Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

The 2014 Tacoma Rainiers: It’s all in the numbers

The Canadian geese did a fly over, and the last crowd of the year walked slowly out of Cheney Stadium after the final home loss. The clean-up crew began sweeping up the peanuts and Cracker Jack leavings as well as lots of those hot dogs. That was on August 27, before the season ended, because the Rainiers finished their 20th year as the Seattle Mariners’ Triple A franchise with five games at Fresno (another loss.)

And what an up and down season it was. The team spent 13 of the first 30 games in first place before slipping into third for eight games and then becoming mired in fourth from May 21 to July 11 when they finally were able to see the light of third place again. At season’s end they were third in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific North Division, with a record of 74-70.

Although the team came up a few games short of being in the play offs, they achieved another number they were striving for--having a winning season. In May, June and July that seemed pretty undoable. On June 11 the Rainiers were 13 games under .500, with a record of 26-39. May 13 was the last time the team saw .500 or better until July 25 when they stood at 53-53. They reached the .500 goal for the season on August 26 by defeating Iowa for their 73rd win of the summer.

Another number worth noting was sending four players to the Triple-A All Star game in Durham, North Carolina, on July 16. Those players were infielders Nick Franklin, Gabriel Noriega, Chris Taylor and relief pitcher Logan Kensing. This was the first time since 2001 that that many Rainiers went to an All Star game, and even though the Pacific Coast League’s affiliates lost to the International League players 7-3, Taylor was named the game’s MVP. He went 2 for 4, with two doubles.

Rainiers who reached the top 10 in various PCL statistical categories were RHP Jordan Pries, ERA (sixth at 3.69), OF Xavier Nady, stolen bases (sixth with 31), IF Ty Kelly, games played (tied for fourth with 133), Taylor, triples (tied for year as the Seattle Mariners’ Triple A franchise with five games fourth with seven), and Kelly, walks (second with 83.) In addition, Tacoma was seventh as a team in both batting average (.281) and OPS (.777.) As always, the team experienced an astronomical number of transactions (159). This was due to both injuries and promotions and demotions. Midway through the season, first time Triple A manager Roy Howell said he had never experienced such a turnover managing lower level teams. “Here you’ve got players on the 40 man roster, free agents that have been signed and have outs in their contracts. Other players are here on rehab assignments. When people ask me what’s the toughest part of managing in the PCL I say it’s not the travel, it’s the player movement that’s crazy because you’re trying to get a continuity with your ball club. But guys are baseball players,” he added. “At this level they’ve been around a little bit. A new guy walks in and the next day it’s like he’s been here for a month. That’s what’s really nice about it.” He knew many players from the Mariners’ organization having previously coached with lower level Mariner teams in 2012 and 2013. Howell played professionally for 14 seasons with Texas, Toronto, and Milwaukee and was named Toronto’s MVP in 1978

Other members of Howell’s staff were hitting coach Cory Snyder and pitching coach Jaime Navarro. This was Snyder’s first year coaching at the Triple-A level. He spent the previous three years in the same position with the Mariners’ Double-A team in Jackson, TN. Snyder played professionally for 11 seasons with the Indians, White Sox, Blue Jays, Giants and Dodgers., and was part of the 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team that won a silver medal in Los Angeles.

Navarro returned to the pitching coach position in Tacoma this year after being the Mariners’ bullpen coach from 2011-13. He previously was pitching coach for the Rainiers in 2010. This summer he was inducted into the Milwaukee Brewers’ Hall of Fame. He started for six seasons for the Cubs and Indians as well as seven seasons for the Brewers.

Prior to the start of August 27th's game, Tacoma presented the team's 2014 postseason player awards. Designated hitter Jesus Montero was named the team's Offensive Player of the Year, IF Gabriel Noriega was chosen Defensive Player of the Year, RH reliever Logan Kensing was picked as Pitcher of the Year, and RHPs Logan Bawcom and Forrest Snow earned Community Service Awards. Winners were picked by the Rainiers front office and coaching staff. In addition, six Rainiers—LHP Roenis Elias, OFJames Jones, RHP Dominic Leone, OF Stefen Romero, RHP Carson Smith and Taylor—made their Major League debuts during 2014.

So while the team didn’t make it to the playoffs, it was still a season filled with excitement, firsts and memories. In the words of Logan Kensing, “I’ve been blessed to play this game and I look forward to every day.”

And I am sure so say they all.