The Mount Rushmores For Each Seattle Pro Team

* That I choose to cover, because I don’t give a fudge about the ones I don’t.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of TV shows still airing new episodes right now?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Rick & Morty, Better Call Saul, Bob’s Burgers, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different shows.

Today is going to be the first of a two-parter, of sorts.  I’m going to split up my Mount Rushmores between the Mariners, Sonics, and Seahawks, with the goal of locking down an official Mount Rushmore for All Seattle Sports tomorrow.

First up:  the Seattle Mariners.

  1. Ken Griffey Jr.
  2. Edgar Martinez
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Ichiro

I thought this one was pretty easy, but I could see why people might want to make the argument for someone like Randy Johnson or Alex Rodriguez or even Alvin Davis, but ehh.  Griffey is Griffey; he’s the greatest player in Mariners history.  Edgar is Edgar; he’s the greatest hitter in Mariners history.  Felix is the King; his prime in a Mariners uniform was better than Randy’s prime in a Mariners uniform.  Had the Mariners never traded Randy, and he won a bunch more Cy Young Awards and whatnot, then yeah, Randy all day.  But, I’m going with the King because he’s my favorite player of all time and because he deserves to be on this list.  And, I’m going with Ichiro as my #4 due to his longevity and his sustained brilliance as this team’s leadoff hitter.  Again, it comes down to tenure over someone like A-Rod who had a short stint of supreme excellence before taking the money and running to the Rangers.  In the end, I don’t think A-Rod would end up on any team’s Mount Rushmore, and that’s exactly what he deserves.

Next up:  the Seattle Supersonics.

  1. Gary Payton
  2. Jack Sikma
  3. Fred Brown
  4. Shawn Kemp

You could go any number of ways with the Sonics.  Ray Allen, Lenny Wilkens, Gus Williams, Xavier McDaniel, Nate McMillan, Spencer Haywood, Slick Watts, Detlef Schrempf, Big Smooth, Dale Ellis, and on and on and on.  There were so many great players, so many great teams, and so many great eras of Sonics basketball.  I’ve got the Glove at the top because I think he was the best all-around player in team history.  He’s obviously known for his lockdown defense, but he really developed into a dominant offensive player over his career, becoming the team’s unquestioned leader.  Sikma was the best big man in team history, averaging a double-double in 7 of his 9 years in Seattle (as well as making 7 All Star Games).  Brown was a 13-year career Sonic bridging the early 70s, through the championship year, on into the mid-80s and the next generation of great Sonics teams.  And, finally, I’ve got 5-time All Star (with the Sonics) Shawn Kemp, the most explosive and athletic player in team history, who really developed into a force in the league, at a time when there were tons of great power forwards in the game.

And, without further ado:  the Seattle Seahawks (past).

  1. Steve Largent
  2. Walter Jones
  3. Cortez Kennedy
  4. Kenny Easley

Okay, so here’s the deal:  those are four Hall of Famers.  If you’re going to have a Mount Rushmore of Seattle Seahawks, you’ve gotta go with the actual NFL Hall of Famers, right?  Steve Largent, at the time of his retirement, had just about every single wide receiver record in NFL history; he was THE greatest, until Jerry Rice became THE greatest.  Now, many receivers have blown past Largent’s stats through the years, but the game is a lot different now than it was in the 70s and 80s.  Walter Jones, I think, is the greatest left tackle in NFL history; he absolutely belongs on this list!  The Tez is, without question, one of the greatest all-around DTs in the history of the league.  His ability to clog up the middle, command double-teams, and still create an abundance of pressure up the middle is simply mind-boggling.  And, as for Easley, he was a Pro Bowler 5 of his 7 seasons, and a first team All Pro in 3 of his 7 seasons.  Had he not had the health issues that forced him into retirement, he would’ve been an NFL Hall of Famer MANY years ago.  Essentially, he was Kam Chancellor before there was Kam Chancellor, at a time when the safety position was oft-overlooked.  His type of game-changing talent is generational and precious and should not be taken for granted.

There have obviously been other great Seahawks throughout the years – Matt Hasselbeck, Curt Warner, Shaun Alexander, Jacob Green, Dave Brown, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, and so on and so forth – but no one is on the level of the four above-referenced Hall of Famers.

Now, that having all been said, I think this current batch of Seahawks – since Pete Carroll and John Schneider joined the team – have some NFL Hall of Famers on it as well.  So, really, I had no choice but to split this part up.

We had the Seahawks (past) and now the Seahawks (present).

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Marshawn Lynch
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Russell Wilson

Obvious asterisk here in that Beastmode is not a current Seahawk, but he’s from this Pete Carroll Era, and that’s really what I’m talking about here.  I think Earl Thomas (assuming he comes back from his injury) is the best and most obvious future Hall of Famer.  Like Easley, in Earl’s first seven seasons, he’s made 5 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros.  He’s the heart & soul of this defense and really what makes this defense tick.  As you could see when the Seahawks lost him last year, this defense falls apart without Earl!  With him, it’s among the best in the league, and the primary reason why we’ve led the league in fewest points allowed so many times under Pete Carroll.  Next up, I think you have to go Beastmode.  I think, as it stands right now, he’s a borderline NFL Hall of Famer.  But, with a good season or two in Oakland, I think he blows past borderline into Obvious NFL Hall of Famer.  Lynch took this team from soft and old and carried it to back-to-back Super Bowls.  He allowed this team to bring its rookie franchise quarterback along slowly, and when it mattered most – in those playoff games – Beastmode brought his game to another level.  Ultimately, I think it’s his performances in the playoffs that will carry him into the Hall of Fame (in spite of his famous discontent with the NFL media), and it’s why I have him ranked so high on my list.  Third, I’ve got Sherm.  He’s the greatest cornerback in team history.  Period.  4 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros in his 6 seasons, and he has yet to miss a game as soon as he entered the starting lineup.  I don’t know how much longer he’ll be a member of this team, but as long as he is, he’s on my present-day Mount Rushmore.  And, fourth, I’ve got Russell Wilson.  I could’ve gone any number of directions here – Wagner, Kam, Bennett, Avril, K.J., Doug – and indeed, any number of those guys might end up making the Hall of Fame alongside my top 4, but I’m rolling with the QB.  In spite of the fact that for quarterbacks nowadays, it’s probably harder than ever to make the Hall of Fame, what with all the passing records that are falling, and how difficult it is to last in this league for 10, 15 years or more.  And make no mistake, Russell has A LONG WAY to go.  5 seasons, 3 Pro Bowls, no All Pros.  It’s especially questionable when you consider the step back he took last year with lots of injuries and behind an ineffective O-Line.  For this choice, I’m going mostly on faith, and I do have faith that Russell will reach all of his goals and go down as one of the greats of this era.  Disregarding all of that, right now, for what he is, Russell is the guy that stirs the drink.  This team doesn’t do what it’s done without Russell Wilson behind center.  No Super Bowls (plural), no division titles (plural), not nearly as many 10-win seasons (he’s 5 for 5 in his short career, no pun intended) with a replacement-level player.  Quarterback is the most important player on every NFL team, and the Seahawks are no exception.  As such, he’s making my Mount Rushmore over the rest.

Tomorrow, I’m going to pick from among the above-listed 16 players and come up with a definitive Mount Rushmore for Seattle Pro Athletes.  Weeeee!

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Stand-Up Comedians?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Dave Chappelle, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different names.

Today, I’m going to delve into the head coaches and managers of the various local sports teams.

In spite of the fact that Seattle is far from Titletown, U.S.A., this was actually a pretty difficult exercise.  Ironically, because there were TOO MANY good coaches to choose from!  I’ll tell you right now, this one is bound to be my most controversial Mount Rushmore of the week, but IDGAF.  Come at me, broseph!

For starters, right or wrong, I’ve put OVERWHELMING emphasis on those head coaches who led their respective teams to championships.  I mean, it’s obscene, which is why I’m going to start this post with my Honorable Mentions, and I’m going to lead off those Honorable Mentions with probably the most glaring omission (but hear me out):  Lou Piniella.

Look, I love Sweet Lou as much as the next guy, and if I were simply ranking managers of the Seattle Mariners, he’s obviously at the top of the list.  And, while much of this isn’t his fault, I would argue he’s not entirely blameless for the fact that the Mariners only made it to the playoffs 4 times in his 10-year career.  And in those 4 years, they failed to get past the American League Championship Series (often never really making it much of a challenge).  Those teams were absolutely LOADED with talent!  Are you kidding me?  Not even a single World Series appearance in the bunch?  I know, the organizational management of those teams was severely lacking; they bungled a bunch of trades, mishandled two of our greatest players (Griffey and Randy) to the point that both wanted out of the organization, and refused to pony up the cash to keep the best player on the planet – Alex Rodriguez – when he became a free agent.  That having been said, I’ve never really had much respect for baseball managers; what do they do besides write a lineup and make bullpen decisions?  Manage player egos?  Ooo!  Big whup!  Head coaches in other sports do that too, and they do a lot of other stuff that has more of an impact.  Naw, I’m not buying baseball and I’m not buying Lou Piniella.  If Mount Rushmore had 5 people on it, I probably STILL wouldn’t have him on it!

Because that leads me to my next omission:  Mike Holmgren.

At least he took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl!  I would argue both he and Piniella have to be credited with changing the culture of losing for their respective Seattle-based teams, but they JUST didn’t quite get it done when it mattered most.  There were some extenuating circumstances with Super Bowl XL and the officiating that I won’t get into here, but alas, Holmgren just misses the cut.

Some other Honorable Mentions include, in no particular order:  Chuck Knox (very underrated as the leader of the Seahawks in the 80s); Nate McMillan (doing a lot with a little in a mis-managed Sonics organization, particularly in the Howard Schultz years); Gil Dobie, Enoch Bagshaw, Hec Edmundson, Tippy Dye, Marv Harshman, and some of those other old-timer Husky football and basketball coaches (who are obviously WAY before my time); Jim Lambright (who somehow held the Huskies together after sanctions and an acrimonious split with Don James); and Lorenzo Romar (whose ignominious end to his tenure should do nothing to tarnish what was a tremendous achievement for Husky basketball).

So, without further ado, I present my Mount Rushmore of Seattle-based head coaches.

At the top of the list was the easiest pick of them all:  Don James.

The Dawgfather.  Head coach of the University of Washington football team, from 1975-1992.  He’s the closest thing we had to a Bobby Bowden, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, or Joe Paterno (without all the child rape).  He led the Huskies to a National Championship in 1991 and was poised to continue to do so for years to come if not for the Lack of Institutional Control scandal that ultimately led to him resigning in protest for the unfair sanctions on the team.  Also, not for nothing, but the Huskies were robbed of a second National Championship in 1984 (to a bum BYU team who played a cupcake of a schedule), but that’s another post for another time.

Don James was the G.O.A.T.  We can only hope and pray Chris Petersen someday ascends to that level.

Next on my list, I’ve gone with Pete Carroll.

Like I said, championships are a premium to me when it comes to my Mount Rushmore of Head Coaches, and Big Balls Pete has one, with another Super Bowl appearance to boot.  He’s 17 wins away from being the winningest Seahawks coach of all time, which should go down in 2 years, tops.  After a couple of 7-9 rebuilding seasons, he’s won no less than 11 games every year (including playoffs).  Overall, he has 4 division titles in 7 years, 6 playoff appearances in 7 years, at least 1 playoff victory every time they’ve made the post-season, and with John Schneider (who certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of local GMs) built one of the best rosters in the history of the NFL, in the 2013 Seahawks.  He could retire right now and I don’t think there will be another local head coach that will bump him off my Mount Rushmore in my lifetime.

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

Oh yeah, here it comes.  I told you, titles baby!  Lenny took over as a player-coach for the Sonics in 1969 before being fired in 1972.  When he returned to the Sonics as just a head coach in 1977, he took a good team and led it to greatness.  Those Sonics teams went to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets in 1978 and 1979, winning it all the second time around.  The Sonics ultimately went another direction starting in the 1985/1986 season, but he still sits at #2 all time in franchise history winning percentage (keeping in mind, of course, that the Sonics died in 2008, and whatever record the head coaches of that team in OKC may have amassed has no bearing on the Seattle Supersonics).

Finally, the fourth name on my Mount Rushmore:  George Karl.

You may take umbrage with Lenny Wilkens’ inclusion on my list, and that’s fine, I understand.  You may take umbrage with the fact that I have George Karl over the likes of Piniella and Holmgren, and again, that’s your right.  But, you know what?  George Karl won a shitload of games in Seattle!  He has the best winning percentage of a head coach by a million miles over the other professional teams’ coaches at .719.  He took the Sonics to the playoffs every year of his tenure, won 4 division titles in 7 seasons, had the Sonics in the 1-seed twice (best regular season record in the entire league once); led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals, and led the franchise to the NBA Finals once (against the best team of all time, the 95/96 Chicago Bulls).  AND, not for nothing, but took the Bulls to 6 games when they probably had no business getting past Game 4.

I could go on and on.  Maybe only the Pete Carroll Seahawks have had more talent than the George Karl Sonics, but for all his greatness, there was a lot of failing.  George Karl led the first #1 seed to lose in the first round in NBA history.  His Sonics teams squandered two Michael Jordan-less years when they were ripe for back-to-back championships (the Houston Rockets, instead, took advantage of that glitch in the matrix).  And, ultimately, George Karl was destined to be run out of here by poor personnel management by Wally Walker (featuring the obscene signing of Jim McIlvaine and the trading of Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker).

Nevertheless, those Sonics teams were beautiful and exciting and ultimately tragic.  They ignited a love affair with sports within me that burns like a thousand suns to this very day.  At a time when the Seahawks were mediocre, and before the Mariners were relevant, we had the Supersonics and nothing else mattered.  There may have been better teams out there in the 90s, but no team was as thrilling to watch on a nightly basis.  When they were on, they were unbeatable!  When they were off, they were combustable; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  But, George Karl had his hands all over that team, and was the main reason why we were able to take the next step to elite status.  Ultimately, the biggest tragedy of all is that George Karl doesn’t have an NBA title to his credit; he might be the best head coach in NBA history not to have one.

Okay, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me hear about it.

The Long Shadow of the Randy Johnson Trade

I moved this to my Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings heading HERE.

Ken Griffey Jr., Hall of Famer

I’ve made no secret about it:  I’m one of those insufferable assholes who originally jumped on the Seattle Mariners’ bandwagon during the closing few weeks of the 1995 season.  I would have been 14 years old at the time, which quite honestly is pretty late in the game, as far as getting into a new sport is concerned.  You normally develop those lifelong attachments to your sports teams in your childhood, in the 8-10 years old range.

Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw ...

Ken Griffey’s grotesquely swollen jaw …

At some point in the mid-to-late 80s (I want to say the 1987 range), I started getting into the Seahawks.  By 1988, I was on a 3 packs a week habit (football cards, Topps).  By 1989 and 1990, it was probably closer to 6 packs (Pro Set).  I joined my dad’s work’s NFL Pick ‘Em pool against all the adults and even won some weeks (at $5 per entry per week, that was a solid chunk of change for a kid under 10 years of age).  I was a football lifer, no doubt about it.

In 1993, I started getting heavily into the NBA and the Sonics.  So, maybe they were my gateway drug into other sports.  Regardless, baseball has always been my third sports love, and that’s probably the way it’s always going to be (even though I mostly ignore the NBA now and will continue to do so until Seattle gets a team again).

I was always aware of the Mariners existing, as a kid.  They were consistently losing, so I didn’t really see the point in paying attention.  I didn’t have a parent or other type of older person I looked up to who were baseball fans.  I come from a family of football fans, period.  Any other sports would have to be pursued on my own.

But, in 1995, the Mariners were surging in the standings, and drawing attention all across the nation.  FINALLY, Seattle had winning baseball, and the sports bandwagoners ate it up.

I was also generally aware of Ken Griffey Jr., but I don’t know if I could say he was a hero of mine or anything.  My first sports idol was Steve Largent.  My second and third were, in some order, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton.  By the time I started getting into the Mariners, Griffey was more national icon than simply a local superstar.  And, when I was that age, contrarian that I was in my know-it-all teens, I didn’t want to be some mope who went along with the crowd (even though that’s exactly who I was, jumping on the bandwagon when I did).  I was more of a Randy Johnson man, or a Jay Buhner man.

But, that’s not to say I disliked Griffey.  Indeed, I revered him as much as anyone in sports.  He was truly one of the best baseball players alive, and to have him on the Mariners was some sort of good fortune I just took for granted at the time.  With all the stars on the Sonics, and an all-time legend in Largent on the Seahawks, I just figured every team in every sport had at least one superstar and they always would.

Looking back on it now, I sort of wish I’d been a fan from the very beginning of his career.  It’s hard to appreciate the whole arc of his story, when I started somewhere in the middle.  By the time I was paying attention to Griffey, he was the best player on the planet.  So, all I’ve known of him has been the mythology, and the slow fall from grace.

I had about 4.25 good years as a fan of Ken Griffey Jr. before he forced his way out.  Obviously, there was the 1995 miracle finish that came JUST short of a World Series appearance.  At that point, we figured the sky was the limit for the Seattle Mariners, and there would be many MANY consecutive years of playoff appearances.  In 1996, we were cut down by Randy Johnson’s injury, and a pisspoor bullpen.  In 1997, we made it back to the playoffs, but we sold our soul to do it (the Lowe/Varitek trade & the Cruz trade).  And even then, we lost in the first round.  1998 & 1999 were essentially lost seasons, and the beginning of the end of those Mariners teams (it really started with the Tino Martinez trade, but continued with the Randy Johnson trade, and climaxed with the Griffey trade).

So much of being a Mariners fan is being jerked around by ownership and then hoping for the best.  It’s been that way since the very beginning.  In my formative years as a Mariners fan, it was endless penny-pinching by ownership.  We made all those trades in the mid-to-late 90s, one by one stripping this team of all its quality players and superstars, and yet there really wasn’t a noticeable penalty.  By 2000 and 2001, the Mariners were magically one of the best teams in baseball, and you can look at the guys we got in return from some of those trades (Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Mike Cameron) as real building blocks in our rise to prominence.  Those teams didn’t have the flash that the mid-90s teams had, but they were solid, and they got the job done in the regular season.

Yet, you can point to losing Randy Johnson (who would go on to win multiple Cy Young Awards), Tino Martinez & Jeff Nelson (who would go on to win multiple World Series titles with the Yankees), Ken Griffey Jr. (who went on to have moderate, injury-plagued success with the Reds), and later Alex Rodriguez (who took the biggest contract offer he could get, which obviously would never come from this Mariners organization), as the reason why this team never achieved any playoff success whatsoever.

If we focused on building around our stars, instead of shipping them off for adequate role players, maybe we wouldn’t have had some of the regular season successes we had in the early 2000’s, but a team with Randy, Tino, Nelson, Griffey, and A-Rod is sure as shit built for post-season glory.  It’s easy to look back on it now and say, “It’s so simple!”  But, at the time, with the Mariners rocking and rolling for the most part, it was understandable to think the good times would only continue.

When news hit of Griffey demanding a trade, I honestly don’t remember how I felt.  Disappointment, mostly.  I don’t think I really understood what was happening or why it was happening.  We were fed the line of Griffey wanting to be closer to home, closer to family, but I don’t think I entirely bought it then, and I still don’t think I entirely buy it now.  This Mariners organization has always been kind of a mess.  The product on the field always should have had better results.  But, the people in charge of personnel kept screwing things up at every possible turn, and the owners didn’t have the fortitude or the mental capacity to reward their very best players with contracts commensurate to their value on the open market.  On the one hand, you can laud the organization for getting SOMETHING in return for some of these players they shipped off; but on the other hand, God dammit!

My disappointment with the Griffey situation soured a bit when it became public knowledge that he ONLY wanted to be traded to the Reds, which severely limited our ability to negotiate the best possible deal.  Then again, knowing this organization’s track record in major trades, it’s highly probable that whoever they would have traded Griffey to would have seen a return on par with the bust of the century.  I think I let that rage subside when the Mariners managed to improve (helped in large part by Mike Cameron being a fan favorite), while the Reds never really did much.  In the end, I would come to feel sorry for Griffey, as it seemed he could never stay on the field for any prolonged stretch.  He had one quality year on par with his Mariners numbers, in his very first season with the Reds.  After 2000, you’ll see large gaps in his playing time due to injury.  By the time he managed to stay healthy for a full year again, it was 2007, his last All Star season.  In 2008, he was traded to the White Sox for their playoff run (losing in the ALDS), only his third appearance in the post-season (the other two, obviously, being with the Mariners).

In 2009, Jackie Z brought Griffey back on as our primary DH.  It was a way to see if he could prolong his career, while at the same time a nice gesture for the fans.  No one really expected much out of him or the team, but the Mariners managed a winning record against all odds, and Griffey himself had a decent campaign (19 homers in 117 games).  It would be the perfect end to a Hall of Fame career … until everyone got cute and tried to capture lightning in a bottle twice.  2010 was a definite black mark for everyone involved.  On the last day of May, Griffey had one hitless pinch hit at-bat in the 9th inning of a 5-4 loss to the Twins in Safeco Field.  This came after sitting on the bench for a full week, which was probably a sign of things to come.  Instead of milking out the last sour drops of his career, Griffey chose to retire on the spot, driving home to Florida and letting the team know via a phone call on the road.

Being a fan of Griffey was never dull, I’ll say that.  As a Mariner, he was the face of Major League Baseball for a decade; that was pretty cool.  He put up some crazy, insane, cartoon numbers as a hitter; he made some crazy, insane, cartoon plays in the outfield.  He was, without question, the greatest baseball player I’ve ever seen, and probably will ever see.  He has my utmost respect as an athlete, and I’ll always look back fondly on his Mariners career.

One of the great things you can point to with Griffey is that he did it the right way.  Meaning, he didn’t cheat.  He didn’t prolong his career and boost his numbers by ingesting illegal or immoral pharmaceuticals.  Of course, we don’t know that for sure, but I’m not going to sit here and try to make the argument that he might have.  What we know is that his name has never come up in any implications on the topic.  He’s never had the aura of suspicion like Bonds, Clemons, and Sosa.  He’s also never outright admitted it, like McGwire, A-Rod, Palmeiro and the like.  We do know that he saw most of the latter half of his career on the DL, as opposed to someone like Bonds, who not only saw most of the latter half of his career in perfect health, but putting up bonkers numbers he never even approached in the first half of his career.  If Bonds had chosen to stay clean, he most likey wouldn’t have broken the home run record, and he most likely wouldn’t have stayed as healthy as he did.  But, he would have been a Hall of Famer, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer at that.  Instead, he cheated, and he’s likely never getting in.

With Griffey, you can simply give him the ol’ eye test.  Knowing what we know – that he was never implicated, that he never admitted to doing anything illicit, that he found himself on the DL more often than not in the second decade of his career – you can watch him age through the years and put a pretty firm assumption down that he wasn’t doing anything wrong.  Griffey aged like a baseball player of his calibre SHOULD age.  He didn’t suddenly put on 40 pounds of muscle and start hitting 50-70 homers a year in his late 30s.  He put on however many pounds of fat, and was left to his natural born gifts to push him through to his 23 years in the Major Leagues.  That’s what it means by doing it the “right way”.  That’s why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and why he received the highest percentage of votes for a first year nominee in the history of the Hall of Fame (all but 3 voters selecting Griffey).  In an era where the cheaters outnumbered the clean, Griffey stayed clean and STILL crushed everything in his path.

I don’t have a particular Griffey-centric moment that stands out above all others, except obviously I do, and it’s of him scoring the go-ahead run from first base against the New York Yankees in the fifth game of the ALDS in 1995.  It’s that, and obviously, it’s that iconic picture of him underneath Bob Wolcott and all the other Mariners mobbing him at home plate.  I don’t totally think it’s fair, though, because they call that moment “The Double” because that’s really Edgar’s moment more than it is Griffey’s or anyone else’s.  If I had to pick a moment that was just Griffey’s, I don’t think I could.  Because my memory has gone to shit, and because – again – I wasn’t a fan until that stretch run in 1995.  I didn’t see him play with his dad and hit back-to-back homers with Ken Griffey Sr.  I didn’t see him blossom into the superstar he would become.  Hell, I didn’t even see him break his hand while making that catch against the wall that kept him out of the majority of the 1995 season!

You know what weirdly stands out?  It’s not even a particular moment, per se.  But, in 1996, the Mariners were playing out a string of meaningless games, with no chance of making the playoffs.  There was a series in Cleveland, and one of the games was rained out (another had to be pushed back to a Day/Night Doubleheader).  In one of the rainout games, Griffey hit a homer, but since it was rained out and never finished (and since it didn’t go past the 5th inning), the game never counted.  The game was never made up, because it wouldn’t have made a difference for either team’s placement in the standings (the Mariners were out of it, and the Indians were so far ahead in their division that it didn’t matter).  So, essentially, the Mariners only played 161 games in 1996.  And, as a result of that game being rained out, taking away one of his home runs, Ken Griffey Jr. finished the season one homer shy of his first 50-homer season.  I remember thinking how much that SUCKED, as reaching that 50-homer plateau was truly meaningful to me back then.  Obviously, Griffey would go on to have back-to-back 56-homer seasons the next two years, but how cool would it have been to see him with three straight 50-homer seasons?

Ehh, maybe less cool, knowing what we know about that era and all the insane homer totals that were inflated by a bunch of cheating tools.  Nevertheless, Ken Griffey Jr. is our shining beacon of hope in an otherwise dark period for Major League Baseball.

Is Dustin Ackley The Most Disappointing Draft Pick In Seattle Sports History?

Right off the bat, don’t talk to me about the Sounders, the Storm, or any other lesser sport I don’t care as much about.  This is a Seahawks/Sonics/Mariners discussion, so LAY OFF!

Also, we’re talking straight draft picks.  Believe me, I’m well aware of all the bad trades and free agent signings, as well as the draft picks we’ve traded away, but this is a look at the most disappointing players we’ve seen drafted in this city for those three professional franchises.  With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Dustin Ackley was taken with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.  In 2008, the Seattle Mariners finished 61-101 for the right to pick #2 overall.  You may recall that, going into the final three games of the 2008 season, the Mariners were 58-101 and in line for the #1 overall pick.  The Washington Nationals, with three games to go, were 59-99.  So, what happened?  The Mariners swept the A’s and the Nationals got swept by the Phillies.  As such, the Nationals were graced with the #1 overall pick and the right to draft the hottest pitching prospect since Roger Clemens:  Stephen Strasburg.

You can say what you want about the injury-plagued start to Strasburg’s career, but you can’t deny he has elite stuff and you can’t deny he’s had three very good seasons from 2012-2014.  We don’t know where his career will take him – and obviously, with Mike Trout being selected by the Angels with the 25th overall pick, it’s not like he’s the best player in that draft – but one thing we do know is that he’s a HELLUVA lot better than Dustin Ackley will ever be.

We got screwed.  Dustin Ackley was supposed to be the clear best hitter and most Major League-ready player in that draft.  We were going to get an athletic guy who could play the outfield or various infield spots, and a mainstay in our lineup.  Your prototypical 2-hole hitter.  He was supposed to have a good eye, get on base at a fantastic clip, and even hit for a bit of power (mostly doubles, but the occasional homer), with just enough speed on the basepaths to keep everyone honest.

What we GOT was a guy with a poor eye at the plate, poor pitch selection, a noodle-arm, who rolls over on balls to the second or first baseman 80% of the time.  At a time (coming off of our attrocious 2008 season, continuing through our 2010 season where we were one of the worst offenses of all time), Ackley was supposed to breeze through the minors and give our lineup a boost.  Instead, he’s been spoken in the same breath as Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero WAY too often for comfort.

He sucks us in because he’s a #2-overall pick, and because he sometimes has these wonderful second halves to seasons that trick us into thinking he’s finally gotten everything figured out.  Then, he turns right back around the following spring and hits:

  • .200/.222/.341/.563, with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 7 RBI, and about 50,000 runners left on base in 30 games

This is his fifth year in the Major Leagues.  Here are his career numbers:  .243/.305/.365.  You have to wonder, if he doesn’t turn it around and I mean SOON, if this is his last chance with the Mariners.  I can’t imagine we go into 2016 with him as a starter, but I have to wonder if we go into 2016 with him even on the roster at all!

Does this make him the most disappointing draft pick in franchise history?  Well, let’s take a little look back.  Too soon to talk about Alex Jackson (2014) or D.J. Peterson (2013).  Mike Zunino was the 3rd overall pick in 2012; he’s been less than ideal at the plate.  But, he’s still probably too young (and at least hits for SOME power) to make a judgment.  Danny Hultzen was the 2nd overall pick in 2011 and has been severely injured for much of his career of late, so he has to be in the running, right?  Except, the thing is, he’s a pitcher, and the Mariners have been fairly flush with pitching in recent years since he was selected.  Hard to call him as much of a disappointment when we haven’t really needed to rely on him for anything.

Maybe we should take a look at what it means to be disappointing in a sports setting.  For starters, I feel like you have to be a first round pick.  These are the guys who – in theory – should be the closest to helping your team right away.  In baseball, you expect these guys to be on the fast track, to hit the Major Leagues in 2-4 years, depending on their development.  In football and basketball, depending on how deep your roster is, you expect these guys to contribute immediately, and in some instances even start for you immediately.  So, when they fail to live up to those reasonable expectations, they’re disappointments.  Obviously, the higher you draft them, the bigger the disappointments.

Going back, here are the rest of the Mariners’ top-10 draft picks through the years:

  • 2006 – Brandon Morrow (5)
  • 2005 – Jeff Clement (3)
  • 1995 – Jose Cruz Jr (3)
  • 1993 – Alex Rodriguez (1)
  • 1990 – Marc Newfield (6)
  • 1989 – Roger Salkeld (3)
  • 1987 – Ken Griffey Jr (1)
  • 1986 – Patrick Lennon (8)
  • 1985 – Mike Campbell (7)
  • 1984 – Bill Swift (2)
  • 1983 – Darrel Akerfelds (7)
  • 1981 – Mike Moore (1)
  • 1980 – Darnell Coles (6)
  • 1979 – Al Chambers (1)
  • 1978 – Tito Nanni (6)

Sure, Brandon Morrow was disappointing, but for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, we should’ve taken UW’s Tim Lincecum instead.  Second, we kept dicking around with Morrow by starting off his career in the bullpen.  Third, we probably gave up on him and traded him away too soon (for Brandon League, who was an all-around disaster).  Ackley still has Morrow beat in the disappointment department.

Clement was disappointing, but I think we were all more disappointed in our front office moreso than the player.  That 2005 draft was FUCKING STACKED; 6 of the first 7 players selected have been All Stars (with Clement being the only dud), and 8 of the first 12 have played in an All Star Game.  Bill Bavasi at his finest!

Jose Cruz Jr was solid when he was a Mariner, then we traded him away for two shitty relievers, then he got really bad, and then he was gone.  Again, more disappointed in our front office for giving up on a quality prospect too soon.

A-Rod was disappointing because he was a greedy scumbag & soon-to-be cheater.  But, his level of play on the field was unmatched, so there’s no way I’m calling him a bigger disappointment than Ackley (also, yes, I would have taken the money and played for the Rangers, so eat me, he’s still a greedy fuck).

Anyone before A-Rod is out of my wheelhouse (aside from Griffey, of course, who was the single greatest draft pick in franchise history).  You can post your reasons in the comments as to why you think some of those old timers might be more disappointing than Dustin Ackley, but for now, I’m saying this with full confidence:  Dustin Ackley is the most disappointing draft pick in Mariners history.

***

Let’s jump right into the Seattle Seahawks.  Who is their most disappointing first round draft pick?  Again, I’ll run through all the top 10 picks (even though I think we all have a pretty good idea who this is going to end up being):

  • 2010 – Russell Okung (6)
  • 2009 – Aaron Curry (4)
  • 2001 – Koren Robinson (9)
  • 1997 – Shawn Springs (3)
  • 1997 – Walter Jones (6)
  • 1995 – Joey Galloway (8)
  • 1994 – Sam Adams (8)
  • 1993 – Rick Mirer (2)
  • 1992 – Ray Roberts (10)
  • 1990 – Cortez Kennedy (3)
  • 1983 – Curt Warner (3)
  • 1982 – Jeff Bryant (6)
  • 1981 – Kenny Easley (4)
  • 1980 – Jacob Green (10)
  • 1978 – Keith Simpson (9)
  • 1976 – Steve Niehaus (2)

Not gonna lie to you, I’m not up on my Steve Niehaus or Keith Simpson knowledge, but let’s just assume they’re not the most disappointing draft picks in Seahawks history.  Green, Easley, and Bryant were mainstays of a dominant defense in the 1980s, so count them out.  Curt Warner was only disappointing because we didn’t use that pick to try to trade up for John Elway (or trade back to take one of the other amazing quarterbacks in that class).  Curt Warner the player was dynamic when he was healthy.

Cortez and Walter Jones are probably tied for the very best draft picks in Seahawks history, as both are Hall of Famers.  Ray Roberts was a solid offensive lineman in his career (if not specifically his Seahawks career).  Sam Adams was a fringe Hall of Famer for the Ravens, but had a nice and long career elsewhere (including Seattle for a few productive seasons).  Joey Galloway and Shawn Springs were studs who had their best years away from the northwest (but, again, were no slouches in a Seahawks uniform).  Okung has been a steady starter at left tackle (and a fine Walter Jones replacement when healthy) since he was a rookie.

For me, the disappointments come down to Aaron Curry, Koren Robinson, and Rick Mirer.  But, before I talk about this trio of Top 10 turds, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions from a little lower in the first round.

Lawrence Jackson was taken 28th overall.  He was supposed to come in and breathe life into our tepid pass rush.  Instead, he joined our team in 2008 as the franchise bottomed out, let Mike Holmgren walk, and eventually ushered in the Era of Good Feelings that has been Pete Carroll and John Schneider.  Oh yeah, and Jackson stunk the whole while and it wasn’t long before Carroll traded him away for scraps.

In 2006, the Seahawks selected Kelly Jennings with the 31st overall pick.  Coming off of our first-ever Super Bowl appearance, we were in desperate need of shoring up our secondary.  Kelly Jennings was no help in this regard.  While it’s hard to expect super-greatness out of your 31st overall draft pick, he was still a member of this team – and a starter at that – for far too long, leading us to suffer a barrage of long bombs over his outstretched midget arms.

In 2002, the Seahawks selected Jerramy Stevens 28th overall.  That’s all I need to say about this wretch.

In the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft, the Seahawks took Brian Bosworth with what amounts to a first round draft pick.  He was subsequently given the largest contract in franchise history, and rewarded us with lackluster and often embarrassing play.  He was a better action movie star than a football player, and that’s REALLY not saying much.

But, let’s get back to our Top 3 disappointments from before.  I’m scratching off Koren Robinson, for starters.  Yes, he had the talent to be elite – and pissed it all away with addiction – but one has to wonder if he was even the right fit for this type of offense to begin with.  And, while he wasn’t spectacular, he was far from dreadful.  I’m giving him a pass.

This boils down to Aaron Curry and Rick Mirer.  You may recall with Aaron Curry, we were coming off of our dreadful 2008 season.  With the 4th overall pick, people were screaming for the Seahawks to take a quarterback.  With Matthew Stafford already off the board, and Mark Sanchez sitting there, the Seahawks opted to do the prudent thing:  take the “safest pick in the draft”.  Aaron Curry was an outside linebacker and – depending on who you talked to – was some mix of Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas.  We were going to pair him with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to have the best linebacking corps in the entire NFL.

Instead, he was slow to pick up the game mentally, slow to pick up the intricacies of his position, and just all-around slow on the field.  He did practically nothing for us, wound up being traded for a low-round draft pick, and was replaced on the field by a mid-round draft pick.  But, considering the Seahawks were bottoming out all over the roster, it’s hard to peg all of our troubles on Curry.  Even if he’d panned out as we’d hoped, he still would have been just a good player on a crappy team.

Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was supposed to save us.  In 1992, the Seahawks shared the worst record in the NFL with the New England Patriots at 2-14.  Thanks to our victory over those very same Patriots, they held the tie-breaker for the #1 overall pick.  As a result, they got to select the best quarterback of that class – Wazzu’s Drew Bledsoe – while we had to settle for Rick Mirer out of Notre Dame.

Mirer came out of the gate on fire, breaking many rookie quarterback records that would eventually be broken by Peyton Manning (the only time Rick Mirer should ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Peyton Manning, by the way).  He quickly either regressed or simply failed to develop, but either way, he SUUUUUUCKED thereafter.  Adding fuel to the fire of his disappointment, I recently was referred to this article (hat tip to Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard) that revealed there was an outside shot of the Seahawks getting Steve Young from the 49ers for the rights to allow the 49ers to draft Mirer to be Joe Montana’s heir apparent.  Isn’t THAT just the ultimate kick to the groin?  Doesn’t that make Rick Mirer the ultimate slam dunk most disappointing draft pick in Seahawks history?

I want to say yes, but RACING PAST THE PACK ON THE OUTSIDE, OUR DARK-HORSE CONTENDER:  1991’s 16th overall draft pick, Dan McGwire!

What’s the meaning of THIS?  Well, I’ll tell you:  the Seahawks brass was very high on the 6’8 towering suckferno, while Chuck Knox – easily our greatest head coach in franchise history to that point – wanted to select a little guy out of Southern Mississippi, the 6’2 Brett Favre.

Dan McGwire started all of five games with the Seahawks in four seasons.  Chuck Knox left the franchise after 1991, right before everything bottomed out in 1992.  As stated above, the Seahawks would use the #2 overall pick on yet another quarterback two years later, and the franchise overall would founder in mediocrity for a decade until Mike Holmgren turned things around.  All of this MAY have been avoided, if Chuck Knox had his way and we’d drafted a certain hall of famer who owns or owned just about every passing record in NFL history.

Most disappointing draft pick?  For all those reasons, I’m going with Dan McGwire by a nose over Rick Mirer (bottom line:  at least Mirer had ONE good season).

***

In an effort to prevent this post from going beyond the 5,000 word mark, I’m going to give the abbreviated version of the Sonics’ most disappointing draft pick:  it doesn’t compare to what the Seahawks and Mariners have stacked against them.  Purely for disappointment’s sake, it’s disappointing to see Scottie Pippen’s name as our #5 overall draft pick in 1987 (he would be traded to the Bulls and replaced by Olden Polynice, but again, this isn’t a post about trades), but at least Pippen’s departure eventually led to Shawn Kemp’s rise.

The fact of the matter is, the Sonics – for the most part, until the last decade or so – were a well-run and successful organization (crazy, I know).  Our first round draft picks were generally low in the round, if we had them at all.  The high ones tended to pan out (Payton, #2 overall; McKey, #9 overall; McDaniel, #4 overall).  And, since once again I’m not all that familiar with all the old-timers, I’m not even going to go there and you can hash it out in the comments.

In an effort to save time, let’s just say the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle Sonics history is Robert Swift (#12 overall in 2004, when we were in DESPERATE need of a big man; he would be the first of three consecutive first round draft pick duds – Petro & Sene to follow – that would ultimately cost this franchise dearly).  Now, let’s call it a day and everyone agree that Robert Swift is nowhere NEAR as disappointing as Dan McGwire or Dustin Ackley.

***

So, where do we land on all of this?  Is Dustin Ackley the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history?

Welp, I’ve already discussed the cases for both he and Dan McGwire.  With Ackley, we’re still talking about an Incomplete.  We don’t know how his career is going to pan out, even if we have a pretty solid idea that he’s going to continue to be terrible.  With McGwire, we know how it panned out, and we know what we could’ve had with Favre.  McGwire FEELS like the more disappointing of the two, but before we give him the crown, we have to speculate on the ol’ butterfly effect.

Dan McGwire kept us from drafting Brett Favre (or, rather, the organization choosing to go with him over Knox’s preferred choice).  That’s the case, right in a nutshell.  So, we have to wonder:  how good could the Seahawks have been with Brett Favre at the helm?

Would Chuck Knox have stayed on past 1991?  Would the team have drafted appropriately around him?  It’s pretty safe to say that Brett Favre would’ve been great wherever he went, but how much of his career was molded by Mike Holmgren?  I wouldn’t call the Packers a bastion of a franchise when they traded for him, so it’s not like the team was great and then Favre appeared as the last piece of the puzzle.  He grew with that franchise to be one of the best in football.  Could that have rubbed off on the Seahawks?  Or, would our franchise bumbling have prevented Favre from being his very best?

I would argue that the Seahawks would’ve been rock solid throughout the 90s.  Much better than the string of .500 (or near-.500) records we were saddled with.  There was always talent on those 90s Seahawks teams, but we were ALWAYS missing out on the quarterback position.  Warren Moon had a couple good years, but that was at the tail end of his career, and he kept getting injured when we needed him most.  Every other quarterback we had in the 90s was terrible.

With Favre in Seattle, does Mike Holmgren become MIKE HOLMGREN in Green Bay?  Does he find another quarterback to mold and turn that franchise around?  I think it’s safe to say, Favre in Seattle means we never hire Holmgren later.  And, you have to wonder if we have the group in place that we have now.

Does Favre turn this franchise around before Ken Behring sells the team to Paul Allen?  Does he have a change of heart and decide to keep the Seahawks and keep them in Seattle?  Do we have what is now CenturyLink Field?  If Paul Allen isn’t the owner, we certainly don’t have our stadium in its current form; I’m sure it would look much different now.  And, I have to wonder if we have the Sounders either, for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, does Brett Favre lead the Seahawks to be world champions?  THAT, I’m not totally sure about.  It’s nice to think so, but you have to wonder how it happens.  How long does Chuck Knox stick around if we give him the quarterback he wants?  He was already getting up there in age by 1991; how many years does he stick around after that?  And, who becomes his replacement?  I would argue Tom Flores was the worst head coach we’ve ever had in Seahawks history; I don’t think he wins even with the mid-90s Cowboys.  Does he still replace Knox?  Do we grab someone else?

The point is:  there are SO MANY “what if’s” that go into the Brett Favre as a Seahawk scenario.  And, what I would argue is most important in all of this is:  if Brett Favre never leads us to a world championship (whether or not it’s his fault, or the fault of ownership, or just the players we saddled him with), then he is 100% not worth the trouble.  The way things actually happened – with the Seahawks winning it all in the 2013 season – made a lot of the previous suffering worth it.  That’s all that matters.

Now, if Brett Favre coming here means the Seahawks would’ve been a dynasty much earlier, then I think he is worth it and I think Dan McGwire wins the title of most disappointing draft pick.  Even if it means the team we have now (in this hypothetical universe) looks nothing like the team we have in our real, actual universe.

Ultimately, my gut tells me that even if the Seahawks had taken Brett Favre, and he’d turned into the franchise quarterback we waited SO LONG to get, I kinda doubt we ever would’ve won it all with him.  Too many variables.  We likely wouldn’t have had the type of hall of fame coaching staff that Holmgren assembled in Green Bay, and we likely wouldn’t have gotten the type of championship talent to put around Favre like they were able to do under Ron Wolf.  Let’s face it, for a lot of reasons, the Seahawks were just plain broken as a franchise in the 1990s.  It took all the tumult, the disaster of an owner, the mis-management of the general manager, the bumbling of the coaching staff, and the underperforming of the players to lead to Paul Allen, Mike Holmgren 2.0, Matt Hasselbeck and our success in the 2000s, the bottoming out in 2008 & 2009, and the foresight to bring in Pete Carroll and pairing him with John Schneider to finally turn this organization into a world-class sports franchise.

You COULD say that Dan McGwire was a big part in giving us all of this!  And, I must say, as a fan in my 30s, I’m certainly appreciating all of our good fortune MUCH more than I would have been as a fan in my teens in the 1990s.

Yes, Dustin Ackley is a disappointment.  Yes, there were truly great players taken after him (including the aforementioned Mike Trout).  And yes, he’s been a big part of all the sucking the Mariners have been a part of in his time in the Major Leagues.  He’s been given MANY more chances to start and play a huge part on this team, and he’s done JUST enough to keep earning those chances even though he’s never broken through to make good on all of his promise.  Dan McGwire, for as enraging as his selection was, was never much more than a longshot prospect.  His college career wasn’t some amazing slam dunk; we were picking him based on his size, his strong arm, and the fact that he “looked” like a starting quarterback.  These types of quarterbacks are selected in the first round every single year, and these types of quarterbacks end up falling well short of their potential every single year.

#2 overall Major League Baseball draft picks are supposed to be different.  At #2, you know you have the opportunity to draft that year’s very best pitcher or hitter.  In our case, we took the “best hitter”.  That guy isn’t supposed to continuously be as mediocre as Ackley has been.  Either he’s great, or he gets injured and we all sit around wondering “what if”.  Ackley has been nothing if not healthy, and he’s been sometimes intriguing, but most of all he’s been a complete failure.

The Mariners missed and missed big when they selected Dustin Ackley.  He not only prevented us from taking a better hitter, but he’s actively hurting us now with his sucking.  If he panned out – as the so-called best hitter in his class should have – we’d be looking at a monster lineup with him paired with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Instead, he’s one of our ever-growing cadre of black holes.  We can’t sit him, because we don’t have anyone better (depending on your opinion of Justin Ruggiano), we can’t trade him because we’ll get nothing in return, and we can’t cut him because – as I said before – we don’t have anyone better.  The bottom line in all of this is, while the Mariners are improving as a franchise, there are too many holes on this team for it to be a championship contender.  Dustin Ackley is a huge reason why there are as many holes as there are.  And, for that reason, I’m calling him our most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history.

#1 – Russell Wilson

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

I try to have a great appreciation for greatness.  When I was younger, I tended to gravitate my affection towards the underdogs on the roster.  Yes, of course, I liked the superstars.  Steve Largent, Gary Payton, Ken Griffey Jr., Cortez Kennedy, Shawn Kemp, Randy Johnson, and so on.  But, the softest spot in my heart was reserved for the loveable losers.  Your Bob Wells types.  Paul Skansi.  Vinny Askew.

Nowadays, I try to be a little more discerning.  Yeah, that Derrick McKey signed photograph I had growing up was pretty sweet, but wouldn’t it have been a lot cooler if that was a GP signed photo?  Today, Felix Hernandez is my favorite athlete.  Why?  Because he’s fucking amazing in every possible way.  My favorite Seahawk tends to fluctuate by day, depending on my mood, but lately it has ranged from Marshawn Lynch to Kam Chancellor to Earl Thomas to Richard Sherman.  Great players, all.

I’ve never had a quarterback as my favorite, though.  Matt Hasselbeck came the closest – and if we had indeed taken the ball and scored in that Green Bay playoff game, he’d probably be cemented at the top of my list – but he always managed to fall a little short in games.  Yes, he was good.  Yes, he was the best we had at the time.  Yes, he led us to a bunch of division titles.  But, he could never quite get us over the hump.  It’s easy to blame certain factors around him – injuries to our offensive line & running game late in his Seahawks career; a poor secondary in the prime of his Seahawks career; a lack of overall talent around him early in his Seahawks career – but Hasselbeck deserves a small slice of the blame pie as well.  Failing to win a championship under Holmgren was a team effort; let’s just leave it at that.

I’m rambling, of course, but all of this is prelude to me saying that I could REALLY see Russell Wilson make a big leap up on my Favorite Athletes leaderboard.  He’s already kind of up there anyway, but it more or less goes without being said.  No one out-works Russell Wilson.  His preparation is up there with guys like Peyton Manning, J.J. Watt, Drew Brees, and players of yore like Jerry Rice and Ray Lewis.  Fucking machines.  Guys who eat, sleep, and breathe football.  Guys for whom nothing else matters than being the very best.  What makes the Seahawks so special is that there are a number of guys on his very own team who match his passion for winning, like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.

Hand in hand with that is:  you’ll never see Russell Wilson in the news for any sort of negative reason.  He’s not going to be associated with a police investigation like Ray Rice, Josh Gordon, or the San Francisco 49ers as a whole.  You can worry about anyone else on this team, but Russell Wilson isn’t even a consideration.  When he’s not working on his craft, he’s hanging with kids at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  You’ll also never see him in the news for saying the wrong thing.  Russell Wilson will never be the source of bulletin board material because – as I said before – he’s a fucking machine.  That includes his interactions with the media, which are downright boring (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).  Let Richard Sherman poach the headlines; I’m fine with that too.  Russell Wilson is just going to quietly go about his business of dismantling your entire operation, praising you to the moon while he does it.

Not gonna lie to you, if I’m a 49ers fan, I’d probably find Russell Wilson more irritating than Richard Sherman.

One of my favorite things to do is just pull up Wilson’s numbers and gaze affectionately at them.  Here they are, in two full seasons:

  • 32 games, 24-8 record, 2 Pro Bowls, 10 game-winning drives, 8 comeback victories
  • 509 for 800, 63.6% completions, 6,475 yards, 52 TDs, 19 INTs
  • 8.1 yards per attempt, 100.6 passer rating
  • 190 rushing attempts, 1,028 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 5.4 yards per attempt
  • 4-1 playoff record, 82 for 130, 63.08% completions, 1,096 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 102.0 passer rating, 8.43 yards per attempt, 26 rushes, 169 yards, 1 TD, 6.5 yards per attempt
  • 1 Super Bowl Championship

Want some more mind-blowing tidbits?

  • Russell Wilson is tied with Peyton Manning for 2nd all time among passing TDs in a player’s first two seasons in the league (behind Dan Marino’s 68 at this point in his career)
  • Russell Wilson is one of four quarterbacks to have a career passer rating of 100 or more in his first two seasons (minimum 100 attempts), behind the following:  Kurt Warner, Dan Marino, and Nick Foles of all people
  • Russell Wilson is 5th in completion percentage in his first two years, behind Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner, and Tom Brady (minimum 300 attempts, because I’ll be God damned if I’m going to live in a world where Elvis Grbac leads a list in ANYTHING but sexual impotency)
  • Russell Wilson is first in wins, with the following rounding out the top 5:  Roethlisberger & Luck (22), Marino (21), Flacco & Ryan (20)

The point of all this is:  Russell Wilson is a God damn national treasure.  And there’s no way we’d be where we are without him.  Yes, the defense has been off-the-charts good since he entered the league, but that won’t last forever.  As early as this year, we could see a steep decline in defensive effectiveness.  And, just as soon as that happens, the burden will fall on Wilson’s shoulders.

It’s year three for Wilson.  This is now his team.  Yes, it’s been his team since 2012, but this year it will REALLY be his team.  He’s bound to take a dramatic step forward as the game continues to slow down for him.  He’s got the talent in place to have a really big year.  And, if the defense takes a step back, we’re likely to need it.

The quarterback is always the most important position, for every football team.  You could make the argument that the Seahawks would’ve still been pretty great last year.  If Tarvar had started all 16 games instead of Wilson, we probably still would’ve made the playoffs, with a remote chance of winning it all.  But, I don’t think Tarvar gets us the division.  I don’t think he gets us home field.  And, if I’m being honest, I don’t think he even gets us a win in the Wild Card round.

Russell Wilson is the X-Factor.  He’s often overlooked because of the name recognition of the guys he was drafted with:  Andrew Luck & RGIII.  He’ll probably never throw for the yards that Luck throws for.  He’ll never be the serious running threat that RGIII is.  But, he’s a winner.  The type of winner that those other two guys aren’t (at least, not yet).  Wilson is also overlooked because it’s perceived by the national pundits (I’m looking at you, Jeffri Chadiha) that the defense is doing all the heavy lifting, and Russell Wilson is just along for the ride.  You could make that argument in 2012 and 2013 and get your work published, while still looking like a total ass-clown by people who follow the Seahawks closely and don’t form their opinions based on SportsCenter highlights.

But, 2014 is where the narrative all changes.  Maybe not right away, as it takes time for these movements to take hold.  But, as the season progresses and we look at the jump in effectiveness.  As we witness Wilson approach 70% completions and 9+ yards per attempt.  As we see the Seahawks rack up even more wins than the 13 we had last season …

You’re going to find Russell Wilson in more than just a few discussions about the MVP of the league.  No, he won’t throw for 5,000 yards.  He likely won’t get to 4,000 yards either.  But, he’s going to continue to get his fair share of the touchdowns in this offense, as it averages over 30 points per game and contributes to a repeat performance as the #1 seed in the NFC.  14-2?  15-1?  Not without Russell Wilson.

Without Russell Wilson, we’re probably looking at 8-8 or 9-7 at best.  Yeah, he’s 6 wins all by himself.  I’d say that makes him pretty damn important.

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part III

We continue from Saturday’s post on all the hated Seahawks, which was continued from Friday’s post on all the hated Mariners.

Seattle Supersonics

A lot of real obvious candidates here.  It’s just a matter of organizing them in the proper order.

I, along with many of you, have Howard Schultz smack dab at the top of this list.  In fact, I would have to say – even though it’s been nearly five years since the team moved, and even though it’s been nearly seven years since he sold the team to those OKC goons – that Howard Schultz is Public Enemy Number 1 (regardless of sport) in the Most Hated Seattle Sports Figure list.

Really quick, my top 5 looks like this:  1. Schultz, 2. Behring, 3. Lincoln & Armstrong, 4. Bennett, 5. Bavasi

Easy, right?  For the record, Lincoln & Armstrong are a package deal; they have morphed into this singular blob of incompetence.  Also for the record, Ruskell is a close 6th on that list.  My most hated PLAYER is and might always be Richie Sexson, because I’m irrational like that.

Anyway, getting back, I think it should be obvious why Schultz heads this list.  He’s the worst.  THE.  WORST.  First, let’s just get this out of the way:  he had NO BUSINESS getting involved with the NBA.  He should have just stuck with his season tickets and his corporate sponsorships and been happy with that.  He didn’t have the stomach to properly run the organization; instead, he tried to run it like a business.  This isn’t Starbucks, this is sports.  It’s a completely different ballgame (so to speak).  If your goal is to buy a team and try to turn a profit every year, then congratulations, you’re the Seattle Mariners.  You go forever without winning, you scale back payroll, you trade away your superstars for nothing, and you do just enough to turn a small profit every year (which, hey, beats losing money).

If your goal is to run a winning franchise, then guess what?  You can’t be all-consumed by the money coming in.  Turning a profit can’t be goal #1.  It’s got to be a residual from sustained success.

The Seattle Supersonics, as far back as I can remember, were a well-oiled machine.  Yeah, they’d have some down years, but they’d bounce right back and be contenders in short order.  That includes a lot of the 70s, most of the 80s, and most of the 90s.  Then, Howard Schultz bought the team in January of 2001.  In the five full seasons the Sonics were owned by Schultz, they made the playoffs twice:  once as a 7th seed and once as a 3-seed.  Both times, they lost to a far superior franchise, the San Antonio Spurs.  In the other seasons, the Sonics ended up 10th, 11th, and 12th in the West.

Schultz was involved with a controversial trade of Gary Payton.  He also let head coach (and Mr. Sonic) Nate McMillan walk (over to Portland where he coached the hell out of a mostly-mediocre team).  He did battle with the local & state governments over getting financing for a new arena, but once that failed he essentially threw up his hands and gave up.

Schultz had no interest in keeping the Sonics in Seattle.  If he had, he wouldn’t have sold them to a group that so clearly wanted to move the team out of state.  He can sit there and pretend he had “no idea”; he can cry out about how they “misrepresented” themselves when they purchased the team; but if he’s being honest then he’s the biggest fucking moron the world has ever known.

Here’s the thing:  Schultz isn’t being honest when he gripes about how he was duped (along with the rest of Seattle).  I’d like to point out that from the moment this deal was made, I knew those fucks from OKC would do everything in their power to move this team.  If I know that, and I’m just some yahoo fan with a pottymouth, then Howard Schultz sure as shit knew that too.  He just didn’t care.  All he cared about was receiving $350 million for a team he paid $200 million to acquire five and a half years earlier.

And that’s all you need to know about the Howard Schultz Era.  He was a greedy old man who let the Sonics move away.  He ran the team like a business, but not like a business he gave two shits about.  He ran this team like Ken Lay ran Enron.  Schultz may not have faced decades in prison, but he probably should.  If I had it my way, he’d be rotting in prison until the Sonics return to Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there.

If we’re jumping on the whole Sonics leaving Seattle saga, I’d rank former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels number two on this list.  That spineless weasel forced an agreement down our throats letting those OKC fucks take the team while the city received $45 million in return for the last two years of the KeyArena lease.  Had we forced them to honor those final two years, who’s to say what might have happened?  But, he was never officially a member of the Sonics organization, so fuck Greg Nickels.

Truth be told, I hate Clay Bennett’s puppetmaster – David Stern – far more than Mr. Bennett himself, but we’re sticking with a theme here of people specifically related to the Sonics organization.  Clay Bennett’s a rat bastard, to be sure, and when all is said and done I’d like to know what kind of buttfucking arrangement he has with Stern to make them so buddy-buddy; his blowjobs must be SOMETHING ELSE.  As such, now he does whatever David Stern says, essentially making them both one and the same.

It takes a lot of work to keep up a lie for so long.  Bennett bought the team in July of 2006.  Nearly two years went by before we finally got the official word that his intentions all along were to move the team to OKC; and even then, “official word” came in the form of e-mails to his cronies that were uncovered in the days & weeks leading up to the team leaving.  To the bitter end, Bennett affirmed his bullshit, and he has been rewarded with one of the best and most exciting teams in the NBA today.  There is no justice in this world if that team ever wins a championship.

From what I’ve been told, Wally Walker has been instrumental in the behind-the-scenes efforts to bring the team back to Seattle.  Also, from what I’ve been told, Wally Walker was dead-set against selling to those OKC fucks in the first place.  Nevertheless, Wally Walker appears on this list, because his tenure as GM of the Sonics was rocky at best.  You can’t have a Most Hated list without having a few GMs appear first.

For the record, yeah, Walker has been instrumental in working with Hansen & Ballmer, but he was also instrumental in getting Howard Schultz to be our primary owner in the first place to start this whole fucking mess.  It’s complicated with Wally Walker; he tries his fucking best, but God bless him, in the end he’s just a fuck up who can’t seem to ever get things right.

He joined the Sonics in 1994, right as this team was on its rise to the elite of the NBA.  In 1996, the Sonics were in the Finals, losing to the greatest team of all time, the 1996 Chicago Bulls.  From that moment, this franchise started on its long, slow decline to mediocrity, and it all starts with the next name on this list:  Jim McIlvaine.

Jim McIlvaine was signed to a 7-year, $33.6 million deal in July of 1996.  To that point, Jim McIlvaine had been a worthless pile of crap.  He would go on to continue being a worthless pile of crap.  So, not only was he overpaid and useless, but he also served as a reminder that this ownership group – and this general manager in particular – would rather reward potential from outside the organization than reward the superstars already IN this organization.  Shawn Kemp was resentful and rightly demanded a new contract.  He was denied, so less than a year after signing McIlvaine, Kemp demanded a trade.  Just before the 1997/1998 season, Shawn Kemp was traded for the NEXT name on this list:  Vin Baker.

One could argue that the Sonics dodged a bullet by trading away Shawn Kemp.  He went on to Cleveland, sat on his ass during the Lockout, got fat, and was never the same.  One could also argue that had the Sonics rewarded their budding superstar, he would’ve been kept in shape and kept in line by team leader, Gary Payton.  In Cleveland, Kemp was the big kahuna, and nobody was going to tell him what to do.  There was veteran leadership in Seattle that could’ve prevented such a fate.

Oh yeah, by the way, don’t forget that Vin Baker also sat on his ass during the Lockout, also got fat, and was a huge drunk to boot.  So, why didn’t this veteran leadership keep HIM in line like I’m saying they would’ve kept Kemp in line?  I dunno, probably because you can’t rationalize with a fucking alcoholic!  Also, probably because you have to have the Want To in order to succeed.  Vin Baker lacked that passion, that drive.  He took his solace in a bottle and that’s all there is to it.

Mind you, this chain of events all started with Wally Walker meddling with a good thing, then bungling things away.  More often than not, Walker made moves just to make moves.  Sometimes, you just need to let a team settle and grow on its own.  You don’t have to keep adding and subtracting to make things JUST RIGHT.  Just leave it be and hope things shake out as best as they can!  If it ain’t broke, don’t fucking fix it!

Any number of bumbling big man buffoons could also make this Most Hated list (Calvin Booth, Jerome James, Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene), but that would ignore the real problem with the Sonics at the turn of the century:  Rick Sund.  Remember him?  God, I wish I didn’t.  Rick Sund took over for Wally Walker (as Walker was promoted to president or some damn thing) in 2001 and proceeded over one of the longest stretches of ineptitude in team history.

Seemingly every year, this team needed a big man.  Seemingly every year, this team went after a big man, either spending an ungodly amount of money in free agency, or by squandering a high draft pick.  Seemingly every year, this team failed to bring in a big man of any quality, and so seemingly every year this team struggled under Rick Sund.

Finally, there’s a name on this list I won’t ever forget.  Kendall Gill.  Back when Bob Whitsitt was still in charge, he traded a number of quality supporting players (Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson) to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill.  In his previous two years, Gill averaged 20.5 and 16.9 points per game.  We brought him in to be our starting shooting guard next to Gary Payton.  As chance would have it, he arrived on the scene in 1993/1994, as the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference.  We would go on to lose in the first round to the Denver Nuggets.  The very next season, this team would make the playoffs again, and once again it would lose in the first round.

I’m not blaming it ALL on Kendall Gill, but he sure as shit was not a good fit for this team.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that as soon as he was traded (back to Charlotte for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate in June of 1995), the Sonics would go on to make a run to the NBA Championship.

Gill didn’t get along with coaches or teammates.  He was a ballhog who shot too much.  Oh yeah, and he SUCKED DICK.  He immediately saw a dip in his scoring average (14.1 and 13.7 points per game in a Sonics uniform).  His pissy attitude didn’t endear him to Seattle fans either.  In short, Kendall Gill was a worthless dickhole and I can’t believe he managed to have such a sustained NBA career, considering what a joke he was.

My Favorite Seattle Sports Year

Editor’s Note:  To read this blog post, click HERE.  It is one of Seattle Sports Hell’s “Featured Articles”.

The Huskies Out-Talent The Sun Devils

*UPDATE* – here’s the video.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s starting to feel like these Huskies are coming together.  Coming together like past Husky teams:  finding ways to win, by any means necessary.

Last season – and maybe even the last two or three seasons – you could easily say the Huskies were too reliant on the outside shot.  Which, when you’ve got the shooters, is fine.  It means you’re always “in” the ballgame; no matter how much of a lead the other team gets, you always feel you’re just a hot five minute streak away from closing the gap.  And when you’re hot, forget about it!  You’re unbeatable!  But, it’s when you’re cold that things look very, very ugly.  It’s the main reason why these great jumpshooting teams – while they can go far – generally don’t go all the way.  It’s impossible to be “on” with your long-range shot every single game.

But, the best Husky teams – and my favorite Husky teams – are the ones that aren’t so great at shooting the three, but still find other ways to score.  Every Husky team runs well; Lorenzo Romar is a master of preaching the fast break.  But, the Husky teams that don’t shoot particularly great tend to be that much more exciting on the run.

This is one of THOSE teams.  And, when they figure out how to generate points in ugly, low-scoring games like this one tonight – where Arizona State is doing everything in its power to drag the game down to a bloody, screeching crawl – it gives me hope that this could be one of those “special” Husky teams.  Those Husky teams we never forget.  Like in Brockman’s final season.  And Brandon Roy’s final season.  And Q-Pon’s final season.

Tony Wroten scored 22 points tonight.  4 were at the line.  18 came from 9 of 12 shooting.  Every single one of those 18 points came in the paint, with Wroten driving, tossing up runners, and dunking with authority.  If you didn’t see Wroten’s dunk in the second half of this game, do whatever it takes to find it online.  As soon as I see it on YouTube, I’m linking to it, because it was fucking SICK.  At one point, the Huskies were nursing something like a 4-point lead.  Wroten got the pass at the top of the key and looked like a man possessed, like he was going to do whatever it took to score on this possession.  The lane parted, he drove in, a big man got in between him and the basket (but, I believe, he was inside the halo), Wroten jumped from halfway in the key, and he slammed like we haven’t seen ’round these parts since the early 90s Shawn Kemp.  BEASTED!

Like I said, though, the Huskies were just the better team tonight, and they flaunted their talent in the second half.  Arizona State took a two-point lead into halftime as the Huskies continued to look listless in the first half of a ballgame.  But, we came out, went on a run, and were never really seriously challenged the rest of the night.

And yeah, ASU is terrible, with all their best players either injured or kicked off the team, but that doesn’t make a game like this any less difficult.  OK, maybe a LITTLE less difficult, but they’re a system team, with their odd 1-3-1 zone defense that usually gives the Huskies fits.  They’re a team that slows it down, prevents running teams like the Dawgs from doing their thing, and tries to keep games in the 50’s.  Tack on the fact that a number of the Huskies this week are battling flu-like symptoms, and the fact that we’re on the road (never an easy feat for ANY team), and you know what?  I’ll take an ugly 6-point win.

Just because the final margin was six points doesn’t mean it was all that close.  The Huskies can’t hit free throws (especially on the road).  When we play this game in Hec-Ed on February 16th, the final margin will easily be in the double digits, count on it.

In other news, I thought Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked pretty good, though a tad rusty.  He’s certainly a difference-maker when you consider he’s only two games in and already more ready for Pac-12 basketball than Shawn Kemp Jr., Martin Breunig, and the two white reserve forwards.  Being able to give quality minutes to a guy who can actually hold his own on the court is going to make all the difference for this team.

C.J. Wilcox came back and played 10 minutes.  He was REALLY rusty tonight, but that’s good.  I’d rather he get it out of the way in a game like this – a game where, by all rights, we SHOULD have won, with or without him – than in a game against the Wildcats.  Hopefully he’ll have more of his legs about him to give us another weapon this Saturday afternoon.

I thought it was interesting to see Aziz in the post.  The kid’s got some moves!  If he can only learn to finish around the rim with his little half-hook shots, we might have a double-double machine next season.

Something to watch going forward:  our top three guards are playing too many minutes.  Tonight, Gaddy played the entire game, Wroten played all but 6 minutes, and Ross played all but 7.  I’m concerned, because come Tournament time, we’re going to need our best players with somewhat fresh legs.  I’m also concerned, because I don’t think this thing with Wilcox has gone away.  I’ve got a REAL bad feeling that if he doesn’t get shut down eventually, he will CERTAINLY miss some games here and there.

That’s a little scary because, while I love these teams that find a way to get it done without the long ball (the Huskies only shot eight 3-pointers tonight; when did that EVER happen the past two seasons when we were jacking up 25 a night?), you’ve gotta have SOMEONE on the perimeter to keep other teams honest.  Otherwise, they’re just going to pack the lane like little badgers and dare you to put it up from outside.

And right now, without Wilcox, all we have are Ross (who is as streaky as they come) and Gant (who, while good, isn’t exactly a world-beater from long range).

Aaron Curry: The End of the End

The beginning, the middle, and now here’s the end.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Can’t say as I’m surprised by this turn of events.  Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

As a fan, you tie your biggest hopes around your team’s high draft choices.  Those are the guys who are SUPPOSED to be good.  And, if you’re drafting high enough (as the Seahawks did in 2009), that generally means your team is really bad and you NEED those players to be good.  Really good.  Pro Bowl good.

Personally, I like a guy who’s got crazy talent but hasn’t yet put it together.  You’ll see that a lot with pitching prospects:  guys who are all over the place in the strike zone, but who throw in the upper 90s with lots of natural movement.  There are guys who are just once-in-a-lifetime phenoms (like, say, Peyton Manning or Tim Lincecum); there are guys who have talent, but it takes them a while to put it all together (Randy Johnson, Shawn Kemp); there are guys who aren’t quite so talented and/or are undersized, but they’re smart and hard workers and they put every ounce of who they are into being the best they can be (Jamie Moyer, Zach Thomas); there are guys who have talent, but they’re just too dumb or lazy or unwilling to do what it takes to be the best they can be (Ryan Leaf, Brian Bosworth); and then there’s everyone else, they’re just average.

I always held out hope that Aaron Curry would be one of those super-talented, freakish athletes who would eventually figure it all out, have everything click, and start dominating like he was always supposed to.  Part of me thinks he never got a fair shake, what with the coaching turnover and player turnover.  Part of me thinks he’s been misused this whole time and if we only had a competent defensive coordinator, we’d really have something here.

But, the other part of me thinks that it shouldn’t take this long.  The linebacker particularly isn’t particularly hard (compared to other positions on the football field); linebackers are a dime a dozen!  If a team can take a 4th round rookie and make him a starting NFL linebacker in 1 month’s time, then there HAS to be something wrong with the #4 overall pick who’s had well over 2 years to figure it the fuck out.

On the one hand, I feel bad.  I wanted so desperately for it to work out for the Seahawks and Aaron Curry.  I wanted him to end up as one of my favorite Seahawks of all time.  To be a Ring of Honor candidate sometime.

On the other hand, good for him.  I hate the Raiders, but I hope he’s able to do some good for them.  Rattle some cages.  Make a name for himself.  Put himself in that group of players who DO figure it the fuck out eventually.

In return, it sounds like we’re getting a 7th round pick next year and a mid-round pick in 2013.  Whatever.  It’s all a crapshoot, but with the way Carroll and Schneider evaluate talent, they might actually turn this trade into a huge win for us!  Or not.