A GRIP ON SPORTS
It seems as if everyone has a Lou Piniella story. I wish I could say the same. Read on.
• Nope, I don't have a personal story to regale you with. I heard a bunch the couple years I worked the Mariners' fantasy camp in Arizona, but nothing first hand. Which is kind of sad – for me – because Piniella always struck me as the type of manager I would have loved to have played for. He seemed to have his players' backs in public, though he wasn't a molly-coddler. And he had their backs on the field as well, as a handful of video snips shown during last night's M's game attest. Get thrown out on a close play you thought the umpire missed? You didn't have to argue. Lou took care of that. And entertained the fans at the same time. Look it, Lou might not have thrown the best tantrums in baseball history – I wonder if anyone has ever quantified that with statistics on cusswords used, number of times arms are waved and hats tossed – but his explosions always seemed to be thought out and well-timed. If the M's were going well he rarely popped out of the dugout to "talk" with an umpire. But when they were struggling, he was like the Energizer Bunny. He says the arguments weren't planned and maybe not all of them were. But there were enough times his histrionics seemed to take the pressure off his team that there must have been a method to his mad(ness). Look, I respect managers who keep a calm demeanor, who understand baseball is a grind and their just-get-the-work-done attitude keeps their team focused. But I don't think I would have liked to have played for any of them. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Sometimes your leader has to stand up for your rights, even if that embarrasses someone. Lou was willing to do that.
• He was also pretty darn smart. I don't think I can remember a better manager at getting the most out of his marginal players. He let the superstars like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Edgar Martinez just play. But the supporting cast? He mixed and matched them. He knew when to make a change, when to ask them to give themselves up for a base or an out, and he was able to get them to buy into his plan. Was he always the best working with young players? Heck no. And he seemed to wear out his bullpen most every season. But no one is perfect. The bottom line is simple. While he was in Seattle, the M's won. They made the postseason. They battled every game. He was, quite simply, the best manager they ever had. And we will probably never see the likes of him again.
• WSU: Yesterday was important – to fans – as it included the preseason's first scrimmage. To Mike Leach, it wasn't all that big a deal. But he sees things differently than the average fan, which is a really good thing. Jacob Thorpe sees it differently as well, mainly from a lot closer up, so he was able to put together blog posts on the scrimmage, one which includes some quotes and one with the statistics. He also has a story in today's paper. Add to that a post this morning with links and video of the Cougars newest 2015 commit and you have a pretty full plate.
• EWU: The Eagles also held a scrimmage yesterday morning and they unveiled a new weapon: a fullback. Jim Allen has more in this story.
• Idaho: One more scrimmage, this one in Moscow. Matt Linehan threw the majority of passes from the quarterback spot.
• Whitworth: The Pirates will be inducting four into their hall of fame during homecoming ceremonies in October.
• Indians: Spokane has played eight series against NWL North foes this season. The Indians have won all eight. The eighth was secured last night, when they outscored Everett 8-3. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post.
• Seahawks: There are a handful of young guys who have caught the coaches' eyes during training camp. One of them plays like a cowboy, though he's from Southern California, and the other played his college ball in Missoula, which is lot closer to real cowboys. ... There were a lot of penalties Thursday night, on both teams.
• Mariners: The game that followed Piniella being inducted into the M's Hall of Fame probably would have caused Lou to pull his hair out, if he had any left. The M's were handcuffed by Hector Noesi – again – and then gave away the game in the 10th on a Chris Taylor error. When you're fighting four or five other teams for one playoff spot, you just can't give away games. The 2-1 defeat ended a four-game winning streak and dropped the M's a game-and-a-half behind Kansas City in the second wild-card race. ... Erasmo Ramirez will join the club today, make the start and be sent back to Tacoma. ... Maybe the shortstop of the future is still in the minor leagues.
• Sounders: It may not be a "must-win," but tonight's visit to CenturyLink by Houston is, at least, pretty darn close. After all, the Sounders have lost two consecutive matches and haven't scored in either. And Houston isn't an MLS powerhouse. ... At least Seattle should be at pretty-much full strength tonight. ... Whether DeAndre Yedlin is back from England and will play is not known. ... Now this is a goalkeeper anyone would love to have.
• I'm writing this from the comfort of a nice hotel room. Kim and I got away this weekend to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Wow, 35 years. Seems like 135. (Cue rim shot.) Don't worry. She doesn't read what I write anymore. It's all part of her strategy to make sure we stay together another 35 years. Until later ...