A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s a busy week ahead, even though today is light on the traditional Northwest Sunday fare. Personally, though, every day has something going on.
• One thing that won’t be going on. The M’s in the postseason. Last night’s 6-1 loss to Texas, coupled with Houston’s win in Phoenix, ended all hope. Though the Mariners lasted, once again, until the season’s final weekend, just about every Seattle fan can tell you their elimination wasn’t assured in September or June or April. It was pre-ordained, done in by a lack of will in the last offseason.
Heck, even Cal Raleigh knows. And he’s more than a fan. He has a vested interest, built one foul ball off his inner thigh at a time.
And he’s not happy with the roster construction. Everyone in that locker room knows they would have been a better team with one more potent bat in the lineup. The opportunity was available in the offseason, but instead of spending money, Jerry Dipoto had to trade one of the team’s better bullpen assets – Eric Swanson – to get Teoscar Hernandez. And then he did it again at the deadline – Paul Sewald – to shore up the black hole at second with Josh Rojas.
“We’ve done a great job of growing some players here and within the farm system, but sometimes you’ve got to go out and you have to buy,” Raleigh told Ryan Divish and others after the hope-crushing defeat. “That’s just the name of the game. We’ll see what happens this offseason. Hopefully we can add some players and become a better team.”
Raleigh is right. The M’s have grown a pitching staff. Young hitters besides him and Julio Rodriguez? Nope.
Yes, those are two huge exceptions, we grant you. But everyone and their neighbor Wanda knew the Mariners were short offensively. Dipoto did too but for some reason – ownership’s love of the dollar perhaps? – he added folks like Tommy La Stella and A.J. Pollock to be his DH. They were both misses. But cheaper than, say, Michael Conforto – a Seattle native – or Tommy Phan or Adam Duvall or even last year’s late addition, Carlos Santana. All were available. All would have been better choices. All would have been more expensive.
“You look over in the other locker room,” Raleigh said of the A.L. West champ Rangers, “they’ve added more than anybody else and you see where it got them this year.
“By going out and getting those big names, people who have done it, people who have been there, people who are leaders, people who have shown time and again that they can be successful in this league, is definitely … going to help this clubhouse. It would help this team and maybe help those little things that we need.”
It’s obvious Raleigh isn’t happy. And when one of your best young players speaks up, you have to assume he’s talking for most everyone in the clubhouse. He’s also giving the M’s a not-so-veiled ultimatum.
“We’ve got to commit to winning, we have to commit to going and getting those players you see other teams going out and getting – big time pitchers, getting big-time hitters. We have to do that to keep up,” he said, leaving the “or I’ll go someplace where there are doing those things when I can” unsaid. But more than likely in his mind.
It’s time. Past time, actually. Raleigh is right. This franchise has to commit. Every year it doesn’t, wastes a year of Rodriguez’s (and Raleigh’s) career. And gnaws away at the marrow of the fanbase. Makes it harder to invest the emotion the franchise needs. And that’s the saddest part.
• As you age, little things start to add up. And we’re not talking about the aches and pains that seem to crop up all over your (abused over the years) body.
We’re more focused on the idea of final times to do things. Honestly, though, we’re too young – and vibrant, can’t forget vibrant – to do that just yet.
Except when it comes to sports.
Longtime readers of this column know my sister is a UCLA alum. And a football fan who actually has tickets to the Bruins’ home games in the Rose Bowl. Those empty seats you see all the time on the Pac-12 Networks? It’s not her fault. She’s there, unless it’s a day game and it’s 100 degrees.
You probably figured out where we’re going. Yep, we’re headed to the L.A. area for the week. We’re spending time with her. And joining here to watch the Cougars play the Bruins for what may be the final time. It certainly will be the final time as Pac-12 opponents, unless college football goes through another evolutionary period in the next decade or so.
That means we won’t be writing our usual TV Take next Saturday. But we will be doing something. What, we’re not sure yet. But we will share it with you. That’s a given.
WSU: We thought about writing our whole column this morning about Desmond Howard’s hypocrisy – whining while telling Washington State to quit whining – and Pat McAfee’s asinine comments on ESPN’s GameDay yesterday. But the more we thought about it, the more we decided to let them hoist themselves on their own petards. If McAfee actually has one. Greg Woods had to write something, and he included the video of what was said. To quote Bugs Bunny, what a maroon. And not worth our time. … Greg also delved into the men’s basketball roster today, as practice began for real last week. There are a lot of new faces. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner has his Saturday Night Five on the Mercury News site, with USC’s putrid defense in the spotlight. … The Trojans aren’t one of the two conference teams in The Athletic’s weekly top 10 or in Stewart Mandel’s national-title thoughts. … Washington is, and the Huskies showed they can win with a dink-and-dunk offense Saturday night in Tucson. The 31-24 victory over Arizona proves once again this team is different. The Wildcats were shorthanded though. … The 48-41 USC win over Colorado could have been so much more but the Buffs scored three touchdowns late and had a shot until the final onside kick was covered by the Trojans. Still, saying Shedeur Sanders is better than Caleb Williams is why the average fan distrusts some columnists. Sanders is good but Williams is the next level. … Don’t expect the loss to derail the Colorado hype – or the Buffaloes chances for more wins. … Oregon might be the best team in the conference despite falling behind 6-0 at Stanford. Final score: Ducks 42, Cardinal 6. It was a beatdown after the slow start. … California, playing in front of dozens of excited fans, ran past Arizona State 24-21 behind Jaydn Ott’s 165 rushing yards. It was the Bears first conference win and the Sun Devils fourth consecutive loss. … Utah is still waiting for Cam Rising. The Utes need him.
Gonzaga: Yes, it’s October. So Jim Meehan decided to try to determine who will start and who will come off the bench for the men. His educated guesses include some solid choices and some conjecture. Perfect for this time of year.
EWU and Idaho: The duo played a fun game in Cheney on Saturday, with the Vandals running all over the Eastern defense in the second half en route to a 44-36. The two ranked teams – UI came in fourth, Eastern 19th – showed resilience that will be needed as the Big Sky schedule rolls on. Dan Thompson has the game story, a look at Eastern’s backup quarterback who had to shoulder the load due to an injury, and a notebook. … There is also a story in the S-R this morning on former Eagle star Kendrick Bourne. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, third-ranked Montana State showed its one of the best in the nation, rolling over visiting Portland State 38-22. … No. 18 Montana struggled at home but got past Idaho State 28-20. … No. 13 Weber State bounced back from the MSU pounding by getting past Northern Colorado 28-21 with a late flurry. … No. 21 UC Davis took home the Golden Horseshoe with a 31-13 win at Cal Poly. … Northern Arizona almost handed eighth-ranked Sacramento State a second consecutive home loss, 31-30.
Whitworth: The Pirates kicked off its home schedule with a 4-13 Northwest Conference victory over Pacific Lutheran. Greg Lee was in the Pine Bowl and has this story.
Chiefs: After the sun went down, Dave moved into the Spokane Arena and watched the Chiefs build a one-goal lead. But the visiting Americans rallied in the third period for a 3-1 victory.
Seahawks: Geno Smith is headed back to the Meadowlands. Big deal.
Mariners: We said pretty much everything we wanted to say in the first part of this column, but we wanted to add Larry Stone’s thoughts from the Times. And this story in the S-R from the Times looking at Rodriguez’s putrid September. Hopefully, it will be a month that he learns from.
Kraken: Seattle is trying to expand its traditional fan base.
Sounders: A win on the road in Nashville would have brought with it a playoff-clinching reward. A loss would have been hurtful down the stretch. The Sounders did neither, not scoring but not letting the hosts score either and settled for a scoreless draw,
• We’ll keep you updated on what we have planned. We may not be writing Wednesday morning as we’re traveling that day, or it might be late, depending on the airplane’s wi-fi situation. Enjoy your Seahawk-less Sunday. There aren’t many this time of year. Until later …