It’s time for the Mariners to make another call-up.
No, Alex Liddi isn’t ready to replace Chone Figgins. But Liddi is making strides in Tacoma. The big third baseman is hitting .270 with 22 doubles, 13 homers and 45 RBI for the Rainiers with a .340 on-base percentage and .498 slugging percentage.
This call-up, however, involves a friend.
To be honest, Mike Curto is a good friend of mine and also a frequent contributor to this newspaper.
He also happens to be the longtime Rainiers radio play-by-play man. And he deserves a shot at the Mariners radio job. I’m not asking for a permanent position, at least not initially. Just give him a weekend series, maybe two.
He’s earned it.
Those who know the Mariners, know the Rainiers, know baseball in the Puget Sound area, know this to be true.
Curto has paid his dues. He’s been calling baseball games since he graduated from the University of California in 1992.
In 1999, he became the voice of the Rainiers and has been there ever since, with the exception of a six-game cup of coffee as a fill-in announcer for the Montreal Expos in 2003.
That’s nearly 13 seasons, and over 1,800 Triple-A games.
That means he’s called games when Felix Hernandez, Adam Jones, Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley played as top prospects.
But more importantly, he treated the exploits of guys like Juan “Large Human” Thomas, Oswaldo Navarro, Huck Flener and Chris Snopek just as importantly.
He saw Bucky Jacobsen and Chris Snelling play when they were fully healthy. He saw “the Space Needle” Ryan Anderson before he flamed out. He made the call when A.J. Zapp and Shin-Soo Choo hit the only two home runs ever over the center field wall at Cheney Stadium. He watched as Sean Burroughs, Jim Parque and Frankie Rodriguez tried to resurrect their careers and ultimately failed.
Remember, when people talked about Mike Wilson finally making the major leagues after 10 seasons in the minor leagues, well, Curto has been stuck in Triple-A longer and has been more consistent.
The Mariners broadcasts this season have been a little unorthodox because of the tragic and unexpected death of Dave Niehaus.
They are using a rotating group of past play-by-play men to supplement Rick Rizzs. Ken Wilson, Ken Levine and Ron Fairly – all men who worked with Niehaus – have taken turns at the mic.
They are fine men and solid announcers. Wilson has a voice that sounds like it was ripped from a practice tape at the Columbia School of Broadcasting. The tone, the rhythm and cadence are perfect.
Levine has a great sense of humor. He wrote for “Cheers” and “The Simpsons,” and it comes through on the broadcasts. He has fun.
Fairly’s voice is a warm reminder of a time not long ago when the Mariners were one of the best teams in baseball.
All three have been solid. They put in the work. They try to learn as much about the team as they can.
And yet, they don’t know as much about the current team as Curto.
Think about Seattle’s roster, and how many of the players passed through Tacoma under Curto’s call.
Ackley, Mike Carp, Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero, Justin Smoak, Miguel Olivo, Jack Wilson and Franklin Gutierrez of the position players.
Pitchers? Well, there was Hernandez, Pineda, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard, David Pauley and Jamey Wright.
It’s not just that he’s watched and called games these guys have played. He can tell listeners what Hernandez was like as a chubby 19-year-old. He can point out that Ackley was quick to follow the lead of big league veterans Ryan Langerhans and Josh Bard. He can talk about Greg Halman being pulled from Double-A West Tennessee in the midst of a horrible slump by catching coordinator Roger Hansen.
He has a history with these players.
The three men they are using now simply don’t. It’s not their fault. They parachute in for a week at a time and try to learn as much as they can, while following the news.
Curto is here. He knows the team. He knows the players. He knows the fans. He reads The News Tribune, The Seattle Times, and Mariners blogs Lookout Landing and USS Mariner.
He writes his own blog. He tweets. He interacts with fans and local writers.
He’s everything that a radio announcer should be. He will crack a joke. He takes the job seriously, without taking himself too seriously. He has fun. He loves baseball.
Does he have the voice of the late Harry Kalas? No. He doesn’t sound like he’s born to do voiceovers like James Earl Jones, either. But his voice sounds like baseball.
It has been rumored that Curto might get a chance for a series or two with the Mariners this season. Seattle vice president of communications Randy Adamack confirmed that it is a possibility. It would likely coincide with when the tireless Rizzs finally takes a day off, which is more difficult than getting a hit off Pineda.
But the Mariners shouldn’t wait till then. The Rainiers have said they will accommodate Curto if he gets a chance with the big club.
Give him a chance for a series or two just like the team did with Peguero and Halman. Who knows, he might just earn a permanent spot in the big leagues.
I’m sure Curto won’t be pleased that I wrote this. He’s not the type of guy who wants anyone to suggest something of this magnitude in public on his behalf.
But it needs to be said.
Mike Curto deserves a call-up to the Mariners. He’s earned it.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483