I’m Over The Huge Mega-Deal In Free Agency For The Mariners

Being a fan of the Mariners from 2005-2018 is the baseball fan equivalent of being a Vietnam War veteran. I’m still having flashbacks. There are any number of terrible free agent signings both within that period and outside of that period (for the purposes of this post, when I talk about free agents, I’m talking exclusively about the outside free agents we’ve signed to come to Seattle, not the guys who were Mariners that we then re-signed once they hit free agency), but from 2005-2018, I think the four biggest marquee free agent signings we all know and love are Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz.

Cruz, admittedly, is an absolute success story, the likes of which is rare and beautiful. On the opposite end of the spectrum, hearing the name Richie Sexson again makes me want to shut my eyes and never look at the Seattle Mariners ever again. When in reality, it was more of a mixed bag, with his power numbers holding up for two seasons, before he fell off a cliff.

Beltre, I feel like, gets more kudos than … whatever the opposite of kudos are, because his defense was elite, because he was best friends with King Felix, and because he settled into a role that was fairly reliable. However, he came here off of a 2004 season with the Dodgers where he finished 2nd in MVP voting. We came into it expecting 48 homers per year, and got far FAR less. As for Cano, I think we all had fair expectations for what that was. 10 years, $24 million per year. We expected about half of those years to be good, and half of those years to be in severe overpaid decline. And that’s pretty much what we got (with the silver lining that maybe we got a good trade out of the whole thing, depending on what Kelenic ends up turning into). But, regardless, it sucks that you’re investing in someone for a decade, knowing full well that half of those years will be miserable failures (only able to get out from under it by taking advantage of a know-nothing GM).

The point of my bringing those players up in this context is the fact that paying huge sums in free agency doesn’t come with a great success rate. You can say that about trades, you can say that about drafts, you can say that about lower-priced free agents. But, obviously, the cost is far less for everything else. But, when you make a huge splash in free agency, the expectation is that those players will not only come in and make an immediate impact, but they’ll be the cornerstones of your franchise. They’ll put you over the top. If you were a losing organization, they’ll turn you into playoff contenders; if you were already playoff contenders, then they’ll turn you into championship contenders.

Every year in the baseball offseason, the biggest storylines revolve around the Hot Stove. Those elite players who’ve hit free agency are the most talked-about. And, teams like the Mariners – who have relatively low payrolls, who are also coming off of a playoff run – are often expected to be big players in those sweepstakes. And the fans ALWAYS get mad when the Mariners opt to sit out the top tiers of free agency.

It doesn’t make sense, for a variety of reasons. For starters, if you just look at the history of the Seattle Mariners, they don’t make huge splashes in free agency in these situations. If you think about the four players I discussed above, those were all situations where we were trying to bail out a sinking ship. We were never in a position to bolster a team from good to great in that period. The last time the Mariners were great, they largely built up the roster in response to losing other major stars (Randy, Griffey, A-Rod), going with less-heralded all stars over those supernovas.

The other big reason why free agency doesn’t make sense is that it really ties you down to one or two major decisions. The reason why building from within is preferred over the alternative is because you have more information. You’re extending guys who have already had success here. For a team playing half its games in Seattle, that means everything. We see over and over again players come here and struggle, with the ballpark, the climate, the distance away from their offseason homes, whathaveyou. It doesn’t matter if they’re power hitters, line drive hitters, or speedy bloop hitters. So, literally anyone you bring here is a coin flip at best; why would you want to tie yourself down for 5-10 years on someone if you don’t even know if they can succeed here? If you trade for someone and they stink, you can get out of it in a year or two without major financial repercussions. Free agents have their money fully guaranteed.

I would also argue – even with the very best players – there’s a reason why they reached free agency. Aaron Judge was your 2022 American League MVP. He broke the A.L. record for home runs. He’s one of the top three most popular players in all of baseball. The Yankees have all the money and revenue in the world. If they REALLY wanted to avoid all this, if they REALLY wanted him to stick around long term, they would’ve already worked out an extension. As we saw with Julio Rodriguez, as the Angels did with Mike Trout, as countless other teams have done with their super-duper-stars, when you want someone to stick around, you figure out how to get it done before they hit free agency.

I’d be curious to know the success rate of players who sign the top 5-10 free agent contracts every year. How often are those players just as good or better than they were prior to signing? And how long before they decline? How often do those players decline right away, or within a season or two? I remember lots of horror stories from the first half of 2022, when the bulk of the uber-free agents were all struggling with their new teams. There’s a chance Aaron Judge signs a contract somewhere else and is just as good as he was with the Yankees. But, there’s a much BETTER chance he signs somewhere and is worse. But that team is stuck paying him an insane amount of money, and guaranteeing him a spot in their everyday lineup, which is the ultimate double whammy.

I don’t need that. Honestly, I don’t need that ever again. I’d rather the Mariners pay their home-grown guys. I’d rather we trade for players nearing the end of their initial contract, who are incentivized to play hard to try to earn more money. I like the way this team has been built. I don’t want them to suddenly change course and start chasing the huge names, only to have those players struggle and waste all of our time.

Frankly, I’m glad that’s the plan. It’s hard enough to get everything right with your own guys. Evan White’s contract looks like a mini-disaster at the moment. J.P. Crawford seems to have more value as a team leader and chemistry guy than he does with his bat. So, I don’t understand how we EVER get things right with outside free agency. That just seems like the crapshoot to end all crapshoots.

The Seahawks Struggled To Take Down A Bad Rams Team

Pretty standard Seahawks game, all things considered. Lots of turnovers and flukey plays, controversial referee decisions, with a generous portion of Playing Down To The Level Of Your Opponent. In the end, talent overcame whatever the football gods have for us when it comes to the Seahawks playing the Rams, in a 27-23 victory.

It’s hard to come away too impressed, though there were some impressive elements. You have to start with Geno Smith, who finally got the monkey off his back when it comes to leading his team on a 2-minute drive to come from behind and win it. We had every opportunity to blow it at the end. We also had every opportunity – once we got into field goal range – to sit on the ball and play for overtime. But, Geno rared back and won this game with his arm, and it was refreshing to see.

I also gotta say I was impressed we were able to do it while getting absolutely nothing from our running game. Kenneth Walker left the game early with an ankle injury, as he was limited to 3.6 fantasy points 36 rushing yards. We’re obviously down Rashaad Penny from his injury weeks ago, not to mention Travis Homer, who failed to suit up for this one. That left us with DeeJay Dallas – who came into the second half “doubtful” to return, only to gut it out until the end – and someone named Tony Jones, who I’d never heard of before. All told, the running game got us 90 yards on 22 carries and zero scores.

On paper, the defense seemed to have a good game – 5/14 on 3rd/4th downs, 319 total yards (5.1 yards per play), 148 yards passing, 4 sacks, and two interceptions – but it’s infuriating that the Rams were able to score 23 points with no one but backups all across their offense. No Matthew Stafford, no Cooper Kupp, no Darrell Henderson; we should’ve held them to single digits.

That being said, it was cool to see Tariq Woolen get another pick, and have a beautiful tipped pass on what would’ve been a huge gain. Nwosu had a couple more sacks, and Jordyn Brooks had a great game. Even Cody Barton got another late pick to shut it down.

The wide receivers showed up and balled hard in this one. Tyler Lockett had 128 on 9 receptions, with a TD, and D.K. Metcalf had 127 on 8 receptions, with a TD. Noah Fant also had a nice game with 4 catches for 42 yards and a TD.

There was a point here – when this game was still a 50/50 deal – where it kinda felt like maybe losing would be the better result. Look, a 7-5 Seahawks team led by Geno Smith is a nice story and all. But, the 49ers just played the bulk of their last game against a very good Dolphins team without Jimmy G and they HANDLED them. We’re not winning the division. At best, we’re playing for a wild card spot, but now even our victory over the Giants is meaningless since they have a tie on their record. Even if we do sneak into the playoffs, it’s hard for me to see us getting to the Divisional Round, and impossible for us to make it beyond that point. In spite of how great a lot of younger guys are playing, there are still MANY holes left to fill before we can consider ourselves to be a championship-contending team.

Now, obviously, the good news is that the Broncos lost again. The more we win, the more we NEED that pick to land in the top 5, and ideally in the top 3. They’re having a true Season From Hell, with everything that CAN go wrong actually going wrong. I don’t know how many more weeks we’ll be able to depend on them choking these games away.

We get back-to-back home games on the horizon, with a weird 4-8 Panthers team that’s still somehow playing for the division, followed by a Thursday night showdown against the 49ers. That’s two very good defenses, with the Seahawks heading into these games sorely banged up.

I have to like our chances against the Panthers – because their offense looks so bad – but that’s a team that can easily nip us in a close one. I’m officially predicting a 19-16 Seahawks victory, but I’m not super confident about it.

I Finally Went To My First Kraken Game!

My fiance got tickets to last night’s contest against the Washington Capitals from a co-worker with season tickets, so there was really no excuse. I had never been to a Kraken game before and she’d never been to a hockey game before, so this was the perfect opportunity! This also happened to be my first NHL game ever (I’ve seen the Everett Silvertips, the Tacoma Sabercats back when they existed, and the Thunderbirds back when they played in Seattle), so I was pretty excited, even though it was a Thursday night and I had work early the next morning.

I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t watched the Kraken play since last season. Indeed, it might’ve been fairly early on in their inaugural season, when they were one of the worst teams in the league and very much looked like it. They were a rough hang. There wasn’t anything they did well, nothing exciting or fun or interesting. Granted, you could say they were building for the future, and trying to keep their salary issues under control, but out on the ice, that’s not something you want to watch for 80 games a year.

So, I’ve been kind of following along from afar this season. I know they’re significantly better. I know the offense is vastly improved. The defense could still be better, but they feel like an actual team now, and they’re winning games, which is all that matters.

We had great seats! Lower bowl, behind the net, 21 rows back. It was the net that – as chance would have it – saw the bulk of the goals scored (indeed, all but one). As far as first games go, it was like they tailored it just for us!

Grubauer gave up two goals in the first period, which honestly felt about right. He stunk last year. For someone making the kind of money he got in free agency, it seems like we really should’ve gotten someone to help carry us a little more. Obviously, I have no frame of reference when it comes to how the rest of the team around him affects his level of play, but he doesn’t seem to be elite, and he’s making elite goaltender money.

I heard he got hurt earlier this year, and thought it was no coincidence that the team’s fortunes started to turn around. I don’t know if Martin Jones is all that much better – he’s given up 17 goals in the last three games, all victories somehow – but again, I haven’t been watching this team until last night, so I dunno. I didn’t even realize Grubauer was back from injury, but when I saw him in front of the net last night, I figured he’d regained his rightful starting job. It turns out, this is the second game he’s appeared in since October, so I don’t know if they’re just bringing him back slowly, or if he’s entrenched as the backup for now. But, a relatively easy 2-0 deficit after one period sure felt like a Grubauer Special.

I wondered if our first Kraken game would be a shutout. Thankfully, those fears were allayed in the second period, when we pulled it to within 2-1 (and had a few good chances to tie it up heading into the final frame). We saw a goal, we saw our team score a goal, we saw a fight within the first few minutes of the game (something that absolutely blew my fiance’s mind), if that was all that happened, I would’ve considered the entire experience a huge victory.

But, then the game got interesting. Grubauer and the rest of the defense stiffened up. We shut down every subsequent power play opportunity after they scored on the first one. We dictated the tempo and kept firing away at opportunities. Finally, with just over two minutes left in regulation, we got one through to tie it up at 2-2. I thought for sure we’d find a way to squeak one in before the final horn, but overtime ended up being our destiny.

Matty Beniers won the overtime face off, raced to the puck that had slipped into Capitals territory, and shot one under the legs of the goaltender just seven seconds into the extra frame to win it. Check it out, what a sight to behold!

What a thrill! I thought the whole experience was incredibly fun. It was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, so there were some cool tributes going on. The jumbotrons (The Twins, as they call them, since there are two of them) were helpful but not intrusive. I dunno, maybe it’s a different experience for the poors sitting way up high, but all I know is my attention kept being drawn to the ice and not to the video screen, which is important. The concessions are a solid experience, even though everything is wildly over-priced. I couldn’t tell you what we paid for two chicken sandwiches, two waters, and a basket of fries, because it’s one of those things where you enter your credit card as you walk in, and then you just walk out with your food and they supposedly magically charge you what you owe; I guess I’ll find out at my next bank statement. We never left our seats once we got there, so I don’t know what it’s like during the intermissions, as far as crowded bathrooms and whatnot. It seems like they got it pretty well sorted out.

As for the hockey experience, everyone I’ve ever talked to who’d been to both always told me that the difference between minor league hockey and the NHL is night and day. I don’t know if I’m a sophisticated-enough fan to tell the difference. Hockey’s hockey, at least to my untrained eyes. The rink seemed bigger? I don’t know, I haven’t been to a game in person in YEARS; if I were to go to a Silvertips game tomorrow, maybe I’d understand.

Anyway, great game, and a great time had by all. I can’t wait to go again!

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2022: Mr. Tinker Train

I was so damn close to winning four in a row, it’s sickening. Officially, my late-week tinkering fucked me. But, unofficially, I believe I would’ve won if only Justin Fields were still healthy. That, or if the Patriots didn’t play on Thursday night.

See, I took Mac Jones out of my lineup in favor of Mike White of the Jets. The White move in a vacuum was genius, as he got me 33.95 against the Bears. But, that was when I erroneously believed Fields would still go on Sunday. That meant dropping Mac Jones to my bench, who improbably got 31.1 points against the Vikings on Thanksgiving night. He looked terrific! Zipping the ball down field like I’d never seen before! Where the hell has this guy been all year?!

Anyway, when it was decided that Fields would take this week off, that left me with the terrible option of starting the Rams’ backup, Bryce Perkins, whoever that is. He threw a couple of picks and only 100 yards, while only rushing for 44 yards to boot, ending up with a feeble 7.4 points on the week. Clearly, if I’d gone with Mac Jones, I would’ve cruised to victory. Instead, I lost to Car Talk With Josh Allen 163.35 to 151.15.

My bench really crushed. Christian Watson – as expected – got me 21 points for my bench. That was a big leap over Gabe Davis, that overrated shitheel who only got me 7.8. That’s another move that cost me the week. Ezekiel Elliott got me 16.5 for my bench, over Tony Pollard’s 8.1. And, for good measure, Brian Robinson got 20.5 on the week. Nightmare scenario, all the way around.

I’m in a similar quarterback conundrum this week, because once again I don’t know if Fields will play, and once again I have Mac Jones going on Thursday. I have to play Mike White, because he’s the hot hand, and he’s going up against a pretty measly Vikings defense. Jones is at home against the Bills, but I’m not sure if I’m in a position where I can afford to trust Jones just yet. He might not be terrible, is the thing. Even as the bane of my existence this year, he’s still good for 10-15 points when healthy. The 31 he got last week is definitely going to be considered an anomaly until I see it happen again.

On the plus side, it sounds like Fields is feeling better. Is that good enough to actually see game action? We’ll find out. Athletes tend to be overly-optimistic in these cases, when in reality they’re dealing with superhuman pain. Failing that, if I opt to bench Jones again, that leaves me with whoever ends up starting for the Rams. Against a porous Seahawks defense, that might not be the worst thing in the world.

I didn’t make any waiver moves this week, so my priority is all the way up to 3. I don’t know who’s about to become available or desired, but my roster is pretty jam-packed with guys I like. Relatively speaking, that is. For a 4-8 team.

Here’s who I’m looking at starting this week:

  • Mac Jones (QB) vs. Buf
  • Mike White (QB) @ Min
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR) vs. Ind
  • Christian Watson (WR) @ Chi
  • Kenneth Walker (RB) @ LAR
  • Tony Pollard (RB) vs. Ind
  • T.J. Hockenson (TE) vs. NYJ
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) @ LAR
  • Evan McPherson (K) vs. KC
  • N.Y. Jets (DEF) @ Min

I’m NOT happy about starting Jones in this position. I sat him last week and he got me 31. I’ll start him this week and he’ll get me 13 and I’ll be thoroughly annoyed. Meanwhile, if Fields ends up playing, then White will have to sit, which is also annoying because I think he’s got a very juicy matchup against the Vikings. I might tinker with this again before gametime tonight.

I don’t know how much more I can afford to start Pollard over Zeke. I’ll give it another week because Indy’s defense is pretty good. That being said, I learned some possibly-disturbing news that Pollard is going to be a free agent after this season. On the one hand, that means he’s free to sign wherever, and command a starting job next year. On the other hand, will that team utilize him to as great an effect as the Cowboys have the last couple years? I’ll be VERY interested in where his career takes him.

Gabe Davis is done as a starter for me. He’s purely a bench/fill-in guy for injuries and/or BYE weeks. I look forward to not having him next year. He’s too much of a boom/bust guy in an offense that throws it a shit-ton.

I’m doomed to a fate of facing Beasts this week, who is going to murder me with these guys:

  • Justin Herbert (QB) @ LV
  • Russell Wilson (QB) @ Bal
  • Tyler Lockett (WR) @ LAR
  • Courtland Sutton (WR) @ Bal
  • Derrick Henry (RB) @ Phi
  • Christian McCaffrey (RB) vs. Mia
  • Mark Andrews (TE) vs. Den
  • Josh Jacobs (WR) vs. LAC
  • Jason Myers (K) @ LAR
  • Tampa Bay (DEF) vs. NO

Those running backs are insane. He’ll likely beat me with just those guys alone.

Is Geno Smith Worth $33+ Million On The Open Market?

At some point, I talked about how I’d gladly re-sign Geno Smith for $20-$25 million. That’s assuming, of course, that Shane Waldron is still here – and isn’t hired as a head coach somewhere after this fantastic performance – but it goes completely out the window if he’s gone. I base that on Geno Smith being a pretty great fit for this very specific scheme.

I also think there’s a lot of risk that comes with giving Geno a big-money extension after one great season. At this point, it’s not even one great season, with six games left to play. But, it’s hard for me to reconcile what we’ve seen from him in his career to date.

I understand where this $33ish million figure comes from. That’s right around what he would cost on a franchise tag. At this point, I think Geno would readily accept a franchise tag at that cost; I don’t think the Seahawks want any part of that, since the entire tag becomes fully guaranteed, and cripples your salary cap accordingly. If you’re the Seahawks, you want a 2+ year deal, to spread out the signing bonus, and limit the number of guaranteed money over the long haul.

What I don’t understand is why the franchise tag is automatically the floor. Is Geno Smith going to command $30+ million on the open market? Is he nearly as valuable in any other system? With a lesser offensive line protecting him? With lesser targets to throw to?

The last thing I want to do is get into a bidding war for Geno Smith, who has a definite shelf life. Even if we assume this is the new normal for Geno, I give it two years before we start seeing a decline. The Seahawks need to address the quarterback position not just in the short term, but in the long term as well. I have no problem handing him the team in 2023. But, in 2024 and beyond, I’d like to be looking towards a younger franchise quarterback to take over. It’s why you build through the draft, so you can use your cap dollars in other ways, with the quarterback position not taking such a significant portion of the pie.

The lone upside – as I see it – to extending Geno is the fact that we can use all of our draft capital on other areas of need. It sure would be nice to have both first round picks available to bolster our weak defensive line. Maybe grab a high-level linebacker early in the second round, and then either grab a guard/center with the other, or just take the best player available, regardless of position. But, my concern with that is similar to my concern about drafting a quarterback: what if they’re not good right away, or ever? Sure, we’d have Geno Smith, but if we’re still having the same problems stopping the run and rushing the passer, then we’re no better than we are now, with the limited shelf life of a competent Geno Smith.

I guess my whole thing is: I’m never going to be happy if we don’t select a quarterback in one of the first two rounds next year. But, regardless, if some other team is willing to throw gobs of money at Geno, godspeed. Let them have him. What I think this year has shown me more than anything else is that you can plug & play pretty much anyone in the Shane Waldron (née Sean McVay) system and get serviceable results. Just like Jared Goff a few years ago taking the Rams to the Super Bowl; we don’t need to break the bank on Geno Smith or anyone for that matter. Let the rest of the NFL ravage that carcass. The Seahawks can carve out their own path.

The Seahawks’ Rush Defense Is Atrocious Right Now

Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Bucs ran all over the Seahawks in Germany. We didn’t make a huge deal out of it because the final score was only 21-16. We fell to 6-4 (after a 4-game win streak, where our defensive woes felt like they’d been shored up a great deal), and we were headed into our BYE week, which we’d hoped would lead to the proper tweaks being made to right the ship.

What that game boiled down to, reportedly, was the defensive game plan focusing much more on stopping the Bucs’ passing attack, while neglecting the running game. Surely, THAT wouldn’t happen again!

Except here we are, losers at home to the Raiders – 40-34 in overtime – giving up 283 yards on the ground, on 40 carries, for a whopping 7.1 average per attempt, while we reportedly spent the last two weeks focusing on how to stop Davante Adams and the Raiders’ passing attack.

At some point – and I think that point is now – I’m going to stop believing this is a game plan shortcoming, but rather just a plain ol’ scheme/talent deficiency.

Josh Jacobs came into this game as one of the most proficient running backs in the NFL this year. It’s a phenomenal personal turnaround – one that’s severely underreported, when you think about how mediocre he’s been up until this year – so I’m having a hard time understanding why we’d take him so lightly. This is Pete Carroll, we’re talking about. He never fucking shuts up about running the football and stopping the run. That’s his whole fucking thing! There’s no way we’re going into these game plans completely overlooking these running backs! I might – for half a second – believe such when it comes to the Bucs (who have been inept running the ball all year), but not with the Raiders. Running the football is the one thing they actually excel at. If we’re being perfectly honest, they’ve yet to fully unleash Davante Adams, and probably never will get him back to the heights he saw with the Packers. So, don’t give me this bullshit.

Josh Jacobs ran for 229 yards on 33 carries (a 6.9 yard per carry average) and 2 touchdowns. The yards are a franchise-worst given up by the Seahawks to an individual rusher, surpassing that infamous Bo Jackson game way back when.

I don’t know what’s more at fault, the scheme or the talent, but I’m leaning towards talent. I’ve seen the Vic Fangio system work with flying colors with countless other teams. But, you can’t convert a defense overnight. It takes a year or two before things start clicking, and you’re able to get the guys in here who will buy in. I think the Seahawks are severely lacking – especially in the front seven – and that’s only going to be held together with duct tape until 2023.

That doesn’t mean we’re doomed. That doesn’t mean we’re going winless the rest of the way. But, the division is probably out of reach, and any sort of significant playoff run is wishful thinking at best.

Getting off the defense a bit, I’ve got a couple thoughts about the offense. My overarching sentiment is that if your score 34 points, you should win 100% of the time. It’s unforgivable for a defense to blow it in such spectacular fashion. We were up a touchdown with under 6 minutes to go, and promptly gave up a 10-play, 75-yard drive to tie it up. Then, the cherry on top – after holding the Raiders to a missed field goal in overtime – was allowing an 86-yard game-winning touchdown. WHAT?! How is this a Pete Carroll defense?

That being said, I’m perturbed that we had two shots at winning the game, and the offense came up empty both times. With just under two minutes to go in regulation, the Seahawks went 5 & Out. Granted, one of those plays was a hard-luck overturning of a D.K. Metcalf first down conversion, but we still had another play after that and ended up taking a sack, which forced a punt. Then, we got the ball back after that missed field goal in overtime, and promptly went 3 & Out. You hate to have the ball with a chance to prevail on any type of scoring drive, and give the ball right back. There are only so many possessions at your disposal with 10 minutes of game clock. With how shaky the Seahawks’ defense looked all game, you don’t want to have them try and get a stop twice in a row, even if you don’t expect to give up an 86-yard run.

That’s on Geno Smith. That’s a concern I’ve had about Geno Smith dating back to before the season. And, quite frankly, that’s not something I’ve really seen him prove he’s capable of achieving. Where’s the game-winning 2-minute drive at the end of the game? You haven’t seen it! Not in a Seahawks uniform, anyway. You’ve seen many of his attempts fall short. And you’ve seen him seal a game much earlier in the 4th quarter, when there were still possessions left for the defense to defend. But, no miracle comebacks unlocked. And, not even a field goal drive in a tie game late? If you’re going to pay a guy $33+ million per year, you need to know he’s capable of doing that!

It’s just a total breakdown on a team-wide level. It isn’t the first time that’s happened this year, and probably won’t be the last either.

The good news is that the schedule still favors the Seahawks the rest of the way. We get to play the Rams twice – including next Sunday in L.A. – and they’re absolutely falling apart at the seams. Yet, the Raiders were also part of that easing of the schedule – they came into this game a disappointing 3-7 on the year – so now I don’t know what to think. Could the Rams and Panthers do what the Raiders just did? I wouldn’t doubt it.

The Washington Huskies Could Very Well Make The Rose Bowl

Saturday was as enjoyable a day of football as I’ve seen in quite some time. Everything sort of opened up for me and I had an opportunity to sit down and watch almost nonstop from about 3pm until 11pm (while taking a brief intermission to go out and buy a Christmas tree with my dad).

Now, obviously, it wasn’t perfect. But, Friday’s mini-slate of games had a lot to do with that, thanks to Cal blowing it against UCLA. The Huskies were iced out of the Pac-12 Championship Game when the Utes blew out the Buffaloes, but that game was over before it started. Colorado is one of the worst teams in all of football. They’re an embarrassment to the Power 5 conferences, and deserve to be relegated to a lower level until further notice.

It’s unfortunate, because the biggie improbably worked out, as Oregon State defeated Oregon in a thrilling matchup, where the Beaves overcame a 31-10 deficit late in the third quarter to prevail 38-34. In really dominating fashion, by just running all over the Ducks to the tune of 268 yards on 43 carries (that’s a 6.2 average for those following along at home), while their quarterback only completed 6 passes for 60 yards all game. I don’t know how you come back from being down 21 points by only running the ball, but this was straight out of the 1920’s. The Ducks didn’t do themselves any favors by making a lot of mistakes, and coaching their way out of any shot at the Rose Bowl by going for it deep in their own territory with a quarterback run that was doomed to fail.

There were other great outcomes throughout the day. 5th ranked LSU lost to a Texas A&M team that didn’t even qualify for a bowl game this year. USC handled a 15th ranked Notre Dame team by double digits. Michigan absolutely destroyed Ohio State on the road to lock in their spot in the playoffs (as probably a 2-seed).

It all led up to the Apple Cup at 7:30pm in Pullman. If the Huskies won, they would create a 3-way tie for second place in the Pac-12, with Utah and Oregon. With the tiebreaker system set in place, that gave Utah the nod to play USC in the conference championship. If the Huskies lost, it would’ve been a 2-way tie for second with just Utah and Oregon, with the Ducks having the head-to-head victory over the Utes. So, this was an opportunity for the Ducks to lose twice in the same day, which is why it was so great!

The Apple Cup was an intense scoring festival through the first half. The offenses sputtered a tiny bit through the first three possessions, with the Cougs improbably doinking in a 50-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. But, once the quarterbacks got used to the cold, they were gripping it and ripping it like nobody’s business. After those first three drives, there were a whopping SEVEN consecutive touchdown drives before the Cougs had to settle for a field goal just before halftime to only be down 28-27. If the clock wasn’t a factor, they’d still be out there trading TDs!

Somehow, the defense stepped up in the second half, limiting the Cougars to only 6 points (should have been 8 points, but quarterback Cameron Ward had the ball in the wrong hand as he ran for the front left pylon on the 2-point conversion – the first of two such instances where he failed to simply reach the football over the line to gain while running out of bounds – in one of the most baffling displays of low football IQ I’ve seen in a while), which was pretty necessary since the Huskies had a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers to keep things interesting. But, we got things on track after a brutal pick in the endzone, pulling away from a 35-33 lead to a 51-33 end result.

Interception aside, Michael Penix was a wizard out there, throwing for 485 yards and 3 TDs (on 25/43 passing), while adding 34 rushing yards and 2 TDs on the ground. His regular season with the Huskies looks like this:

  • 330/500 for 4,354 yards, 29 TDs, 7 INTs, and only 5 sacks in 12 games. He added 86 rushing yards and 4 TDs on the ground

This is, without question, the greatest season I’ve ever seen from a Husky quarterback. It might literally be the best season ever by a Husky quarterback; I’ll defer to the experts on that one. But, this is legitimate pro-level talent we’re watching! I can only imagine what it would’ve looked like to have Kalen DeBoer, Ryan Grubb, and Michael Penix together for four years. Penix still technically has a year of eligibility left, but I would be absolutely shocked if he opted to stick around for another season, especially given his injury history.

Our top three receivers also, by consequence, had huge games. Rome Odunze led the way with 5 for 157 and a TD. Jalen McMillan had 6 for 150 and a TD. And Ja’Lynn Polk had 4 for 82 and a TD. On the year, here’s how they shake out:

  • Odunze – 70 for 1,088 and 7 TDs
  • McMillan – 71 for 1,040 and 8 TDs
  • Polk – 38 for 649 and 6 TDs

The Huskies haven’t stopped recruiting receivers at a high level since the likes of John Ross and Dante Pettis went pro, but they simply haven’t had a quarterback capable of getting the ball to their most talented weapons. Instead, we’ve been Tight End University in the interim, which is fine, but unless you’re cultivating the next Travis Kelce, your tight end shouldn’t be your best weapon on offense. It’s long overdue that we’re seeing our wideouts getting this kind of attention. As you can see, it opens things up tremendously for everyone else.

The running game gets overlooked in all this, but Wayne Taulapapa had another wildly efficient game, running it 13 times for 126 yards and a TD. Cameron Davis also had a fine day, rushing it 6 times for 55 yards. On the year, they weren’t ever the headline stars, but they accounted for a lot of our scoring:

  • Taulapapa – 126 carries for 779 yards and 10 TDs
  • Davis – 107 carries for 522 yards and 13 TDs

It’s definitely a pass-heavy attack, but the offensive scheme takes advantage of that by gashing teams in the run. I think it’s exactly the right kind of balance for today’s game, and I couldn’t be happier with how the offense performed this year. I guess it’s all downhill from here!

So, here’s where everything stands. On Friday at 5pm, USC plays 14th ranked Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game. At the moment USC is ranked 4th in the AP Poll (the official college football playoff rankings come out later today, I believe). The Top 4 in the AP Poll are Georgia, Michigan, undefeated TCU, and USC. TCU will play the 12th ranked Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday morning in the Big-12 Championship Game. Also in play we have a 1-loss Ohio State team playing for jack shit since they lost to Michigan. How this week’s rankings shake out will speak volumes. If USC is also ranked 4th in the college football playoffs, then I think it’s a foregone conclusion: win and they’re in. If Ohio State is still the 4th team, then all bets are off (though, in all likelihood, they’ll be in with a win, but you never know). I don’t think anyone believes that a 3-loss LSU team would make it, even if they beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but let’s hope the Bulldogs take care of business just to be safe.

Anyway, if USC makes the college football playoffs, then that sets up the Huskies for a Rose Bowl berth. That would make the Utes a 3-loss team in conference (with 4 losses overall). Meanwhile, the Huskies and Ducks would both have 2 losses in conference (with Oregon having 3 losses overall), and the Huskies BEAT the Ducks. So, that should give us the edge.

Even if things go wonky on us, and USC has to “settle” for the Rose Bowl, there’s still an outside chance – as a 10-win team – that we might qualify for the Cotton Bowl, and be part of the big New Year’s 6. That’s fun! I’d be happy with that!

I’d be less happy if we are iced out completely, but that’s always a possibility as well. I would think – given our offensive firepower – that we’d be an attractive team to put into ANY bowl game.

Of course, a Rose Bowl showdown would be a rematch with Ohio State from the 2018 season, which was a tough-luck 28-23 defeat. Ohio State is always a scary team to play, but I’d still love the opportunity.

We’ll see what happens! Regardless, this season has surpassed my wildest expectations for the Huskies. I’m just tickled pink with how it all has gone so far.

Fun Husky Football Scenarios Heading Into The Apple Cup

The chances are remote, but the possibilities are endless for the Washington Huskies, heading into our regular season finale.

At 9-2, the Huskies have alread surpassed our wildest dreams for what this season could be. After a COVID-shortened 2020, and a disastrous 2021 that saw the university clean house, I think most of us had tempered expectations heading into 2022. I wouldn’t have predicted we’d be at the bottom – though I did see that bandied about in some circles – but it felt like a middle-of-the-road kind of year where maybe we’d get to 6-6 and play in a crappy bowl.

So, to have a remote possibility of actually making the Pac-12 Championship Game, and/or somehow making the Rose Bowl, is pretty thrilling!

To get here, I should mention the Huskies just throttled the Buffaloes last week, 54-7. That was after we shocked the world – winning in Oregon – to make all this possible. We’re officially 6-2 in conference, tied with Utah for third. USC is first, at 8-1, and have already clinched their spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. They also sit at 6th in the nation, with an outside chance of cracking the college football playoffs (more on that in a bit).

Here are the scenarios, as they stand:

Oregon plays at Oregon State tomorrow at 12:30pm. If the Ducks win, they advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon State is 21st overall, so they’re no pushovers. But, the odds are pretty heavily in favor of the Ducks taking care of business.

Should the Ducks lose, that opens up a cavalcade of possibilities! Most importantly, Washington would advance if they beat Wazzu and UCLA loses at Cal this afternoon. Should the Bruins prevail, the Huskies can still make it with a win and a Utah loss at the hapless Buffaloes. So, that’s why it’s a remote possibility. The Ducks are favored, the Bruins are heavily favored, and the Utes are a shoo-in. My hunch is all three of those teams win and it’s USC at Oregon in the title game.

The Utes could still make it with a victory if the Beavers beat the Ducks, the Huskies beat the Cougars, and the Bruins beat the Golden Bears, which actually isn’t crazy, and is the second-likeliest scenario.

I, as a Husky fan, expect to be bummed out when all is said and done, but not making the Pac-12 Championship Game isn’t the end of the world. Assuming Oregon makes it, and if USC defeats the Ducks to take the conference, there’s a very good chance that the Trojans make the top four and advance to the college football playoffs. At which point, the Huskies – by virtue of having beaten the Ducks – could be selected to represent the Rose Bowl as the second-best team in the Pac-12. That’s a helluva consolation prize! And, arguably, would be an easier path to the Rose Bowl (since there’s no chance whatsoever – even if we beat USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game – that we’d make the college football playoffs).

So, that’s something! If all else fails, though, we’re still a Husky football team looking to get to 10 wins in the regular season, which hasn’t happened since 2016-2018 of the Chris Petersen era. Which is why Kalen DeBoer earned himself a contract extension. He gets two extra years added to his deal – now through the 2028 season – with a $1 million raise added immediately (escalating $100K every year).

The money and everything is pretty meaningless, given that if he keeps doing well, he’ll keep getting extensions and raises. If he does poorly, he’ll be fired. And, if another team wants to buy him out and poach him away, they’ll pay whatever it takes if he proves he’s worth it. But, it’s cool for him to have this happen, and it’s cool for us as fans because that means the Huskies are playing well.

I’m excited – regardless of the post-season outcome – for the Apple Cup this weekend. The Cougs have been hot of late – winners of three in a row – after losing 4 of 5. All of their losses so far have come to ranked teams (Oregon, USC, Oregon State, Utah). The Cougs beat a ranked Wisconsin team early in the year, but at 6-5 the Badgers have sorely disappointed. Nevertheless, I think the Cougs are better than we expected, and could surprise us if we’re not careful. They’ve played most everyone tough – even in their losses – so I would expect this one to be close to the bitter end. I’ve got the Huskies by 3.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2022: I’ve Got Good News & Bad News

Damnedest thing: I won again! That’s three wins in a row, for those keeping track. This time, it was a pretty healthy 161.00 to 136.90 victory over Toot Cannons. That brings my record to 4-7, and my place in the standings ALLLLL the way up to 8th place. I have a one-game lead over the two teams below me, but of course, I have the fewest points in the league, so tying in record with those animals will put me right back in last place where I belong.

I will say that I’m slowly, but surely, creeping up on The Lance Petemans in points. He has less than a 10-point lead, with three weeks to go in the regular season. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we don’t play one another in any of those games; I’ll see him next in the Consolation Bracket (which doesn’t factor into who gets the Toilet Trophy).

The bad news is: my meal ticket might be going away, as Justin Fields injured his non-throwing shoulder. That’s not always the end of the world for a quarterback, but it can be pretty devastating for a quarterback who’s better at running with the football than throwing it.

Fields had another respectable week, getting me over 24 points. Christian Watson kicked off the week strong wth 21. The Jets defense did me proud (a couple weeks after I traded away the Eagles) with 19, and Evan McPherson kicked in 17 points in The Week Of The Kicker (where Tyler Bass got over 20, and Brett Maher tied the single-game record for kickers, all-time, with 29).

The star of my team was Tony Pollard. He’s been thrashing the league during my winning streak, thanks in large part to Ezekiel Elliott being injured. Zeke returned this past week and got 17 points for my bench. But, Pollard’s big-play ability netted me almost 37: 2 touchdowns, 109 receiving yards, and 80 rushing yards to boot. My dream for this offseason is the Cowboys cut Zeke in a cost-cutting measure, and make Pollard the full-time #1 running back. He’ll set NFL records!

My big boner of a move was benching Matthew Stafford in favor of Davis Mills. Stafford got me 20 points for my bench, while Mills needed garbage time to get up to 7.45. Mills had the better matchup, and was projected to out-score Stafford (who is without Cooper Kupp for the foreseeable future), but at some point common sense needs to prevail.

This week, I go up against Car Talk With Josh Allen, the second place team in our league. I’m just happy I get to play him both times without Deshaun Watson, as he doesn’t need any extra help to lay me to waste. Here are my guys:

  • Justin Fields (QB) @ NYJ
  • Mac Jones (QB) @ Min
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR) vs. NYG
  • Gabe Davis (WR) @ Det
  • Kenneth Walker (RB) vs. LV
  • Tony Pollard (RB) vs. NYG
  • T.J. Hockenson (TE) vs. NE
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) vs. LV
  • Evan McPherson (K) @ Ten
  • N.Y. Jets (DEF) vs. Chi

I might have to start BOTH of my backup quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford had another concussion late in the game last week, which almost guarantees he sees time on the IR. I don’t like Mac Jones, but I’m going to hope he has a little something left in the tank against the Vikings, in what will need to be a high-scoring affair if the Patriots hope to win. If Fields goes down, I’ll have to start Davis Mills against the Dolphins (assuming he’s still starting for the Texans).

It’s a toss-up between Zeke and Pollard as long as both are healthy. When they’re both healthy, they split carries pretty evenly. Pollard gets the advantage of being a bigger factor in the passing game, but Zeke gets the advantage of being the goalline back by and large. Pollard is more boom-or-bust as a result, but also somehow has a higher floor. That isn’t to say Zeke won’t out-score him on the regular, because their offense is very efficient, so he’ll get his opportunities to punch it in. But, I’m sort of resigned to being disappointed whenever my guy isn’t in there.

This might be the last week I play Gabe Davis over Christian Watson. The Lions stink. I know they’ve been a lot better of late, but Davis should have no problem scoring in bunches in this matchup. The concern is that the Bills get Diggs going and forget about Davis, which is a nightmare scenario. I kinda need Davis to be The Guy since I’m going up against Josh Allen (spoiler alert). Taking away his touchdowns would be a big help. On the flipside, Watson is going up against the Eagles’ defense, which is very good against the pass. My hunch is that he comes down to Earth a little bit this week. However, if he puts in a third consecutive humongous week, then it’s time to set him (in my lineup) and forget him.

Here’s the list of players who figure to destroy me:

  • Josh Allen (QB) @ Det
  • Tom Brady (QB) @ Cle
  • DeVonta Smith (WR) vs. GB
  • Amari Cooper (WR) vs. TB
  • Aaron Jones (RB) @ Phi
  • Joe Mixon (RB) @ Ten
  • Travis Kelce (TE) vs. LAR
  • Christian Kirk (WR) vs. Bal
  • Tyler Bass (K) @ Det
  • Kansas City (DEF) vs. LAR

A lot of these guys had big weeks LAST week, so my hope is that they … don’t have big weeks this week.

Julio Rodriguez Won Rookie Of The Year; Scott Servais Didn’t Win Manager Of The Year

2022 will go down as one of the greatest years of all time to be a Mariners fan. Which speaks to the utter travesty of this franchise that we got swept by the fucking Astros in the ALDS, and it’s still one of the greatest seasons in our history.

Anyway, blowing past that, 2022 was super fun, and we’re hoping the start of something major. As we head into steamy, Hot Stove action, it’s also time to give out some awards.

In the least-surprising news ever, Julio Rodriguez was named the American League’s Rookie of the Year. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t following the race all that closely, but this is really one of those No Brainer situations. As one of the 2022 outfield Silver Sluggers, he hit 28 homers, 25 doubles, and swiped 25 bags, while hitting .284/.345/.509. He’s a superstar. He’d never even whiffed the Major Leagues before this year, and now he’s under contract for the next decade-plus, making hundreds of millions of dollars. He’s the greatest player we’ve had since A-Rod in 1996 (the rightful MVP, who had it ripped away because Juan Gonzalez was a thing).

What’s super cool is that the Mariners – by Julio winning this – get to receive a free draft pick at the end of the first round. It’s a means of rewarding teams who refrain from monkeying around with service time (if that’s even a thing anymore). How cool is that?! We have the best rookie in baseball AND we get a high draft pick next year to throw onto the pile? Outstanding!

What’s the opposite of outstanding (in-sitting?) is the fact that Scott Servais was 100% snubbed from Manager of the Year. Not only did he not win, but he came in THIRD! What in the actual living fuck?

I try not to get all worked up about sports awards – or ANY awards – because it’s all subjective and it’s all pointless. What effect does Servais not winning have on my life? None. No effect.

That being said, what more does a guy have to do?! This is two years in a row now where he’s taken a team with questionable all-around talent – and clear deficiencies in major areas – and exceeded expectations by a wide margin, leading us to back-to-back 90-win seasons. I don’t know which year is more impressive, to be honest! In 2021, we were unquestionably less-talented, so to get to 90 wins felt like a miracle of modern managing. He was making all the right moves and pushing all the right buttons. I’m willing to admit that giving a guy Manager of the Year when that team fails to make the post-season is a bit of a stretch, but a strong argument could be made that he was even more deserving of the award for that 2021 season.

So, if anything, 2022 was the make-up opportunity! Not only did he exceed expectations once again, but we pushed through as the 2nd wild card team, making it to the ALDS in dramatic fashion. With this offense? That’s something special!

I get that he’d be neck-and-neck with the Cleveland manager (who ultimately took the prize), but what’s extremely obnoxious is the fact that Servais landed behind the Baltimore guy. Baltimore, mind you, did NOT make the playoffs. It’s hard not to scream East Coast Bias, but it’s been that way since the dawn of time, so what are you gonna do?

I guess, as always, Servais is just going to have to blow his competition away. If getting to 90 wins with mediocre hitters isn’t enough to float your boat, maybe winning 100+ and making a deep run in the playoffs will do the trick! Let’s see if we can get there in 2023.