Last week was Awards Week in the minor leagues, and the Tacoma Rainiers were well compensated with trophies following their championship season.
Jose Marmolejos crossed off two long-standing droughts in the Tacoma record book by winning both the league MVP award and the Batting Title.
Marmolejos was voted the league MVP, becoming just the second player in the 61 seasons of Triple-A baseball in Tacoma win the award. The last time it happened was 1961, when Dick Phillips of the Tacoma Giants won the award.
The 2021 Tacoma Rainiers and the 1961 Tacoma Giants share a few similarities. Both teams were named league champions in a season without playoffs, and each had the league MVP on the club. While the 1961 Giants are still clearly the best team in Tacoma’s history with their 97-57 record and .630 winning percentage, sixty years later this season’s Tacoma squad posted the second-best winning percentage (.600, 78-52) in franchise history.
With his .338 batting average, Marmolejos became the second Tacoma player to ever lead the league in hitting. Marmolejos joined Troy Neel of the 1992 Tacoma Tigers as our only two batting champions. The fact that the league is full of high-elevation hitter’s parks and Tacoma plays half of its games at pitcher-friendly Cheney Stadium has made the the batting title very difficult to win. For contrast, Tacoma has had 14 pitchers lead the league in ERA since 1960.
Another major award announced last week was Kristopher Negron winning the Triple-A West Manager of the Year. He became the first Tacoma manager to win it since Dan Rohn in 2005 – Rohn actually won the award three times in a five-year span, taking it in 2001 and 2004 as well.
Managing for the first time in his career, Negron was immediately thrown into the fire on opening day in May when he had to hold the club together without having a starting rotation. He and pitching coach Rob Marcello negotiated over six weeks of three and sometimes four ‘bullpen games’ each week before a full starting rotation was signed.
Negron kept the team hovering around the .500 mark until the starting rotation situation was resolved, and once it was… it was all over. Tacoma went 50-28 after July 6, and won 18 of 21 games in the final surge to clinch the regular season championship on September 18.
The league also announced a post-season Triple-A West All-Star Team. Broadcasters were allowed to vote on this, so I had a ballot – position players were required to appear in at least 60 games, and broadcasters were not allowed to vote for a player on their own team. Here are the winners:
|1B||Greg Bird||Albuquerque||COL||.267 AVG, .894 OPS, 27 HR, 91 RBI|
|2B||Michael Stefanic||Salt Lake||LAA||.334 AVG, .913 OPS, 16 HR, 54 RBI|
|SS||C.J. Hinojosa||Sugar Land||HOU||.316 AVG,.831 OPS, 11 HR, 67 RBI|
|3B||Drew Ellis||Reno||ARI||.294 AVG, 1.014 OPS, 20 HR, 73 RBI|
|C||Carlos Pérez||Las Vegas||OAK||.269 AVG,.909 OPS, 31 HR, 89 RBI|
|OF||Jo Adell||Salt Lake||LAA||.289 AVG,.934 OPS, 23 HR, 69 RBI|
|OF||Jake Meyers||Sugar Land||HOU||.343 AVG, 1.006 OPS, 16 HR, 51 RBI|
|OF||Jose Siri||Sugar Land||HOU||.318 AVG, .921 OPS, 16 HR, 72 RBI|
|DH||José Marmolejos||Tacoma||SEA||.338 AVG, 1.111 OPS, 26 HR, 75 RBI|
|RHP||Peter Solomon||Sugar Land||HOU||21 G, 8-1, 4.70 ERA, 112 SO|
|LHP||Daniel Camarena||El Paso||SD||22 G, 6-7, 4.75 ERA, 62 SO|
|Reliever||Ronel Blanco||Sugar Land||HOU||42 G, 5-3, 3.40 ERA, 22 SV|
Peter Solomon won the Pitcher of the Year award, and Jo Adell was voted the league’s Top Prospect.
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About the Tacoma Rainiers
The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The Rainiers are a member of the Triple-A West. Tacoma has been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the Rainiers moniker in 1995.
Questions regarding season tickets can be directed to Tickets@WeRTacoma.com.
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium can be found at WeRTacoma.com, or by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand), Instagram (@tacomarainiers) and liking the team on Facebook.