John Stearns, a former New York Mets star and the Tacoma Rainiers manager in 2013, passed away today at age 71.
Stearns was the Seattle Mariners roving catching instructor when Rainiers skipper Daren Brown was suddenly promoted to the major league coaching staff in May of 2013. Stearns had prior minor league managerial experience, so he was tabbed to manage Tacoma for the remainder of the season. He went 59-58 over the final 117 games of the season.
Always entertaining, Stearns was full of energy and was constantly telling stories from his playing days – stories that may or may not have been true, but like any good storyteller factuality wasn’t always a priority.
That was a memorable season. My co-workers and I still exchange stories from that year, and Stearns was at the center of them all. We wish nothing but the best to his family.
Man, Stearnsy would have flipped his lid in the ninth inning of last night’s Rainiers loss at Las Vegas, when we had an ump show the likes of which we have not seen this year.
Tacoma trailed 7-5 going to the top of the ninth, and needed a rally. Las Vegas brought in reliever Sam Selman to close, and the Rainiers had Jonathan Villar leading off.
Selman went through his normal routine, jogging in from the bullpen and throwing his warm-up pitches, with the timer winding down as it always does during pitching changes. Villar, meanwhile, was getting ready to hit as usual.
Home plate umpire Robert Nunez decided that it was his time to shine. He called a pitch clock violation, and there was some question as to whether the violation was on Selman not being ready or Villar not being in the batter’s box. He decided on Villar, who was given strike one.
This was an example of the type of call that shouldn’t be made in the ninth. The game was not being delayed – if Villar wasn’t exactly in the box, he was in the process of stepping in. Just let them play.
Villar’s at-bat ended with an infield pop-up, and he was very frustrated by the whole situation.
Our man in blue Nunez wasn’t done. In fact, he was just warming up.
Marcus Wilson was up next, and he had a good plate appearance, eventually working his way to a full count. With a big pitch coming up, Selman took a moment too long before going into his motion – and Nunez called another pitch clock violation, awarding ball four to Wilson, and once again showing no feel for the game.
That one benefitted Tacoma, as Cade Marlowe came to the plate representing the tying run with one out.
Marlowe got two strikes, and on the next pitch Wilson took off for second base. Marlowe swung and missed for strike three, and his momentum from his swing caused him to lunge out over the plate. The catcher threw down to second base, way offline, and Nunez called batter’s interference on Marlowe, which results in the runner Wilson being called out. The game ended on a strike-’em-out, batter’s interference double play. Gross.
Nunez heard about it, for sure. Las Vegas manager Fran Riordan got in his face after the full count pitch clock violation walk, and then Tim Federowicz was up and at him after the interference call.
The pitch clock has been a wonderful development improving our sport, by bringing a good pace back to it and making the games far more entertaining to watch. However, there must be some leniency before handing out violations in late-and-close situations. Neither of the violations last night were egregious, and both should have been ignored.
YESTERDAY: Tacoma lost in Las Vegas on Thursday night, 7-5. The Rainiers made a season-high five errors – a real surprise for the team with the fewest errors of all 30 Triple-A teams. In addition, the Rainiers ran into three outs on the bases – it was not the best day for our squad. Jarred Kelenic hit two home runs and a double, and Jonthan Villar and Marcus Wilson each hit solo homers.
TODAY: Tacoma Rainiers (66-72) at Las Vegas Aviators (68-70), 7:05.
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Oakland A’s.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Fran Riordan
SEASON SERIES: Las Vegas leads, 13-8.
PITCHERS: LHP Roenis Elias (2-2, 4.99) at RHP Miguel Romero (2-1, 7.49)
ROSTER MOVES: There was one additional move last night before the game, when pitcher Chris Mazza was activated from the injured list. Today the Rainiers will have Mariners utilityman Dylan Moore on a rehabilitation assignment.
HOT HITTERS: Mason McCoy has reached base safely in 20 of his last 21 games… Jonathan Villar has homered three times and driven in nine runs during a seven-game hitting streak… Jarred Kelenic has an eight-game hitting streak… Marcus Wilson has hit safely in five straight, as has Forrest Wall has hit in four straight.
OPPONENT NEWS: Las Vegas returns home from a 12-game road trip. It started in Reno, where the Aviators missed an opportunity to gain in the standings by losing four of six. They rebounded by going 4-2 at Sacramento… the Aviators don’t currently have any former Rainiers players, but they do still have the Lake Tapps native and Charles Wright Academy alum Nate Mondou… Kevin Smith had his nine-game hitting streak end last night… 22-year-old Jordan Diaz was recently promoted to Triple-A and he looks like a good hitting prospect.
BROADCAST: All games will be broadcast free on a live audio stream which is available right here.
Unfortunately, there is no traditional terrestrial radio station carrying the games at this time.
PCL SCOREBOARD: Follow all league games in real-time with links to broadcasts and Gameday screens right here.