Mariners Defeat Champions, Are Therefore Champions

In the complicated world of professional baseball, title claims are tenuous and fleeting, and on Tuesday afternoon the Mariners wrested away the Giants' claim and made it their own by defeating the defending champions by a 1-0 final. It was the strong pitching of Jason Vargas and a host of could-be relievers that allowed the M's to outscore the Giants by infinity percent, and the organization has thus taken the initiative to schedule a ring ceremony for Wednesday morning.

Though the Giants came in having already lost to three separate opponents this spring, it's the Mariners who get to take their title for some reason, and they'll prepare to defend their trophy against the Dodgers. The Dodgers will be looking to win their first championship since 1988, and I think I speak for everybody when I say that they will have absolutely zero support in their endeavor.

To the dot points, which might actually be bullet points, or at least bullet hole points:

  • Vargas threw three shutout innings and came away pleased with his ability to stay in and around the strike zone. Interestingly, after coming out, he said that he only threw fastballs, cutters, and changeups, because Adam Moore didn't call for anything else.

    This is interesting for two reasons. One, because Gameday classified five of his pitches as sliders or curveballs. Those PITCHfx cameras are seeing things that aren't really there. Or they're seeing things that are really there in a parallel universe. One of these possibilities would make those cameras useful, while the other would make them very much not.

    And two, this is interesting because Vargas wants to work on his breaking ball(s), and Spring Training is all about working on things, and so one can't help but feel like today was a missed opportunity. It's hard to make a pitch better if you don't use it in a game. I don't want to sound like I'm being really critical since I'm sure there's a plan here, but it's curious. A guy can't only throw his curveball in the bullpen and then expect to have confidence using it against big leaguers.

  • The Mariners scored one run on three hits - the big blast being an RBI triple by Ryan Langerhans - and in so doing made Ryan Vogelsong look all right. Between 2001-2004, Vogelsong started 33 games in the big leagues, posting a 6.94 ERA. Since 2001, 409 starters have thrown at least 150 big league innings. Vogelsong's ERA ranks 409th. (ed. note: Fun fact! Garrett Olson's ERA ranks 408th.) After washing out with Pittsburgh, Vogelsong then went to Japan, where he wasn't good. Now he's back, and 33, and he struck out five Mariners in 3.2 innings. If our team offense were a Cascade volcano, it would be Mount St. Helens - once explosive, now ugly and little.

    Maybe the craziest thing is that Vogelsong was still throwing his fastball in the low 90s. That mofo hasn't lost anything in ten years. Which might actually be a bad thing, considering what he was ten years ago.

  • Ryan Vogelsong was the Giants' #5 prospect in 2001, according to Baseball America. He was sandwiched between Lance Niekro and Sean McGowan. Of that year's top ten, the biggest success story has turned out to be Pedro Feliz. Which might be better than 2000's big success story being Scott Linebrink, and 2002's big success story being Boof Bonser. Pedro Feliz has a career OBP of .288.

  • In the top of the first, Miguel Tejada hit a fly ball into right field that was well foul off the bat. Gabe Gross made the catch, and the Giants announcers took Tejada to task for not bothering to move from the batter's box, saying that would be a bad habit to develop. I would think not running out of the box on foul fly balls would be a good habit to develop, at least in the interest of efficiency. Running serves no purpose.

  • Now for the prospect report. #1! Johermyn Chavez took over in right field in the seventh inning. Shortly thereafter, Nate Schierholtz pulled a liner that Chavez dove after and missed, allowing Schierholtz to pull into second. Since there wasn't any video I can't say this for sure, but the broadcast made it sound as if Chavez dove for a ball when he should've stayed on his feet. Never dive for a line drive in front of you.

  • #2! Tom Wilhelmsen tossed a solid 1-2-3 sixth, striking out two and inducing a grounder. He mixed mid-90s heat with a big looping mid-70s curve, and that's the sort of repertoire that could see Wilhelmsen advance up the organizational ladder in a hurry. Especially if he's converted to a full-time reliever. Stuff is stuff, and Wilhelmsen has the stuff.

  • #3! Mauricio Robles did a lousy job of following Wilhelmsen's act. While Robles did manage to keep the Giants scoreless, doing so required that he throw 25 pitches, only nine of which were strikes. At one point he threw ten consecutive balls, and even in the at bats that resulted in outs, Robles fell behind the hitters. To make matters worse, his velocity wasn't at all where we'd expect it to be. Eric Wedge will probably give Robles credit for surviving his first Cactus League inning, but he wasn't good.

  • In the top of the ninth, the Giants replaced Jackson Williams with pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson, which is like replacing the guy who sells door-to-door magazine subscriptions with the guy who buys door-to-door magazine subscriptions.

  • The magazines would be addressed to Charlie Cubberson, Charlie Cuthbert, Charlie Culdesac, and Charles Robinson.

Mariners! Dodgers! Doug Fister! Jon Garland! MLB Network claims that tomorrow's dazzling array of mind-melting fastballs will be shown live on TV. You don't want to miss this!

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