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

A Grip on Sports: This may not be a timeless weekend, but there is more than enough to keep everyone occupied

Portland Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson, left, is upended by Seattle Sounders defender Nouhou Tolo during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.  (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • No one is going to call the upcoming weekend a classic in terms of sports on television – or in person. But there is enough going on to keep your life interesting if you don’t want to leave the house. And enough if you do.


• While scanning the sports TV schedule for the weekend, a few things hit me right away. NASCAR has the most interesting names for its events. Baseball’s interleague play begins this weekend with a few interesting matchups. And there is a college baseball game on ESPN Saturday night that shouldn’t be missed.

• Tonight at 4:30, FS1 is broadcasting a NASCAR truck race from Darlington, S.C. Nothing unusual about that. The name of the race? The 200. (We cut and pasted that to make sure we had it correct.)

Now that’s marketing at its finest. Then again, it’s also business as usual for America’s homegrown racing circuit. Saturday’s Xfinity race is named the Steakhouse Elite 200, which has all sorts of connotations concerning the quality of beef at whatever Steakhouse Elite is. (This just in: Steakhouse Elite is a type of beef you can buy at the supermarket, just not any supermarket within a thousand miles of Spokane, according to my Google machine.)

The true race, on Sunday, is the Goodyear 400, which seems a bit more traditional, if that’s the correct term. After all, Goodyear has been making racing tires for as long as there has been racing, even if that racing was on back roads and the winner’s prize was to avoid jail for moonshining.

• The Angels are hosting the Dodgers in the battle for Los Angeles starting tonight and no one seems all that interested in it. L.A.’s sports news cycle has been dominated by an off-field move, that of the Angels releasing Albert Pujols.

The certain first-ballot Hall of Famer was hitting (or should we write “not hitting?”) a robust .198 when the Angels pushed the eject button yesterday, designating for assignment the three-time MVP with 667 career home runs.

It seemed callous. It wasn’t. After all, Pujols hasn’t been worth his $30 million salary since about 2017, halfway through the 10-year deal he signed with L.A. in 2012.

Pujols was, while he was with St. Louis, one of the great hitters of all time. After 11 seasons he had belted 445 home runs and carried a .328 career batting average. That’s Rod Carew, Wade Boggs and Honus Wagner territory, with near-Ruthian power thrown in. But his tenure in Orange County never reached those heights. He was good – especially against the M’s – but never great.

Now his career is probably over. The next stop is Cooperstown, where he will certainly wear a Cardinal hat.

• The best baseball game on the tube Saturday? In this house there is only one choice and it’s not the Mariners playing in Arlington. Nope. It’s a beachfront battle. UC Irvine at UC Santa Barbara.

My alma mater vs. my son’s. ESPNU will broadcast the battle for the Big West title at 7 p.m., which surprises me some. It’s hard to believe a backwater place like Santa Barbara actually has discovered electricity.

• If you don’t want to watch college baseball at its finest in the comfort of your own home, we get it. Being out in the elements has a certain appeal. You could always drive down to Pullman this weekend and watch a hot Washington State team host UCLA in a series crucial for the Cougars’ at-large NCAA hopes.

Of course, if 90 minutes in your pickup isn’t enticing, you could mosey over to the Fairgrounds and watch the Indians. They will be playing at home pretty much every other weekend between now and September, so there’s always that.

• The biggest Pacific Northwest sporting event of the weekend happens Sunday at noon. The Sounders, with the best record in the MLS, travel to rival Portland for an early season showdown on ABC.

There isn’t a professional regional rivalry like it in these parts anymore, which is sad. Remember when the Sonics and Blazers used to meet? Ya, like that, except with even more attitude – and, sans pandemic, bigger, louder crowds.

The Northwest has one major league team. One NFL team. One NBA team. This is it, rivalry-wise, among the region’s pro sports. And it’s nasty enough to carry the banner.


WSU: As we mentioned yesterday, when we linked Theo Lawson’s look at the offensive depth chart, the defense has its day today. What we didn’t know is Theo also included the special teams. What a bonus. … Easop Winston Jr. seemed to be one of Mike Leach’s receivers that could play in the NFL. But the pandemic seemed to throw a kink in that opportunity. Not anymore. Winston is signing with the Saints. Theo has more in this story. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, Washington has yet to settle on its top wide receivers. … Oregon State’s spring scrimmage is all about the defense. … UCLA has a quarterback’s perspective in its receiver room. … The future schedules for Utah seem about right. … In basketball news, the transfer road leads in and out of Arizona, which is probably to be expected. … Colorado has plenty of guard depth.

Gonzaga: Just when you thought it was time to turn the page, Corey Kispert goes and wins another award. This one, as Jim Meehan’s story tells us, is of the academic variety. That’s more important than it is usually credited. … Around the WCC, BYU is still trying to rebuild its roster.

Indians: Spokane’s offense came alive somewhat last night but it wasn’t enough as it lost again to Everett, 8-4 in 10 innings. Dave Nichols has the game story and a notebook.

Mariners: When will Jarred Kelenic be wearing an M’s uniform? If his first game for Tacoma is any indication, tomorrow. Sunday at the latest. … Next up on the Rainiers’ prospect list? Pitcher Logan Gilbert.

Seahawks: DK Metcalf is football fast. But is he track fast? We find out Sunday. Our main hope? He doesn’t hurt himself trying to impress everyone. … Speaking of speed, even Tyler Lockett is eager to see what D’Wayne Eskridge brings. … Who will make up the Hawks’ roster? … They made a couple roster changes Thursday. … The offseason workout dates are set. … Next year’s draft will include more picks for Seattle.

Sounders: Seattle’s new formation will be tested this weekend.

Golf: If there is anyone on the PGA Tour who lives the fun-loving Pacific Northwest lifestyle, it would have to be Joel Dahmen. And if there is anyone who epitomizes California more than Phil Mickelson, he hasn’t emerged just yet. Those two converged, and playfully collided, earlier this week on Twitter. And then played together yesterday. Jim explains what happened in this story.


• We won’t be here tomorrow. Sunday, yes sir. But not Saturday. Until then …