A GRIP ON SPORTS
There is hype. And then there are hidden gems. It's the latter we are concerned with this morning. Read on.
• I sat down last night to watch the most hyped television show in years, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or whatever it is called. You couldn't turn on an electronic device the past couple weeks without seeing the preview – the bug, black plane (pictured) looked really cool – or some type of ad. Heck, I turned on the oven to bake some cookies the other night and the video started playing in the front glass. Just kidding. Sort of. Anyhow, it was worth the hour, if not worth all the hype. And that's the problem with overhyping something. Nothing is worth all that time spent assaulting your your senses. What's better is the hidden gem of a show, one that doesn't get all the early notice but the buzz builds over the course of the season. Those are the shows that last – or become cult classics. Usually there is a rundown bar or a banana stand involved. But I am digressing. I was writing about hidden gems and about to make the usual left turn toward sports. It's a pretty simple turn in this case.
• Take Washington State for instance. The hype the past couple years has been for the offense. Mike Leach's offense. Am I right or what? Sure the offense is improving, but the hidden gem for the Cougars this season has been the defense. WSU is 3-1 and in the three wins the defense has been nearly untouchable, especially in the second half. Heck, Washington State just posted its first shutout in 10 years last Saturday and it led to a bunch of post-game acrimony and a debate about whether or not it's cool to bring your starters back to preserve a shutout. Only problem with that is WSU didn't bring its starters back when Idaho came a knockin' at the goal line. The ones that returned came back before then, when there was a breakdown on a play that allowed the Vandals to get deep into WSU territory. And there were a lot of reserves still on the field on the fourth-and-goal play. They were given the opportunity to show what they could do and they did it.
• Another example of a hidden gem might be James Paxton. I know this is stretching it a bit, as Paxton has been part of the overhyped "Big Three," the name given to the M's best minor league pitching prospects. But the most hype was aimed toward Danny Hultzen, who is dealing with arm problems, or Taijuan Walker, who looked pretty darn good before he was shut down for the season. Paxton was somewhat of an afterthought. And somewhat of a disappointment at the Triple-A level. But not at the major league level. He's been pretty much lights out in his starts, including a 10-strikeout, seven-inning shutout performance last night against a desperate-for-a-win Royals team. Of all the gems emerging from the Mariners' minor-league diamonds, Paxton might be the brightest.
• There are other recent examples of hidden gems, from prep football (how much hype did G-Prep receive before the Greater Spokane League season began?) to college sports (WSU's undefeated volleyball team wasn't on anyone's radar in August). Which makes sports such a fun hobby. If you listen to the hype machine, you just might miss the best performances of the year.
• WSU: As athletic director Bill Moos was traveling the West Side, hyping Saturday night's matchup with No. 5 Stanford, coach Mike Leach and the football team was in Martin Stadium preparing for the physical Cardinal. Christian Caple was perched high above the field for practice and filed this blog post after it was done. He also has a morning blog post and will hold a live chat this afternoon. But that's not all. In the paper he had his Pac-12 notebook (a Wednesday staple) and power rankings (ditto). ... Though Christian has a whole bunch of links, we also would like to pass along a few more, including where the conference ranks in NCAA statistics (pretty high), a couple more Pac-12 notebooks, one of which notes the state of Washington's Pac-12 schools have come a long way in a short time, and two stories on Stanford missing one of its best players this weekend. Which brings up a point. Are all the indexes for this game starting to point to a Cougar upset? The Cardinal will be missing their best safety, Ed Reynolds, for a half. They'll be missing their best offensive lineman, David Yankey (pictured), for the game. The Cougars have played Stanford tough the past couple seasons. The Cardinal are coming off a much-hyped win over Arizona State and face Washington at home next week, hoping to get revenge for last season's loss in, wait for it, CenturyLink Field. Add it all up and you get ... who knows? But if you like to read tea leaves or chicken bones, they seem to be falling the Cougars way. ... One last feature for you. It's from San Jose, who induced former Cougar Klay Thompson and Golden State Warrior teammate Seth Curry to sit down with their dads and talk hoops. It may come as no surprise Mychal Thompson dominates the conversation.
• EWU: No hype need in Cheney. The game at Sam Houston State has the Eagles attention. Ashton Clark (pictured) has Jim Allen's attention right now, and is the subject of this feature. Jim also has his morning post with links.
• Chiefs: Two road games, two big wins for Spokane. The Chiefs went into Victoria last night and won 6-2 again. ... Chris Derrick wasn't in Victoria, but he does have a blog post and this story on the Kamloops Blazers' Aaron Macklin, who is dealing with some tough off-the-ice problems. ... Tri-City went into Portland and earned a win.
• Preps: There is some really good football out at Albi on Friday night. Greg Lee runs down all the weekend's prep action.
• Mariners: We mentioned Paxton's performance in the M's 4-0 victory over the Royals above but we didn't mention the fallout. Yep, his season is over. He finished 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA. And hence the fallout. Expect an offseason of "James Paxton is the next Felix Hernandez" hype. ... Hultzen is still having trouble with his shoulder, so he's getting another opinion. ... For those of you who have expressed a preference for replacing GM Jack Zduriencik, you seem to be out of luck.
• Seahawks: After a couple weeks at home, the Hawks head to Houston to face a hyped Texans team that really needs a win. ... The Hawks have a pretty deep wideout corps, even with Percy Harvin out. ... So is the linebacker corp, especially after a change. ... Seattle has made a change to its practice roster.
• Sounders: As the season winds down, the Sounders have a lot to play for while still trying to get everyone healthy and ready for the playoffs. ... Steve Zakuani would like to contribute to the stretch run and beyond. ... Mauro Rosales has been contributing – a lot. ... You want power rankings? You've got them. You want more on the Galaxy match? OK.
• That's it for today. This is usually the day I work in my yard, but the rain showers just might preclude that. Let's hope it clears up because I want to get out and mow the lawn. It's my hump day ritual. Until later ...