A GRIP ON SPORTS
Boxing Day is over. And I survived with just one black eye. What do you mean you're not supposed to box on Boxing Day? What are you supposed to do, put all your Christmas stuff away in boxes? No? It's a day for shopping and watching soccer? Really? Well, I like my idea better. It is a lot less painful. Read on.
• Oh, good. I start the post-Christmas season with a soccer joke. That will send you folks scurrying away faster than picking a Cougar loss. Yes, I know the history of Boxing Day, that it goes back to ancient times (you know, before cell phones), when the rich used to give their servants boxes with gifts in them. But who, besides Louis Winthorpe III (pictured), has servants anymore? Heck, the closest thing we have to servants these days are professional athletes, who serve us entertainment throughout the year. And most of them make more money than the Randolph and Mortimer Duke (and thus ends our mentions of one of our favorite Christmas movies). So on this day after Boxing Day – yes, we do have some readers north of the border – we will celebrate our modern-day servants. And hope they come through Sunday with one more win. We are talking about the Seahawks, of course, who face a must-win game against the Rams. Why must-win? Because who wants to spend the playoff season on the road having lost three of their last four regular season games? That is the antithesis of momentum. And a recipe for a quick exit. For a team that just a few weeks ago looked all the world as the NFC's Super Bowl favorite (remember the New Orleans game?), a loss Sunday to St. Louis would destroy any semblance of invincibility the Hawks have left. So it seems appropriate to label it a must-win. And we do.
• One quick baseball note. We all felt the Robinson Cano signing was our Christmas present from the Mariners, right? The off-season equivalent of a big box wrapped in a bow. But isn't it cool when you find a hidden Christmas present a couple of weeks after the holiday and pass it along? What, that never happens to you? Heck, my wife Kim once found a present for me in the laundry room in February. Talk about a great President's Day that was. Anyhow, M's fans have a chance for a post-Christmas gift in the next few weeks. They team could sign Japanese wonder-kid Masahiro Tanaka (pictured). The right-hander, who was a paltry 24-0 last season in Japan, is available after the Rakuten Golden Eagles decided to post him this week. Now the 25-year-old has his detractors, who feel his fastball is too flat and his arm too worn. But the M's have had some luck with Japanese imports over the years, including last season when Hisashi Iwakuma was the team's best pitcher and one of the American League's premier starters. There is no closer team to Japan than the M's and no other major league team is owned by a Japanese firm – it may be Nintendo of America, but the Nintendo part is all Japanese. And, besides, no one thinks the M's have the money to spend. But they do. And if they can use it on Tanaka, they could run out a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma, Tanaka, Tajuan Walker and Who Cares next year. Even with Who Cares in the five spot, it would probably still be the best in the league. With that type of starting pitching – yes, we understand Tanaka may start the year slowly (as may Walker), but by the end of the season might just be dominating – the offense could still have a few holes and yet 95 wins wouldn't be out the realm of possibility. Wouldn't that be something? So here's to hoping the M's are an out-of-left-field longshot in the Tanaka sweepstakes. A longshot that comes in and pays off big.
• WSU: We expected to be able to send you to Jacob Thorpe's morning links full of all thing Pac-12 today, but they weren't available, so we'll have to give you a couple of Washington Fight Hunger Bowl stories and leave it at that. I will say this. AT&T Park, site of the bowl game against BYU tonight, might just be the worst place in the nation to watch a college football game for sportswriters. The press box is tucked into the southwest corner of the football field and viewing plays close to the opposite end zone is darn near impossible. Us folks at home will have a better view of the game than the writers.
• Gonzaga: The WCC schedule begins Saturday, though the Zags might not be at full strength when they host Santa Clara. As Jim Meehan's Gonzaga notebook relates, power forward Sam Dower's lower back is still tender and he didn't practice Thursday. Jim also has more on Dower (pictured) in this blog post. ... The GU women will open the WCC on the road. In fact, seven of their first nine are away from the Kennel. Thomas Clouse has more in this story. ... The top of the WCC is showing a bit of vulnerability lately. ... A couple of St. Mary's players made this All-Bay Area squad.
• EWU: Not much from the Eagles, but defensive coordinator John Graham – one of three finalists – was passed over for the Central Washington head coaching position.
• Preps: There are a few holiday tournaments going on and we have a roundup.
• Seahawks: The Hawks seem focused on putting the Arizona loss behind them. But before they do, quarterback Russell Wilson wants everyone to know he's shouldering the blame for the offense's recent average-to-poor play. That was the main thrust of his usual Thursday meet-and-greet with the media. ... Richard Sherman isn't going to change a thing. ... Thursday's injury list was shorter but the guys on it are pretty important. ... The Rams have given Wilson and the Hawks fits recently with pressure.
• Mariners: The News Tribune's John McGrath (fixed from earlier) makes his case for signing Tanaka.
• Holiday weeks always seem kind of odd, especially when the holiday falls on hump day, as Christmas did this year. Wednesday seemed almost like a Sunday to me, throwing the rest of the week off. But today begins the real weekend, a football weekend, so we should be able to get back on schedule. Let's hope. Until later ...