TOP OF THE TOWN – I had been thinking for some time Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners’ prized rookie centerfielder, may need to go to AAA Tacoma to straighten out his swing. It looked ugly to me. It’s long and vicious and didn’t need to be. I played baseball as a young college guy and my take on batting – and I was a very good hitter – was you catch the ball with your bat, flick your wrists and the ball will go a long way. I wasn’t a power hitter – I stood just a hair under six-foot-5 and weighed about 150 pounds and was a contact hitter who could hit the ball where they ain’t. That last statement is a testimony to Wee Willie Keeler, one of the smallest players to ever play in the Major Leagues. He stood five-foot-four and weighed 140 pounds, and his famous saying was, “Keep your eye on the ball and hit ‘em where they ain’t.” Keeler hit over .300 in 13 consecutive seasons. In 1897 he hit .424, the highest average for a left-handed batter in Major League history. He started that season on a 44-game hitting streak that stood until Joe DiMaggio broke it in 1941. One season he struck out only twice. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, 16 years after he died from tuberculosis. He had been seriously ill for the last five years of his life and it was doubtful he would live to see 1923. On New Year’s Eve he heard people celebrating the new year and said to his brother, “You see, the new year is here and so am I – still.” He had a drink and smoke and then died. He was just 50. When I played I always looked where the defense was stationed as I approached the plate. Then I would hit the ball where I saw the defensive holes – hit ‘em where they ain’t. To finish my thought on Rodriguez, I was thinking about his swing as the Mariners played their third game in Miami Sunday (May 1) and just as I was wondering if he would ever hit a home run he belted the ball 450 feet for his first Major League home run. I still wish he would shorten his swing. He has been a victim of umpires calling him out on called third strikes that aren’t strikes, which I don’t understand why umps are doing that to him although some say it’s to test young rookies to see if they will explode back at the umps. Rodriguez hasn’t. So now maybe the umpires will call them where they are strikes and not where they ain’t strikes. The Mariners are 12-10 at I write this, having gone 2-4 on this current nine-game road trip (next up are three games in Houston against the Astros, starting Monday, May 2) and look pretty good except for running into some good pitching and good teams in Tampa Bay and Miami that has slowed them down some (they snapped a four-game losing streak with a 7-3 win over Miami on Sunday). Although it’s still early, some observations are acceptable at this point. I think the starting pitching rotation based on what I see so far should be Logan Gilbert as the team ace.  He is awesome. He’s gritty, tough and composed and not afraid to attack hitters. If he doesn’t get injured the Mariners may have a mound star for a number of years. I would put Chris Flexen next to Gilbert, Robbie Ray would be third, Marco Gonzales fourth and Matt Brash fifth. Ray won the National League Cy Young Award last season and cashed in on that by signing 5-year, $115 million contract with the Mariners. That’s $23 million a year. He has had a 4.00 ERA in nine seasons with a WHIP OF 1.319.  He was 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA and 248 strikeouts in 193.1 innings, giving up 33 home runs with Toronto last season to earn the Cy Young. Looking at his statistics for those nine seasons he is not the pitcher he was last season. He did go 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA with the Diamondbacks in 2017, but if I had to choose between Gilbert and Ray, I would take Gilbert every time. He’s going to be great. Don’t take this wrong. Ray is a good pitcher, but I don’t know how he won the Cy Young. I’m worried a bit about Jarred Kelenic. He has been playing right field well and has cannon for an arm, but is struggling to hit breaking balls and that’s what pitchers are offering to him. Until he makes a major adjustment, he will continue to struggle…. I’m not going to comment on the Seahawks’ draft except to say I’m curious about Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III.  Picking Walker may be a good move, but what it says for me is it’s why Russell Wilson wanted out of Seattle. He had, I think, grown tired of being a manager of games instead of being able to freewheel it, which he’s good at. Pete Carroll is caught in a time warp, He wants to play Woody Hayes football – three yards and a cloud of dust, That style of football went out with Woody Hayes. So the Seahawks draft two offensive tackles and Walker and the intention is clear – they are going to run the ball, damn it. Wilson had enough of handing off the football. He wanted it in his hands. So something had to give. The result was Wilson flying to Denver so he can pass the ball to his delight. And Pete can run the damn ball. That’s it for today. Stay safe.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.