A GRIP ON SPORTS
Turns out a lot of people had the same idea on Easter. Who would have thought it? Read on.
• I didn't write much yesterday, being it was Easter and all. It seemed like you would have more important things to do. So I guess that was everyone's excuse yesterday because, all over the Interweb, there were few stories to share. Oh, sure, there is Mariners' coverage. The Northwest's major league baseball franchise is in the midst of a six-game losing streak, so of course there is a bunch of coverage. And there's an off-and-on story with local ties, so there's that. But it's pretty lean today, so we better fill the void. There's only one problem with that. I don't have much to write about. I'm trying to stay positive with the M's and, with Felix Hernandez throwing tonight in Safeco, I'm hoping to have something more uplifting to write about tomorrow. You know, how Felix played the role of stopper, that archaic term sportswriters used to use instead of ace. It designated a starting pitcher who always seemed to stop a losing streak. Steve Carlton, back when he was with the Phillies and they were awful, he was the ultimate stopper. One year he won 27 games. Philadelphia only won 59. Yep, he won 145 percent of their games, if my math is right. That was 1972, a simpler time when gas was still only 29 cents a gallon or something like that. But it almost seems as if those days have returned. Not the gas-price part. The part where one pitcher wins a big percentage of his team's games. Heck in 2010 Felix won the Cy Young Award pitching for a team that won just 61 games. (Winning the Cy Young was something Carlton did in 1972 as well, though he also finished fifth in the MVP balloting. I guess you could argue he was more valuable to the Phillies than just about anyone in the National League was to their team that year.) But Felix wasn't really a stopper that season in that he won just 13 times. Did he pitch great? Yes he did. But the M's didn't win all that often when he pitched. It's a matter of modern circumstances more than anything. When Carlton was winning his 27 games, he started 41 times and finished 30 of them. He was not only the starting pitcher, he was also the bullpen too. He threw 346 innings, which probably ruined his arm for the rest of his career. What, it didn't? He went on to pitch 16 more years, earn three more Cy Young awards and win 20 games four more times? Wow. In 2010, Felix started 34 games. He finished six. It's tough to be a stopper when you are not allowed to throw complete games and you have to turn a tight one over to a crappy bullpen. But that's the way the game has evolved. That year Felix threw 249 innings. It was the most in the league and the most in his career. Carlton threw 346 innings in 1972. It was also the most in the league and the most in his career. Carlton threw eight shutouts that season. His entire career Felix has been allowed to throw nine. Heck, in 2012 Felix had five shutouts. He also had five complete games. He has 23 complete games in 10 years and 273 starts. In other words, fewer complete games than Carlton had in one season. Man, times have changed.
• WSU: Pretty quiet in Pullman, though there is some news on the Deone Bucannon front. The Cougar safety will visit the Seahawks today and has a busy week of NFL visits planned. ... One aspect of the NCAA's meal rule change is that walk-ons will be fed. Where was that 40 years ago?
• Mariners: Did I say the losing streak has reached six? It got there with another tough loss. In this one the M's led throughout, only to see a one-run lead slip away when Justin Smoak couldn't get the ball out of his glove cleanly and threw late to the plate. At first the call (pictured) went the M's way but was – drat technology – overturned on replay. The final: 3-2 for the Marlins. ... The M's got about what they wanted from Brandon Maurer's first start of the season. ... We've been saying this awhile, but there does seem to be help on the way for the starting pitching.
• Sounders: Is Clint Dempsey worth the money? Heck ya. ... Something's wrong with the MLS – hey, that's not an invitation for you to list everything you hate about soccer – when the strategy to stop a high-scoring offense like the Sounders is to foul on nearly every possession. Something needs to be done before one of the league's few world-class players is injured.
• OK, I know Carlton won 45.576 percent of the Phillies' games in 1972. I was just kidding. It's a journalist/math joke that never gets old. Until later ...