A GRIP ON SPORTS
When is a loss a win? Well, never. By definition, a loss is the absence of a win. But some losses are better than others. Read on.
• Who am I kidding? A loss is always bad. Even if, like the Mariners, you are in the midst of at least 90 of them (yep, I've set that as my bar; it's sad really). But the loss last night – 1-0 at the Angels – had one positive. Safeco Joe, or Joe Saunders if you didn't know, pitched well again on the road. The lefty gave up just the lone run and it scored on a pitch in the dirt I'm sure Mike Zunino is telling everyone he should have kept in front. On this 3-3 road trip – Felix is going today with a chance to give the M's a winning trip – the starting pitching has been pretty darn good. And I've felt since before the season began the M's, circa 2013, would be defined by their starting pitching. I thought the bullpen would be solid and the hitting would be better, good enough in fact to win more than half their games if the starting pitching was decent. And I still do. Injuries have hampered the offense and the bullpen (and to a lesser degree, the starters). But those guys are getting healthy, guys like Mike Morse, Kendrys Morales, Franklin Gutierrez (for at least a few days anyway), Justin Smoak and two youngsters whose only injuries have been to their bats: Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders. Ackley has gotten healthy in Tacoma and it's only a matter of time before he returns to the big club, more than likely to play center and left field. And Saunders will then be sent to Tacoma, will rediscover his stroke – remember, he was one of the best hitters in the World Baseball Classic – and will help the last couple months of the season. So the M's will, before the month is out, will be putting together the formula that I felt would lead to a .500 season. There's only one problem. They are nine games under .500 right now. If they play win-one-lose-one baseball the rest of the season – and that's what can be expected – they finish with about 90 losses. And that, my friends, is how we define progress around here.
• Speaking of a loss being a win, the Cougars lost Wisconsin from their schedule the next couple years, moving the Badgers back to a time when most of us will be collecting Social Security. But they won by adding another Big 10 team to the 2014 and 2015 schedule, Rutgers. The Scarlett Knights will be the Seattle game next year, which should attract a decent crowd and allow WSU to have five Pac-12 games in Pullman. That helps Mike Leach and his rebuilding effort. Besides, the return game in New Jersey will be a fun place for the Cougar faithful to travel, as the New York area is always worth a visit, especially in September.
• WSU: The Rutgers news became official yesterday and Christian Caple was all over it with this blog post and the ensuing story. And the news was reported in a variety of other places as well. … Leach's team is one of the 10 Athlon sees as being most improved this year. Another is its season-opening opponent. … Brock Motum is still out there, working hard, trying to get an NBA team interested enough to draft him. … Oregon State's Matt Boyd was nearly unhittable yesterday and the Beavers stayed alive in the college World Series with a 1-0 win over Indiana. … Finally, Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA takes an important turn today with a class-action hearing. If the judge decides to certify it as a class-action lawsuit, college sports could change forever.
• Gonzaga: Speaking of NBA hopefuls, Kelly Olynyk is one. He'll be drafted for sure. Somewhere in the first round. And we have found another story on his Canadian background. … Marco Gonzales signed with the Cardinals for a whole bunch of money.
• Eastern: The Eagles announced an ambitious schedule for the upcoming basketball season. It includes road games at Connecticut and Seton Hall. And, more than likely, two games with the most prestigious university on the West Coast, UC Irvine.
• Indians: Another game, another loss. The Indians will head home tonight to start a homestand – weather permitting – with a 1-5 record.
• Mariners: You already know the M's lost 1-0 last night. But there was more to it than that. Well, not a lot. Smoak was not in the lineup a night after he hit a home run, but the numbers backed up Eric Wedge's decision, especially with his hands tied a bit by Morse and Morales' nagging injuries. … Josh Hamilton was in the Angels lineup, hitting seventh. … One good thing from the win the night before? Tom Wilhelmsen seemed to find something on the bump. … And, as we said, Ackley has found his stroke in Tacoma. Now he's trying to find out how to play the outfield.
• Another great hockey game last night, though this one featured no defensive whatsoever. The Stanley Cup Finals are tied at two games apiece following Chicago's 6-5 overtime win. … And the NBA Finals? It comes down to one game tonight. My thoughts? The Heat have the best player in the world. There is no chance he allows them to lose. Until later …