A GRIP ON SPORTS
You know the best way to finish the work week? Covering a bunch of subjects heading into the weekend. Read on.
• We start with a couple of Masters' related thoughts. After watching a DVR'ed playback of the first round last night – what a great way to spend a Thursday evening, watching golf from one of the prettiest, and toughest, courses on earth; plus, when I needed to cleanse the palate a bit, there was always "Community" and other shows to take a quick peek at – I was struck with an underrated aspect of Augusta National. OK, maybe not all that underrated. It's the mental aspect of playing a course that tough. Despite the perfect scoring conditions yesterday (little-to-no wind, receptive greens, a nice cloud cover), any little mistake could cost a stroke. A wayward drive, a pushed iron, a pulled putt and bingo, add one to your scorecard. Guys are breezing along then lose focus on just one shot – for example, hitting a driver just a bit too far and into the bunker at 18 – and they get bit. Recovery is tougher at Augusta than at most courses and that wears on you. That might be the most impressive thing about guys like Jack Nicklaus (six Masters' wins) and Tiger Woods (four). Sure there were Masters in which they rarely made a mistake, but those were a lot rarer than the ones in which they managed their mistakes so much better than the competition. That's how they won.
• Speaking of Tiger, Rodger57 took exception to my statement yesterday we can't call Tiger back until he wins a major. He called it "ridiculous" to hold Tiger to a standard only he has met. I would counter with the fact it is a standard Tiger has set – and encourages. Ever since he's stepped on Tour, Woods has made it clear he judges success on one criterion: major tournaments. We may not, but he does. It's pretty obvious if he retires with more PGA tournament wins than any one in history (and, with 77 already, he will probably surpass Sam Snead's 82), but falls short of Nicklaus' total of 18 majors (Tiger has 14, the last in 2008), then his career didn't reach the heights he wanted it to. So winning in Miami or Orlando or San Diego and becoming No. 1 in the world, while nice, hasn't moved Woods any closer to his goal. And until he takes another step toward that goal, he's not back being the Tiger Woods we expect – and he wants to be.
• A 3-2 pitch midway through a one-run game. A player who has been hit more than anyone in the big league the past two years, is plunked again. He charges the mound. He grabs the pitcher and pile drives him into the ground, breaking his left collarbone. That's what happened last night in San Diego as Carlos Quentin knocked Zack Grienke out of baseball for a couple months. So what's to be done? I have advocated for years a simple rule. When a player's illegal action results in another player being injured and unable to participate for a specific period of time, then the player who caused the injury should miss a corresponding amount of time. An illegal chop block causes a knee injury that takes a defensive lineman out for six months? The guy who threw the block is also out six months. An illegal check breaks a guy's nose and causes him to miss a couple games? The guy who caused it sits a couple games. When Quentin charged the mound – an illegal act in baseball – he accepted the consequences. By breaking Grienke's collarbone, he's ensured the pitcher won't be pitching for at least a month, probably more. So why should Quentin be allowed to play while Grienke has to sit? That's rewarding behavior outlawed by the rules. Make the punishment fit the crime.
• Finally, Washington State and high school senior Tanner Lancona parted ways yesterday. Who, you might ask? Lancona was a 6-foot-8 forward who signed a letter-of-intent with the Cougars back in November. That means, early in his senior season of basketball, Lancona agreed to accept a basketball scholarship with WSU and the Cougars agreed to pay for his first year of college. Other schools could no longer recruit Lancona and he could no longer talk with other schools. It's a binding agreement. Except when it isn't. Now I don't know the particulars behind Lancona and WSU's breakup, whether the player wanted out, whether the school wanted out or what, but there is one fact: WSU had filled its quota of scholarships for next prior to a recent announcement from a JC point guard he was attending WSU in the fall, presumably on a scholarship. Now, with Lancona not heading to Pullman, a scholarship is available. Letters of intent are in place to protect both parties, but when a player signs one, he or she has closed all doors. Other schools move on. Scholarships disappear. The school can always find another player to fill a spot, but a high school senior may not, in April, be able to find a similar offer. Maybe Lancona will – the late signing period starts next Wednesday and runs through May 15 for Division I, through Aug. 1 for Div. II – but if he doesn't, well that's a sad situation.
• Washington State: Christian Caple has more than just the Lancona news, of course. Yesterday he had a report following spring football practice as well as this story on linebacker Kache Palacio.He also has his usual morning blog post today as well as his weekly college baseball notebook. ... The Pac-12's review of basketball officiating is part of Jon Wilner's blog post from Thursday.
• EWU: The newest member of Eastern Washington's football team has a history, which Jim Allen relates in this story.
• Preps: If you want prep coverage, today is a good day to buy the newspaper. There is Greg Lee's track story. There is Chris Derrick's softball notebook. And there is Mike Vlahovich's baseball notebook. A good day.
• Mariners: Not a good night in Seattle. King Felix took the mound amid yellow shirts and K cards – there were 25,000 available, not all were used – and still lost 4-3 to the Texas Rangers. Plus Mike Morse injured his pinkie and will miss some time. ... Morse will probably not go on the DL, but that doesn't mean the M's didn't make some roster changes. They traded for veteran pitcher Aaron Harang, got rid of Kameron Loe and put Michael Saunders on the DL. ... Why is the attendance so bad?
• Sonics: Remember that $30 million Chris Hansen's group gave the Maloff's as a deposit on the Kings? It was non-refundable. Now it seems the NBA wants any Sacramento group to guarantee to return it if Hansen doesn't pry the team away. That's interesting.
•••• That's it for this morning. Want to take a moment for a personal matter; Happy birthday Kim. If you don't read this I am going to give you such a hard time! For everyone else, I will be on the radio with Dennis Patchin and Rick Lukens today on 700 ESPN. If you want to listen in between 3 and 6 p.m., you can do that here. Until then ...