A GRIP ON SPORTS
So where to start as the month of June winds down? The Mariner results are starting to get a bit redundant (though we offer some discussion today on Felix Hernandez's future with the team). The other major sports are basically in hibernation (though we offer some discussion today on LeBron James' place in history). And the Olympics are a bit far off still (though we offer some discussion today on what the trials are for). Read on.
• We'll do these in the order presented above. As the M's lost once again (see below for links), we thought the most interesting item to come out of Friday was Geoff Baker's blog post on Felix Hernandez's future. Now this is nothing new to Baker, he's written about it before, but it was triggered by a national writer riffing on the subject. To summarize: Baker feels Hernandez is under contract through the 2014 season; the M's aren't going to really contend until 2015 at the latest; ergo, it makes sense to trade Felix as soon as possible to get the most value possible, possibly even accelerating their climb to contention by the pieces they would pick up. Do you agree with the thesis? Do you agree with the contention? And would you trade Felix?
• One of the subjects we talked about on the radio show yesterday – one of many, let me assure you, over a three-hour period – was LeBron's place in NBA history. I contend, partially because I like being a contrarian (and a curmudgeon, but that's another story for another day) and partially because I believe it, LeBron belongs in the NBA's top five. Rick Lukens didn't agree. We did however, come up with four guys we both like for the list better than LeBron: Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Rick felt either Larry Bird or possibly Oscar Robertson belonged on the list ahead of James. I'm pretty sure Bird would be the player mentioned most by basketball historians in that spot, and so I decided to rate the two in five key categories: scoring, rebounding, passing, defense and intangibles. Now intangibles are hard to quantify in that they are, well, intangible, but I am willing to concede Bird has the edge in that category, what with his NBA titles and such. And statistically, Bird was a better rebounder, averaging 10 a game compared to James' 7.2. But in the other two quantifiable categories, scoring and passing, James' numbers are much better, with a 27.6 to 24.3 edge in scoring and a 6.9 to 6.3 edge in assists per game. The final category to examine is defense and though their statistics are identical (both average 1.7 steals and .8 blocks per game), there is no doubt James is quicker, stronger and more athletic than Bird, characteristics that contribute to his edge over his Boston counterpart on defense. You could argue Bird played on such good teams in Boston he didn't have to score at the level James does, and you would probably be right. But I also believe that just emphasizes how great a passer James is, in that his edge of a half-an-assist per game over Bird has been built with teammates who struggle to score as compared to Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish or Danny Ainge. Anyhow, those were my arguments. … By the way, the Nike commercial below is pretty cool. And a long time in the making.
• Finally, I pass along this story from the Oregonian concerning the Olympic Trials in Eugene. The women's 10,000 meters included three athletes who will be competing in London. Problem is, it's not the top three finishers. Nope, the second, third, fifth and sixth-place finishers have not posted an Olympic “A” standard qualifying time in the recent past, so they can't go. The fourth and seventh-place finishers have, so they are going. Doesn’t seem like it was much of a trial for them.
• Washington State: The biggest Pullman-related news from yesterday was former center Aron Baynes (at left in the photo) being named to the Australian Olympic basketball team. Baynes, who came to Pullman as a not-so-highly recruited 6-foot-10 raw player from Cairns, Australian and left as much-more polished post player that was tough to handle inside, has played overseas since leaving the Palouse, polishing his skills around the basket, toning his naturally strong body and impressing the Australian national team coaches. … Arizona will begin its quest for another national baseball title today. The Wildcats will have to get through two-time defending champion South Carolina to do it. The Gamecocks won their second consecutive game over Arkansas, 3-2 on Friday, to move into the best-of-three title series. … I guess I can't ignore this story (though I would like to) and it sort of has to do with college football, so we'll put it in this section. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty yesterday of sexually abusing children.
• Gonzaga: Sophomore pitcher/first baseman Marco Gonzales was named a Baseball America first-team All-American yesterday.
• Shock: Every game from here on in will be a do-or-be-out-of-the-playoffs one for Spokane (read the scenarios in this story from Jess Brown and tell me if the ones described for the Shock if they post a 4-1 record down the stretch sound plausible). The final lunge begins tonight in San Jose.
• Indians: No way Spokane was going to lose Friday. They didn't. Nope, the Indians were rained out in Everett and will play a doubleheader today.
• Mariners: I picked the M's to defeat San Diego last night on the radio, using the logic Kevin Millwood (left) was due to pitch well and the M's offense was rolling. Well, the offense – paced by Franklin Gutierrez – continued to roll. But Millwood forgot to get his opposite number out and Seattle lost 9-5 to San Diego. … We wrote of Felix above. And LeBron James as well. Now we meld the two. … The M's All-Star rep? Larry Stone says it will be Felix of course. … Finally, my favorite baseball story of the day. Well, favorite is probably the wrong word. You know what SMH means? Well it applies to this story.
• Triathlon: The Ironman Coeur d'Alene is this Sunday and Jim Allen has the coverage with this feature about a family that competes together (pictured at left) and the news the event is staying in the city for the near future.
• That's it for this Saturday. After all this news about athletics, I'm hankering for a doughnut. Until later …