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Wednesday, November 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: With the Nationals headed to the World Series, the Mariners are the only franchise still outside looking in

The Washington Nationals celebrate after Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Washington. The Nationals won 7-4 to sweep the series 4-0. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)
The Washington Nationals celebrate after Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Washington. The Nationals won 7-4 to sweep the series 4-0. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Yes, it’s October. Late October in fact. And we are going to discus Mariners’ baseball. It’s important.

•••••••

• Don’t lose hope.

If there is any lesson Mariner fans can learn from the long-suffering Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals fans, that’s it.

Or, as Commander Peter Taggart would put it, “never give up, never surrender.”

After decades of woe, fans of the Expos (created in 1968) can finally say the franchise that bid au revoir to Canada and settled in its southern neighbor’s capital is in the World Series. And the short-suffering National fans (born in 2005) can rejoice. Their team’s playoff stumbles are a thing of the past.

Next stop Houston (or New York).

Which means only one current Major League franchise has yet to play in World Series. Yep, your Seattle Mariners.

It’s not hopeless. It isn’t. The Mariners will some day make a run akin to this year’s Nationals. Things will fall into place, the calls will go their way – by then everything will probably rely on video and computers, so some Microsoft engineer (and M’s fan) will be able to hack in and make sure of it – and a World Series game will be played at T-Mobile/AT&T/Sprint (Brought To You By Tesla/Ford) Field.

It won’t be next year. It probably won’t be 2021. But after that, anything could happen. Of course, you’ll have to drink some of what Jerry Dipoto is selling to believe it.

Do you?

Dipoto has never built a team that’s gotten there. In his time in Arizona, he helped put together a group that won the National League West. In Anaheim, his feud with manager Mike Scoscia made more headlines than the one A.L. West title the team won.

Then again, Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo hadn’t been in that position before he came to Washington and he’s the one who has put a successful team together. Everyone has to start somewhere.

The Mariners are starting over again. Their goal is the same as the Nationals’ was just a few years ago. Someday they will realize it.

• When Connor Halliday was a Washington State player, you could count on him being honest in interviews. Anyone remember his disgust after the 60-59 loss to California in 2014?

That honesty hasn’t left him. In a podcast interview yesterday with “Cougtalk with the WSU Football Blog,” Halliday was asked about defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys’ recent resignation.

Halliday answered with his usual openness, sharing what he said he’s heard from Pullman.

According to the former record-setting quarterback, Claeys and current co-defensive coordinator Darcel McBath haven’t seen eye-to-eye since Claeys’ arrival in 2018. And the feud finally came to a head after the UCLA debacle, a67-63 defeat in which the Bruins scored 50 second-half points. Within a couple weeks, Claeys had resigned and McBath joined linebackers’ coach Roc Bellantoni in charge.

If Halliday was told a true version of what happened, then it seems head coach Mike Leach didn’t support Claeys.

If he had, and one of Claeys’ subordinates was causing problems, the subordinate would have been gone. After all, that’s what subordinate means. Funny thing, if there was one area in which the Cougar defense struggled above all others, it would be at the cornerback spot. That happens to be McBath’s area of responsibility. The group (as well as the safeties) was torched in a 38-13 loss at Utah with even Leach lamenting how often Ute receivers ran free.

No matter. That was Claeys last game as coordinator. With the veteran coach gone, McBath, who played for Leach at Texas Tech, has been elevated to a position of authority in his second season at WSU.

Last week, in the 38-34 loss at Arizona State, the cornerbacks struggled once more. Missed tackles, poor angles, blown assignments, they were all visible. And this week Colorado comes to Pullman, featuring the Pac-12’s most elusive receiver, Laviska Shenault Jr., as well as veteran quarterback Steven Montez.

It’s time for the Cougar defense, especially the secondary, to step up and show Leach backed the right horse.

•••

WSU: Halliday’s podcast interview, referred to above, is also the subject of this Theo Lawson story. … Theo also has the welcome news receiver Brandon Arconado will be back this weekend. … Oh, and Theo picks the winners of this week’s conference games. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the bowl picture is getting clearer. … Stanford may well be using its third-string quarterback against UCLA tomorrow night. … Washington counts on a walk-on tight end and he’s delivered. Oregon has its problems at the position due to injury. … Who does the kicking for Oregon State on Saturday at California will be decided that day. … The Beavers are putting more money into their stadium. … Utah reaches the halfway point needing a win against Arizona State on the Pac-12 Network. … Arizona may be part of the best rivalry in college sports but that doesn’t matter this week against USC.

Gonzaga: North Carolina will be in the McCarthey Athletic Center on Dec. 18. However, the Kennel Club might not be full as it could be. Student housing won’t be available, as Christmas break will be underway. Jim Meehan explains the decision in this story. … Jim also passes along the news the Lakers waived David Stockton. … Rui Hachimura is going to be counted on by the Washington Wizards. … Dan Dickau and Larry Weir chatted yesterday for the latest Press Box pod. … Around the WCC, another BYU player is headed out the door.

Idaho: Former Freeman High and Idaho player Jordan Rose was picked in the XFL draft Ryan Collingwood has that story.

Ironman: The full version of the triathlon will be back in Coeur d’Alene on a rotating basis. That’s what has been worked out in North Idaho. Ryan has all the particulars in this story.

Seahawks: The NFC West takes on a new look, as does the Hawks’ opponent this week, due to trades. … Seattle made some minor roster moves. … Michael Dickson is in a bit of a slump.

Mariners: Though the M’s are now the only franchise without a World Series (or will be soon), their minor league prospects bode well for the future. … The Angels have a new manager. It's Joe Maddon.

•••       

• Folks, this is my high school. It makes me proud. Until later …

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