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Monday, May 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: With only a week to go, maybe it’s time to start doing your Christmas shopping

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura, left, reacts with Killian Tillie after taking the bench during the second half of a college basketball game on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, at McCarthy Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura, left, reacts with Killian Tillie after taking the bench during the second half of a college basketball game on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, at McCarthy Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • This is your official one-week warning. Yep, Christmas is in a week. Get your shopping done. And while you are at it, pick up these presents to drop in the Toys for Local Sports Teams bin. Thanks. Read on.

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• Yes sir, it’s the time of the year we all need to be kind to others, lest Santa Claus put a black mark next to your name. No one wants a white-bearded fat guy mad at them, right? Just saying. In that vein, here are some things you can put on your list to keep me, er, Santa, happy with you.

• A Hall of Fame vote for Edgar Martinez. The Veteran’s Committee – I know they don’t call it that anymore but it is what it is – just voted Harold Baines into Cooperstown, which devalues the honor markedly. In his last sportswriters’ ballot, Martinez, whose career was markedly better than Baines', deserves election.

Many folks have laid out his statistical case, using the old-fashioned ones and the new-fangled numbers. All point to Martinez being deserving, especially in light of Baines’ recent selection.

Check out Martinez’s and Baines’ career statistics on Baseball Reference. Now look at the numbers for areas like batting average, slugging, OPS, just about anything that is a percentage, not a lifetime achievement. Yes, Baines wracked up larger home run and RBI numbers. After all, he played four years – and almost 800 games – more. But in just about anything that is quantifiable by percentage, Martinez was markedly better.

Hall-of-Fame-caliber better.

• Tickets to Washington State basketball home games. Our Theo Lawson took a fisheye picture of the crowd at the Cougar game last night during, I believe, introductions.

There were no more than 150 people in Beasley. That’s not only sad, it’s expensive. WSU had to pay Rider something to come west to play. And that something is supposed to be more than income from ticket sales. Either that, or it's a losing proposition. There is no way that could have happened last night.

Factor in the cost of running the arena and these type of home games are getting costly for the Cougars. Well, except in their won/loss record. That improved last night.

• A win for Eastern Washington’s men. The Eagles have played nine basketball games this season. All but two of them have been on the road. And most of them have been against good-to-really-good teams. That’s part of why they have won just one time.

It doesn’t get much easier tonight. South Dakota State is one of the best teams in the Summit League and feature one of the best bigs in the nation, Mike Daum.

With Big Sky play beginning next week, a win tonight would really lift the Eagles’ spirits. It won’t be easy.

• Speaking of wins, Gonzaga could use one. And some health too, while you are at it.

They may go hand-in-hand. And, yes, that’s a reference to Geno Crandall’s injury. He and Killian Tillie have been watching instead of playing. They would help the Zags in the two areas Mark Few has expressed interest in shoring up: defense – Crandall on the perimeter, Tillie at the rim – and rebounding – Tillie is pretty good at that.

But playing lesser-caliber teams in lower-profile games, the recipe for the next couple weeks, will also allow the Zags to work on those things no matter the two injured players’ status.

Let see how it plays out, starting tonight with UT Arlington. We’ll have a present for you afterward. Our TV Take. Guaranteed to help you sleep well in these hectic times.

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Gonzaga: As we said, the Zags host UTA tonight. Jim Meehan has a preview of the nonconference game as well as a look at the key matchup. … The Bulldogs fell to eighth nationally after losing their last two games. Jim has more in this story. … The women didn’t move in their poll, remaining 21st in the nation.

WSU: The Cougars attacked Rider last night and that aggression led to a school record. They made 39 free throws en route to a 94-80 victory. Theo has the story. … Theo also talked with Mike Leach and two players, Abe Lucas and Jalen Thompson, after football practice. (The Lucas interview is in two parts.) And he also talked with Larry Weir during the day for Larry’s most recent Press Box pod. … Compared to other Pac-12 coaches, Mike Leach is a bargain. … Around the Pac-12, it’s been a tough nonconference in basketball. And there is no time to make it better. … Oregon State did win last night, against Pepperdine. … Arizona State, which has been carrying the banner for the conference, lost at Vanderbilt. … Utah picked up a win against Florida A&M. … USC has been a disappointment. … In football, tomorrow is the first day of the early signing period. … Washington will have another quarterback enroll early. It’s getting crowded at that position. … Kliff Kingsbury says being at USC is the right place at the right time. But will he stay if the NFL calls? … Oregon State got through “an important season.” … Oregon’s players are happy to playing in their bowl game. … There is a key Stanford player who won’t play in the Cardinals’ game: Bryce Love. He’s going to skip the Sun Bowl. … Utah is looking for an offensive coordinator again. … Arizona State had a bounce back season.

EWU: The Eagles’ basketball game tonight is the subject of this Ryan Collingwood story. … Former football assistant Troy Taylor will be back in Cheney sometime in the near future. He was named head coach at Sacramento State yesterday, replacing another former Eastern assistant Jody Sears, who was fired a few weeks ago – a year after being the Big Sky co-coach of the year. We also linked some stories in the WSU section. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Portland State is shooting for a conference basketball title. … Montana is the favorite for that accomplishment and the Griz showed why last night with a home win over North Dakota State. … Northern Colorado lost at New Mexico State.

Seahawks: Injuries always play a part in an NFL team’s success. The Hawks are no different. … So does business decisions, like the one Sebastian Janikowski made the other day. Just fall down, dude, and maybe the returner will trip. … Kansas City needs to win. Badly.

Sounders: My all-time favorite Sounder retired from the sport yesterday. Brad Evans, who shares an alma mater with yours truly, has decided its time to move on. He was always a classy player, which is to be expected from UC Irvine grads. … The MLS is changing its playoff format. It’s going to be even more important to have a successful regular season now, with every postseason game a loser out.

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• I like to share stories. Especially success stories. I wrote one recently for The Athletic. It’s about one of my favorite Washington State football players, someone who was not a star then, per se, but is now. It will appear tomorrow and I’ll link it. Who is it about? You’ll have to guess. But he played in Pullman during the tough times. Until later …

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