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

A Grip on Sports: How much longer do we have to wait before we turn our M’s glasses toward next season?

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We looked around the house yesterday and realized one thing. Everything is getting old, including the occupants. But we knew the latter. The other stuff? Surprising. Our phone hardly holds a charge. The fridge is warming up, which isn’t a good thing. The carpet needs a refresh. Almost everything is frayed or creaky. Not unlike our favorite regional major league baseball team.


• The Mariners aren’t too old. Far from it. The star is an incandescent 20-something, Julio Rodriguez. The starting rotation is overwhelmingly filled with young, powerful arms. The catcher is still in his prime. The bullpen features one person, Andres Munoz, who has yet to hit his, but we all know it will be special.

Which begs the question? Why aren’t they winning? Why do they lose games like Sunday’s 3-2 decision to Baltimore?

It’s a question that keeps digging at us, like sand caught under the strap of our flip flops. And no matter how many times we stop to brush all the debris away, it still scratches us at weird times.

We’ve come to the conclusion we’ll never figure it out completely but we may have identified the culprit, the biggest difference between this year and last. Pressure. You know, the thing that sometimes makes diamonds but is more likely to crush anything with minor flaws.

Last season, your Seattle Mariners had nothing to lose. Two decades of futility earns that sort of pressure release. And their start, which seemed to portend another year of cleaning out lockers while other played in the postseason, eased the burden even more.

Then they caught fire. Burned through June, July, August and September. Smoked Toronto in the wild-card series. Flamed out against the Astros, sure, but everyone did.

And built the expectation this would be the year. Especially if Jerry Dipoto could add the right pieces of lumber to a smoldering offense.

He didn’t. Which put more of the onus on Rodriguez. Ty France. Cal Raleigh. Eugenio Suarez. And the one newcomer (who actually was just a rented replacement), Teoscar Hernandez.

Free and easy? Forget about it. The M’s were expected to take the next step. Ride the deep rotation and the lights-out bullpen to, quite possibly, the World Series.

Was it too much? Sure seems like it as June morphs into July and the M’s continue to flounder at the plate and in the standings. The mantra last season was “control the zone.” That seems to have disappeared.

As Rodriguez and others try to hit five-run home runs each at-bat and single-handedly carry the team to victory, the opposition tantalizes them with breaking stuff. As Suarez and the rest press, the fastballs above the zone they seemed adept at laying off last season are now chased way too often.

As the offense bends under the weight of expectations, the pressure transfers to the pitching staff. It has bent some but has held up thus far. But for how much longer?

One-run wins have turned into one-run losses. Seattle is 8-15 this year after recording a major-league best 34 wins in 2022.

No matter. Despite what Scott Servais believes, it is obvious – to paraphrase Yogi Berra – it is getting late early for the M’s chances. Which means we can harken back to the old Brooklyn Dodgers’ mantra when they failed to reach their goals year-after-year in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Wait ‘till next year.”

That’s sad, isn’t it? It seems every year the M’s get our hopes up, they struggle. When there are fewer expectations, they seem to exceed them.

Our conclusion? Let’s get through the summer months here. The fall. Brave winter. And then next spring, as the flowers bloom and we have moved the M’s to the backburner, we can hope they overreach all the way to a title.

Wouldn’t that be something?


WSU: As we say, probably too often, recruiting never stops. In football, in June, that is really true. It is the decision-making month for most high school seniors to be. And two of them, including a local player, made their decision this past weekend. Colton Clark has the stories of Coeur d’Alene’s Camden DeGraw and Eastside Catholic’s Tyson Weaver telling the world they will attend Washington State in 2024. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Washington has welcomed a whole bunch of similar announcements in the past week. … Oregon State announced its 2023 Hall of Fame class. … Another Colorado basketball newcomer is ready to contribute.

Preps: Dave Nichols was in Yakima yesterday and he covered the all-state baseball games, with an eye on how the local players did.

Indians: Another game in the Northwest League’s second half, another win for Spokane. The Indians closed out their homestand with a 4-3 win over Tri-City, giving them a 3-0 record to start the second half. Dave put together this story.

Hoopfest: A near-perfect Sunday led to a near-perfect record for returning champions, with one exception. Justin Reed was at center court and he has this coverage of the elite division titles.

Ironman: The race held Coeur d’Alene in its thrall yesterday and will for another few years.

Mariners: The Yankees and Orioles are ahead of the M’s in the wild-card race. The six-game trip was a chance to cut into the lead. Instead, a couple winnable games were lost and the trip ended 2-4. … Maybe they just aren’t good enough to make the postseason again. … Raleigh hit a home run to the street behind Camden Yard’s right-field fence.

Storm: Jewell Loyd is a WNBA all-star again. And a starter again.

Kraken: Matty Beniers will find out tonight if he was the NHL’s top rookie.


• As the Fourth of July holiday looms, we’re getting ready to leave town for a while. Family obligations. But no worries. We will continue to ruin your morning. As Kim does all the work getting us ready to travel each day, we will faithfully sit in front of the laptop and find the few links to Inland Northwest-centric storylines. It’s what we do. Well, that and drive 55 in the fast lane. Until later …