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

A Grip on Sports: Yes, failures were made, but not as many as some folks think

A GRIP ON SPORTS • During the pandemic, a movie debuted on Disney’s streaming platform. “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.” We can’t tell you anything about the plot or the moral, mainly because we never spent the two hours or so needed to watch it. But the name. That stuck with us. And why wouldn’t it? It fits so many situations.


• To wit: Jarred Kelenic. The Mariners dealt a fading Robinson Cano and an injury-prone Edwin Diaz to the Mets to get the young outfielder in 2018. Money was part of the motivation. It always is with Seattle.

But even with the financial flexibility and Cano falling off a cliff, the trade was a mistake. Kelenic never reached his potential with the M’s.

And then there was the kick. Struggling in the middle of last season, Kelenic kicked a water cooler. Broke a toe. Sealed his fate. In the offseason, Jerry Dipoto traded the once-can’t-miss-prospect to the Atlanta Braves for a lesser prospect (Cole Phillips) and a relief pitcher with a negative career WAR.

After three years of Seattle fans arguing over what Kelenic might one day bring to the offense, Dipoto decided to cut his losses and move on. Turns out the move has been subtraction by subtraction.

While Kelenic was out of the lineup last season, the Mariners caught fire. Five games under .500 when he kicked the cooler, Seattle won 38 of its next 57 games. It certainly seemed the M’s didn’t need him. But that was the Kelenic that was. The Kelenic that is this season, the thrust-into-the-leadoff-spot Jarred Kelenic? He’s having his best season. And it’s not close.

In his three Seattle seasons, had an OPS of .656. That’s awful. In Atlanta? He’s at .765. And his numbers have just been going up since being moved into the leadoff spot after the season-ending injury to National League MVP Ronald Acuña Jr.

Yes, it is a small sample size. Yes, Kelenic produced in spurts for the Mariners as well. And, yes, Kelenic wasn’t well liked in the clubhouse. We concede all that and more. We even think the trade, especially if Phillips turns into something, heck, anything, was warranted.

But to the outside world, Dipoto once again looks a bit like Timmy Failure.

• You know what’s not a mistake? Playing your college basketball in the Inland Northwest.

Ask Klay Thompson, who parlayed his three seasons at Washington State into a Hall of Fame career and multiple NBA championships with the Warriors. Since his time on the Palouse, Thompson not only has been a winner’s winner, he’s become something of a cultural icon.

Ask Jaylen Wells, who parlayed his one season in Pullman into an NBA draft spot – and a social media moment last night. His last-second floater gave his Memphis Grizzlies summer squad a win and his celebration went viral.

And you can also ask any number of Gonzaga players who have put together solid professional careers.

The latest to shine? Take your pick. Andrew Nembhard had a great playoff run with Indiana and is getting ready to represent Canada, along with long-ago Zag Kelly Olynyk, at the Paris Olympics. Or you can pick Jalen Suggs, who just finished helping the U.S. Olympic team prep in Las Vegas as a member of the U.S. Select squad.

The area may not be Indiana or New York City or Tobacco Road but that doesn’t mean basketball success can’t start here.

• The biggest mistake we have seen in the past couple years? Well, mistakes, actually? The ones that led to the demise of the Pac-12 – as we knew it.

Another milestone was reached Tuesday, when the Big 12 opened its football media days in Las Vegas, of all places. Funny, but the stars of the show, after shine-the-light-on-me commissioner Brett Yormack, were almost all connected to some of the former Pac-12 members.

Controversy? Check. Favorites? Check? The future? Who knows.


WSU: Of course there are reasons we mentioned the names above. We have stories to pass along. We start with Greg Woods’ piece on Woods’ night in Vegas. Pretty special, with 27 points and six rebounds, along with the game winner. … Klay Thompson was also introduced to the Dallas area yesterday, and spoke about the change of scenery. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we found a football recruiting story. It concerns USC. … There is another installment of the Oregonian football numbers story to pass along. No. 53 for Oregon State and Oregon. … The Ducks will hold a vigil for Khyree Jackson, who was killed recently in a collison. … A Beavers’ defensive lineman has decided to step away from the game. … Kyle Whittingham is still rolling along at Utah. As is the rivalry with BYU, now in the Big 12. … Arizona and Arizona State were also introduced. … The Wildcats made an announcement. … A former Oregon women’s player is headed to Paris. … Washington has hired a new baseball coach.

Gonzaga: Suggs spent one season at GU, helped the Zags to the NCAA title game and then moved on. He’s making his mark in Orlando, the NBA and, now, with international competition. Theo Lawson spoke with him in Las Vegas and has this story.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Idaho State women’s team ended its Paris trip on a high note. … Once again, former Weber State star Dillon Jones shined in an NBA summer league. … Northern Colorado decided who to send to the conference’s media days.

Indians: Chase Dollander entertained the Avista Stadium crowd with three innings of don’t-let-them-hit-ball pitching. But Spokane didn’t get the win, with Everett taking a 6-3 win in 10 innings. Dave Nichols has the coverage. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Vancouver continued to roll, shutting out host Eugene 6-0. … Tri-City went to Hillsboro and took a 9-4 decision.

Mariners: No need for Kelenic, good or bad, Tuesday night. Seattle’s bats were on fire, Logan Gilbert pitched well until tiring and the M’s handled San Diego 8-3 in Petco Park. … Yes, we read a Kelenic story this morning. We pass it on. … We also pass along once again the story on the historically bad Seattle offense. … Gabe Speier is getting closer to a return. … T-Mobile Park, or Safeco Field if you prefer, is 25 years old. Do you have memories? We do.

Kraken: The latest free-agent move is about more than just the money and on-ice production.

Sounders: It’s been a decade since Seattle has appeared in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal. But they will do it again, after last night’s win in Sacramento.

Storm: The WNBA players stepped forward in 2020, speaking out about issues that were roiling the nation. There is a documentary about it – with Seattle ties.

Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic didn’t have to play his men’s quarterfinal today. He was the recipient of a walk-over.

Reign: Teamwork, as in teaming with the Storm, allows the dream work, as it relates to amateur soccer.

Olympics: The U.S. soccer issues have been well documented. They now intertwine with the Games.

Golf: Just thought we would pass along a little nugget. Wine Valley in Walla Walla has been rated the third-toughest course in America. They are all tough on our game.


• The family reunion we are attending is in the middle of a cattle ranch. We’ve been walking around introducing ourself to the cattle, letting them know we have decided to become a vegetarian. After years of reading The Far Side, we decided we couldn’t be too careful. We’re sure they are standing up, smoking a cigarette and plotting against us when we are out of sight. Until later …