Glenn Burke is not remembered, yet he was the originator of the high five when he played for the Dodgers and he was the first openly gay baseball player in 1978. Despite reports to the contrary he was the first openly gay player in the four major sports. History has a short memory and frequently is in need of setting the record straight. Watch Keith Olbermann’s brilliant report on Glenn Burke.
Despite Nick Franklin’s home run blast the other day, and despite the Mariners saying he is in open competition with Brad Miller for the shortstop position, Franklin has been the object of trade rumors. And in case you forgot, he was part of a package deal last spring for Justin Upton of Arizona, who had the option of refusing a trade to Seattle and he did just that. So Franklin stayed a Mariner as did Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor if you believe the proposal. Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make.
Reportedly the New York Mets want him for shortstop and the Tampa Bay Rays want him for second base. The Mariners are looking for young pitching help. When trade rumors are heated it means one of two things. The talks are serious, there are ongoing discussions and scouting of potential players the Mariners could receive, and somebody leaked it to the media. This is the ‘where there is smoke there is fire scenario’. On the other hand, it could be some beat writer needing something to write about and trade proposals are always fun. He may be reporting on front office gossip, stitching together a baseball story out of horsehide and red stitching. This is the ‘where there is fire there is ashes’ scenario. It means where there is smoke there are ashes. In other words a flamed out, dead story.
A trade is likely since Cano is at second and Willie Bloomquist returns to Seattle as a utility player, covering any and all positions. Shortstop will be either Miller or Franklin, and the M’s, despite any public comments, seem to prefer Miller. Though the Mariners are in need of starting pitchers, neither the Mets, Rays, or anyone else, is unlikely to provide much for Franklin.
I can guess like anyone else, and my guess is that if no trade is made by March 16th, a trade is unlikely. I can see an April with both Miller and Franklin on the Mariners, or if one of the two should have a poor spring, be in Tacoma. But at some point, unless Franklin is sent to Tacoma to learn to play the outfield, either Miller or Franklin will be traded. The Mariners could wait and see if some team’s need becomes acute and the M’s can get more in return. Trades are as much about negotiating, pondering chess moves, playing mind games, and getting the other guy to blink first, than it is about trading players like they are baseball cards.
Who knew Chone Figgins was a head case.
He played himself out of the starting lineup in Seattle, alienated the M’s fan base, and only Alex Rodriquez has received more boos from Mariner fans, and Figgins received his boos wearing a Mariner uniform, not a Ranger uniform.
Figgins is attempting a comeback with the Los Angeles Dodgers and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times we learn what precipitated his humpty-dumpty fall from grace. When asked what went wrong in Seattle, Figgins answered, “It kind of says it all when you signed a $38 million contract (four years) and they pinch hit for you in the fourth game.” The implication is that his confidence was shattered, that he felt the M’ lost faith in him. What a devastating blow!
He hit .259 that first year (2010), his best with Seattle. He then hit .188 and .181. So Chone is blaming his three year failure on being pinch hit for in his 4th game. He couldn’t recover over three years? And what are the Dodger brass going to make out of this? I don’t know about them, but to me it says he can not accept responsibility for his failure. It was lack of confidence in himself-if indeed it was-not the Mariner’s. If you can’t accept your own failures, instead blaming others, possibly even teammates, what does that say about your character? His quote reflects a whiner, not a man who accepts responsibility, and nobody likes a whiner.
It also says he is not a competitor. If he wanted his starting job it was his to take by playing the way he did for the Angels. Instead he sat and moped and whined. Maybe, as some suggest, it was that big contract that did him in. There have been players who failed after getting big money. Whether the pressure of living up to expectations, feeling they must put up big numbers to justify the contract, or once they get the big money, they slack is the question.
But Figgins humpty-dumpty fall being blamed on the Mariners leaves Chone with egg on his face. And all the Dodgers men couldn’t put him together again.
No whining in my baseball E-novel based on 1911 New York Giants: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393522218&sr=1-3
Projecting the Seattle Mariner lineup, the 3-4-5 hitters looks promising. Cano, 2b, Hart, rf, and Seager, 3b, give the lineup left-right-left hitters in the middle. All three can hit, though Hart is attempting a comeback after being disabled in 2013. If he falters, the 4th spot, with no one else to fill it, could sink the Mariners. Hart is crucial to the teams success. Who fills the other spots are up in the air.
Two left handed bats in the outfield are Dustin Ackley, scheduled for left, and Michael Saunders who should be in center. Both struggled last year and one of them needs to step up his game.
Shortstop will be either Brad Miller, batting left, or switch hitter Nick Franklin. First base will be perennial disappointment, Justin Smoak, a switch hitter, or Logan Morrison, batting left. DH is up in the air. But if Hart is in right then DH will most likely be Morrison if he can’t beat out Smoak.
Michael Zunino is the catcher. He bats from the other side, that side being right. It could be that the Mariners lineup could have only two right handed batters. As I write Kendrys Morales is still available and is a switch hitter. I doubt the Mariners will sign him though as they try to figure out some way of using what they have instead of a free agent signing or trade. The M’s most likely are going to mix and match using everyone on the roster.
If James Paxton does not make the rotation and if Randy Wolf, a spring training invitee, does not impress, then Seattle will have an all right handed pitching rotation. Not a good thing.
The team at present is clearly out of balance, too many left handed bats, too many right handed starting pitchers, and three DH/ first basemen, Smoak, Morrison, and Hart, who probably will be in right. And no DH of significance. The signing of Robinson Cano generated many headlines, but the reality is that GM Jack Zduriencik has constructed a team whose parts don’t’ seem to fit well. There are too many questions and if they are not answered then blame Jack.
If the M’s win another 70 games, GM Zduriencik, like Captain Bly, should be set adrift, because Mariner fans will mutiny the Good Ship Mariner.
I didn’t see “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” because the previews looked dreadful, and the idea of vampires during Lincoln’s presidency is ridiculous. Any historian will tell you vampires did not migrate to America until the 1880′s. But Abe was known to play some baseball, or the games that developed into baseball during his time in the White House.
Some say Lincoln skipped cabinet meetings to play ball on the White House lawn. He played both town ball and barn ball. In town ball the playing field was not a diamond but a rectangle or square and rules varied, both in areas of the country and over the course of time. It does seem to be an evolutionary stage between cricket and baseball.
Barn ball was different. Unlike town ball where each side was frequently more than nine per side, barn ball could consist of a thrower, who would throw the ball against the barn and the striker had to hit the ball off the rebound. Doesn’t sound like fun to me, but then I wasn’t there. One account of Lincoln playing town ball said he had long strides, with his coattails “stuck out behind.” If he had his jacket on it doesn’t sound like he was playing in the summer.
I can’t imagine Abe as a vampire hunter. That was a fantasy, a comic boo type of story, but he actually played a version of baseball, though, like the vampire hunter Abe, I can’t imagine the baseball Abe. I try to picture Abe, who is tall and gawky looking, running with long strides, arms pumping hard as he glides around the bases trying to avoid being hit with a thrown ball that would put him out. It is also hard to imagine Abe, who in pictures looks stern, serious, gloomy, and humorless, smiling and laughing playing town ball while the Civil War is tearing apart the country. Maybe the pictures were taken after he played a game and he was feeling guilty. That I can understand.
“Abraham Lincoln: Baseball Player” is a movie I would go see. It could be pitched to producers as “Vampire Hunter” meets “Field of Dreams.” The screenwriter says, “This is how it works Mr. Spielberg. The Civil War is raging, and Lincoln goes out into a cornfield and coming out of the cornfield is George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Paul Revere, and Betsy Ross, seen stitching up a new baseball. They try to play town ball, but the bats turn to vampires-you knew that was coming- and Abe and the legends destroy the vampires.” This is a more fun movie.
Breaking news. Just as I was finishing this blog, Franklin Gutierrez has told the Seattle Mariners he is done with baseball.
Jesus Montero was suspended in 2013 for using Peds; not a good thing to do when you are trying to establish a major league career. He came to spring training recently, admitted his mistake, apologized, and said he was ready to move forward. The problem is that he has put on weight, and not juts a few pounds. He joked that all he did in the offseason was eat. But when it looks like 15-20 pounds of flab, he should not be joking.
I don’t think Montero gets it. A young kid with the opportunity for a major league career , everything in front of him for the asking and he gets suspended for cheating. Instead of devoting himself to rebuilding his reputation by working out, staying in shape, having a goal of making the Mariners by impressing them with his hitting skills, he spends the offseason getting fat. He simply does not care. He is immature. By the time he gains maturity-if he does-it may be too late. He threw away last season and it looks like he may throw away this season. Send him to A-ball and see if he gets the message and wakes up.
Rumors say the Mariners are close to signing Nelson Cruz, but Seattle would do better to pursue the last two quality starting pitchers, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. Hisashi Iwakuma has a strained tendon in his right middle finger (no jokes please) and Taijuan Walker has been temporarily shut down with a strained shoulder. In Walker’s case, the Mariners say it is not unusual for a young arm, when working itself into pitching shape. They say they are not concerned. But we all know pitching is delicate. Injuries, no matter how minor, can be indicative of a larger problem. Will Iwakuma’s finger be right all season? Will Walker develop shoulder problems like so many young arms? With Danny Hultzen already mending and the Mariners with little veteran experience to rely on, need to sign Jimenez or Santana and forget Cruz. The old baseball adage is true, you can never have enough pitching.
The recent signings to minor league contracts of 37 year old lefty Randy Wolf who missed last season with elbow surgery and 31 one year old Zach minor, also with elbow issues, is not the answer. The Mariners signed of slew of sore armed pitchers trying for a comeback. Signing a veteran with no health issues is an answer.
Spring training has arrived as pitchers and catchers are reporting for the annual boot camp of stretching and playing golf. Whether you have baseball fever or not, my eBook “Loonies in the Dugout” based on the true story of the 1911 New York Giants and Charlie Faust, a satire of fame and celebrity, as well as a not so coming of age story will be on sale for 99 cents through 8 AM Monday. Here is the start of chapter one:
I did not hear he died until years after the fact and when hearing the news I felt surprise because he wasn’t that old, late thirties maybe, though it was hard to tell; then a sadness came over me because I hadn’t kept in contact with him, having left town suddenly without saying goodbye and never came back; then I felt emptiness, but not the emptiness from the loss of a friend, but an emptiness from not really knowing him to begin with. None of us truly knew Charley, though we spent nearly every day with him for three months.
Charley and I stayed in the same hotel, dined together often, saw a couple of moving pictures together, walked the streets of eight major cities, did some shopping together, but I didn’t really know him. Oh, I knew his love for apple pie; I knew about Lulu; I knew a few things he told me about his life, but those things don’t tell you who a person is, or what a person is.
What I can tell is why he showed up when he did, though I must admit on that well recalled day, I thought he had to be joking, or he was crazy, or something else entirely. That is why you couldn’t know Charley; you just couldn’t figure him out, not one bit.
I was playing catch along the first base line with our captain and star second baseman Larry Doyle, or “Laughing Larry” as he is known to be called, though truth be told, he doesn’t laugh much. Since he is a heck of a ballplayer and one of the keys to our success, we don’t care if he ever smiles, let alone laugh.
Larry and I, along with our New York Giant teammates, were in St. Louis, which always seems like Hades this time of the year, the flames frequently flickering in the 90’s.
I hadn’t been a minute on Robison Field, had done nothing strenuous, yet my body inside my wool Giant uniform was soaked with sweat. It was a high sky, deep blue, with not a cloud to be seen; the air, unmoving and clammy, was suffocating my skin. This was one of the days I was glad not to be playing, not that there were many days when I was playing anyway.
I had only thrown the ball to Larry four or five times as we warmed up before our game against the home team Cardinals when I saw it. The sweat rolling from my forehead into my eyes inflicting a salty sting could not prevent me from seeing the dark vision enter the field from the grandstand next to our dugout. I was just about to return my throw to Laughing Larry when I stopped, dried my eyes with my shirt sleeve and looked to see if my eyes were deceiving me.
It first looked to be a black image shimmering in the hot sun coming towards me, but as my eyes adjusted and my brain caught up with my eyes, I realized it was a man. He was a sight. He was dressed in a threadbare black suit and derby hat. He walked with long, loping strides with a little hop caused by a limp and his neck was leaning back, his chin stiffly pointing to his chest which was puffed out a bit due to an arch in the middle of his back. Being from Minnesota, I am familiar with loons and that was what he reminded me of; a loon when he wants to scare off an intruder approaching the nest. If we had been on a pond I think he would have flapped the water with his wings to shoo me away.
He squinted at me and asked in what sounded like a German accent “Are you Mr. McGraw?” He was obviously not a baseball fan. Everyone knows John McGraw, manager of the great New York Giants baseball team. His nickname was “Muggsy,” but no one said it within earshot of Mac. Even if somebody quite innocently said Muggsy to his face, not knowing any better, there would be hell to pay.
Me, nobody knows. I am Chester Lee Koski from Storden, Minnesota. I was quite a ballplayer in the Midwest. They called me “stormin” because I was fast as lightning and had a thundering bat. Unlike Laughing Larry, my nickname reflected who I was. At least it did when I played in the minor leagues. But here in the great National League my bat doesn’t thunder too much as I sit on the bench, only playing when we are way ahead and Mr. McGraw wants to give a regular the rest of the game off.
I told him no, I was not McGraw and turned towards our dugout where Muggsy was standing next to the tall, slender, sports writer from the New York Globe, Sid Mercer. “Mr. McGraw,” I yelled, “this gentleman would like to talk with you.”
Muggsy, standing with mouth open, must have noticed this sight come onto the field, because he had a look on his face like a loon had just sprayed him with water. He nodded to Mercer and they walked over to where we were standing.
“My name is Charles Victor Faust, Mr. McGraw, and I am here because a fortune teller in Wichita, Kansas, a woman of uncommon insight into a mans destiny and whose integrity and honesty is beyond approach told me I was going to be a pitching star and help the New York Giants win the National League pennant. She was right sure about it. She was positive as the sun is hot. So better sign me up and give me a uniform for I am ready today if you need me.”
Faust, who must have been 6’ 3” or so, was squinting down at McGraw with a goofy looking, harmless smile which showed a gap between a couple of teeth and McGraw, who stood all of 5’7”, was looking up at Faust, but not with a smile. McGraw’s nickname should have been “Laughing Johnny.” The Devil was in his eyes.
There was stillness, a disarming quiet during the pause while they eyed each other that drowned out all noise.
In his high pitched, sharp and piercing Irish voice, McGraw asked “What do you mean she was beyond approach? Do you mean beyond reproach?”
“Huh.” The loon looked befuddled.
“You did approach her didn’t you?”
“I did not touch her at all. I was a perfect gentleman.”
“I am sure you were. Do you mean to say she was an honest woman?”
“Absolutely she was.”
“How much did she charge you for this great insight into your future?”
“Mr. McGraw, no price is too high when your future is laid open to you and you can follow your destiny.”
“Give me the ball and your glove Koski,” barked McGraw. He gave Faust my glove, handed him the ball and told him to go the pitching box and get ready to throw. Muggsy went behind home plate and took the catchers glove from our star catcher, Chief Meyers, squatted down, and yelled out to Faust to throw a hard one.
So Mr. Charles Victor Faust, a man of about thirty or thirty-three by my estimate, dressed in his scruffy dark suit and still wearing his derby, stood in the pitchers box and leaned back with his right foot on the rubber, the right knee bent at an angle, his left leg straight, and his arms tight across his chest. Bringing both arms up over his head, his right arm went into a whirlwind motion, going round and round, his left arm pointing straight up to the heavens. His right arm continued whirling and whirling, faster and faster, then he finally brings both arms together while still over his head, leaned forward and with great thoughtfulness stepped stiffly forward with his left foot-I tell you the look on his face reminded me of a hunting dog who just got the scent-and threw the ball straight overhand. Weirdest motion I ever did see.
The ball took as long to get to McGraw as the train does from New York to St. Louis. It bounced in front of the plate, about a foot or so to the left, skipping by McGraw.
“Again!” yelled Muggsy. Meyers picked up the ball which had rolled slowly towards the stands and threw it to Faust. Amazingly, to everyone I am sure, Charley caught the ball.
Well, Charley goes into his loon whirlwind motion and once again let’s loose a pitch so slow you could count the stitches on the ball. He must have thrown about a dozen pitches and to his credit, some of the throws were actually getting close to the plate.
McGraw stood up and yelled at Charley to grab a bat as he wanted so see how he hit. As Faust loped towards home plate, McGraw went to the pitching rubber and called over Laughing Larry, Buck Herzog, our third baseman, Art Fletcher, our short stop, and Fred Merkle our first baseman. I had a feeling something was afoot.
McGraw asked if Charley was ready. He was standing to the right of home plate, the bat on his shoulder. He announced he was ready for action. So McGraw laid one in belt high and down the middle of the plate; a pitch any professional hitter, who standing in the box, would have swatted to the far reaches of the outfield. Charley swung at the ball, his body all twisted like a rung out mop. But he hit the damn ball. It did not reach the outfield though, as the bat just caught a slight piece of the ball and it bounced a couple of times towards McGraw who came in to pick it up.
The bugs-that was what we call baseball enthusiasts who come to the games- always showed up early, sometimes as much as two, three hours, and now they were getting into the fun, yelling for the loon to run and run he did. McGraw waited for Charley to get close to first, then threw the ball past Merkle, who chased it down as Charley slid awkwardly into first, if slide is the correct word. Everybody was yelling for him to run to second, so he got up and started to run. Merkle threw to Doyle who was perched on second. As the disheveled loon came towards the bag, Laughing Larry yelled, “Slide! Slide! Slide!” And Charley did. Well as any loon could slide. He lumbered in and sort of fell sideways rolling over and over, his head tucked into his chest, as he crossed the bag. The ball sailed past Doyle, who yelled, “Run! Run!”
Charley got up and headed towards third as Fletcher got the ball and threw to Herzog. Charley went into his rolling slide, nearly knocking over Buck, who missed the ball. After getting up Charley ran with a loping gait towards the plate, yelling “Yippity, yippity, yip, yap… yuppity, yuppity, yippity” and this time did not roll into home plate, but dove feet first as Meyers jumped out of the way. Charley bounced once, then skidded more than slid, ending up in a sitting position, his legs pinned underneath him like a pretzel. He was short of home plate by three feet.
The bugs were whooping and hollering. When Charley got up, his Sunday suit was not fit for service. The trousers had large holes in both knees, there was a big split through the crotch and his jacket was torn at the seams below both armpits. Merkle brought Charley’s derby, which had flown off in his attempted slide at first. Somehow there was a big dent in the top of the derby which gave Merkle a great laugh.
McGraw and the boys had their fun, the bugs were entertained and Charley was still smiling. It was a nice diversion before we had to play the Cardinals. We needed one. Last month when we were here, Al Bridwell, who was traded to Boston last week for Herzog, got Malaria, and Bugs Raymond, a terrific pitcher when sober, fell off the wagon again. He fell hard enough, that McGraw finally let the wagon continue without Bugs. St. Louis is just not a good town for us.
Standing straight with his chest proudly puffed out, smiling from ear to ear, his face red, his breathing labored, the sweat poring from his face, Charley said, “I know your boys tried hard… to get me out… but my great speed forced them …to hurry their throws… and I would have been safe… but my slide needs some work… but as you can see… from my pitching and my running… I can be used to help win the pennant.”
As Merkle handed Charley his hat, McGraw said, “Not today Mr. Faust.”
“But I have to pitch… the Giants to the pennant. I can do it. It will happen. I know it…. The fortune teller told me. Sign me up. I got to pitch.”
“I got no time to talk business. We have a game to play.”
Charley was silent. He stood in front of McGraw for a moment with a blank look in his eyes. Still smiling, he turned around and walked back towards the stands where he entered the field.
Following Charley on his return to the grandstand was Mercer. Must have thought he was onto a story, although what I could not imagine. But Mercer, with his creative and imaginative mind, can see the hook of a developing story, real or imagined.
As Charley got into the seating area, bugs were shaking his hand, patting him on the back and making quite a fuss over him. I heard later they took up a collection to get him a new suit. I bet Mercer was behind it.
Here is the link to my amazon page for the book: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392151914&sr=1-3
Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariner GM, came to the Mariners with a reputation for wheeling and dealing players, thus the sobriquet Trader Jack. But a closer look indicates he needs a new nickname.
There are 8 players of the top 33 on the Mariner roster who came via trades and only one in 2013 and that was last February when Seattle shipped Shawn Kelley to the Yankees for Abraham Almonte. At the moment, not a big move, though Almonte has a shot to be a starting outfielder this season.
Danny Farquhar came to Seattle in the Ichiro trade in 2012. That was a trade to improve the club by subtraction; publicly to give Ichiro a chance to play for a winner and privately to settle the Mariner clubhouse. Seattle was getting younger, Ichiro was getting older. The only other trade in 2012 came in January when Seattle sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees and received Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. Pineda has not pitched in two years due to arm injuries and Montero proved he was no catcher a and it is questionable whether he will make the 2014 roster.
Justin Smoak and Blake Beavan came to Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade in 2010. Trader Jack and no choice as Lee was not going to resign with Seattle, so that was a forced trade. What Mariner fans got was the opportunity to bitch about Smoak for the last four years. In 2011 Charlie Furbush came to Seattle in the Doug Fister trade and Franklin Gutierrez came to Seattle in a three way trade two months after Trader Jack became the Mariners GM.
Eleven Mariners came through the amateur draft; one in a rule 5 draft; thirteen through free agency. I have only included the 33 players listed on Sports-Reference .com. I included Willie Bloomquist, who signed as free agent this offseason, not through the amateur draft.
The point is he has built the team through the draft and free agency and has not made many trades. Of the eight trades for players currently on the roster, two had to be made, Ichiro and Lee. So he really does not deserve the Trader Jack nickname. The question is what his nickname should be. I am sure former manager Eric Wedge has one or two, but probably not printable.
Maybe I can come up with one during the season. I am, however, taking printable suggestions.
As many of you know the Texas Rangers drafted Seattle Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson in baseballs recent amateur draft. He has no intention of playing baseball and the Rangers have no desire for him to play-not that the Seahawks would allow that anyway. No the Rangers had something different in mind, and Russell said he will report to Rangers spring training and do what they ask. Maybe every year. But has Russell sold out the Seattle Mariners and the city of Seattle in the process?
What the Rangers are asking him to do is based on his reputation as an inspirational leader. They want to bring him to camp and talk to minor leaguers about preparation, about on the field and off the field success. In other words a motivator. This sounds like the beginning of a second career as motivational speaker for Russell, one perfectly apt ,and I wish him well. My thinking is that Russell should have turned Texas down, saying, “The Seattle Mariners are more in need of my services than the Rangers, who have twice gone to the World Series in recent years, who have signed Shin-Soo Choo and traded for Prince Fielder.” Their lineup is loaded, the Rangers minor leaguers stuck on the farm. How can you motivate someone when his path is blocked?
The Mariners have young players in need of help today, not in the future; these youngsters are at the major league level. Where is Russell’s loyalty to his next door neighbor at Safeco Field? Where is Russell’s loyalty to the city of Seattle? Russell is aiding, abetting, and consorting with a division rival, one that pounds Seattle every season. What will he do next, consort with the Oklahoma City Blunder, the team stolen from Seattle by Stern and his Okie buddy? Will the 49′ers ask Wilson to motivate Colin Copperhead?
One can argue, and justifiably so, that the Mariners once again missed a golden opportunity. It would have been great publicity, superb public relations for the Mariners to extend such an invitation, not Texas. Of course that would mean the Mariners would have to cozy up and snuggle with the Seahawks, the number one sports franchise in the city, and that is not the Mariners style. They prefer thinking the Seahawks aren’t really there. Despite Mariner protestations, they did not want the Sonics back in town, for they knew that would drop the baseball team to third most popular. If I counted soccer, which I don’t, they would drop to fourth.
Maybe the Mariners can have a Russell Wilson bobblehead night where is bobble is wearing a Mariner uniform. Oh wait, I forgot, Russell is baseball property of the Texas Rangers. He will get his bobblehead in the Lone Star state. A nice coup for Texas and another missed opportunity for the Mariners. No wonder Texas will battle for the West title and the M’s will strive to stay out of the cellar.