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

A Grip on Sports: Love jokes? Then the American League West is for you this season

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Where were we? Oh, yes. Thinking about an old joke. One about two hikers, a bear and tennis shoes. You’ve probably heard it, and told it, a time or two hundred. The punch line? “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.” It already seems apropos with the Mariners and the postseason this year.


• Take a quick look at the American League standings as we close in on Memorial Day weekend. Sure, there is a lot of the season left to play, but even a cursory glance lets you know one thing: The wild-card spots, the Mariners’ only path to the postseason the past few years, may be slipping out of reach already.

Seattle’s .540 winning percentage – ya, we get the irony – is only the fifth-best in the league. And that’s without the Rays and Jays getting into gear just yet.

Seems a bit scary if not for one key piece of information.

The West, outside of the M’s, is filled with a bunch of hikers lugging 60-pound packs and wearing beat-up boots. How bad is it? Let’s look.

We start with the defending world champs. Texas, trailing Seattle by a couple games, is two under .500, has won just twice in its last 10 and yet still holds a two-game lead over third place.

That spot is held by the always-hated Astros. Yes, Houston is playing better, but just lost a series to the Angels at home, are 22-28 and don’t have Dusty Baker in the dugout.

Speaking of the Angels, who thinks that the franchise, without Mike Trout (injured again) or Shohei Ohtani (rich and relaxed in Dodger Stadium), can challenge? Not us.

Which means … wait, we forgot Oakland. Or Sacramento. Or Las Vegas or whatever the A’s want to be recognized representing. Then again, the season began with the bear chowing down on their hopes, even if they had a good start. They are back to reality, with a 20-31 record – one more loss than the Angels – and slowly settling in last place.

Which is saying something. The West, outside of Seattle, is a combined 29 games under .500. The Central is nine games to the good side of the break-even mark, even with the White Sox doing a 1962-Mets imitation. The East, the division of excellence, is already 25 games over.

It’s funny how quickly the parameters of the race have changed. The Mariners are no longer trying to beat out a bunch of other bears. All they have to do is stay in front of their West brethren. And that might prove easier. This season at least.

• We’ve had two days of long car drives the past few weeks. Each time we looked forward to turning on the satellite radio and listening to the M’s as we traveled the West’s open roads. And both times we were sadly disappointed as Seattle fell behind early in both.

Then add in the pain yesterday of having to listen to the Yankees’ broadcast. It’s the way XM works. It shares the home team’s call with the world.

Which meant we had to listen to Suzyn Waldman share her lack of knowledge, or homework, with the world. A quick example. The game started off with J.P. Crawford walking. She let her audience know he was a threat to steal. And he’s fast. OK. A quick look at Baseball Reference shows Crawford with an eight-year career. And 22 stolen bases. Total. You know, a week for Elly De La Cruz. And Crawford has been caught 14 times. Add in he is coming off an injury, that he’s lost a step or three, and it’s no wonder he didn’t try to go – or score from first on a two-out drive to the wall a couple innings later.

Waldman also said a couple other things yesterday that made us spit out our Diet Pepsi, but we were driving a two-lane highway and didn’t have a chance to write them down. We do understand, however, Waldman’s lack of time to do basic prep. After all, she has to be ready to read the in-inning ads, as in “that was the Yankees first pop up, which is brought to you by Balloon City, the source of your hot air since 1934” and the like.

Every event in games up and down the I-95 corridor is sponsored in some way, meaning Waldman and her compatriot – alas, it is no longer John Sterling, who retired in April – miss pitches while selling products. It’s annoying. Not as annoying, though, as the M’s missing chance after chance to compete yesterday in the 7-3 defeat.


WSU: We’re playing catch up this morning, not as much as we put on a hamburger but at least as much as we paint on the top of our meat loaf. Most of it has to do with recruiting, with Greg Woods sharing the news today the football staff has added a defensive back, Gage Jones, who is coming off an LDS mission. … Wednesday Greg had a story on a couple of roster additions for David Riley’s basketball team. … John Canzano has a column on Ryan Leaf, a story you shouldn’t miss. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner has a column on the House settlement and how it impacts the conference – now and in the future. … We didn’t want to miss the latest lawsuit in college athletics, that of former Florida signee, Arizona State freshman and new Georgia quarterback Jaden Rashada suing Florida’s coach and a booster over NIL. Fun. … Washington has more money to spend on assistant football coaches. They will have to work on Friday nights a couple times this season. … The same for Oregon. … Arizona picked up a running back from the portal. … USC added a defensive lineman. … We linked this Washington men’s basketball roster story earlier. We have it in the S-R today to share. … Tommy Lloyd is continuing an international tradition he learned at GU. … Arizona’s women have added to their roster. … The baseball tournament is two days in and we don’t understand how the semifinalists are picked. But there has to be some plan to pick four teams from three, three-team pools. Arizona is moving on already, Oregon State and Oregon are in some trouble, Stanford is also in the semis and Utah is out. … The Pac-12 went out with a bang in women’s golf. All four NCAA semifinalist teams were from the conference, with Stanford holding off UCLA in the final. … In softball, Stanford has a better offense this season.

Gonzaga: Around the WCC, Santa Clara will be looking for a new athletic director. Rene Baumgartner resigned Tuesday.

EWU: Today’s news? Dan Monson has added three assistants to his staff. … Tuesday’s news wasn’t happy, as Dave Boling shares Brendon Merritt’s death due to a heart attack. Merritt was a member of Eastern’s 2004 NCAA tourney team. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana’s women added to their roster. … Northern Arizona won the men’s all-sports trophy, keeping Montana State from a third-consecutive award. … Northern Colorado is keeping one of its best men’s basketball players.

Preps: The first spring champions were crowned Wednesday, with the State golf tournaments finishing up. Jim Meehan rounds it all up, including leading with a West Valley golfer who took home the individual 2A title. … Madison McCord has a preview of the State softball tournaments, leading off with Mead making it back for the first time since we covered high school sports almost two decades ago.

Indians: It’s not been a good week for Spokane, as the Indians have lost the first two games of the showdown series in Eugene. Dave Nichols has the stories from last night and from Tuesday. … The Emeralds might be playing elsewhere soon. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, host Hillboro topped Vancouver 5-3 and Everett romped past Tri-City 7-1.

TV: Not the usual sports story we pass along. But once again we share Luke Hristou’s attempt to put Spokane into the national spotlight with a hoop series. Luke Pickett has the story.

Seahawks: The Hawks biggest offseason move? A new coach, sure. But also picking up a backup quarterback. … We’ve found out some things during the OTAs.

Mariners: We linked Ryan Divish’s game story above and do so again here. … The M’s added bullpen help in a trade with Baltimore. … Tipping pitches? The Yanks did it.

Storm: Caitlin Clark and Indiana came to Seattle last night. The Storm won, despite the crowd not exactly in their corner. … Clark isn’t yet what she will be.

Sounders: Seattle is still alive in the U.S. Open Cup.

Kraken: Edmonton is holding Canada’s Stanley Cup hopes once again.


• We are looking forward to getting back to Spokane. Except we have hernia surgery scheduled for Tuesday morning. Which means, of course, we need to take another day off. And after we get cut, snipped and sown up, we’re not sure how we will be Wednesday. Until later …