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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grip on Sports: There is a simple solution to every complex problem, though it’s usually not the right one

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, left, gets a visit to the mound by catcher David Freitas after Hernandez gave up a two-run double to Oakland Athletics' Stephen Piscotty in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, May 24, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Felix Hernandez is struggling in the first inning. So why are the M’s still starting him? How about using a reliever to start the game and then bring Felix in for the second? Voila, problem solved. It’s that type of specious logic that makes sports fans so great. Read on.


• Yesterday I was watching/listening to the Mariners’ 4-3 loss at Oakland and keeping up with Ryan Divish’s Twitter feed from the game. It’s a good way to discover sometimes overlooked information as the Seattle Times’ beat writer shares what he knows. Plus it makes me laugh.

As it did yesterday. See, as Hernandez struggled in the first inning for the second consecutive start, and for the fifth time this season yielded multiple runs to open the game, Divish engaged with fans who felt it would be a good idea to give Felix a rest. For an inning. You know, let him watch the first inning unfold and then put him out there in the second inning.

My first thought was, why engage with these folks? (Divish’s answer: “boredom.”) My second thought was I hope none of them read this column.

I expect more from you folks. You are smarter than that.

It’s not the first inning, it’s Felix’s first inning. There’s a huge difference. No matter when Hernandez enters a game, his current 12.27 first-inning ERA comes with him. It could be the first or fifth or seventh, this season at least it doesn’t matter.

Hernandez is having troubles getting out of the starting block. It may be due to the wear-and-tear on his arm. The 2,563 major league innings he’s thrown may mean he needs a different way to get ready, though I’m sure such things have been discussed and probably implemented. 

And Felix’s troubles this season have not just happened in his first inning. His overall earned run average is 5.58, by more than a run the highest of his career. He’s struggling. 

The first inning is his worst, of course, but he also has an ERA over 4 in the second, fifth and sixth. (FYI, he’s only made it to the seventh inning twice this year and given up two runs while recording only one out. That 54.00 ERA is, if you want to nitpick, actually his worst.)

Worry about Felix’s first innings if you must. Think of out-of-the-box solutions if you want. But it doesn’t matter. He’s a struggling late-career pitcher (despite being just 32 years old) who needs to figure out a way to add a couple of miles an hour back to his fastball and locate better. It’s a story as old as time. With very few happy endings.

• Years and years ago, Spokesman-Review sports editor Jeff Jordan had a splendid idea. Put together a dream 18, the best 18 holes in the Spokane area. A fictional golf course our readers could play if they wanted. To encourage that, he enlisted my help. 

As the then-graphics editor of the paper, I produced a scorecard with all the holes golf writer Steve Bergum picked. You could clip it out, play the holes during your summer rounds and see what you shot. There was some idea people would send the completed card to Bergum and he would pick a winner.

I’m not sure that part of it happened but the course itself was a great idea.

As they say, great minds think alike. And so do Jordan and current sports editor Ralph Walter (just kidding guys). The dream golf course is back, this time with the holes picked by Jim Meehan and a host of area pros. It’s all part of our golf section, which shouldn’t be missed.

• It was tough to get going this morning. My first inning was Felix bad. There’s a reason, sure, but it’s a silly one. I was up way past my bedtime last night. With more than 7,000 of my closest friends – and the one guy behind me who had a continuous monologue on every bit of Eagles’ trivia you could ever want, most of it incorrect – were at the Arena watching America’s most successful rock band play for two-and-a-half hours. 

It was fun, if ultimately sad. Why? Nope, not getting into that here. I’m saving that for my upcoming book: “Eagle Watching: An In-Depth Study of a One-Man Band.” Until then, though, we’ll keep our thoughts about ancient music to ourselves – unless it helps us bridge discussions about sports.


WSU: Track and field has reached the regional stages, with at least one Cougar runner moving on. … The baseball team opened its final series of the season with a 14-5 victory over Utah. The Utes learned their NCAA fate yesterday. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Las Vegas may just be the answer to many of the conference’s problems. But it’s a bit of a gamble. (See what I did there?) … Oregon has dismissed a linebacker from its team. 

Gonzaga: The Zags are not only successful on the courts and fields, but they are also successful in the classroom. Jim Allen has a couple stories on that success. … The baseball team opened the WCC tournament with an easy win. 

Idaho: Jerry Kramer is a legend. A legend at Sandpoint High. A legend at the University of Idaho. A legend in Green Bay. And he’s also, finally, an NFL Hall of Fame player. John Blanchette does what he does so well, encapsulating what the overdue honor means to Kramer in this column

Chiefs: Spokane signed its first-round draft pick, Graham Sward.

Lewis-Clark State: The NAIA World Series is back in Lewiston and Larry Weir talks about it with KHQ’s Sam Adams in the latest Press Box pod.

Preps: The State track and field meets are underway and we have stories from Tacoma, where the 4A, 3A and 2A events occur, and from Cheney, where the smaller schools compete. … Dave Nichols has a preview of the rest of the spring sports championships.

Mariners: Oakland scored all of its runs in a 4-3 win in the first inning. … The Jean Segura trade is leaning heavily in the Mariners’ favor these days. … Robinson Cano isn’t the only player from the Dominican Republic to be ensnared by baseball’s drug testing. … Nelson Cruz is trying to fight through injuries. … Some money being earmarked for Safeco upkeep doesn’t sit well with one politician.

Seahawks: If you thought the national anthem discussion was going away, think again. (And thanks to all of you who sent me your thoughts via email. All were thoughtful, which is unusual in this day and age. Makes me happy you come along for the ride every day.) There were some tough words exchanged. … The OTAs are not only a time to evaluate new players, but a time to evaluate new rules as well. … Russell Wilson has an alter ego.


• You want a sports connection to the Arena concert last night? The opening act was J.D. and the Straight Shooters, a group I had never heard about until walking into the Arena. Turns our J.D. is James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks and the Rangers. His band and his sports teams are comparable. Until later …