The Tacoma Rainiers won the fourth game of the series with the Reno Aces today 9-3 thanks to the big bat of Mike Sweeney on a beautiful day at Cheney Stadium. What another great and fun game down in Tacoma watching the Rainiers clobber the Aces in front of 6,384 fans to give the Rainiers a split of this four game series before heading out on the road again. Unlike the apprehension I feel before the start of a Mariners game I felt confident as I headed down I-5 along with another long-suffering Mariners fan to watch this day game. My friend Eddie had never been to a game at Cheney Stadium and like myself was longing for an opportunity to watch a game under the sun where the home team was able to score some runs. We arrived at 11 am and were surrounded by happy young children arriving by the busload along with the regular Rainiers faithful as I continued my rehab assignment of fun, laughter and winning!
Blake Beaven who came over in the Cliff Lee trade got his first start with Tacoma and went six innings giving up a couple of runs and looked pretty good in his debut. Of course when your team scores 8 runs for you in the first 4 innings it takes a lot of the pressure off of you. The Rainiers did not waste any time in scoring with Mike Sweeney belting a 2-run shot in the bottom of the first over the big blue wall in left. Sweeney got the start at first today as Justin Smoak slipped into the DH spot so he could focus on his hitting mechanics. Smoak did get a hit today as well as driving in a run in the 8th with a sacrifice fly.
In the second inning the Rainiers loaded up the sacks for Mike Wilson who drove a ball that barely cleared the fence before rattling around and coming back onto the field. Initially Wilson stopped at second but was then waved in for the grand-slam making it 6-0 before we had even finished our hotdogs! As a Mariners fan I am out-of-shape when it comes to enjoying an early lead in a game, especially as the result of the long-ball. But the Rainiers were not finished yet and in the bottom of the fourth Mike Sweeney blasted another 2-run shot over the imposing fence to make it 8-0. It was a beautiful site to see Sweeney dig-in at the plate and take his customary full-swings today, and before the day was through Sweeney would go 3-4 moving his average up to .366. We were ready to throw Sweeney in the car and kidnap him so he could be in the Mariners lineup tonight where he belongs.
Yes I know this season is over for the Mariners and it is all about the future so who needs a 37-year-old veteran guy who hits, knows the game, and provides leadership for the young players? Well as a fan I enjoy watching a guy who loves the game and plays with enthusiasm along with the ability to produce, which Sweeney has done all year since spring training( when he was healthy). It seems that there is a certain segment of the local media and fan base that just can’t stand a friendly decent guy succeeding. Perhaps Sweeney’s success isn’t measurable by the new sabermetrics whiz-kids and thus needs to be discounted to fill their need to be know-it-alls. I don’t know but today Mike Sweeney proved once again he can still produce and the fans in Tacoma including myself loved every minute of it. If indeed the Mariners are intentionally leaving Sweeney down in Tacoma to act as a mentor for the young players then that is one thing, but if they are just going to let him languish in AAA hoping he quits then that would be a travesty to not only Sweeney but to the game itself. Baseball is a game of traditions handed from father to son, generation to generation, full of history and mystique. The Mariners have angered the Baseball-Gods one too many times and I am hoping they do the right thing and bring Sweeney back-up to the Majors where he can finish his career in dignity for the rest of 2010.
While I was at the game today I suddenly realized that the Reno Aces manager was Brett Butler the former player I had watched in the 80’s and 90’s. Butler had a great career and was considered the best bunter of his era along with a lifetime .290 average and 2375 career hits. Perhaps more impressive about Butler is that he overcame throat cancer and came back to finish playing in the Majors till he was 40. Butler is working his way up as a manager through the Arizona system and seemed to have the respect of the umpires as well as his players. It was nice to see the crusty old veteran doing double-duty both as the team’s manager and 3rd base coach. Here are his impressive lifetime stats:http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/butlebr01.shtml
So the Mariners are back in town tonight playing the Rangers and I will be back on the beat tomorrow following the big club till the end of the season. I feel a whole lot better having gone down to Cheney Stadium a couple of times during this last home stand and watching the scrappy Tacoma Rainiers win twice. For whatever reason Cheney Stadium provides an environment where time seems to have stopped somewhere 20 years ago and baseball was still indeed our national pastime and guys like Sweeney, Butler and perhaps myself could still play this game with the joy and passion it deserves……http://jeffsmariners.com