A GRIP ON SPORTS
When interim (or fill-in or whatever you want to call him) Mariner manager Robby Thompson popped out of the Fenway Park dugout in the ninth inning Thursday night and signaled for a relief pitcher, an argument ensued. Did he make a mistake when he pointed to the bullpen? Whatever he did there, it wasn't as bad as what he did at the beginning of the inning. Read on.
• Before we get into that, we talked about Seattle as the most miserable sports city in America yesterday and it's games like last night's that cement that impression, isn't it? I was sitting in a pizza joint with a bunch of sports fans as the ninth inning unfolded and you could just feel the energy drain from the room. Sad really. But I maintain the mistake concerning whether Thompson signaled for Oliver Perez when he wanted Yoervis Medina wasn't the most telling of the ninth. I go back to the decision to bring in Tom Wilhelmsen in to start the inning. Years ago I had a chance to talk with Tony LaRussa, the guy who invented the idea of a closer, a relief pitcher who finishes tight games. The conversation covered a lot of subjects but one was how a manager should use his closer. LaRussa argued, and I agreed (why would I argue with a Hall of Fame manager?), developing roles for guys in the bullpen is crucial to success. The more often you put a pitcher into a spot he was used to, the more often he was going to be successful. Set-up men set-up, closers close. It was as simple as that to LaRussa. Which brings us to the ninth inning last night. The M's led 7-2. It's not a save situation but Thompson, still in his first dozen games as a big league manager, went with Wilhelmsen, a guy who is supposed to be the M's closer. The thinking was he needed work, I'm sure, but he got a lot more than he or Thompson wanted. Closers get used to pitching in pressurized situations, when all of their attention has to be focused on every pitch. When they get into games and that's not the case, some of them lose that edge and don't pitch nearly as well. It happened to Wilhelmsen last night. But that wasn't the worst of it. With Wilhelmsen stoking a fire instead of extinguishing one, the rest of the pen was thrown into roles it wasn't used to as well. Add into the mix the mix-up concerning who was to come in and we all saw how well the inning worked out. Should Wilhelmsen be able to get three outs with a five-run lead? Sure. So should have Perez or Medina or Charlie Furbush. The difference is, if any – or all – of those three had failed to stop the Sox, then you still would have had your closer in your pocket to, hopefully, stem the tide. Instead the roles were reversed and Thompson was forced to mix and match to finish the game. It didn't work.
• WSU: It's raining outside, which seems like a perfect setting to begin football season. I'm not sure it will be raining in the Lewiston valley, however, and that's where the Cougars will be located for the next few days. Christian Caple will be there with them as Mike Leach's second season kicks off today. He has a blog post summarizing Leach's Thursday press conference and a story to get you ready for the beginning of training camp. He also has a blog post on the five biggest storylines of camp and another on an offensive line commitment. … Adam Lewis at SportpressNW previews the Cougar camp as does Bud Withers in Seattle. … Travis Long is adjusting to life in Philadelphia. … The coaches' poll was released yesterday and five Pac-12 teams were ranked, including Oregon at No. 3 and Stanford at No. 4. … UCLA was ranked ahead of USC and that's a big deal in Southern California. … The Pac-12 Network will take you inside a couple teams' training camps. … Ted Miller looks at the conference's safeties. … Colorado lost another player.
• EWU: Portland State opened camp yesterday.
• Preps: Former Central Valley player Will Davis is turning heads in the Dolphins' camp.
• Indians: The Indians are starting to melt away, what with the Rangers moving guys around. The remaining players lost 9-3 last night to Salem-Keiser. Chris Derrick has more in this story and blog post.
• Shock: It was a back-and-forth game until the waning minutes last night, but a couple of key interceptions lifted the Shock to a 69-47 AFL playoff win over Chicago. Jim Meehan has the story and a blog post, John Blanchette adds a column and Tyler Tjomsland supplies the photographs.
• Mariners: The meltdown obscured another solid start by Felix Hernandez who left after seven innings having given up one run. The bullpen just couldn't hold a six-run lead in the 8-7 season-defining loss to the Red Sox. … One guy who was not available after pitching a lot the night before was Danny Farquhar, one of the young guys having a solid season. … Larry Stone took some time to profile the Seager brothers' seasons.
• Sounders: The midfield seems to be the place the Sounders want to improve headed into the season's final stretch. … They will have the money and the designated player spot after giving Shalrie Joseph a new contract. … The top goalkeepers are still hurt heading into the Dallas match.
• Seahawks: Percy Harvin had his surgery yesterday and Pete Carroll is still hopeful he'll be able to help this season. Still, the Hawks have to figure out who will return kickoffs. … Other players have been impressing in camp. … A couple of players with ties to this area were in the news yesterday as the Hawks signed former Cougar Andrei Lintz and cut former Eastern Eagle Greg Herd. … The 49ers lost another key player.
• Sorry this is a bit late this morning. Had a 50-minute phone call interrupt my morning routine. Worth every minute. I am now a millionaire. No, that's not it. I now know more about a lot of subjects. Yes, that's it. Knowledge. More important than a million dollars. Ya, right. Until later …