coaches and teammates know what he can do. They don't need to see big numbers in the spring.
And the simple response here is that unfortunately what Bloomquist does isn't much and that not only do the managers, coaches, and Bloom's teammates not need to see big numbers in the spring, they evidently don't need to see them at all.
I guess I have one quote that I want to use for my outlook on the upcoming season. Basically, there's optimists out there that are uppity on the season, and it seems there's quite a lot of them, and this quote I'm about to use somewhat sums up my feelings on the season to come...
"Oh yeah, he's nice now. But don't come looking for me when he's burying your bodies out in the desert."
-- Master Shake, Aqua Teen Hunger Force (vol 2 on DVD comes out in mid-June, while I'm in field camp)
Basically the effect I'm looking for from the quote is along the lines of "don't come crying to me if and when it all goes to crap." Shake also has a great quote about Highlander being a documentary and its events happening in real time. All of this was happening as he was pondering whether throwing a talking doll off a cliff would give it immortality.
One last thing about the ballgame from last night --
Thuhhh Yankees lose!! Thuhhh Yankees lose!! Thuh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh (Sterling's shaking voice) Yankees lose!!
See, I'm a guy that pronounces the word "the" as "thee" instead of with a schwa sound (or I find it less cumbersome speechwise next to the word Yankee), so it's kind of hard for me to accurately convey the way John Sterling closes out every Yankee win. Something also of note is that before I heard Sterling interviewed once on KJR, all I'd heard from him was that call. When I heard his non-exclamatory voice, I was amazed because Sterling's "Yankees win" voice sounded to me like it was from a person that was 25 years older than the one I was hearing in the interview.
Okay, this is really the end of it this time. Happy trails, Eric Owens.
[Edit ~11:18a -- and hooray for John Kruk on Baseball Tonight. He looks weird as hell in a suit, but he'll be fine. I wondered who would fill the spot on the panel left by Bobby Valentine, who was pretty solid with the BBTN crew, but John Kruk more than fills the hole. Great pickup by ESPN. BBTN will be fun once again!! Of course, try not to think about the timeline of the Best Damn Sports Show Period, which now sucks and has seen both Michael Irvin and John Kruk eventually bolt to ESPN.]
Monday, March 29, 2004
Either way, the Canucks had to win and pick up some steam. They took it to the Coyotes from the very start, outshooting them 16-5 in the opening period, but Phoenix goalie Brian Boucher, he of the NHL modern era-record shutout streak from earlier in the year, looked game, turning away all the shots and looking sharp with the glove.
Then came the second period. Matt Cooke was the first to score (on the 23rd Canuck shot to Phoenix's 5), and the floodgates opened as Markus Naslund (first goal in ten games), Daniel Sedin (second goal in two games), and Brent Sopel scored to blow the game wide open. Artem Chubarov and Jason King (first point since Jan 15, first goal since Nov 25) added goals for good measure in the third period.
Quite frankly, this was a game Vancouver should have won anyway, because Phoenix is terrible. The Dogs have won one game in their last twenty overall, and that was an overtime win, and they'd played the night before. The Canucks never let up in the game, with the shots registering at 16-15-14 (by period), outshooting Phoenix by a 45-17 margin. In a weird twist of fate, Brian Boucher stopped 39 shots for the Coyotes and lost. That isn't something that happens often. Dan Cloutier, though his shutout was spoiled with just over two minutes left in the game, notched his 30th win of the year, making him the only Canuck goalie to get three 30-win seasons (no, not even the great Kirk McLean did that), consecutively in this case. The only other goalie to do that: Marty Brodeur. Or that's what the SportsLine recap says anyway.
The Canucks keep pace, still one point behind Colorado, but now with three games remaining, at Anaheim, at San Jose, and against Edmonton. Not as easy road to hoe there.
And now, postgame notes of Dan Russell, John Shorthouse, and Tom Larscheid...
Dan: It looked like a shooting gallery out there
John: Boucher looked up to the task, but the Canucks wore him down. They worked hard and punched some goals through. We've seen a few games where they'd come out, play well, and don't have anything to show for it, then they thought they had to change their game plan and play differently. Tonight, they played pedal to metal.
Dan: The best part was that they were held scoreless after one, but kept on the gas
Tom: the Canucks were able to use the third period against DAL to know how to play with intensity. This was an impressive win against a not-very-good Phoenix team. I liked how they finished them off. The Coyotes play more like Coyote Ugly
John: It was an appropriate result. The Canucks played well for 60 minutes. Coach Crawford has a good feel for the team in pregame predictions, and said the Canucks were ready to turn it up an extra notch and play playoff-type hockey
Dan: These three homestand wins were baby steps. They have flow in their game now
Tom: They look good off the rush. The Sedins like working with Geoff Sanderson, who handles puck well. Matt Cooke on the top line also looks like a brilliant move by Crawford. Thirteen different players recorded points in this game
Dan: There's no more freebies though. The schedule is tougher now
Tom: We don't know which Anaheim team will show up, but we know what we'll get with San Jose, then Edmonton, who could be playing for a playoff spot
Dan: The three stars...Sanderson, Naslund, Salo
John: Boucher might have been Phoenix's best player. He stopped 39 shots
Tom: Novoseltsev was plus-1 and scored a goal
Dan: It was nice to see Naslund score. This might warm him up
Tom: That's what everyone was hoping. It was a typical Naslund goal (pushing puck in while falling down)
John: It was Naslund's worst slump since March of '98. He is finally second all alone on the all-time Vancouver goal list ahead of Stan Smyl (behind Trevor Linden)
Dan: Sanderson had another nice game
Tom: He's becoming a crowd-pleaser. The fast skaters can lift the whole arena as they go down the ice. I like the way he handled the puck, and if you combine this with an above average shot, you get a pretty good hockey player. There could be some good chemistry brewing between the Sedins and Sanderson
Dan: The power play's still off
John: They only had one chance tonight. 0-for-15 overall you can complain about, but not tonight alone
Canuck goals: Matt Cooke (10), Markus Naslund (33), Daniel Sedin (18), Brent Sopel (10), Artem Chubarov (11), Jason King (12)
Last note: Martin Rucinsky seems to get a lot of shots off that are just barely missing (so says Larscheid). He hasn't scored a goal since his second game as a Canuck, on the 12th at Edmonton.
Canucks Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, at Anaheim, at San Jose, and against Edmonton, respectively
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Oklahoma State will play Georgia Tech in the first game at 5 pm Central
UConn will play Duke in the second game, scheduled to tipoff about 30 minutes after the first game.
OSU is the only Final Four team in my bracket. Go Cowboys.
Eddie Sutton deserves a championship.
Have a good week. Baseball "technically" opens early Tuesday morning.
Jeremy pretty much covered everything, with only one other thing catching my eye from the Times article...
"Bocachica had 23 homers and 84 RBI in Triple A in 2000," the club official said. "We don't have anyone else who's done that at that level, and you have to keep that in mind." [emphasis added by me]
Who likes sweeping judgments and extrapolations from anomalous happenings and/or small sample sizes? The Mariners certainly do. Scott Spiezio (couple at-bats in the World Series), Raul Ibanez (a few at-bats against in Safeco Field against Freddy Garcia, who by the way, he won't be facing this year), Rich Aurilia (one year a lot better than the others), Quinton McCracken (see Aurilia, except the bad years are beyond horrific), and now Hiram Bocachica (see above quote referring to happenings from four years ago and this year's spring training, which is spring training) have now given all of us reason to believe that I could show up in a random Mariner tryout camp, spray a couple line drives into the gaps, hustle like hell even though I'm slow, maybe dive for a few balls, and I could be your newest Seattle Mariner.
I'm up too late once again, but I'm going back to Ellensburg tomorrow, which in a ghastly note was the origin of a statewide Amber Alert hours ago after an 11-month-old infant was snatched from her grandmother's shopping cart at the Safeway where I shop constantly. Not good.
In Arkansas news:
Jermain Taylor scored a 7th round TKO over Alex Bunema tonight at Little Rock's Alltel Arena. The fight was on HBO's Boxing After Dark. It's amazing how far Jim Lampley's star has fallen.
Anyways, the real reason why people come here...Mariners news.
If the club stays with 12 pitchers, it would be limited to just three bench players beyond the second catcher. Two players are virtually assured of spots — backup outfielder Quinton McCracken and pinch-hit specialist Dave Hansen. That leaves four players — Willie Bloomquist, Hiram Bocachica, Eric Owens and Ramon Santiago — to vie for the final spot.
Bloomquist and Santiago, both on the 40-man roster, have minor-league options so they could, if necessary, be sent to Class AAA Tacoma. But neither Owens, a camp invitee who isn't having a great spring (.226), nor Bocachica, a non-roster invitee, has options.
"If we bring him we have to open a (40-man) roster spot," Melvin said of Bocachica. "Then if we decide to make a change, we could lose him on the way down. He'd have to go through waivers."
Bocachica is having a solid spring, hitting .344 with three home runs and nine RBI. But if he's added to the 40-man roster, there is not a single player Seattle would want to leave unprotected.
"Boca has had a better spring than some other guys," a Mariners official said. "But there's no way we can fit him right now. We realize this doesn't look fair but it's a matter of reality with the roster."
The Mariners also are taking more of a big-picture look at Bocachica, who could wind up in Seattle later.
"Bocachica had 23 homers and 84 RBI in Triple A in 2000," the club official said. "We don't have anyone else who's done that at that level, and you have to keep that in mind."
It's really simple. Bring Hiram Bocachica up north and send Willie Bloomquist to Tacoma. Of course, I'd like to see him get a one-way ticket out of Seattle, but that's not going to happen.
Bocachica and Bloomquist did little to diminish their chances in yesterday's 4-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Bocachica had a hard single to right in the second inning but was hit with a pitch in the back of the shoulder in the fourth inning. He was removed the next inning.
Bloomquist entered the game unexpectedly in the second inning when third baseman Scott Spiezio left with back spasms. He had a pair of singles and made a marvelous backhanded diving stop to his right on a hard shot by Ben Grieve in the fourth inning. Bloomquist bounded quickly to his feet and threw a rocket to first to get Grieve by a step.
"He does that everywhere you put him. It's because of preparation and hard work," Melvin said of Bloomquist's defense.
Preparation and hard work can't cover up the fact that Willie Bloomquist is a terrible ballplayer.
As I said last night, if he makes the big club over Bocachica, I'm going to be outraged.
Hell, I'll take Ramon Santiago over Bloomquist.
Last but not least, Larry Stone, the undisputed king of baseball writers in Seattle, bringing us more news on the annual spring training Griffey rumors...
According to the Dayton Daily News, Griffey spotted two Mariners scouts in the media dining room before a recent Grapefruit League game with the Yankees — including Roger Jongewaard, special assistant to Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi — and said, "Oh, boy. You know what that means. Been nice knowing you."
I said it a few weeks ago, and I'll say it again:
I really don't know what to think about Ken Griffey, Jr. coming back to Seattle.
If he does, great. If he doesn't, great. Personally, this is what it is:
Just another spring training full of rumors with Griffey coming back to Seattle.
I'm a moron for not picking UConn to win the West region. And thank you Oklahoma State for allowing me to still brag about the fact that I pick at least ONE Final Four team every year. I've done that since 1994. Hooray for me.
Hooray for me. Hooray for you. And hooray for Vida Guerra.