Saturday, May 18, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: Night or day, we'll find a way to share our opinion

| April 16, 2024 1:25 AM

If you’ve never been through a newspaper office and printing plant, well, it’s interesting.

I recommend it.

On the other hand, touring the world of a humble columnist is, um, humble.

And not the most practical place to work, time-wise.

For instance, it’s difficult to write up-to-date items on the Mariners, since they play so often at night.

Our deadlines are such (and a writer’s ability to create a masterpiece is such) that we can’t generally do something on the Mariners for publication the next morning.

Today’s “Cheap Seats,” if you get the drift, doesn’t have news and tidbits from the Seattle-Cincinnati game on Monday night.

I’m thinking about that today because the regular MLB schedule contains mostly night games, and so it would be unlikely that I could write a column spotlighting Julio Rodriguez being picked off first base to end a game.

As it happened, Julio’s mistake concluded a Sunday afternoon loss to the Cubs.

Unfortunately, my first column each week is this one, on Tuesday.

I’m sure Julio took more of a gamble than usual in that ninth inning, thinking, “Well, at least Cameron can’t write about it on Monday if I face plant this thing.”


Or, more likely, the Mariners’ young star was trying to steal a base on a day he wasn’t in the lineup — “for physical and emotional rest.”

Anything to help win a game, when it’s been remarkably difficult for a team that was supposed to be pretty darn good.

Side note here: A million years ago, when I was first covering baseball, there WAS a situation when a player thought about how I’d cover a misplay.

You know, while the game was still going on.

Seattle icon Lou Piniella was one of the most fun athletes I’ve ever covered and, Lou being Lou, things would just happen.

Things that would make you laugh.

Or weep.

When Lou was playing left field for Kansas City back in the day — this was in the old Municipal Stadium — he watched slugger Frank Howard hit a bomb over his head.

Way, WAY over his head.

 “Long gone,” Lou thought, turning to admire the blast.

He then watched it land, not in the parking lot as he guessed, but softly on the warning track.

Municipal Stadium was a big damn yard, by the way, and you needed a howitzer to launch a ball out to left.

Which Louie forgot.

The 6-foot-7, 255-pound Howard hit 44 homers and drove in 126 runs that year, but his untouched fly ball in Kansas City turned into his only triple of the season.

An inning or so later, Piniella actually phoned the press box, asked for me, and said: “I’ll give you a start on your story. My little boy could have caught that ball — or at least he would have tried for it.”

Ah, Louie.

Another side note: They didn’t have instruments to measure the speed of batted balls back then, so you’ll have to stick with my keen, veteran observation.

I think only Willie McCovey could hit a ball harder (or farther) than Frank Howard.

The big man, who was known as the “Capital Punisher” when he played for Washington, could absolutely launch towering home runs into adjacent counties.

McCovey, though, hit vicious line drives — and honestly, it’s a miracle he didn’t seriously injure someone.

Veteran pitching coach Frank Funk, who had a fairly short and middling career throwing for the Braves, said he once made the ultimate mistake against McCovey and saw his fastball sail low and outside (but still in the strike zone).

“I would rather have thrown it down the middle,” Funk said. “No pitcher in the game would ever want to throw something down and away to Willie. That’s the pitch that could get hit right back at you.”

That one horrible mistake DID result in a comebacker.

“I never saw it,” Funk said. “My natural pitching motion put my glove in front of my chest, and that ball shot straight into it.

“The glove was right above my heart. I thought about that for a long, long time.”

OK, GUESS we’re done with side notes.

But that’s baseball.

Stories and more stories.

Meanwhile, back at T-Mobile Park.

What were the odds that Julio would get picked off to end a game?

And that he would originally be called safe, then have that decision reversed on a challenge by the Cubs?

By the way, Julio’s gaffe was kid’s stuff compared to a blunder by last year’s Mariner bust, Kolten Wong.

Never mind ending a game.

Wong came on as a pinch-runner in a World Series game, and got picked off to finish it.

Relax and forget it, J-Rod.

Which he will.

I’ve written this previously, but the Mariners will all start hitting when Julio quits overswinging and begins to rake.

It’s the nature of the alpha dog.

He’ll take pressure off everyone.

Heck, maybe Julio smashed a few balls on Monday night against the Reds.

I’ll have to watch and wait, just like you.

Can’t write about it now, though, not early on Monday evening.

If I knew what was going to happen ahead of time, I’d call Ippei Mizuhara.

He’d have a phone number for me.


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.”