Triple Crown Watch


It’s getting awfully close to the end of the season. As the Generals get ready to take on the Biloxi Shuckers Friday night, there are just 25 games left before the playoffs. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good time to put Tyler O’Neill’s fantastic 2016 in context.

As of now, the Canadian slugger leads the Southern League in two of three Triple Crown categories: his .305 average and 86 RBI. His 20 home runs are just one shy of Daniel Palka for the league lead, but Palka has been in Triple-A for more than a month.

So O’Neill has a pretty good shot to win the Southern League Triple Crown, a feat that has only been accomplished once in the circuit’s history. Mike Reinbach of the 1972 Asheville Orioles is the only hitter to do it. That was also the first year the Southern League had two divisions, to show how far back that was.

Lets take a look at where Tyler O’Neill stands right now in the context of the Southern League and in franchise history. He is slated to set some team records, dating back to the Diamond Jaxx move to Jackson in 1998.

Home Runs: O’Neill currently ranks second in the Southern League with 20 long balls. He is one off the league lead, but the aforementioned Daniel Palka is now in Triple-A. O’Neill should pass him. Kevin Cron could mount a challenge, as he currently is just one behind O’Neill with 19.

The franchise record for home runs is 27, set by Mike Wilson in 2008. That is certainly within shouting distance should O’Neill get hot over this final month.

Runs Batted In: This is where Tyler has the safest lead in. Currently, O’Neill has 86 RBI and is 10 clear of Mississippi’s Dustin Peterson. Kevin Cron has 72. So long as O’Neill keeps playing consistently and the men in front of him keep getting on.

This is also O’Neill’s best shot at breaking a franchise record. With 25 games left to play, he already ranks third. Alex Liddi is second all-time with 92 in 2010 and Julio Zuleta holds the top spot with 97 in 1999. A couple big games, and O’Neill would find himself atop all alone.

Average: O’Neill has benefited from some guys no longer being eligible to qualify for the batting title. Right now, he’s the only hitter with enough at-bats hitting above .300. Through 107 games, he is batting .305. That’s impressive on it’s own, but more so when you consider he hit .260 last year in the California League.

He probably won’t set the franchise record in this department. Ezequiel Carrera, currently with Toronto, hit .337 for the Diamond Jaxx in 2009. O’Neill could crack the top five, as Micah Hoffpauir’s .306 mark in 2004 ranks fourth and Ryan Theriot is fifth with a .304 average in 2005.

Assuming Tyler at least stays within shouting distance of the league lead in all three Triple Crown categories, he has a fantastic shot at winning the league’s MVP award. I can’t imagine someone else winning the award, as O’Neill has put up the best numbers in the circuit while playing for the best team. The only MVP winner in team history is Richard Lewis in 2004.

Speaking of records, the team has an awfully good shot to have the best season in franchise history. The Generals have 73 wins with 25 games left to play. The Mariners-era record is 79 in 2012, and the all-time record is 84 wins for the 1999 West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.

So, the takeaways here are that Tyler O’Neill is awesome and so is the 2016 Generals team as a whole. Here’s to them keeping it up.


Throwing Up Zeroes


Hey, everyone! Hope all is well. Been awhile, but the good news is that things have been going swimmingly in Jackson Generals-land. The team is about to wrap up a ten-game road trip having already won seven of nine. The team is a somewhat unfathomable 15-4 against second-place Montgomery including 9-1 in Alabama’s capital. Jackson is now atop the Second Half North Division standings by 2.5 games.

Pitching has powered this recent hot stretch from the Generals. For the first time since 2013, the team has thrown back-to-back nine-inning shutouts. Tuesday night, it was Andrew Moore going the distance on just 97 pitches. It was the first nine-inning complete game for a General since June of 2012.

And this was on the heels of a superb outing in Jacksonville in which Moore took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. I talked to Moore about his recent effectiveness and more (get it?) in a recent pregame interview.

Not to be outdone, Ryan Yarbrough followed on Saturday with a gem of his own. The tall southpaw allowed just one hit in six scoreless frames, retiring the last 11 men he faced in order.

Yarbrough has thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings and the Generals have kept Montgomery without a run in 21-straight innings going into Thursday night’s series finale. A win and the Generals would earn their second sweep of the season.

Remember that Edwin Diaz guy? Yeah, the one who made ten whole relief appearances in Double-A before being promoted straight to Seattle. I’d say things are going alright for him.

Yeah, he is striking guys out a rate not seen since the turn of the last century. I know there was some concern with the Mariners taking their best pitching prospect and putting him in the bullpen, but it looks as though the decision has paid off. Guys with an electric fastball and a wipeout slider don’t grow on trees, and bullpens have become increasingly important in the modern game.

He was once just our Edwin Diaz, but now it appears he is the world’s Edwin Diaz. The national media is taking notice, and with good reason. On Tuesday, all he did was strike out the side against the Red Sox to earn his first big league save.

The first of many, I would assume as he is now Seattle’s closer at just 22 years of age. What’s still surreal to me is we are barely two months removed from his first (and only) save in the minors May 26 in Montgomery. He made a grand total of 10 relief outings with the Generals before making Major League hitters look absolutely clueless at the plate.

Gary Hill of Mariners radio was nice enough to have me on the team’s official podcast Thursday. I talked about Diaz and more if you have the time to listen. I’m on for the last 10 minutes or so here.

Also on Tuesday, Guillermo Heredia got his first MLB hit as part of Seattle’s big eighth-inning comeback. I’d say he was excited.

That’s a great photo, but it will never supplant him during Jackson’s First Half Championship celebration in my eyes.

Guillermo Celebration

Miss you, Guillermo.

Honoring The Kid

Griffey HoF

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday. Griffey became the first player ever to go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariners. While he never played for the Generals, it’s only fitting that we do our part to honor one of the best to ever play the game.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch his speech, I highly encourage you to do it now. Might want to have some tissues nearby.

Griffey was everything to me growing up. He played the game with exuberance and with a swagger that made baseball look so fun. He wore his cap backwards. He had a gorgeous swing that resulted in 630 home runs. He played the bad guy in one of the most underrated baseball movies of all time. I used to wake up my dad playing his Nintendo 64 game early in the morning.

The Kid had a profound impact on all of baseball, but especially the sport in the Pacific Northwest. He was a critical part of the 1995 team that “saved” baseball in Seattle. His best years came with the Mariners. As such, the team took the unprecedented step to retire his number 24 throughout the organization. No Mariner at any level can wear that jersey, and that includes the Generals. Fun fact: reliever Brian Moran was the last Jackson player to sport 24.

Anyways, I had a chance to speak with manager Daren Brown about a number of subjects Sunday. We talked about Griffey, his experience managing Ichiro with the Mariners in 2010, Andy McKay, the development of Dan Altavilla as a reliever and more.

The Generals just got to Jacksonville, where the team will kick off a ten-game road trip Tuesday night. There’s not much fun in a 12-hour bus ride, but this is certainly one of the better road trips in the league. I’m certainly enjoying the view.

Mr. Mariner and Mr. O’Neill


One of the perks of my job is getting to meet some of the roving coordinators that make their way from one affiliate to another throughout the season. Alvin Davis is someone I always look forward to seeing with the Generals. Mr. Mariner is in his fifth year as a roving instructor in the organization. In addition to his wealth of baseball knowledge and experience, he is extremely gracious with his time and open.

Seattle is fortunate to have an ambassador like him. Davis is one of the franchise’s icons, having spent almost his entire playing career with the Mariners. He was the 1984 American League Rookie of the Year and is still all over the franchise leaderboard.

Davis served as the team’s hitting coach while Jackson was taking on the Mississippi Braves July 14 to the 18, and he was nice enough to sit down with me for more than ten minutes. We talked about the success of this years Generals, the new front office in Seattle, Tyler O’Neill and more.

Speaking of Tyler O’Neill, he has been getting a lot of attention since playing in the Futures Game earlier in July. For those who don’t know, the 21-year-old is from Canada and he is quite proud of that. He did an interview with the TSN Radio affiliate in Vancouver after playing in San Diego, which you can listen to below.

Tyler is finally getting the recognition he deserves among the top prospects in baseball. Baseball America had him as Seattle’s top farmhand and the 45th best overall in their midseason rankings.

After an off day on Tuesday, the Generals return home to face a very talented Chattanooga squad in what could be a playoff preview. In addition to great baseball, there are fireworks, Pokémon GO and so much more. Hope to see all the locals out for a game or two.


Brothers and BBQ


Another eventful week for the Generals! The team just wrapped up a big homestand, that included three crowds of more than 3,000 and a pair of Independence Day fireworks shows. The Generals played host to the Mississippi Braves for five games, which only added to the hoopla. Last year’s number one overall pick and former Vanderbilt standout Dansby Swanson was in town, and the Braves had just sent another top prospect in Ozzie Albies back to Mississippi.

You can read about those guys in a lot of other places, but the Mississippi prospect that intrigues me the most is Dustin Peterson, younger brother of D.J. Peterson. The whole Peterson clan was in town hoping to watch the brothers square off, only for D.J. to get promoted to Triple-A just before the series started. D.J. more than deserved the promotion after hitting .326 with six homers and eight doubles in June, and he has continued raking in Tacoma.

Dustin is a pretty good prospect in his own right, and he has consistently been at his best against his brother’s now former team. In 10 games, he has hit .366 with 13 RBI versus the Generals. I got the chance to talk to him about his brother, the Peterson family and more while the Braves were in West Tennessee.

In other news, the dudes behind the best Twitter account in baseball paid us a visit July 3. Jake and Jordan of @CespedesBBQ continued their cross-country road trip with a stop in Jackson for the series finale against the Braves. They talked to Tyler O’Neill and a bunch of Braves prospects. You can see their whole post here, but please do watch the “Haters Gonna Say It’s Fake” video they made with Tyler and Andrew Moore. And also our chicken suit.

If you’re not already following them on Twitter, what’s wrong with you? They even joined me on the broadcast and we saw the #BBQBump in action. Teams and prospects that they have visited with all seem to do well after they come to town. Sunday was no different. In his Mariners’ organizational debut, Adam Law hit an inside-the-park home run. It was the first homer of his pro career.

That was fun! Hopefully, the Generals can keep doing cool things in the Second Half!

D.J. Peterson Heating Up


We’re back to playing baseball! After three days off for the All-Star Break, the Generals are back at it. The team started the Second Half in Chattanooga, dropping three of five. It’s only the fourth time that the team has lost a series this season.

One of the bright spots was D.J. Peterson, who is having himself quite a season. In five games against the Lookouts, D.J. went 9-for-18 with a pair of home runs and seven RBI. That continues a stellar month of June for Peterson. Coming into the team’s series against Mississippi, Peterson is hitting .326 over 24 June games with six home runs, eight doubles, 16 RBI and a 1.005 OPS. Overall, D.J. finds himself just two shy of Tyler O’Neill for the team lead with 11 home runs.

There were questions about D.J. after he struggled in 2015 with the Generals. The 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft hit just .223 in 92 games. All of a sudden, he wasn’t a top prospect. 2016 would be his third-straight year with Jackson. In a way, it was make-or-break. Peterson has shown that he is more than capable of being the guy everyone thought he’d be.

I had the chance to speak with him about his resurgence in 2016, playing in the same league as his younger brother Dustin and more recently for our pregame show.

Jim Pankovits was in town for the team’s last series in Chattanooga. The new front office in Seattle is giving each staff member the chance to take a series off this season, so manager Daren Brown was able to to spend some time with his family in Texas. Pankovits served as the hitting coach while Roy Howell reprised his role as manager.

Pank was at the helm in 2012, the best team Jackson had seen as a Mariners’ affiliate before this year. That team had 16 future major leaguers and made it all the way to the Southern League championship series. I spoke with him about that team, the new front office and what he likes so much about the 2016 squad in West Tennessee.

In other news, rosters for the 2016 Futures Game were released today. Pitcher Dylan Unsworth and outfielder Tyler O’Neill will both play for the World Team Sunday, July 10 in San Diego. The game, which is part MLB’s All-Star festivities, will be televised nationally via the MLB Network.

Great honor for both. No surprise that O’Neill will be participating. I’m very happy for Unsworth. Has dominated when healthy this year, and he has found new life with the new front office. The guy just attacks hitters, and that has put him in this position.

Generals kick off a big series starting Wednesday against Dansby Swanson and the Mississippi Braves. There are fireworks both Saturday and Sunday night for Independence Day in addition to a Kids’ Camp and a Dollar Night on Thursday!

By the Numbers


The First Half of the season is over, and what a 70 games it was for the Jackson Generals. The team clinched a playoff berth with eight games left to play, and then proceeded to make a little bit of history. Lets run down what this team was able to accomplish by the numbers.

46: The number of wins the Generals finished with in the First Half, a franchise record. The West Tenn Diamond Jaxx won 45 games in the Second Half of the 1999 and 2000 seasons. It is not technically the best half in franchise history as 46-24 amounts to a .657 win percentage while the 2000 squad went 45-33 in 68 games (.662). The all-time record for wins in a season is 84, also held by that 2000 squad which has the only Southern League Championship in franchise history.

A couple other notes: The Generals were the first team to win 46 games in a half since Huntsville in 2014. The last time a team won more than 46 in a half in the league was 2009. Birmingham won 48 in the First Half and Jacksonville won 47 in the Second Half.

25: The number of home wins for the Generals in the First Half alone. The team is a league-best 25-8 at their home yard in Jackson. This is all the more remarkable considering the fact that the team won just 23 games at home all season long in 2015. They did this despite losing a pair of home games. Hopefully, the team will get 35 in West Tennessee after the break.

30: The number of quality starts thrown by the pitching staff in 70 games. That’s crazy. The team got at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer in almost half of hte games they played in.

The numbers comparing this year’s team to last are staggering. The Generals finished the First Half only seven wins shy of the 2015 total. Last year, the team had 29 total quality starts. In 138 games. This year’s team surpassed that in 70 contests.

9: The number of games the Generals won in a row from May 26 to June 3 and the number of shutout wins the team has. We’ll start with the winning streak because that was pivotal. All nine games were on the road and it took the Generals from 2.5 games up in the division to a nine-game advantage. They wound up winning the North by 10 games. It was the longest winning streak for the team since becoming the Generals in 2011. In 2010, the Diamond Jaxx won 10 in a row.

The Generals lead the league with nine shutout victories and they’ve only been shut out once, which is the fewest among teams in the league. That one loss was in a seven-inning game to boot. This is after a year in which the team was 10-21 in shutouts.

176: The number of walks allowed by Generals’ pitchers this year, by far the fewest in the Southern League. Chattanooga, which ranks second, has issued 200 free passes. Control the Zone has been the mantra throughout the Mariners organization this season, and Jackson has certainly taken to it. The team ranks among the top three in walks and strikeouts for both hitters and pitchers.

After Tuesday night’s All-Star game, the Generals are back at it for the Second Half. Things get started Thursday in Chattanooga before the team returns home the following week for a series against Dansby Swanson and the Mississippi Braves.

Here’s to a Second Half that matches, or at least comes close to matching, a historic First Half of 2016 for the Generals.