Saturday, April 13, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: Love those guys who stir things up on the diamond

| April 2, 2024 1:15 AM

Just days into the baseball season, and already I miss Jose Caballero.

No question, he was my favorite Mariner.

I declared an official period of mourning, beginning on Jan. 5 when Seattle traded the scrappy infielder to Tampa Bay for Luke Raley.

Maybe Raley will work out as that hitter the Mariners need (so far he looks terrible), but mostly this grief is about the departure of Caballero.

Where did he play to capture so much attention?

Um, it’s unfair to tag Jose as a guy who specialized at one position.

The Panamanian rookie, who seemed to pop up out of nowhere last season at age 26, appeared in 104 games and played short, second, third, and left field — along with a few stints at DH.

He had much more impact than his .221 batting average would suggest — and became an absolute fan favorite.


Well, Jose was always in the middle of rallies, stealing 26 bases in 29 tries and — now we’re getting to the heart of things — he was hit by pitches 17 times.

Feel free to believe some of those plunks were intentional, because Jose Caballero showed up in the major leagues with the goal of annoying people.

It was a terrific career choice.

He would do anything to give the Mariners a spark, even if was often on the edge of starting a riot.

Among other devilry, he screwed around with the pitch clock, waiting as long as legally possibly to make eye contact with that guy on the pound.

He drew a bunch of clock violations, and I loved it.

SEE, JOSE played the game the way I was taught, and the way pros got after it when I first started covering major league ball.

He was great.

Meanwhile, after a spark of grief when the Mariners traded him, my next thought was pretty clear: Wait until Jose causes World War III in Tampa.

I hoped they knew what they were getting.

Well, they do now.

On Saturday, Caballero beat out a bunt against Toronto, driving in a run.

The throw to first was wild and sailed down the right-field line, so Jose kept right on running.

Blue Jays right fielder George Springer finally tracked down the ball, and made a perfect throw to third, which nailed Jose.

End of affair?

No chance.

Somehow, Caballero got tangled up with Toronto pitcher Genesis Cabrera, who was backing up third.

Words were exchanged — are we surprised? — and Cabrera lost it, shoving Jose in the face and throat.

Naturally, the benches cleared, but there was no more ruckus (unless you count Cabrera being ejected and suspended three games, an outcome that Caballero no doubt considered a success).

Now, what exactly prompted Cabrera to go ballistic on a pretty routine play at third?

“I think I kind of overreacted a little bit,” Cabrera said through Blue Jays interpreter Hector Lebron. “He kind of looked at me and I just react.”

Asked what Caballero said to him, Cabrera relayed that the Rays shortstop said, “What’s up?”

Didn’t I tell you I loved it?

OVERALL, it was a wild weekend for baseball temper tantrums.


(I’m grinning.)

Besides Caballero doing what he does best — making an team, or maybe an entire stadium — want to kill him, we had an early-season eruption involving Rhys Hoskins and the Mets.

Hoskins has been involved with the Metropolitans previously, the highlight being a 34-second stroll around the bases after a home run when he played for the Phillies.

Anyhow, Hoskins signed as a free agent with Milwaukee this winter (after rumors that the Mariners were interested), and what team do you suppose the Brewers faced in their opening series? 

Unless you’ve dozed off, you guessed the Mets.

Hoskins was minding his own business as a baserunner at first when there was a ground ball hit to short.

The bouncer wasn’t really a double play ball, and the Mets infielders were only intending to get one out.

Hoskins, however, played it the way you should — or maybe, the way it was done 25 years ago.

He steamed into second, slid late and did everything to second baseman Jeff McNeil but perform open-heart surgery.

McNeil was angry and decided to share his thoughts.


He just laid there in the dirt, allowing McNeil to finish venting.

That was Friday night.

On Saturday, Hoskins raked various pitchers for four hits, and Sunday, former Mariners reliever Yohan Ramirez blew up and threw a pitch about four feet behind Hoskins.

That’s baseball, boys and girls.

The real thing.


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press four times each week, normally Tuesday through Friday unless, you know, stuff happens.

Steve suggests you take his opinions in the spirit of a Jimmy Buffett song: “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On.”