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M’s wave goodbye to another of Jack Z’s failures while Wilson re-ups with the Hawks

Dustin Ackley, 2nd overall pick in 2009 draft, was hitting .215 for Mariners this season. (Associated Press)
Dustin Ackley, 2nd overall pick in 2009 draft, was hitting .215 for Mariners this season. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Why is it when I heard the news yesterday the M’s had traded Dustin Ackley to the Yankees, I immediately thought of the “Sound of Music?” You know, that scene in the movie in which the kids sing so long, farewell, goodbye. Read on.

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• Maybe it’s because it’s been so obvious for so long Ackley’s time in Seattle was numbered. Before we get into the why, let’s make sure everyone knows this isn’t personal, it’s just business. By all accounts, Ackley was a model citizen for the M’s, a good guy who worked hard and treated his co-workers – of all stripes – well. It’s just he could not hit. Not at the major league level, anyway. And he’ll probably go down as the biggest draft screwup of the Jack Zduriencik era in Seattle – if Mike Zunino doesn’t grab that mantle down the road. The M’s had the second pick of the draft back in 2009, a pick that could change the face of the franchise. In a sense it did, but not in a good way. Everyone knew the Nationals were selecting Stephen Strasburg with the top pick and they did. But who would the M’s take? The choices were numerous, with even a couple of Pac-10 players with great credentials available. But the M’s, in Zduriencik’s first draft as general manager, decided on Ackley, a star at North Carolina who looked as if his sweet swing would ensure stardom for years. Or at the very least mean he would be a serviceable major leaguer. He was neither. And let’s be honest, when you have the No. 1 or 2 pick, you aren’t really looking for “serviceable.” You want Ken Griffey Jr., or Alex Rodriguez. Instead the M’s got Ackley. When they could have had Mike Trout. OK, maybe it’s not fair to bring up Trout’s name. After all, 21 teams passed on the New Jersey high schooler before the Angels took him with the 24th pick. Heck, even the Angels bypassed him once to take Randal Grichuk (who?) in the 23rd spot. But even taking Trout out of the picture – though, really, how can you? – the M’s had a lot of other choices and bypassed each one. Guys like A.J. Pollock, who is hitting better than .300 for the Diamondbacks. He was the 16th pick. Or Mike Leake, the ASU pitcher who was traded to the Giants yesterday. He was the eighth selection and has won 62 games in the bigs. Or reliever Drew Storen, the Nationals second selection that year, who went 10th and has a 2.78 ERA in his major league career. Heck, if you want to reach well down the first round that year, you find Angel starter Garrett Richards, Tampa Bay reliever Brad Boxberger and Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers, all of whom were taken late in the first round and all or whom have had, arguably, better careers than Ackley. When you consider the M’s also had the 27th pick in 2009 and used it on Nick Franklin, you can easily call the first round that year “wasted.” And a big reason why the M’s are where they are. That would be nowhere. Or just this side of oblivion. Just think if the M’s had used their two picks on, say, Trout and lefty reliever Rex Brothers (taken 34th by Colorado). Or any of the handful of names I’ve mentioned already. You don’t think their trajectory the past few years would have been different? Now that’s not Ackley’s fault, of course. It turned out he just wasn’t very good. (In more than 2,000 at-bats, he’s hit .243 and has a career OPS of .672. That’s bad.) Yes, the draft is a crapshoot. It’s also the lifeblood of teams like the M’s and the Royals and Pirates. The latter two have done OK recently and have had some success. The M’s under Jack Z? Not so much.

• There are multiple reports out there the Hawks and Russell Wilson have reached a contract agreement this morning. That would qualify as good news, wouldn't it? This would make today one of the biggest in Pacific Northwest sports history, right? 

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• WSU: With the first day of the Pac-12 media days in the books, and WSU’s turn the final one of this second day, there are a lot of stories and posts to link. Including a bunch of stuff from Jacob Thorpe. He has a notebook in today’s paper that also appeared on the blog. He also has more notes in this post and a look at USC being picked to win the conference title. For some reason, you folks seem to think Washington State will win it, according to our on-line poll. Now that’s just plain silly. Support the local team, fine. But how many of you really believe the Cougars can win the Pac-12 title? ... We have looked around the web and found a sampling of columns and stories about the first day.

• Gonzaga: The Bulldogs’ women’s basketball team may have one of its better seasons ever and the record may not reflect it. The team released its non-conference schedule yesterday. It's really tough.

• Indians: A Eugene reliever was nearly perfect for six innings last night and that led to a 6-4 loss for Spokane. Chris Derrick was at Avista Stadium and has this game story and blog post.

• Seahawks: The big news, for once, isn’t about Wilson’s contract negotiations, though that is still important. It is about how safety Kam Chancellor, the heart and soul of the defense, didn’t report on time for training camp, which begins today. Chancellor reportedly wants more money. ... Warren Moon thinks the Hawks should just make a deal with their quarterback. Just like I believe the S-R should give more money to its sports writers and editors. ... Who will make the 53-man roster? We know guys like Jimmy Graham will be on it. ... The coaching staff has an old face in a new spot.

• Mariners: J.A. Happ has fallen on tough times. Which corresponds a bit with the M’s fortunes. The lefty was battered around yesterday by the Twins, who took a 9-5 decision. Just as the M’s are beginning to hit a bit, the starting pitching is faltering. Did I mention the Hawks open training camp today? ... Ackley expressed surprise at being traded to the Yankees, though how could he have been? Maybe he felt no one would want him and his .243 career average. Larry Stone has a few thoughts on Ackley's career and the trade.

• Sounders: There will be a huge crowd in CenturyLink on Saturday when the Whitecaps come a calling. ... Competition is a good thing, even to those who have to compete to play.

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• If you are out and about the Spokane area today, stop by a Dutch Bros. coffee stand and buy a cup of Joe. The place is donating a $1 to Ken Hopkins’ family to help them as the disc jockey tries to recovery from a devastating bicycling accident. And if you happen to see an Eastern Washington basketball player or coach while you are there, it’s because they are doing their part to support an EWU graduate. Until later ...



Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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