I LOVE April!

IMG_8755I have said for years that April and October are my two favorite months of the year. They just bring so much of what I love.

Sure I love Christmas and the whole Christmas season.

Snowy Renton Street

Snowy Renton Street

The parties and the love shared between people is like no other time. The busyness doesn’t bother me. It energizes me. But December doesn’t make my top list because of the weather. In the Puget Sound, where I live, temperatures in the 30s and 40s and a near constant drizzle or grey cloudy days are the norm. No. I want sun shine. Even if its cold, I want sun shine. So, sorry December you don’t make it.

July and August are very high on my list. It’s frequently sunny. I often enjoy BBQ parties with friends. Sunset at Birch Bay, WA And the baseball season is entering its second half, with pennant races looming. The good weather makes outdoor activities that I love more frequently possible. I love fishing. I love camping. I love driving in my convertible with the top down. It’s all good. But in terms of sports…baseball is the only thing going. I love baseball. But there is no college sports. NFL football is only in training camp and exhibition games that no longer interest me like they did when I was a kid. And basketball is fortunately only limited to the women’s game, which I only tacitly pay attention to. Sorry, all you Storm fans. I’m just not there. And sorry Sounders and MLS fans. I don’t hate Soccer like some who complain of its boring low scoring matches. But they have so many, boring low scoring matches. And I still don’t understand what games count, what trophies count, and how you can play in a tournament in the middle of a season that is completely unrelated to the league in which you play. So, July and August are close, very close. But they fall just a tiny bit short.

Green Bay Packers v Seattle SeahawksOctober is great because the weather at the start of the month is still pretty decent. We have FOOTBALL! Both college and NFL football are well underway, promising fun and excitement every weekend. And Major League baseball is conducting its playoffs and World Series with nearly daily intrigue. I can still go fishing. And, while I don’t do it much anymore…I can go hunting and enjoy a weekend with my dog. October also is the start of the NBA season. Since the Oklahoma Raiders stole my beloved Sonics from Seattle, the start of the NBA season means considerably less to me. In fact, it means almost nothing. I am still a bitter Sonics fan. But…I do love October.

And then…there is April. April is the first month since October or even September some years, when you can expect daily temperatures near 60-degrees. ! YEA! Warmth! I’m a fair weather fisherman, so April see’s me out on my canoe on local lakes.

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

And in terms of spectator sports for the sports nuts like me? It’s a plethora of enjoyment, a cacophony of choices, a riches of experiences. It all starts with the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball championship. And in years like this when a local team, Gonzaga, is playing deep into the March Madness tournament it’s even better. Baseball’s opening day dawns in the first week with every year promising championship dreams…even when those dreams are irreconcilably impossible. I seldom watch golf or play it. But The Master’s this week and every year is not so much golf as it is an event and tradition and history. It’s often high drama. And for others, as I’ve already mentioned this doesn’t really apply to me…much…their is the soccer season underway with the Sounders here in Seattle and there is the start of the marathon NBA playoffs, the only major sport that takes two months to finish the season after having finished the season. Seahawks logo Lastly, us NFL and Seahawks lovers are given the gift of the NFL Draft in April, with the promise of new stars coming to your team to help take you to the promised land by filling the wholes you perceive your team has.

And I haven’t even mentioned the blooming of flowers and their scents and colors, and the return of leaves to the trees and birds and little animals scurrying about after a winter in hibernation. Life begins again in April. I LOVE IT!

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The Go#$%! Clusterf*$k of a Circus That Is Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong’s Mariners | Seattle Sportsnet

The Goddamn Clusterfuck of a Circus That Is Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong’s Mariners | Seattle Sportsnet.

Can the Mariners Become Relevant?

The Mariner Moose, mascot of the Seattle Mariners.

The Seattle Mariner‘s 2nd half to the 2013 Major League Baseball season commences this evening and the hope of the team becoming relevant still exists. And since my hope and prayer at the start of the season was that this long time cellar dweller would remain relevant until the time that the Seahawk season got underway, I remain hopeful.

Prior to this week’s MLB All-Star break the Mariner’s had their first 3-game series sweep of the season against the Los Angeles Angels, and had gone 8-5 over the previous 13 games against some tough competition including Boston, Texas, and Cincinnati; all playoff contending teams. What makes this short stretch of winning noteworthy is that it coincides directly with the recent call-ups of promising rookies, and improved performance from other young players. With the expected return of some valuable veteran pieces of the team in the next 1-3 weeks, and a much more favorable schedule than was the start of the season, Seattle has realistic hopes of a .500 season or as mentioned earlier…staying relevant before the NFL season completely wipes them from the consciousness of every Puget Sound sports fan.

Seattle Mariners

Seattle currently starts 3 pure rookies in the regular every-day lineup; all of whom have joined the team in the past 6 weeks. Nick Franklin first, followed by Mike Zunino, and finally Brad Miller have all made the team better in spite of their inexperience. It matters not if these three are or become All-Stars or perform up to the high expectations each one possesses. At least not at this point. What matter’s is they perform better than who preceded them in their positions and they make the team better. That they are doing…not that it was a high bar to leap.

Franklin took the place of Dustin Ackley at 2nd base. His solid defense has been comparable to Ackley, which surprises some. Not surprising is how Franklin’s bat has become a tremendous boost compared to the increasingly ineffective Ackley. Franklin, currently hitting .268, with 6 HRs and a .788 OPS (On base-plus-Slugging percentage), is a huge leap from where Ackley sat (.205, 1, .522 currently)  when he was sent to Triple A Tacoma to learn how to hit again in late May. Whether Franklin can continue is unknown. But he can almost assuredly do better than what his predecessor performed over the past 1 1/2 years.

Zunino is much the same. His numbers of .230 Avg., 1 HRs, and .575 OPS are not lighting the world on fire, but, again, they represent a significant improvement over what was being posted by the team of catchers who preceded him Jesus Montero, Kelley Shoppach, and Jesus Sucre. And the is no contest when assessing last year’s top draft pick versus Montero, Shoppach, and Sucre’s defense. He is a pleasure to watch behind the plate. He blocks balls in the dirt, moves to stop wild pitches, and is such a threat to throw out base stealers Seattle is already seeing a measurable decline in stolen bases and attempted steals.

Brad Miller has been with the team the least amount of time. But we’ve been calling for him or Carlos Truinfel or Franklin to replace the no-stick Brendan Ryan since this time last year. Ryan’s defense is outstanding. But his complete and utter lack of any kind of offensive is not a liability this team can stand when so many others in their line-up have proven nearly as inept. Miller has done well in the 16 games he has played and over the next year is expected to improve, as are Franklin and Zunino.

Franklin like Zunino is a former first round draft choice. Miller is a 2nd round pick. Second year player Kyle Seager is the teams most dependable offensive force and was a 3rd round pick. Ackley, who now mans Center Field and is displaying modest improvement at the plate is also a former 1st round draft pick, as is 1st baseman Justin Smoak; though Smoak was a Texas Ranger’s draft choice. All of these guys are young. All were high draft picks. And at least for a short period recently are performing up to or close to their expectations.

Right Fielder Michael Saunders is another young guy who has raised his batting average 15-points over the past 10 games and seems to have finally found the stroke that made last year so successful for him. While still only averaging .225, his on-base-percentage of .303, base-stealing capabilities and above-average defense make him at-least serviceable. And like we wrote, he’s on an upswing. We’ll see.

I’ve not even mentioned the solid performances of Kendry Morales and Raul Ibanez all season, or of Smoak in the past 2 months. All three, along with Seager, have OPS of .800 or higher. The team can also count on the return to productivity of OF Michael Morse soon. When healthy he is a stud. Franklin Gutierrez is still expected to contribute. He could return by August.

The team’s bullpen could get a needed boost from the return to health of Steven Pryor, who just began a rehab assignment. Felix Hernandez and Isashi Iwakuma were All Stars. Joe Saunders has been mostly solid as the third starter; though he has had a couple of big blooper blowouts. But what team’s #3 pitcher hasn’t. And after a horrible start to the season Aaron Harang is proving to be a pretty good #4 starter. Again, a blooper here and there isn’t welcome but is also not uncommon for a team’s 4th starter. It’s the #5 starting position that remains a concern. Jeremy Bonderman was let go and rookie Erasimo Ramirez was shelled his first time out. I am not confident in Ramirez. Though the Mariners are. So we’ll see.

We’ll see? That sums up the rest of the Mariner’s season. I’m not a complete dreamer. I don’t expect them to be playoff contenders. But I do think they can get back to a .500 season and wet our appetite for the 2014 season. And at bare minimum, they should have relevancy in the minds of diehards like me until the presumed Super Bowl season of the Seattle Seahawks gets under-way. I like being optimistic. It beats the alternative.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Go to our website, read our story and try some AdvoCare. You won't regret it.

Go to our website, read our story and try some AdvoCare. You won’t regret it.

 

Seahawks Blew It! And We Ought to be Mad.

Russell Wilson after brilliant performance in Atlanta

The big bold headlines to the Seattle Times this morning says “End of a Super Season” with a subtitle of “Heartache after fearless comeback; finale to thrilling year”. To me it sounds all to familiar. “That’s OK boys. It’s OK that you blew a chance to bring this city its first ever football title and first major championship in more than a generation. We still love you”. A Seattle sports team gives our city some excitement one week, wins a few games and proceeds to take a bow from adoring fans devoid of much sports success to embrace when ultimately all they did was perform a face plant in front of the entire nation.

In case you missed it let me inform you of all you need to know about yesterday’s 30-28 loss to the Falcons in AtlantaSeattle had the lead with 25 seconds to go in the game and Atlanta had the ball at its own 27 yard line, 34 yards away from the possibility of a LONG field goal. It turns out, Atlanta only needed 12 seconds to complete two long passes to the Seattle 31 where kicker Matt Bryant

Matt Bryant | Atlanta Falcons

Matt Bryant

lofted a chip shot 49 yard field goal for the win. For the uninformed football fan let me inform you: THAT SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN! Not to a championship caliber team it shouldn’t.

But wait…it has happened before…to this same team. Please recall Chicago, December 2. Seattle scores a wonderful comeback touchdown with only seconds to play to take the lead on the 8-3 Bears and seemingly wins the game remarkably. Only they didn’t. Like Matt Ryan yesterday, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completes a pass of about 50 yards to Brandon Marshal against Richard Sherman and a befuddled Seahawk secondary.

English: Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears warmi...

Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears

Putting Chicago in position to kick the tying field-goal as time expired, forcing overtime. Had it not been for the flip of a coin going Seattle’s way, giving them first possession of overtime, the Seahawks could have lost that game. Having lost that game Seattle doesn’t make the playoffs. Chicago does.

So what does it say about a team that twice in 7 games allows an opposing team to move from deep in their own territory into field goal position in mere seconds and lose a game they led. To me it says some really bad coaching is taking place. When it happened the first time you could blame Richard Sherman for not trying to knock the ball down and instead trying to intercept it. When it happens a second time and it involves other players besides Sherman, you have a pattern and you have a problem.

The thing Seattle fans need to learn and still haven’t is the team had an opportunity and you can’t blow opportunities like that. The team had the momentum and a realistic shot at going to and winning the Super Bowl. I’m not talking about a “punchers chance”; which everyone in the NFL playoffs has. I’m saying, and so were a lot of other people by the way, that Seattle was possibly the best team in the playoffs. Period! Of the 4 teams left in this years playoffs Seattle has already beaten two of the teams this year, and woulda, coulda, shoulda beaten a third, Atlanta, yesterday. Yes, they are THAT good. But they blew it.

The Seattle Times headline this morning is so typically Seattle and so pathetic. I want a championship and am no longer going to settle for “Nice Try”. And if the rest of the city joined me and insisted that our sports teams get their acts together I’m sure a championship could actually come our way.

Being stubborn and demanding and often annoying in ones drive to excellence is a BIG part of what makes champions. Watching U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes, she said as much. She said, “I’m sure my stubbornness has a lot to do with what success I’ve achieved in life”. She elaborated more…but…there ya go.

I have a brother one year older than me, raised in the same house, same parents, and we are as completely different as two people can be. My brother is a millionaire. He’s also a stubborn bull-headed, my-way-or-the-highway jerk. He always has been. Even when we are kids. I’m no pushover. But I would never be accused of being a sore loser, or poor-sport. I have always tried to be positive and complimentary to my teams, my opponents, and in every situation. Not my brother. As a child he used to cry whenever his team lost. He still can’t stand losing. A few years ago while spending a New Years Eve at his 4500 square-foot home we were playing pool. Pool is a game I can play. Not my brother. I was beating him repeatedly. At one point after 3-5 game after he missed another shot he threw his cue stick on the table scattering the balls and ending the pool play for the night. I’ve played pool in bars ever since lying about my age at 19 and being a frequent customer at the Mustard Seed Two tavern in Bellevue. I have a table in my home. I have never seen anyone do that before…show such poor sportsmanship. For my brother…it was predictable.

So what I’m saying is don’t be so accommodating Seattle. Expect more. The Seahawks blew it yesterday and deserve to be criticized not praised . They lost a very important game they should have won and we have no business patting them on the back. We ought to be kicking them in the ass and saying…“Don’t mess up next year! We’re sick of your mediocrity. And we deserve better”. By the way…same goes for you Mariners.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

JAWS and the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot: Edgar Martinez

JAWS and the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot: Edgar Martinez.

Seattle Sports Doldrums. Time to get Mad.

 

 

 

English: The top of the Space Needle in Seattl...

 

 

 

A weekend of ineptitude from the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners has me frustrated and wanting to take a pound of flesh from some of the teams administrators.

 

 

 

The Seattle Mariners wrap up another losing season in the next three days with a young team that has some promise, but none of it in the vicinity of an acceptable Major League offense. Our swabbies were swept in Oakland the past three games by an equally young Athletics team. The Athletics youth is just about the only resemblance they bear to our Northwest 9. Oakland will play in the American league playoffs, probably as a Wildcard entrant. But given they possess the best record in baseball since the start of June they can be counted on to make some noise.

 

 

 

The Mariner’s too have had a better second-half of the season than they had in the first half. Since July 5 Seattle actually has a winning record at 38-37; compared to a miserable 35-49 in the first half. But as reporter Geoff Baker writes in this morning’s Seattle Times the league worst offense has only gotten worse, scoring just 3.63 runs per game compared to 3.87. It’s a familiar story too many Northwest baseball fans have become used to. Seattle has been at the bottom of the Major League offensive categories for 4 straight years. Their losing record reflecting accordingly.

 

 

 

What’s sad is during this time they’ve possessed arguably the best pitcher in the American League in Felix Hernandez. During this time Hernandez has won a Cy Young Award, finished second in the voting another year, and is likely to be among the top 5 vote getters again this year. Seattle’s other pitching has been less impressive but good enough were the offense not so completely inadequate.

 

 

 

First Baseman Justin Smoak is an unquestioned failure. He has blown up his batting average over the past two weeks with some solid hitting; but for the season that’s only lifted his average to a woeful .214 with 19 home runs and 50-something RBI (no I’m not looking up the exact number. What’s the difference between 51 and 59?). My only hesitation in making this proclamation is that outfielder Michael Saunders has rectified his carrier with a .250 average and 19 homers this season. I would have written him off before the season after he’d managed more yawns than thrills during parts of four seasons with the Mariner’s prior to this season. But seriously, how excited should we be about a fourth year player who’s best season is .250 with 19 home runs? At best he’s a fourth outfielder on a good team.

 

 

 

The number of disappointing Mariners doesn’t stop with Smoak and Saunders. Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells, Brendan Ryan, and Miguel Olivo arte all hitting what used to be considered pathetic offensive numbers. Seattle not only doesn’t have a .300 hitter this season. They don’t have a .290 or .280 hitter. They have catcher John Jaso as a part-time player hitting .277 as the only representative north of .260.

 

 

 

As we watch the playoffs this October with young American League teams like the A’s and Orioles competing for a championship, devoid of a Seattle representative for an 11th consecutive year, let’s forget the pathetic cliche` “wait until next year”. Next year won’t be any better if Mariner management doesn’t get its act together and throw out some of the young experiments that didn’t work. Specifically any of Seattle’s outfielders could be a solid forth outfielder. The rest can be discarded. We need a whole new outfield. One that can hit. Smoak should also be shown the door in favor of a 1st baseman that can hit for power and at-least a respectable average.

 

 

 

Safeco Field in Seattle.

Safeco Field in Seattle.

 

And Mariner management needs to do three more things unrelated to on field personnel. Chuck Armstrong needs to go as Mariner President. Outfield fences need to be moved in. And a policy to keep the Safeco Field roof closed unless it’s sunny and 60+ degrees needs to be established. Everyone from Ken Griffey Junior to Jesus Montero knows the ball carries better with the roof closed. And it’s warmer, for better fan comfort.

 

 

 

Speaking of missed opportunities. We’re watching a big one with the Seattle Seahawks this season. The Seahawks possess a championship-caliber defense, running game and special teams. All three of those areas of the team have performed spectacularly in the teams first four games. And yet all the team could manage was a 2-2 record that’s one controversial call away from being 1-3.

 

 

 

An active volcano, Mount Rainier is one of thr...

 

It was acknowledged by everyone that the choice to go with Russell Wilson at quarterback to start the year would require some sacrifice while the young player grows into an NFL caliber QB. Coach Pete Carroll was and is enthralled with the potential of his 5′ 10″ third round draft choice. But here is one thing Carroll seems to have ignored, Matt Flynn is young and loaded with potential too. But Flynn has something Wilson doesn’t…four years in the NFL. Flynn also has a Super Bowl ring, and an NCAA National Championship. Put those two together, along with some other factors, and what do you have? A WINNER. Matt Flynn is a proven winner. Having him stand on the sidelines while Wilson slowly learns his craft is a waste of the other very talented aspects of this Seahawk team.

 

English: Green Bay Packers back-up quarterback...

Quarterback Matt Flynn 

 

The argument that Wilson gives Seattle a better chance to win in the long run is simply stupid since Flynn too possesses plenty of attributes that would lead a reasonable football fans to conclude his growth is currently ahead of Wilson’s and could potentially be great too.

 

 

 

There is no question Wilson is an outstanding young man worthy of respect and praise. But with the worst passing attack in the NFL, a-quarter of the season is long enough to determine that the Seahawks need better play at quarterback right now or they could blow a season the is rife with promise and potential. Flynn is just as capable of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch as Wilson, he can see and read the field better, and he CAN throw the ball extremely accurately according to most observers.

 

 

 

Please Pete Carroll; make the change. Install Flynn as the starter this week against Carolina. A trip all the way across the U.S. is tough enough. Tougher still, when you’re a rookie. It’s time to see Matt Flynn.

 

 

 

Thanks. I had to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

 

 

 

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Mariners Breaking My Heart

Safeco Field

Safeco Field 

 

We’ve reached the Major League baseball All-Star break and I’m overwhelmed with one recurring thought regarding my beloved Seattle Mariners…when does Seahawks Training Camp begin. This season’s Mariners season might be the most disappointing for me to date.

As I wrote in this blog before Spring Training, Really Looking Forward to Mariner Season, I wasn’t expecting a playoff team. I was expecting a team that would show considerable improvement over the debacles of the previous two seasons. So far, what improvement there has been, if any, has been so slight it doesn’t merit booking playoff dreams in 2013, 2014 or any time in the foreseeable future. And the future is never foreseeable.

 

Seattle enters this four day break with the worst record in the American League, fifth worst in baseball. Their team batting average is .230. For a whole season that would be the 2nd worst in franchise history, topped, or bottomed, only by last year’s .224 average. The lone bright spots are outfielder Michael Saunders and 3rd baseman Kyle Seager.  But after 3 years of failing to make a good impression at the Major League level and his teammates ineptitude Saunder’s .257 batting average and mere 25 RBI is inflated in the eyes of media and fans. Should we really be THAT excited about an outfielder that at best projects to a 50 rbi-guy in his 4th year of MBL service? And Seager wasn’t expected to make the team in Spring Training, did well, opened the season strong but has fallen off to a .243 average. His HRs and RBIs, 10 and 52, still project well. But it remains to be seen if he can pull himself out of his current long slump. And like Saunders, we’re all way to excited about a guy with a .243 average only because it exceeds what was expected and looks so favorable compared to teammates.

Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak remain the biggest disappoints, given the franchise’s future high expectations were largely built on the 1st and 2nd basemen. Ackley can be sent down to AAA Tacoma for some more schooling. But other than Smoak there is no other full-time first-baseman on either the Mariner’s roster or Tacoma’s. So sending down Smoak isn’t an easy answer. Who’s going to replace him?

The Mariner’s offensive ineptitude is particularly acute at home, at Safeco Field, where they collectively bat .197 for the season, and mustered only 1 run per game during their recent 10-game homestand. Talk of bringing in the fences continues to be thrown out for discussion by restless beat writers. But a simple and available partial solution continues to be ignored by the Mariners management. Closing the Safeco Field roof more frequently is an advantage to the home team offensive that mysteriously gets no discussion. Miller Park in Milwaukee and Toronto’s Roger’s Centre (formerly Skydome) regularly keep their roofs closed, even on clear-sky days. Doing so warms the air and allows the baseball’s to fly better off the hitter’s bats. But Seattle fans continue to shiver during 40 and 50 degree nights while watching the most offensively inept team in MLB since the advent of the Designated hitter.

Seattle’s refusal to make tough decisions on veterans infects this franchise like no other I’ve ever seen. Ichiro is clearly not the spectacular hitter he once was. He hit .271 all last season and is hitting only .261 this season with an on-base percentage of less than .300, worst in the league. And as mediocre as those numbers are for most major-leaguers they’re made absolutely pedestrian by the total lack of power from the Japanese future-Hall-of-Famer. Manager Eric Wedgefinally moved Ichiro from the lead-off spot he is no longer suited to hold, and batted him #2 for the last two games against Oakland before the break. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent move. Ichiro should be allowed to finish his season here in Seattle. Then let him drift away back to Japan for an honorable retirement. His weak bat an 39 year old age make him no asset to a Mariner team seemingly more interested in nostalgia than winning.

English: Ken Griffey in June 2009.

Ken Griffey Jr

Ken Griffey Junior being the most recent previous example of this franchise holding too tightly to a star’s past glory long since vanished.

Chone Figgins

Chone Figgins 

And Seattle’s unwillingness to cut Chone Figgins is understandable, given his contract, but unforgivable given the team’s poor play and the fact that other younger more capable players are being deprived learning experiences every time Wedge marches Figgins out onto the field with his pathetic .186 average. Seattle needs to eat the remaining 1 1/2 years on Figgins contract and call it what it is, a failed free-agent signing. Then move on with the younger guys. I’m fairly confident Tacoma’s AAA outfielders Trayvon Robinson, Carlos Peguero, or Mike Wilson could manage a .186 average while having more HR pop than the diminutive Figgins. And being career minor leaguers thier MLB minimum salaries shouldn’t be a money concern like Figgins’ contract.

And speaking of Tacoma, Seattle’s highest level minor league affiliate is currently 38-51 on the season, last in their division and 4th worst in the entire Pacific Coast League. So much for building the franchise through the minor-league system.

English: Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik a...

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik at Mariners FanFest 2011. 

So a couple of things are clear for the remainder of the Mariner season. One-hitting coach Chris Chambliss has to go. I’m not saying the poor offense is his fault. But given such limited options for fixing the problem, and given 2 seasons of the worst offense any where at any time some new ideas wouldn’t hurt. Second- General Manager Jack Zduriencik may need to start polishing up his resume. He’s had nearly four years to make the team better. It isn’t working. My patience is through. I’m really disappointed. And I can’t wait to see Matt Flynn throw the football.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

 

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