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A baseball interlude in football season

A GRIP ON SPORTS

I know no one is thinking about the Mariners right now. After all, they are mired in mediocrity (again) and football season has taken all our time (again). But a couple things happened yesterday that may have ramifications down the road. So we couldn't let them pass. Read on.


••••••••••

• The first occurred in Japan, where the man behind the Mariners died today. Hiroshi Yamauchi (pictured), former president of Nintendo, bought the team in 1992 and was in charge when the Mariners were in their heyday. (Ya, I know. “Heyday” is a relative term. But from 1995 to 2001, the M's were pretty darn good – and fun to watch.) As he aged and realized he could no longer be the main voice – he was already the antithesis to the George Steinbrenner-type owner, more hands-off than hand-on – he transferred ownership to Nintendo of America in 2004, putting Seattle's baseball club in the hands of a corporation. But Yamauchi was the money behind the team, even as the team's fortunes faltered and he did have a say in major decisions. Why not? As late as 2013, he was worth $2.1 billion. That's more even then Ken Griffey, Jr. But, remember, if anyone saved baseball for the Northwest, it was Yamauchi. If not for his intervention, the team might be in St. Pete right now and there wouldn't be a Safeco Field. You wouldn't have the option of sitting outside on a warm July day, eating peanuts, keeping score and watching one good major league baseball team – whoever is playing the M's, of course. And why he was a true owner – as opposed to Nintendo of America being in charge, with its corporation-fueled emphasis on the bottom line – the Mariners were winning. So mourn the passing of the man even while you are mourning the loss of another baseball season.

• I don't believe it is much of a coincidence the M's best players recently have mainly been from Japan. Ichiro, of course, held that distinction for years. Felix Hernandez broke the mold, but last night's win in Detroit showed Hisashi Iwakuma is the Mariners' best pitcher right now – and has been in 2013. For most of the season he and Felix traded off as the M's ace, each having stretches in which they dominated. But as the season winds down, Felix (one of the best pitchers in baseball and one who should hold that title for years) is an observer, sidelined by a side injury that has caused him to miss a couple starts. Iwakuma just keeps motoring along, with last night's 8-0 win against the Tigers probably his best start of the season. The big right-hander threw eight innings, allowed just four hits, walked two and struck out six. Of all the problems the M's have to fix for next season (and beyond), the top couple spots in the rotation are not among them. With Felix and Iwakuma, the M's have as good a starting duo as anyone in baseball. The rest of the team? Not so much.

•••

• WSU: Christian Caple has mentioned before how much he likes dealing with Cougar assistant Eric Russell (he mentioned it again yesterday in his live chat). So this Saturday's game with Idaho, where Russell got his coaching start, turned out to be fortuitous for Christian, as he had a perfect reason for writing this feature. Christian also had a blog post following practice last night, a post covering this weekend's TV plans and a morning post today with links. … ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog picks this week's game and both prognosticators pick the Cougars to handle UI. However, Ted Miller does have one mistake. The last time WSU was 3-1 was 2011, Paul Wulff's final season, not 2006 as Miller writes.

• Gonzaga: We can pass along a couple items from the women's program, including this feature on Kelly Graves' program and a story on his new assistant coach.

• Idaho: Josh Wright caught up with former Idaho coach Robb Akey this week and filed this feature. I saw Robb often this summer as he was at a lot of the same basketball tournaments I attended. It's always nice to get a “how ya doin' Bubba” from Akey.

• Chiefs: The WHL season is almost upon us and Chris Derrick is taking the time to introduce a few Chiefs. Today he has a feature on left wing Adam Helewka (pictured). He also has more in this blog post. … The Winterhawks won the title last year and hope to repeat. … Everett has a familiar face in charge.

• Preps: It's Thursday, which means Greg Lee has a column (on the classification cycle) and picks games with Sam Adams. Greg also has a feature on Coeur d'Alene quarterback Gunnar Amos. … We also can pass along this roundup of last night's prep action.

• Mariners: The big news last night was Iwakuma's performance, of course. But the M's received offensive contributions up and down the lineup in handling Justin Verlander and the Tiger bullpen.

• Seahawks: It seems a foregone conclusion the Hawks will defeat the 0-2 Jaguars this Sunday. I agree with that sentiment but would take the boatload of points being offered. Why? Because of sentiment (and injuries). The Jags are under the direction of former Seahawk defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (pictured, possibly contemplating how many games his team will win this season), who left Seattle in good graces and with Pete Carroll's blessing. I don't see Carroll putting a beating on his old coordinator's team. Besides, the defensive players seemed to like playing for Bradley, so there is that. … Speaking of injuries, Russell Okung is getting a second opinion on his toe. Let's hope that works out as well as Sidney Rice's trip to Switzerland. … If the Hawks can cut down on their penalties, the offense should pick up. … Did you know a noisy football stadium is unsportsmanlike? These letter writers must be San Jose State fans. … Richard Sherman was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

• Sounders: The Sounders are part of the reason why Seattle is on such an uptick sports-wise, according to Art Thiel. … The cameras seem to like following the Sounders right now.

•••

• That's it for today. Hope you have a nice Thursday. It's only a few hours until Saturday, thank goodness. Until later …


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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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