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June 12, 2012

Western Front

A Brief History of the Vedder Cup

by Geoff Young

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When Major League Baseball introduced interleague play in 1997, Bud Selig decreed that certain teams would be “natural rivals.” One such “rivalry” pits the San Diego Padres against the Seattle Mariners, presumably because they share a spring training facility in Peoria, Ariz.

Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder has called San Diego and Seattle home at various points in his life, ergo the series is played for a “Vedder Cup” that doesn't actually exist, which is fine because Vedder is a Cubs fan. Much like the “rivalry” itself, none of this makes any sense.

Intrigued? As we brace for another meeting between these bitter enemies, let's take a closer look.

Before the Beginning
Baseball has been a part of San Diego and Seattle for a long time. I've mentioned the San Diego Bears that played in the Class D Southern California League in 1913 before that league folded on July 23 of its inaugural campaign. The city's next team, the Aces, appeared in the Class D California State League in 1929; alas, that league didn't make it past June 17. (Both San Diego teams had been in first place by a wide margin at the time the leagues disbanded, which could lead conspiracy theorists to wonder...)

Seattle started earlier, in 1890, with the Hustlers of the Pacific Northwest League. Stars from that franchise included Billy Earle, a catcher and hypnotist of ladies; San Francisco native Bill Lange; and Portland's Tom Parrott. Several other Seattle teams (with charming names such as the Yannigans, Clamdiggers, Siwashes, Chinooks, and Turks) flitted into and out of existence in different leagues until 1919, when the Rainiers joined the Pacific Coast League.

The Rainiers would exist until 1969 (called the Indians from 1922 to 1937, and the Angels from 1965 to 1968), when the expansion Pilots joined the American League. San Diego, meanwhile, welcomed the Padres to the PCL in 1936. Featuring future Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams (a product of San Diego's Hoover High School), the Padres established themselves as an immediate force.

San Diego won 95 games in its inaugural season, with Seattle winning 93. Alas, both teams lost in the first round of the playoffs, the first of many near-misses that doubtless contributed to the enmity between the two cities concocted by Selig 60 years later... but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

In 1955, Fred Hutchinson's Rainiers and Bob Elliott's Padres finished first and second in the PCL. This was the season the league stopped having playoffs (through 1962), so fans in both cities again were denied the opportunity to see what these two rivals could do against each other.

Seattle's Elmer Singleton no-hit the Padres on July 24, 1955. Thirteen years earlier, on April 12, 1942, Seattle's Harold Turpa did the same. The Padres have never no-hit a team from Seattle.

Since joining the National League in 1969, they haven't no-hit a team from anywhere.

A Rivalry is Born
When Selig introduced interleague play, he created several “natural rivalries” designed to generate interest among fans. Some of these were easy to determine by geographical proximity. Thanks to Selig's relocation of the Expos to Washington, D.C., the current list of rivalries isn't exactly as it was when he initiated his plan. Here is what we have now:

Rivalry

Distance between Stadiums, in miles

Car*

Crow*

Cubs vs. White Sox

11

8

Reds vs. Indians

249

223

Dodgers vs. Angels

32

28

Yankees vs. Mets

10

7

Giants vs. A's

16

11

Cardinals vs. Royals

242

233

Twins vs. Brewers

335

297

Astros vs. Rangers

258

230

Marlins vs. Rays

253

203

Orioles vs. Nationals

38

35

Padres vs. Mariners

1,257

1,029

*A note on distances: Car was determined by plugging stadium addresses into Google Maps and finding the shortest route. Crow was determined by plugging latitude and longitude (from Wikipedia) into a handy online tool that is like magic, only cooler. How accurate are these? Accurate enough.

A particularly bad punster might see the savings in distance for a crow in traveling from San Diego to Seattle and note that the series—with all due respect to the Cardinals and the Orioles—is for the birds. But we won’t do that because it is a particularly bad pun.

Of course, both teams train at the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona, so you can imagine the animosity that must arise between players and fans alike. Spring training is crazy like that. With the lease on PSC running through 2034, things could get nasty.

Even still, with the Padres and Mariners, the issue is less one of geography and more one of culture. Some may disagree with the specifics, but here is how I see the two cities:

Category

San Diego

Seattle

Beer

x

 

Coffee

 

x

Sunshine

x

 

Flannel

 

x

Carnitas

x

 

Sushi

 

x

Steve Poltz

x

 

Bill Frisell

 

x

Balboa Park

x

 

Pike Place Market

 

x

I-5

x

x

As we see, each place has its advantages and disadvantages. Both share I-5, which surely must be another sore point. And Eddie Vedder, but again, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The Games
Headed into 2012, the Mariners lead the series, 44-36. Neither team has swept the season series, with the most lopsided results favoring Seattle. The Mariners won 5 out of 6 games in 2006, 2008, and 2011. San Diego won two of the first four Vedder Cups (with the other two resulting in ties). The series remained close for a while, but Seattle has pulled away in recent years:

Years

SD

Sea

1997-2005

25

19

2006-2011

11

25

This trend of the past six years has been as much a source of embarrassment to San Diegans as it has been one of pride to Seattleites, which is to say none whatsoever. That being said, last season’s performance by the Padres was miserable, as they were outscored in six games, 23 to 4.

There have been notable games in the rivalry. Arguably the most exciting (well, the one with the highest WPA for either team—0.864 for the Padres) came on the afternoon of Sunday, June 17, 2001, at Qualcomm Stadium. This is the year the Mariners won 116 games and were so good that Paul Abbott of the 43 career wins notched 17 all by himself.

This contest pitted Seattle’s Aaron Sele against San Diego’s Woody Williams. Trailing 1-0, the Mariners scored two runs in the top of the third on an Ichiro Suzuki single and a Mark McLemore groundout. The Padres answered with two runs of their own on singles by Phil Nevin and the late Mike Darr.

A three-run homer to right-center by Ryan Klesko in the fourth extended the home team’s lead to 6-2. But again the visitors had an answer in Mike Cameron, who launched a three-run blast off Williams in the sixth.

Home runs by Nevin and Bubba Trammell against reliever Ryan Franklin in the home half gave the Padres another four-run lead, but it would be short-lived. After retiring Dan Wilson to start the seventh inning, Williams walked pinch-hitter Stan Javier. Enter Jay Witasick, who allowed a single to Suzuki and walked McLemore to load the bases. A Bret Boone groundout plated Javier, making the score 9-6. The next batter was John Olerud—a Padres killer, as we will see later (he hit for the cycle the night before, including a mammoth 464-foot homer to right)—who turned a full-count pitch from Witasick into a game-tying three-run homer.

An inning later, with righty slayer Jeff Nelson on the mound (they hit .119/.284/.189 against him that year and .203/.306/.291 for his career), Trammell slammed a two-out, two-run homer to give the Padres an 11-9 lead. After squandering an opportunity to score additional runs, the Padres summoned Trevor Hoffman to preserve the victory.

Seattle wasn’t prepared to go quietly, however. With runners at the corners and one out, Hoffman got Olerud to pop to third base and fanned Edgar Martinez to end the game. The win improved the Padres’ record to 31-38, while the loss dropped the Mariners to 52-15.

The Players
There have been some fine individual performances as well. The best single game for a hitter belongs to Seattle’s Mike Sweeney (don’t worry, you’re not alone in forgetting that he played for the Mariners), who went 4-for-5 with two homers in a 15-8 victory on May 21, 2010. Others to homer twice in a Vedder Cup contest are Steve Finley, Ken Griffey Jr., Franklin Gutierrez, Raul Ibañez, Damian Jackson (yes, that Damian Jackson), Kenji Johjima (who did it in the same game as Ibañez), John Olerud, Richie Sexson, and Bubba Trammell.

At a career level, Ichiro Suzuki has amassed more than twice as many plate appearances as the next two participants combined, while Olerud’s bat has dominated the series. The list of top 10 hitters for each team against the other, in terms of plate appearances, illuminates the problems San Diego has had against Seattle:

Top 10 Padres vs. Mariners by PA

Player

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

Ryan Klesko

125

.217

.328

.311

Adrian Gonzalez

125

.286

.352

.491

Brian Giles

108

.226

.327

.301

Khalil Greene

106

.220

.255

.430

Phil Nevin

97

.284

.396

.457

Chase Headley

83

.256

.289

.423

Kevin Kouzmanoff

73

.299

.356

.493

Mark Kotsay

61

.241

.328

.333

Ruben Rivera

56

.167

.286

.333

David Eckstein

55

.358

.358

.434

Top 10 total

889

.254

.327

.403

And the flip side:

Top 10 Mariners vs. Padres by PA

Player

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

Ichiro Suzuki

280

.341

.384

.425

Adrian Beltre

127

.275

.307

.467

Jose Lopez

119

.273

.314

.382

Raul Ibañez

116

.274

.336

.509

John Olerud

105

.329

.438

.671

Bret Boone

104

.270

.298

.440

Edgar Martinez

93

.345

.409

.619

Dan Wilson

90

.259

.307

.346

Ken Griffey Jr.

89

.306

.427

.597

Richie Sexson

86

.295

.360

.615

Top 10 total

1,209

.302

.359

.487

If we juxtapose the totals of hitters from each team who have batted most against the other, the issue becomes clear:

Player

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

SD vs Sea

889

.254

.327

.403

Sea vs SD

1,209

.302

.359

.487

This is roughly the difference between Willie Montañez and Jay Buhner.

On the pitching side, the performance gap has been less severe.

Top 10 Padres vs Mariners by IP

Player

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

Jake Peavy

40.2

1.99

0.93

7.3

Woody Williams

30.1

4.45

1.35

6.5

Chris Young

25.1

3.91

1.26

6.4

Trevor Hoffman

23.1

1.16

1.07

9.6

Andy Ashby

22.2

1.59

1.10

9.1

Sterling Hitchcock

20.2

3.05

1.40

7.4

Clayton Richard

19.0

2.84

1.26

5.7

Mat Latos

18.0

4.00

1.22

7.0

Brian Lawrence

17.1

3.63

1.10

4.7

Bobby Jones

17.0

4.76

1.65

3.7

Top 10 total

234.1

3.03

1.21

6.9

And the flip side:

Top 10 Mariners vs. Padres by IP

Player

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

Freddy Garcia

58.2

1.99

1.02

7.2

Felix Hernandez

55.2

3.07

1.11

9.4

Jamie Moyer

41.2

3.31

1.08

6.4

Jeff Fassero

34.2

4.15

1.44

7.5

Gil Meche

31.1

2.87

1.21

8.0

Joel Piñeiro

26.2

4.05

0.94

6.8

Ryan Franklin

24.0

5.62

1.17

6.4

Miguel Batista

23.1

5.01

1.50

4.6

Aaron Sele

22.0

7.36

1.64

5.7

Erik Bedard

21.2

1.25

0.78

9.1

Top 10 total

349.2

3.55

1.16

7.3

The Padres have a slightly better ERA but a slightly worse WHIP and K/9. Also, as with the hitters, there is a large discrepancy in playing time among the top 10 for each team. The Padres' top 10 average about 23 innings against their rivals, while the Mariners' average about 35. In other words, the Mariners have enjoyed greater stability than the Padres during the Vedder Cup era. Note also that, like everything else about this rivalry, the innings cutoffs are arbitrary.

How about turncoats? Which players spent time with both the Padres and the Mariners? There have been 76 such players in history, from Eliezer Alfonzo to Josh Wilson. If we limit ourselves to hitters who have played at least 80 games for each team and pitchers who have played at least 30, we get two lists of 10 (with apologies to Andy Sheets and Brian Sweeney, who miss by one game):

Hitters with At Least 80 Games Each for Padres and Mariners

Player

Games

SD

Sea

Bret Boone

127

803

Russell Branyan

88

173

Mike Cameron

292

610

Joey Cora

140

544

Ben Davis

258

174

Dave Hansen

139

117

Rickey Henderson

359

92

Ruppert Jones

354

451

Tom Lampkin

177

191

Rick Sweet

88

181

Pitchers with At Least 30 Games Each for Padres and Mariners

Player

Games

SD

Sea

Larry Andersen

72

81

Keith Comstock

33

92

Rich Gossage

197

36

Gene Harris

86

51

Sterling Hitchcock

122

35

Bill Laxton

48

43

Gaylord Perry

69

48

Dave Roberts

102

37

Scott Sanders

118

33

Brett Tomko

45

43

Is this knowledge worth having? Well, if you're going to ask that, you might as well ask whether this is a rivalry worth having. Eliminate such thoughts from your mind; they help no one.

Can’t Find a Vedder, Man

Why the Vedder Cup? Let's hear it from the man who coined the term:

It was in San Diego that Eddie Vedder formed Bad Radio and it was in San Diego that Eddie Vedder was approached by Jack Irons to write songs for a three song instrumental demo for a band in Seattle, then known as Mookie Blaylock.

Sure, why not.

Dan Hayes of the North County Times offers additional details:

So which aspect of Vedder's life was more important? His upbringing in San Diego or the move to Seattle?

Hence the birth of the Vedder Cup.

Since nobody is going to ask Vedder to choose one city over the other, nor does anyone actually care to, except for those of us with far too much time on our hands, the Padres and Mariners will unofficially do it for him.

Every season, at least for the time being, the Padres and Mariners will meet six times. Whichever team wins the series (Seattle won it handily in 2011) gets claiming rights to Eddie Vedder for the next year. If the two teams tie the following year, similar to the Ryder Cup, the title stays with the previous season's winner.

Sure, the players don't know about it. Bud Black doesn't know about it. Eric Wedge doesn't care.

But the fans do. So even though they're unaware of it, the Padres and Mariners do have something important to play for.

Why we get a certain reputation on the West Coast remains beyond my comprehension. This all seems perfectly reasonable to me, but I've lived here all my life, so my frame of reference is skewed.

Vedder, as I previously mentioned, is a Cubs fan. He has written a song about them and thrown out the first pitch at Wrigley Field. Vedder's indifference to both teams and the non-existent trophy named in his honor is as good an endorsement of the Padres/Mariners rivalry as any.

Now you know what Bud Selig and a few sad souls in San Diego and Seattle know. And as a reminder that knowledge doesn't always equal power, like the rest of us, you probably don't care. Which is cool, because Eddie wouldn't want it any other way.

12 comments have been left for this article.

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