A GRIP ON SPORTS
The best part of spring training? Optimism. Read on.
• Ask anyone who knows me. Or, if you are pressed for time, just ask anyone in my family. I'm a pretty pessimistic guy. I think it goes back to playing baseball. You know why your Little League coach taught you to back up first base? In case something went wrong. Play enough baseball and all you ever anticipate is something going wrong. It's the only way to be successful. Which is the irony of spring training, baseball's rite of rebirth. It's when no one ever anticipates anything going wrong. Oh no. Just the opposite. Every team can, if things break just right, win the World Series. At least in February and early March. Then the games start. And weaknesses are exposed. But the true die-hard, he can rationalize those. “It's just spring training,” he or she says. “We'll be fine when the season starts.” And so it goes. Except around here. I sense a lack of spring training optimism around the Northwest. Fatalism might be a better description. Sure, the M's opened their wallet in the offseason and, after the moths flew away, handed over millions in an attempt to improve the offense. Yet the ripples from the $240 million boulder the Mariners tossed in the free agent waters dissipated quickly. A few days of headlines and discussion and they were gone. The Seahawks had something to do with it, sure, as they grabbed the collective throats of Northwest fans and never let go. But so does a Mariner apathy. After years of being beaten down by premature proclamations that “this is our year,” M's fans have established a Missouri-like attitude. They are going to have to be shown this season is different. The coffers of the Bank of Trust are empty. Refilling them will be a lot harder than just getting a signature on a long-term contract. It will take weeks, months, years of solid play to get this fan base excited again. It's been burned too many times. That's why, as spring training moves along, we move down the right-field line, backing up first base, waiting for the next Mariner mistake. We've seen too many throws sail into the bleachers to do anything else.
• WSU: Though there was little in the way of competition yesterday, there still was some news, like Tia Presley being named Pac-12 player of the week, that Jacob Thorpe covers in his morning post. It's just a continuation of a big week for the women's basketball team. … The baseball team seems to have run out of pitching. … The attendance at Pac-12 football games dipped last season. … The non-conference football schedules next year don't seem to be all that exciting in most cases.
• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan uses his Gonzaga notebook to chronicle Kelly Olynyk's visit with his former teammates. … BYU sees the Zag game as its big opportunity, NCAA-wise. … St. Mary's expects to have a good point guard next season.
• EWU: Nothing from Cheney but Idaho State upset league-leading Weber State at home last night.
• Whitworth: The Pirates meet Whitman in a doubleheader tonight that will be televised.
• Chiefs: Portland is on a roll but the Winterhawks are already looking ahead to the next part of the schedule.
• Preps: The basketball playoffs continued despite the school holiday and we have a roundup of the action.
• Seahawks: Bob Condotta continues his assessment of the Hawks, position-by-position. … The Super Bowl win was just part of a heck of month in the Northwest. … If the Hawks want to use the franchise tag – they usually don't – they can start now.
• Mariners: The $240-million man will make his debut today in Peoria. … Some of the M's most important arms made their bullpen debuts yesterday, and everything seemed to be just fine. … New manager Lloyd McClendon wants you to know the M's are more than just Robinson Cano (the aforementioned $240-million man) and a bunch of nobodies. Hello? Anyone heard of this guy Felix Hernandez?
• Sounders: As the Sounders prepare for the next phase of training, this time in the Carolinas, Sigi Schmid addresses some of what's going on. … The team expects to have some depth in goal once again. … Some of the guys trying out for the team have earned another look and another has gone back home.
• As I was driving around yesterday, I realized how spring-like the weather was already. It was (relatively) warm, the wind was blowing and there was an occasional rain shower. And, if you are wondering, that's what got me to thinking about the Mariners. I can remember a time I couldn't wait for their season to start. Now? Well, let's just say it's not the same. Until later …