September 22, 2013 in Sports

Japan provides for Mariners

A Grip On Sports
 
Associated Press photo

Pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is one of many contributions to the Mariners from Japan.
(Full-size photo)

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Vince Grippi has an opinion about everything local, especially sports. Every Sunday we provide samples of his daily riffs. Read him daily at spokesman.com/sportslink.

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

The first occurred in Japan, where the  man behind the Mariners died today.  Hiroshi Yamauchi, former president of Nintendo, bought the team in 1992 and was in charge when the Mariners were in their heyday (1995-2001).

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 hands-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 (as of late 2013 he was worth $2.1 billion), even as the team’s fortunes faltered and he did have a say in major decisions.

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 while he was 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 (Wednesday) 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 (Wednesday) 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.

Friday: We’ve been asking you for a couple days if you believe Washington State and Idaho have a football rivalry.

If we had asked the same question 70 years ago, there would be no question about the answer. Though then would have had to either go door-to-door or use a dial phone to ask. And we would have been really tired.

For you youngsters out there, back then Washington State and Idaho were actually in the same conference. Yep, the two Palouse neighbors were rivals in the Pacific Coast Conference in football from 1922 to 1959, or until the conference fell apart due to scandal. So for 37 years the schools’ matchups had a bearing on a league title.

Monday: It can be really hard to concentrate on a football game when it is constantly – and consistently – interrupted by warnings of an upcoming apocalypse.

I did learn one thing, though, thanks to my Twitter feed. Seahawk fans would rather watch their team destroy the 49ers then hear about any possible tornadoes.

Safety first? Only if it meant Colin Kaepernick would be tackled in the end zone.

That one Seahawk touchdown? Didn’t see it. The screen was black, except for a stencil-looking thing – note to government: we pay enough taxes for you to afford a better font, say Franklin Gothic or something – letting us know, for the 74th time, this was an official warning from the National Weather Service. Yes, I get that the storm was moving.

And I get that new people needed to be warned. But every couple minutes? Isn’t that a bit of an over reaction?


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