Last night I popped down to Tacoma to watch Ljay Newsome make a spot start for the Tacoma Rainiers so I could see the C-the-Z award winner in person (more on his performance in a later article). While I was there, a handy ad on the video screen reminded me that, much like it’s All-Star voting for MLB clubs right now, it is also that time for their Triple-A counterparts, as well. There’s only a week left to get in on the fan vote, and I am here to humbly beseech you to vote to send our own site favorite and slender adult son, Ian Miller, to the Triple-A All-Star Game, held this year in
exciting beautiful serviceable Columbus, Ohio (the park is actually very beautiful). [TRUTH: I meant to shade Columbus here, which I visited once in the dead of winter and loathed, but there is actually some extremely cool stuff there, like this dope topiary garden that recreates Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon On The Isle Of La Grande Jatte (yes you do know that painting, it’s the one with little dots that was in Ferris Buehler); the world’s largest gavel, which prompted my favorite review ever on Trip Advisor; and this nutty basket-shaped basket factory Columbus!]
As undeniable as it is that All-Star Games are popularity contests [takes a hard look at Didi Gregorious edging Jean Segura in the fan vote] and therefore stupid, it is also just as undeniable that All-Star selections mean something to the players. Everyone likes to be told they’re doing a good job, and nowhere is that more important than in the minor leagues, where players toil for low wages in front of small crowds in far-flung corners of America, hoping to hear that they’re being called up to the bigs, but more often hearing only the jeers of a crowd who hopes you’ll strike out because you’re the “beer batter.”
Ian Miller has been in the Mariners system for six years. Over that time he’s weathered affiliate changes, coaching changes, front office changes; he’s done time at Double-A in two different time zones; he’s given up his off-season to train in Arizona. He’s watched teammates get called up and sent back, and other teammates get dealt away, and yet he remains, inching his way up. He bought into Control the Zone when that was the big organizational push in 2016, and posted a strikeout rate that was nearly identical to his walk rate. He adjusted his approach to put less balls on the ground last year, which led to him posting a career-high 130 wRC+ for Arkansas. This year, he’s pushed his walk rate to double digits again while shaving points off his strikeout rate and focused on making contact, pushing his OBP to .379, almost to where it was when he was tearing up Arkansas on his third trip through Double-A. He keeps refining and refining aspects of his game, trying to get closer to his goal of making it to the majors.
Last night, Miller went 1-4, with a walk and a two-out double (off actual prospect and wonderfully named Richard Lovelady, even!). After a brief dip, Miller is heating up again; over his last 10 games he’s hitting .324 with three doubles and is currently working on a six-game hitting streak, while going 3/3 in stolen bases. He leads the regular Rainiers in average, stolen bases, and total number of hits. He even hit a home run this year, which seemed to surprise him as much as it did Tacoma play-by-play announcer Mike Curto.
The Triple-A All-Star Game doesn’t mean all that much to a lot of people; the regular All-Star Game doesn’t. But for someone who’s been grinding his way along for years through the lower minors, trying to do all the little things right in the hopes that they’ll add up to something big, a chance to shine on a slightly bigger stage means quite a bit. So please, while you’re voting for Haniger and Segura (you ARE doing that, right? Remember the part about how everyone likes to hear “good job!”?), I plead with you to take a few extra minutes out of your day and send some votes Ian Miller’s way. You can vote 25 times, max, no every-day voting like for the MLB ASG, and the fan vote is combined with the coaching staffs and media votes to create the final rosters. I bet if we ask really nicely, he’ll even come back with a picture of the big gavel.