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Monday, June 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: When it comes to the M’s, whatever the fans want, the fans don’t get

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais, right, and a Mariners trainer check on Dee Gordon, center, who was hit by a pitch during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the New York Yankees, Thursday, May 9, 2019, in New York. Gordon was removed from the game. (Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais, right, and a Mariners trainer check on Dee Gordon, center, who was hit by a pitch during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the New York Yankees, Thursday, May 9, 2019, in New York. Gordon was removed from the game. (Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There was an awful old-time movie entitled “It Happens Every Spring.” It was so bad, it’s good, if you get my drift. It was also, ostensibly, about baseball, in the same way “Damn Yankees” or “For Love of the Game” is about baseball. Or the Mariners.

••••••••••

• Yes, we know the Mariners are a major league baseball team. Ostensibly. (By the way, “ostensibly” is our SAT word of the day. It sort of means “sort of.”)

They play in a major league baseball facility (with, starting this season, a minor-league name). They have players who are paid major league salaries, owners who charge major league prices and fans who wear official major league gear.

But are they really in the major leagues?

Don’t you have to be in the hunt for the postseason to be considered major league? Heck, don’t you have to make the postseason at least once in a while to be considered major league?

Just playing out the string starting in, I don’t know, mid-May or something, should get you relegated to Triple- or Double-A, don’t you think?

Or moved to Minnesota.

Back when “Damn Yankees” was all the rage, the worst team in the American League, year in and year out, played in Washington. The Senators were so bad, there was a meme about them.

(Yes, there were memes then. They just weren’t known as memes.)

“Washington. First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.”

Heck, “Damn Yankees” is about Joe Hardy leading the Senators to a pennant. All it takes is devilish interference, true love and an imagination the size of Jupiter.

Which is probably more than it will take the M’s.

This season we are in the middle of a “step back.”

(A quick question: What is there to “step back” from? The brink of ignominy? From despair? Because it certainly isn’t success.)

The M’s are bad on purpose. It’s an interesting concept, one veteran baseball writer Larry Stone examines in today’s Seattle Times. Larry, who has been at this longer than most, wonders if the M’s have a chance to be the worst team in franchise history. Now that’s an accomplishment.

As Larry writes this morning:

“But for now, let’s face the hard truth: This could well be one of the worst teams in Mariners history. I say, ‘one of’ because they’ve had seasons where they lost 104, 103, 102, 101 and 101 (again) games. When you give yourself an 11-games-over-.500 head start, it takes a special brand of struggle to approach those numbers.

“But the Mariners are giving it the old college try. Since the 13-2 start, they are 10-27, a .270 win percentage. Over that same span, the Marlins – the standard-bearer of bad teams in 2019 – are 12-21 (.364). To avoid 100 losses, the Mariners will have to go at least 40-70 the rest of the way – a .363 winning percentage that no longer seems to be a lock.”

Will the M’s succeed in becoming the worst version of themselves? If history is any indication, no. They will fail at this as well. Oh, they will be awful. Lose-100-games awful maybe. But they will end up with the second or third worst record in baseball and not earn the top draft pick. They’ll pick second or third. You know, the spots in which they selected household names Roger Salkeld and Jeff Clement and Dustin Ackley and Danny Hultzen. Not first. Not where they got Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. You might remember those last two guys.

The top pick is usually a player so talented it’s almost impossible to miss. After that, it becomes more of a crapshoot. And the M’s seem to roll snake eyes a lot.

Can’t you see it. It’s June, 2020. Roger Goodell, for some reason, steps to the podium and says, “with the third pick of the MLB draft, the Mariners select Joe Boyd.”

Cue the foreboding music. And 10 more years of failure.

•••

WSU: Though it's not part of that baseball musical, you can start singing the classic “99 Bottles of Beer,” because it is 99 days until football season begins. Yesterday, when the number was still in triple digits, Larry Weir and Paul Sorensen talked about the Cougars and EWU in the latest Press Box pod. … The baseball team, under new management, lost by double-digits at home to Arizona. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the California legislature may force the NCAA to makes some rule changes. … UCLA has rounded out its basketball coaching staff. … Washington has rounded out its roster.

Gonzaga: Anton Watson will spend some of his summer, again, in Colorado Springs. For the second consecutive year he will be trying to make a USA Basketball national team. Jim Meehan has more in this story. … The baseball team lost in the opening round of the WCC tournament. The second-seeded Zags will face top-seed BYU in a loser-out game today.

CCS: The Sasquatch won their NWAC baseball tournament opening game.

Preps: The State track meet began with a bang, courtesy of North Central’s Allie Janke. She set a meet record in the 1,600. Ryan Collingwood has that and more in this story. … Speaking of track and field, don’t miss this piece from Jason Shoot on Lakeside’s quest at the 1A meet. The Eagles are running for more than titles. … Central Valley is back at the State softball tournament.

Mariners: Other than Larry Stone’s piece, we can also pass along a feature from Ryan Divish on Daniel Vogelbach. It’s a bit different than the typical one about Vogelbach’s nice start to the season.

Sounders: With Chad Marshall retiring, Seattle needed another defender. The Sounders found one already.

•••       

• Musical theater isn’t my forte. Either is, I guess, writing about baseball. And when I try to meld the two as we did this morning, well, you get what you get. Until later …

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