A GRIP ON SPORTS
You would think it was the middle of July or something with all the Mariners news yesterday. Raul Ibanez is announced as the winner of the Fred Hutchinson Humanitarian Award. Hisashi Iwakuma is a finalist for the American League Cy Young Award. And, lest we forget, they picked a new manager. Read on.
• Hey, I know how we can test whether it is July or not. And it has nothing to do with the weather. Do you have hope Lloyd McClendon (at right in photo) is the right guy for the job? If you do – and I'm guessing at least some of you have it – then it can't be July. By July, Mariner fans have usually abandoned all hope. By July, the M's are usually about 10 games under .500 and trending downward. By July, the typical M's fan is waiting for the Seahawks' camp to open. So it's not July. It's November, when all things are still possible next year. Heck, McClendon might just be, as John McGrath writes today, the closest thing to Lou Pinella the M's could find these days. Of course, the roster has little-to-no resemblance to Pinella's squads, what with a bunch of young guys trying to make their mark – Pinella would have none of that; veterans are where it's at baby – and the future still a question. But that was sort of where the Pirates were at when McClendon was their manager and they turned the corner, didn't they? They made the playoffs this season and look like contenders for the next few years. Of course, the success came after the organization jettisoned McClendon, who did a lot of the heavy lifting. But let's not worry about that now. It's November. All things are possible.
• WSU: A lot of Pac-12 and WSU news today, despite the bye week. Jacob Thorpe starts it off with his Pac-12 notebook, focusing on the race in the South. He also has his power rankings for the conference. And a morning post with links. ... We add a couple things, including some stats for the conference and another couple notebooks and a bowl projection. The South race seems to be a popular subject. ... We also have a couple basketball stories, one from the Bay Area and one from Seattle. Bud Withers writes today about this being a key year for WSU coach Ken Bone. I link this story because I wanted to point something out. In it, Bone talks about having outgrown a sagging, conservative defensive approach. He wants his guys to be more aggressive defensively because he believes "the more aggressively you play, the more confidently you play." Sure can't argue with that. As for the defensive change, he is apparently referring to the Pack defense popularized by Dick and Tony Bennett. Let me say this. After having watched the Cougars practice the Pack under Tony Bennett day after day, there is nothing conservative about it. Far from it. To play it correctly, players have to be as aggressive or more so than a team that plays denial defense. The aggression is just manifested differently. It's not about getting into the passing lanes and getting steals. It's about getting to "help." If an off-ball defender doesn't get to the correct help spot quickly, efficiently, aggressively, then the defense doesn't work. The on-ball defender will eventually be exposed. There can't be a reaction time. It has to happen as the ball is in the air. It isn't easy. But that's when the Pack really works. If the off-ball defenders are passive, heck, if the on-ball defender is too passive, then everything falls apart. And teams can shoot lights out. ... The women's basketball team wants to return to the postseason. ... The WSU soccer team is ranked after two big wins last weekend.
• Gonzaga: It's not just the stars that make a great college basketball team. The guys at the end of the bench help too. Jim Meehan has a feature on the guys at the far end, the guys who make up Gonzaga's scout team, or Red Squad, each day. ... USF is returning a lot of players from last year's team. ... BYU will have a different look and feel this season. ... By the end of next season there could be new all-time leading scorer at USD.
• EWU: It's not often two top five-ranked schools meet in a Big Sky Conference football game. Heck, it hasn't happened since 1994. Jim Allen has more nuggets like that in this story. He also has some links this morning.
• Chiefs: A former Chief has found another home in the WHL. That's part of Chris Derrick's notebook.
• Preps: There is a lot going on this weekend in high school football. Heck there was even a game going on last night, as Lind-Ritzville/Sprague made up its contest with Colfax. ... Mead's girls' soccer team broke out to a three-goal lead and held on for a 4-3 win over Richland in regional action. Jim Allen has the story. ... Greg Lee and Sam Adams of SWX held a live chat yesterday.
• Seahawks: The Atlanta Falcons knocked the Seahawks out of the playoffs last season in Atlanta. Now the two meet again, Same place, different teams. The Falcons aren't going anywhere this year. But they can still ruin Seattle's day. ... It's amazing how many snaps Kam Chancellor has played this season. ... Steven Hauschka may just be the unsung hero of these Hawks. He's sure good. ... There was another roster move yesterday.
• Sounders: Wouldn't it be nice to have all the Seattle stars on the pitch together. It just may happen Thursday night as Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson (who had a live chat yesterday) and Obefemi Martins (pictured) may all be healthy enough to play. The big question mark, as it has been all season, is Martins' health, It's an elimination game, for goodness sakes. It's time for Martins to show up. ... Who will be the goalkeeper? We don't know. We do know Brad Evans is the captain.
• Mariners: All season long ... wait, that's not exactly true. For much of the season I beat the drum Iwakuma was the M's ace in 2013. I was ridiculed on the radio for that stance. It sure is nice to be right. Check the stats. For the season just past, Iwakuma was the best starter on the staff. He won the most games, had the best ERA, pitched the most innings, walked the fewest per nine innings, had the best WHIP, and now is being honored by the baseball literati. He may not be the ace when next season begins – that mantle will probably be held by the staff horse, Felix Hernandez, once again – but for most of 2013, Iwakuma was the guy. ... So is Ibanez, at least when it comes to being the good guy. The Hutch award just recognizes that. ... There is more about the McClendon hiring, of course. There always is. ... There was also another hire announced yesterday, though I'm not sure it's as big a deal. Yes I am. It isn't.
• You know what day it is. We're not going to remind you, like a camel or something. Until later ...