A GRIP ON SPORTS
It was as big a day in Seattle yesterday for a certain segment of the city's sports community as the day Edgar drove home Junior against the Yankees. Hyperbole? OK, maybe a little, but yesterday's announcement of Clint Dempsey's signing was a big deal. A really big deal. Read on.
• Why? It might have been the day the Sounders turned into the MLS equivalent of the Yankees. More hyperbole. I don't think so. The modern-day Yankees have more money than anyone else in major league baseball and they are not afraid to use it to win pennants. When they use it wisely – the A-Rod contract does not fall into that category – they are tough to beat. The Sounders have more money than anyone in the MLS thanks to a rabid fan base that packs CenturyLink on a regular basis. (A quick aside. The MLS is like baseball in the 1950s. TV money is not that big of a deal. It's still all about attendance and gate receipts.) But the organization has been reticent to swing its weight around. Until now. Mired in the middle of the standings, Seattle had to do something to reward those faithful fans. So they went out and hired the best player the United States has to over. And paid a reported $41 million for the opportunity. That total includes $32 million over four years to Dempsey, the fattest base pay check an MLS player has ever received. Now doesn't that sound like the Yankees? Having a team with deep pockets is one thing. Having a deep-pocket team that wants to empty those pockets in pursuit of a championship is another thing entirely. And an unusual for us Northwest sports fans, at least recently. Most of our professional sports history, circa the past 25 years, has been dominated by a Mariner franchise that was unwilling or unable to spend money to win. Heck, even in 2001 the right move at the trade deadline – a high-end starter would have really helped come the postseason – could have pushed the team over the top. It was not to be. But the Sounders are different. They showed that yesterday. Dempsey is the type of talent, American-born talent, that could push the team over the top. The defense is solid and should get better with an improvement in the midfield. They already have two premier goal scorers up front. Add in a talent like Dempsey's and the Sounders now become not just a contender but a favorite. After all the disappointments brought on by a lack of front-office effort over the years, this move is so different it is hard to comprehend. It's hard to know how to react. The first instinct is to cower, waiting for the inevitable injury or failure that would fit so well into the Northwest's Cub-like fan experience. But don't do that. Smile, because, for once, our area is on the right side of the money divide. Enjoy it.
• By the way, I don't include the Hawks in the professional money race because the NFL is a different beast. Everything is shared, basically, even-steven, so there are no Yankees to overcome. It all comes down to caliber of your management, coaches and players. And it finally seems the franchise has a chance in that regard.
• WSU: The preseason camp continues in Lewiston with Christian Caple pointing out it is warming up in the Valley. That means it will warm up everywhere else, too. After the last couple days, we are looking forward to it. We are also looking forward to the first game at Auburn, which isn't that far away. Christian has a couple video blog posts, another post on Saturday's work, a story on the Cougars' Destiny and a morning post with links. … The Times' Bud Withers has a column on the Cougars.
• EWU: The Eagles begin camp Wednesday in Cheney. Jim Allen has a look at what awaits Eastern this season.
• Idaho: The Vandals open camp tomorrow. Josh Wright has an advance of Paul Petrino's first practice as UI's head coach.
• Indians: Leading by three after seven innings, the Indians saw Salem-Keiser rally to win 6-5 before a sold-out Avista Stadium crowd last night. Chris Derrick has the story and a blog post on the game.
• Mariners: No lead is safe when the Mariners are playing, but Michael Saunders (pictured) second two-run home run, coming as it did in the top of the ninth, certainly took some of the pressure off in an 8-4 victory over Baltimore. … Want to know the most overlooked aspect of the M's not making a trade-deadline deal? It showed they think they have a shot at signing Kendrys Morales. That aspect is not overlooked any more. … Larry Stone uses his Sunday column to examine all things A-Rod. Good. Stone also has his weekly power rankings. … The M's have more arms in the minor leagues.
• Sounders: It's rare in MLS play a 3-0 win at home plays second-viola. But that was the case for Seattle last night. The dominating win over Dallas was an afterthought following the pregame introduction of Dempsey to the crowd. Still it was nice of the team to make sure the almost 40,000 in attendance could celebrate all game long by shutting out FC Dallas.
• I went with a nice black tie yesterday. Until later …