A GRIP ON SPORTS
Beware the ides of June. Read on.
• There was no special reason for today's lead-in, other than it is June 15 and I hated Shakespeare as a kid. But it is amazing how much of it has stuck in my noggin for some reason. The opening soliloquy from Richard III for example. The whole idea of a glorious summer. Perfect. Or the tomorrow speech from Macbeth. Burned into my memory in the 11th grade. The line "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" has guided my writing for years. So what should this idiot spout about full of sound and fury today? We could always go with the Mariners. After all, this is the (umpteenth) summer of our discontent. And the M's are always searching for a horse. Their latest search has brought them, in a roundabout way, to Henry Blanco (making the tag in the photo), a well-traveled 41-year-old catcher. He was hired yesterday after the M's fired Kelly Shoppach, who was, despite a .196 average, actually hitting better than Blanco this season. But it's not Blanco's bat or catching skills the M's really want. It's his mind. And experience. Blanco has a history of mentoring young catchers – when you are 41 and still in the big leagues, you've had lots of chances to mentor younger players – and the Mariners have one they want mentored. They believe Mike Zunino is going to be their horse behind the plate for years to come, so they want him trained in the best possible manner. Hence, when the Blue Jays released Blanco a few days ago, Shoppach's days in Seattle were numbered. You know, if you crunch Blanco's numbers, there is no way you make this change. But the move has nothing to do with numbers, as do a lot of moves in major league baseball. It has to do with a 25-man clubhouse, the overall health of the organization and balancing the often-competing desires of winning today and building a foundation for tomorrow. And it's not about money, either. By designating Shoppach for assignment, the M's are burning about $1 million they'll have to pay him the rest of the year. If Blanco helps turn Zunino into an all-star down the road, it will have been money well spent. Or, maybe, it just signifies nothing.
• WSU: It's Saturday, so the Washington State section will never be empty. There is always the mailbag from ESPN's Pac-12 blog. ... Plus today there are some thoughts from Jon Wilner on a couple of Pac-12 basketball coaches (OK, really only one). ... And Oregon State will open the college World Series today with a freshman on the mound.
• Gonzaga: Kelly Olynyk continues his travels around the NBA today with a stop in Utah to show his wares to the Jazz.
• Idaho: The WAC officially has a new commissioner.
• Whitworth: The Pirates officially need a new athletic director after Aaron Leetch ended his stay in Spokane after only two years. Jim Allen has the story of Leetch deciding to return to Illinois State.
• Indians: Spokane opened Northwest League play last night and fell behind by five runs before a lot of folks were in their seats. But they battled back before ultimately falling to Everett, 6-4. Chris Derrick has the story and more in this blog post. ... There was a lot of history at the ballpark last night and no one – no one – can tell it better than John Blanchette. ... Tyler Tjomsland also has a photo gallery. ... Because it is opening day around the Northwest League, we decided to run down stories from every game. Vancouver opened with a win over Tri-Cities, the Hillsboro Hops' debut was marred with a tough loss and Eugene was shut out by Boise.
• Mariners: Blanco's signing really paid off last night. No, he wasn't in the lineup, but Zunino was and came through with his first big league home run. And I don't believe Blanco had anything to do with it. ... The biggest news from last night's 3-2 win over Oakland was the pitching of Joe Saunders, who won for the first time this year away from Safeco. And the closer. No, it was not Tom Wilhelmsen. It was Oliver Perez (pictured), who has been pitching in the big leagues since before I was born (just kidding, not that long, but a really long time). In a 12-year career, it was Perez's first save. By the way, Wilhelmsen has been given a break from his closing duties, though manager Eric Wedge does expect him to have them back soon. ... Should the M's dangle Hisashi Iwakuma as trade bait? After all, he might bring the biggest return. Larry Stone says no and has seven persuasive reasons.
• I know there is only a Mother's Day, but shouldn't this be Father's Weekend. After all, we are more ... oh, heck, forget it. I don't want to write something I may regret later, like the rest of my life. If Kim doesn't read this, I am going to make it my own personal Father's Weekend. If she does, it will be a typical Saturday. Wish me luck. Until later ...