You Know, We Don’t Really NEED Athletes To Say ANYTHING

A lot of people are wondering what sports are going to look like as we come out of this COVID-19 epidemic, and just generally in the years/decades to come.

The Match II was a popular thing that happened recently. If you don’t know what that is, it was this round of golf played by Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson; their partners, respectively, were Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They apparently raised a lot of money for … people who were affected by the virus, I guess. Obviously, with social distancing and all that, it was a golf match with no fans, no caddies, and a limited number of crew people around to broadcast the whole thing. To compensate for this, all four players were mic’d up and wearing earpieces, so they could chat with the announcers and any other celebs who called in and wanted to chat. It was very charming and a fun way to spend an otherwise sportsless afternoon.

I was listening to the Brock & Salk podcast after The Match II, and they interviewed one of the announcers, who talked about the experience, and it was his opinion that this could be a wave of the future, not just for golf but for all major sports. The XFL dabbled in a lot of live, on-field interviews where their sideline reporters had to run around and find players who just did something exciting to ask them about it in real-time (as opposed to after the game, which is what would happen under normal circumstances). I’ve probably talked about that before, but really, WHO IS THIS FOR?! I would argue, only people IN the media enjoy this shit.

Do you know why The Match II was such a rousing success, with respect to the live interactions between media & athletes? Because you had four of the biggest, most famous, most articulate athletes in modern sports history. Tiger and Phil and Peyton and Tom? OF COURSE they’re going to be engaging and interesting to interact with!

Do you know what the VAST MAJORITY of athletes sound like on a regular basis? Dumb as rocks. Boring as dirt. Bland cliche machines who have been programmed over their entire lives in how to “game” the media. Saying something while never really saying anything. It is, by and large, BRUTAL to listen to an athlete being interviewed, whether it’s in the moment or after they’ve had hours and hours to craft a pre-packaged response.

I mean, as you can see from Drew Brees’ recent comments – before he walked them back, of course – you can give an athlete YEARS to come up with an opinion, and he’ll still sound like he has no idea what he’s talking about!

The wave of the future, I’m sad to say, is headed in the direction of more media interactions with players, and it’s going to be to all of our detriment. I dunno, unless I’m just an old man now; that’s possible too. Maybe to keep the younger generations engaged in sports, you need to offer this horseshit to continue to grow and prosper your sport. I would guess that’s probably closer to reality, since there’s so much money involved in this enterprise, it’s not like they haven’t done TONS of market research on the topic.

The thing I can’t tell is: who’s pushing for this? Is it the leagues? Do they like it when their players put their feet in their own mouths? Is any publicity good publicity, as they say? Or, are the players pushing for this, in an attempt to grow their individual brands and introduce new market streams during and after their athletic careers? I’m sure both could be true, I suppose. But, I just keep coming back to the sports media complex trying to create a market for something where there’s really no demand for it!

Athletes saying dumb shit can generate countless clicks and views and scoops and editorials for days on end! You’ve got the dumb shit they say, you’ve got the immediate backlash, you’ve got follow-up stories from other sports people commenting on it, you’ve got talking heads voicing their VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, you’ve got sports radio hosts being handed hours upon hours of content to regurgitate. Then, you’ve got the same athlete apologizing for the dumb shit they said, the immediate backlash to that, the continued follow-up stories, the ever-growing VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, and another full day’s worth of sports radio fodder … until some other athlete says something else dumb and the Baby Huey that is our collective sports media consciousness proceeds to waddle over to the next outrage where he plops his ass down to obsess over the next round of nonsense.

You don’t get ANY of that without constant media/athlete interactions. And, sure, you have to wade through an endless stream of cliches and rote, banal responses. But, once you unearth that little nugget of gold, you’re on easy street for at least another week.

Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. This isn’t a “Stick To Sports” rant. This is a “Stick To What You’re Good At” rant.

When LeBron James or Richard Sherman or Michael Bennett or Gregg Popovich or any number of intelligent, thoughtful people give an opinion on an issue of the day, I’m more than happy to listen. Or, even if it’s just X’s & O’s talk! Deshaun Watson gives some of the best postgame interviews about certain critical plays that happened during his games! Even Bill Belichick, when he wants to be, can be engaging and insightful on a bevy of different topics.

But, I would argue these people are the exceptions, and you REALLY have to suffer through a lot of mindlessness in the meantime. Not EVERYONE needs to make their voices heard. Sometimes, it’s okay just to shut the fuck up and let the adults have a fucking conversation. If you’ve got nothing interesting or worthwhile to say, then maybe just do us all a favor and keep quiet. You’ll save us a lot of wasted time, and you’ll potentially save yourself a lot of agony by not having to scramble to make up for some faux pas that got out in some interview you didn’t prepare for and didn’t think would come to light to a worldwide audience.

Again, I’m mostly talking to Drew Brees here, but this goes for a lot of you!

Russell Wilson Will Be The NFL MVP For The 2019 Season

SCORCHING MOLTEN LAVA TAKE ALERT! This is one of those things where if I’m right, I’ll be crowing like a jackass for the rest of my life. And, if I’m wrong, then it’ll never be spoken of again.

Remember the time I predicted the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl before the season started?

Remember the time before that when I predicted the Ravens would beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl just 1 week into the regular season?

I’ll leave it to the rest of you to find all the times I’ve been wrong, and go out on a limb to say I’m the greatest sports mind of our generation.

I don’t often do a lot of prognosticating on the NFL’s MVP award – or ANY MVP award, really – because I kind of don’t care about it. The only time a Seahawk has won was in 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 13-3 regular season. I argued this at the time and maintain it to this day: the most important player to the Seahawks’ success that year was actually Matt Hasselbeck (we NEVER would’ve gotten anywhere without him), but since he didn’t have insanely gaudy stats (3,459 yards, 65.5% completions, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) he didn’t stand a chance.

Which brings me right back to this year and begs the question: if gaudy stats are a precursor, WHY IN THE HOLY HELL WOULD I PREDICT RUSSELL WILSON FOR THIS AWARD?

Look, it’s not the most thought-out opinion I’ve ever had. 99% of everything I say on here I pull straight from my gut, which has been notoriously inconsistent over the years. But, I’ll try to make an argument and you take it with however much salt you want.

Last year, Wilson had a pretty impressive season: 3,448 yards, 65.6% completions, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 110.9 passer rating. Of course, that was nothing compared to Patrick Mahomes’ season (the actual MVP): 5,097 yards, 66.0% completions, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, and 113.8 rating. Every step of the way (except for INTs) he was better than Wilson.

Well, the first part of my argument is that I believe Mahomes takes a step back in his second full year as a starter. I think he’ll come down to Earth and be more in the middle of the pack. He’ll almost certainly throw for over 4,000 yards, but I don’t think he’ll approach 50 TDs again, and I think his INTs will increase. I would also argue that whenever someone wins as thoroughly as he has, there’s inevitably a backlash among voters, who are constantly looking to give the award to someone different. If you don’t believe that to be true, then please explain to me why LeBron James has zero MVP awards since the 2012/2013 season, in spite of the fact that until this year, he carried his teams to every single NBA Championship series in that span. Also, while you’re at it, tell me why Bill Belichick hasn’t won since 2010 and yet Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have both won twice in that span.

So, if you bet Mahomes at +400, you’re throwing your money away. Which brings me to the current betting odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes +400
  • Drew Brees +700
  • Aaron Rodgers +800
  • Andrew Luck +800
  • Tom Brady +1000
  • Baker Mayfield +1400
  • Russell Wilson +1600
  • Carson Wentz +1900
  • Philip Rivers +2200
  • Deshaun Watson +2500

That’s just the top 10. Some things stand out. All of those guys are quarterbacks (the most important players in the game) and all of those guys are projected to be in the playoffs (or at least contending for the playoffs). While being a quarterback isn’t a MUST, it’s certainly the safest bet. For a non-quarterback to win it, he has to do something REALLY special. Like Shaun Alexander’s touchdown totals. The last non-quarterback to win it was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 8 yards of the all-time rushing yards record in a single season. The time before that, it was LaDainian Tomlinson the year after Alexander, when he ran for 1,815 yards and broke Alexander’s rushing touchdown record with 28.

If I were going to pick a non-QB in 2019, I’d lean towards Saquon Barkley (at +4000), but the Giants are so bad that he would literally have to break every single rushing record for it to happen.

Anyway, as you can see, Wilson is firmly in the Top 10 (shamefully behind Baker Mayfield, which is just a crime against humanity at this point), so Vegas likes his chances. With his new contract extension, Wilson’s name is in the zeitgeist. And, at this junction in his career, I believe there are enough fervent Wilson believers out there to really help make his case and keep his name alive.

Now, he can’t do it alone. It’s going to require the Seahawks to get back to the playoffs. It’ll probably even require the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which I believe this team is capable of. Ideally, the Seahawks will be a top 1 or 2 seed and have a BYE in the playoffs. Something like 12-4 could accomplish this, if everything breaks right. The Rams, you figure, are in for a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints and Bears figure to be our biggest obstacles, as I believe the NFC East will feast upon itself to keep their records down.

Playing well in marquee games is also a must. The Seahawks have five primetime games scheduled, including three in a row late in the season, right in that window where we separate the men from the boys in races like these. Wilson has traditionally stepped up big in these games, so I don’t see that as being an issue either.

With the team playing well, and with his reputation intact, that just leaves his biggest hurdle: his numbers.

Wilson has thrown for over 4,000 yards only twice in his career (though he was 17 yards away in 2017 from making it three times), and last year he was obviously limited by the offense’s design. Part of that was a backlash against the losses in our first two weeks, when the coaching staff had to re-set everything. But, ultimately this team was so successful running the ball that there wasn’t always a serious need to get things done through the air. While the plan heading into the season will be more of the same run-centric style, it wouldn’t totally shock me to see our effectiveness on the ground weaken (much in the same way that I see Mahomes’ numbers taking a dive). Opposing defenses will game plan better. And, I figure injuries will play a more significant role (Carson played in 14 games; I could see that dropping as he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay healthy for the duration) with both the running backs and the O-Line. There’s no Mike Davis, who was a solid contributor, and I seriously question whether Penny will be up to the task if he’s thrust into the #1 role. There should be just enough of a dip in the running game to add a few hundred more yards to Wilson’s passing total.

On top of that, Wilson’s rushing yards are going to continue to go down with every year. He’s a quarterback, and an elite one at that. Elite quarterbacks throw the ball or hand it off, period. He’s heading into his 8th season, which puts him squarely in his prime. He’s had a Hall of Fame trajectory to this point in his career, and I don’t know a whole lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who haven’t won an MVP award. With that in mind, it sort of feels like it’s his destiny to win this award at least once. If we get to the end of the season, and no one has really stood out with awe-inspiring numbers at any position, maybe the voters will look around, see Wilson sitting there with 0 career MVPs, and figure he’s due. People have voted for things based on dumber logic before (say hello to every politician who ever seemed like a guy you’d want to have a beer with).

Getting back to the numbers, though, Wilson’s best chance seems to be with his touchdowns. While he was a far cry from Mahomes’ 50 last year, Wilson was still tied for third with 35. In 2017, he led the league with 34. In 2015, he came in sixth also with 34. I could easily see that number jump up into the 40’s, which should put him well within range. More than that, he’s usually very careful with the ball. Last year he tied a career low with only 7 INTs. I feel with his ability, he can shave that down even further. If he has an insane TD:INT ratio of something like 40:3, that’s the sort of stat that could push him over the top.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the Most VALUABLE Player, then who has had more value to his team than Russell Wilson in his career to date? The knock against him has always been that he’s had an elite defense (except for last year) or an elite running game (except for a few years there post-Beastmode). Well, I’ve already argued that I don’t believe the running game will be as exceptional as it was in 2018, and as for the defense, it was already middle-of-the-road last year; this year, I think middle-of-the-road will be this unit’s CEILING. I think the defense could be truly terrible this year. We’ll likely rank in the bottom third or bottom quarter in the league in sacks and turnovers.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 43 sacks, 13 of which belonged to Frank Clark. 43 put us 11th in football; 30 would’ve been tied for 30th. Ziggy Ansah figures to mitigate some of that, but I highly doubt he’s going to get us all the way there. In fact, I don’t think he’ll even get us halfway there (yes, I’m putting Ansah’s over/under of sacks at 6.5, and I’ll bet the under). With no one else coming in to help account for the loss of Clark’s production (both in sacks, and in the help he provided someone like Jarran Reed, who saw his numbers skyrocket playing with Clark on the outside next to him). If Reed is our only pass-rushing threat (assuming Ansah misses multiple games, or plays through injury and is ineffective as a result), he can be easily neutralized, sending the D-Line tumbling towards the bottom of the league.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 12 interceptions, 5 of which belonged to Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, and Frank Clark. 12 put us tied for 18th in football; 7 would’ve been tied for 29th. Bradley McDougald had 3 of his own last year, but he’s also an injury waiting to happen. Of our younger core in the defensive backfield, Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Tre Flowers all combined for 3 total INTs (Hill and Flowers combining for 0). Who did we add to this group? A couple of rookies, and presumably whatever veterans we bring into Training Camp later this summer. There just isn’t a lot of turnover production in this unit. With the D-Line unable to get pressure, that puts more of the onus on the secondary, which is not NEARLY as talented as the Legion of Boom in its prime.

Now, of course, the Seahawks tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries in 2018, but as we all know, that’s largely based on the luck of the bouncing ball. We did tie for third in forced fumbles, which you’d hope would translate, but again our leader in that category – Frank Clark – is gone.

My point with all of this is to further indicate that I think the Seahawks’ defense will be bad. Our only hope is that we hold teams to an inordinate amount of field goals. But, my expectation is, for the Seahawks to win a lot of games, we’re going to rely exclusively on our offense. That means Russell Wilson will have to do considerably more than he had to do in 2018.

All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like a strong argument, and I get that. All I can say is, with this being the second season with a new offensive coordinator, you have to figure Brian Schottenheimer has had a full year to work with this team, and a second full off-season to tinker with his scheme. While it’ll be foolish to expect the running game to take a complete back seat, I think his ability to adjust in games will improve. With the defense putting us into more passing situations – based on game score alone – I think it’ll open things up for Wilson to really shine like he’s never quite shone before.

Wilson has had spurts. The back-half of his 2015 was as brilliant as it gets; if he had a full season of that, he’d be a hands-down winner of the MVP. I also thought 2018 was his best year yet, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. If we keep the efficiency (or even improve upon it slightly), increase touchdowns, decrease turnovers, and boost up those yards, there won’t be any other excuses to keep him from his due. ESPECIALLY when you consider Baldwin retired, and Lockett is his only quality veteran receiver heading into this season. Voters won’t have the L.O.B. to fall back on, nor will they have as dominant of a running game. They’ll have 8 full years’ worth of elite game play, with 2019 as a coronation of sorts.

In a muddled year of MVP candidates, Wilson will win it in a close voting battle. Mark my words (unless I’m wrong, then forget this ever happened).

Hope You’re Ready For The Seahawks To Be Obliterated

I don’t know what you do with this game.  The Rams are so far and away the better of the two teams that it hardly feels like anything to get worked up about.  Stick me on a court and pit me against LeBron James … and I’m supposed to be upset when he beats me 5,000,000 to 0?

I’m sorry, but I got nothin’.  Last December, the Rams came to town and won 42-7, and it wasn’t even THAT close!  I know there were a number of injured players – particularly on defense – that hampered the Seahawks’ chances … but guess what?  Earl’s gone, K.J. is still down, Mychal Kendricks is suspended, Avril’s retired, Kam’s retired, Bennett’s gone, Sherm’s gone, Dion Jordan is whatever, Rasheem Green’s got an ankle of some sort.  This defense is a shell of its former self, and while they’ve done the lord’s work in over-achieving thus far in 2018, the Seahawks haven’t seen a team even REMOTELY close to what the Rams are, particularly on offense.

The Broncos are garbage, as we all expected.  The Cardinals are trash.  The Cowboys are a mess.  And don’t be fooled by what the Bears did to the Bucs, because that Bucs defense is one of the worst in all of football.

This is the Los Angeles Fucking Rams!  Even when they had Jeff Fisher they were kicking our asses, and now they have a living and breathing genius at the helm!  They’re 4-0 and they’ve scored over 30 points in every game.  Say what you want about the teams they played (Raiders, Cardinals, Chargers, and Vikings all look pretty suspect on defense), but the Rams weren’t pussyfooting around.  They reached out, grabbed those teams by the throat, and went to fucking TOWN!  No easing off the accelerator, no going up big and coasting in the second halves.  They just keep coming and coming and coming, until the final whistle blows.

But, you know, crazy things happen.  The Bills went into Minnesota and destroyed them.  They’ve since come to look pretty mediocre against the Packers, so was that a fluke?  Are the Vikings way overrated?  Hard to say.  I still think the Bills are good for less than 6 wins this year, and I’d be hard-pressed to peg them as winners of more than 2 or 3.  The point is, they don’t play games on paper.  Games aren’t decided by one yutz’s blog post.  So, let’s get to work; let’s try to solve this impossible riddle of how to beat the Rams.

For starters, you have to like the fact the game’s in Seattle.  The Rams have played 3/4 games at home so far and their only road game was in Oakland, which … come on.  The Seahawks are 2-2 now, on a 2-game winning streak, and this season is pretty much on the line this Sunday.  Lose, and the Seahawks are who we thought they were; win, and the sky just might be the limit.  The way I’m leaning, I’ve got it 99:1 that the Seahawks lose, but in that rare 1% chance, we could be talking about something great.

But, home field advantage never won a game by itself.  The 12’s can be as loud as they want, but it’s still going to require the Seahawks to go out there and do the job.  From that angle, I see two possibilities.

The first involves the Seahawks doing exactly what they’ve done the last two weeks.  Lots of running the ball on first & second downs, getting into 3rd & short situations, slowing the game down, limiting turnovers, hopefully limiting opportunities for the other team to have the ball, and grinding out an ugly, close, low-scoring game.  If I had to guess what the game plan is for this week, it’s going to look exactly like that.

And I think that if you asked around the league, most people would agree that’s how you do it.  How do you beat Peyton Manning?  Keep him off the field.  How do you beat Tom Brady?  Keep him off the field.  And that’s worked at times; probably less than a 50% success rate, but better than nothing.  But, has it worked for teams with defenses this deficient?

The problem with that scheme is, we can slow things down all we want, but the Rams are still BETTER than us.  They’ll most likely be able to get off the field on third downs, get the ball back to their offense, and race down the field for many multiple scores, all with incredible ease.  If we try to slow it down and muck it up, we’re going to lose and lose big, I have no doubt about it.

The other possibility is a shootout, which I still feel is our only hope.  It won’t happen right off the bat, but after a quarter of play, when the Seahawks are down 14-0, obviously the script is going to have to be thrown out the window.  They’re going to have to take the training wheels off of Russell Wilson, and they’re going to have to let him run the show.  Up tempo, lots of throwing, one or two magical escape acts sprinkled in, and maybe you can find a way to keep up with their offense in a 38-35 type game (a la the game against the Steelers in 2015).  Those games are so rare and precious that it’s stupid to want to expect it, but if the Seahawks are going to win this game, that’s going to have to be how we do it.

There’s no way in hell that the Seahawks will be the first team to keep the Rams under 30 points this season.  We have no pass rush, full stop.  But, that’s neither here nor there, because the Rams are too quick anyway.  They get the ball out fast, before we’d even have a CHANCE to move the pocket.  They have the best running back in the league, who is a threat running and receiving.  K.J. Wright was always the key in guarding someone like Gurley, and you saw last year what happened when we were without our best pass-defending linebacker.  What’s going to happen this time?  Are we going to shadow him with Bobby Wagner?  Are we going to bring Bradley McDougald down closer to the line?  What does that do to our pass defense when Tedric Thompson is our guy roaming the middle?

Speaking of which, the Rams have three REALLY good receivers on top of their all-world running back.  Brandin Cooks is a stud and a deep threat.  Robert Woods is savagely underrated.  And Cooper Kupp is a top notch slot receiver.  Our corners are, I think, better than expected heading into the season, but they’re not going to completely shut those guys down.  And there’s a significant talent gap from Earl to the next man up, which is going to further open things up in the middle of the field.

Honestly, this game is going to be hard to watch.  If you need some sort of alcohol or marijuana enhancement to make it through this one, I won’t blame you one bit.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Blocking Game

Aside from digging into the various news stories, I’ve largely neglected talking about the Seahawks by design:  2017 was a bitter pill to swallow.  After such a sustained stretch of brilliance, this team was a slog to cover last year; but, they’ve jettisoned a lot of aging veterans, brought in fresh blood throughout the organization, and I would argue there’s some reasons to be optimistic (even though my default prediction is that this team will win anywhere from 7-9 games; everything would have to go perfectly in our favor to get to 10 wins or more, and when does THAT ever happen?).

So, with precious few weeks remaining until the pre-season games kick things off, I’ve got a quickie series of posts where I’ll look at the 7 areas of this team as they’re set up right now:

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ blocking game.

Offensive Line

Here we are.  So much of what the Seahawks want to do hinges on this.  Every year since Russell Wilson has proven himself to be a superstar quarterback in this league, I’ve been waiting for this offense to really bust out and start carrying the team; and every year, those hopes are dashed by an offensive line that couldn’t stop a pack of infants from wreaking havoc in our backfield.

And it’s not like the Seahawks haven’t tried!  We hired Tom Cable, we used many multiple draft picks, in a variety of rounds from the first through the seventh.  But, nothing worked, and indeed it got progressively worse over time, until last year when we has the worst running game in football.  How Russell Wilson hasn’t been killed in a live NFL game is beyond me, because he’s taken a BEATING!

I wish I could walk those comments back and say, “Oh, it wasn’t as bad as we remember,” but actually I think it was worse.  I mean, you’d expect a unit that was as healthy as our O-Line was last year to at least show SOME signs of improvement as the season went along, but I saw no evidence of that.  Did you?

Who’s at fault?  Well, how much time have you got?  Obviously, Tom Cable had to go.  I wouldn’t say his tenure was an utter failure – he did help take us to 2 Super Bowls, so it wasn’t ALWAYS this bad – but I’d say the last three years (2015-2017) were as bad as it gets.  Instead of taking advantage of Russell Wilson’s absolute prime, he had to run for his life on almost every play, while battling constant nagging injuries for one of those seasons!

The front office certainly shares some of the blame, be it Pete Carroll, John Schneider, the scouts, all of ’em.  Letting Tom Cable have so much power and direction over personnel, for starters.  The collective, for just having the worst insight/intuition/whathaveyou when it comes to picking which players we ended up drafting and signing to free agent deals.  The front office also for losing its way – to quote Richard Sherman – by trading away Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.  One of the better blocking centers in the league for one of the worst blocking tight ends in the history of football.

Now, certainly there were factors outside of their control, in that so many other players on this team turned into All Pros and Pro Bowlers, and as we talk about all the time, you can’t pay everyone.  But, the front office still made a choice in who they decided to pay; and ultimately they decided to make this offensive line the most under-funded in the entire league.  It backfired, and they’ve since corrected for that, but now we’re years from our last Super Bowl and, I’m afraid, many more years away from our next one.

I mean, if they’d just signed ONE high-priced left tackle, instead of paying the likes of Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham, just think of how different things might be.  We might truly be talking about a Seahawks Dynasty, instead of a Seahawks What-If.

But, the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now.  Let’s take a look at who we’ve got.

Well, I’ll say this:  the left side of the line looks VERY promising.  There are still a tremendous amount of caveats and question marks even about these three guys, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Duane Brown (at left tackle), Ethan Pocic (at left guard) and Justin Britt (at center) truly anchor this offensive line and make it a halfway competent one.  That having been said, Brown is going to be 33 in August and is heading into his 11th season; that’s a lot of mileage.  He’s also coming off of a year where he held out for half the games, then suffered an ankle injury.  He appears to be healthy now, but how long will that last?  And, even when he was (supposedly) healthy last year, he didn’t look great.  Maybe he needed time to get used to Russell Wilson’s style of play and scrambling and all that … or maybe he’s in his 30’s and is on the downside of his career.  How many more years does he have left, realistically?  2?  3 at the MOST?

This thing falls apart in a hurry if Duane Brown isn’t The Man.  I like Pocic as much as the next guy, but it’s still his second year in the league.  He’s also on his second offensive line coach in as many seasons (well, third in as many seasons, I suppose, if you include his college coach), so what is that going to do to stunt his growth?  And, as for Britt, again I like him, but he also pulled his share of boners last year, following his contract extension and the anointing of him as the leader of this unit.  Maybe that was because he had to compensate for the dunderheads around him – and I really do hope that’s the case – but don’t forget who’s at fault for George Fant getting hurt in the first place.  He took a blind dive into a guy and ended up landing on his own teammate’s knee; Britt isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

I want to believe in this left side of the line – I HAVE to believe in them, for my own sanity – because the right side scares the everloving shit out of me.

The Seahawks brought back Mile Solari to coach up the offensive line.  He hasn’t had a successful O-Line in more years than I can count, so right away we’re dealing with a huge red flag.  Now, maybe there were other circumstances outside of his control, and it wasn’t necessarily all his fault that his lines have been terrible.  Maybe, if he had more control over things, he would’ve gotten his type of guys and had more success.  I certainly hope so, because it sounds like the Seahawks really took him to heart when he recommended signing D.J. Fluker to be this team’s right guard.

For starters, I think a lot of fans were clamoring for Germain Ifedi to move inside to guard.  I wasn’t one of them – I think if we’re ever going to see our faith in Ifedi pay off, it’s going to have to be at one single position, and not by jerking him around from guard to tackle and back again – but I can certainly understand the thought process.  Ifedi looks like a giant lunkhead over there at right tackle, and it might be easier to hide some of his flaws if you moved him inside and had Britt helping him out on double-teams and whatnot.  But, I’m of the opinion that if Ifedi is the bust we all fear he is, then he’s going to be a HUGE GAPING LIABILITY wherever you put him.  Sort of like Britt was, when we moved him from tackle to guard to finally center; unfortunately, you can only have one center on an offensive line, and Britt weaselled his way into the league first.

Getting back to Fluker for a minute, here’s a guy who was another former first rounder, as well as a guy who’s been considered a giant bust since entering the league.  He’s also a guy who was injured for most of 2017, and who thus far through OTA’s and mini-camps, hasn’t seen any action that I can recall hearing about (again, due to injury).  Even in an ideal world where Fluker was 100% healthy this off-season, he still was never going to be a guarantee.  I like him because he’s cheap, and hungry, and huge, and is supposedly a quality run blocker if nothing else; but that still doesn’t mean he’s destined to be worth a damn in 2018!

I want to believe in these guys, 1-5, but I just can’t get it up for this right side.  At this point, I’m done hoping Ifedi will be anything; I’m resigned to him being a bust and if I’m pleasantly surprised, then so be it.  As for Fluker, I don’t think he has more than 5 games in him before some body part gives out.  I’m mentally preparing myself for a revolving door on this side, with guys like Rees Odhiambo or Jordan Roos seeing some action at right guard, and with guys like George Fant or Isaiah Battle seeing some action at right tackle.

That having all been said, I think there’s an offensive line here we can use.  It’s far from perfect, and it’s far from ideal, but 3/5 of a competent offensive line is better than the 0/5 we’ve had the last three years.

As I said before, it all hinges on Duane Brown.  If he can return to even 80% of his former Pro Bowl self, we’ve got a shot.  Hopefully he’ll get better acquainted with Wilson’s scrambling style, as well as stay healthy the full year.  If he can do that, and help guide a beefed-up Pocic through any more growing pains he’s got left, then I don’t think Britt has to worry about helping out on that side, and can put his talents towards helping out his right guard, whoever that ends up being.  At which point, I’m not even asking for a huge step forward out of our right tackle; just don’t get any WORSE and I’ll be ecstatic!

With how BIG this unit is, if we still have trouble running the ball, then I’m gonna go jump off a bridge.  Also, it sounds like maybe there’ll be something of a scheme change, away from the strict zone blocking scheme we had under Cable?  I think that could help an oaf like Ifedi, where he doesn’t have to use his brain as much.  Maybe he can put those remaining brain cells into keeping track of the snap count, and not illegally hitting guys after the whistle and whatnot.

It’s the pass protection that’s my bigger concern, as it always is.  Pocic is a great unknown at this point in his career (one would hope his pedigree, work ethic, and increased mass will help him going forward), but everyone to his right has their moments of utter, mind-blowing ineptitude when it comes to letting guys just get free runs at the quarterback.  So, again, I turn to Duane Brown; he NEEDS to be our rock.  If we just have that one guy doing his job, we’ve got a chance.  Where it always breaks down is when both ends get to charge at Wilson and he has nowhere to go; but, if Brown is solid, then at least Wilson will be able to escape to the left side and try to make something happen.

I hate having to rely so much on one guy, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  If Duane Brown doesn’t earn his next contract with superb play, we’re fucked.  There’s no other way around it.

As such, my grade is a C-.  There’s room to take it as high as a B, and obviously as low as an F, but as a baseline, C- is still better than anything we’ve gotten in the previous three seasons, which I find really encouraging.

Tight Ends

Can’t talk about the blocking game without mentioning the VAST improvement we’ve established among our tight ends!

Swapping out Jimmy Graham and bringing in Ed Dickson is like an NBA team trading me for LeBron James; I’m so giddy I can’t even stand it!

I want you to close your eyes.  I want you to picture the Seahawks lining up on offense, with 3 wide receivers, a running back, and Jimmy Graham.  I want you to picture Jimmy Graham motioning out wide to the right, then turning around and motioning back towards the offensive line.  I want you to picture just as Graham gets to the right tackle, we snap the ball, and Russell Wilson turns to hand it off to the running back, with the intention to go off-tackle.  There’s a linebacker coming around the edge; he’s Graham’s responsibility.  All Graham has to do is execute a wham block – blocking him down into the mass of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines – and if he does that, we have a considerable gain with the running back bouncing it around.  Can you picture it?  Can you picture Jimmy Graham standing fully upright, sort of half-heartedly (quarter-heartedly?) pushing on the linebacker with his forearms right before said linebacker blows up the play for a 3-yard loss?  Is your blood now sufficiently boiling?  Do you want to go out and murder 50 people?

I never thought I could hate someone more than I hated Percy Harvin, but I hate Jimmy Graham with the intensity of A FUCKING GOOGOLPLEX OF SUNS!  I mean, at least Harvin has a mental condition to explain why he’s a worthless pile of shit; Jimmy Graham is just a soft asshole whose only skill is catching 1-yard touchdown passes against undersized cornerbacks (and even THEN he drops the ball half the time!).

So, yeah, I love the Ed Dickson signing.  Is it sexy?  HELL NO!  But, I’m tired of going after sexy offensive weapons; where has it gotten us?  Give me the guy willing to hunt for his meal.  Give me the guy who will scrap and claw and fight for that inch.

Shit, give me a guy who can help out this poor excuse for an offensive line!

The Seahawks did it in spades.  Not only did they let Graham go, but they let Luke Willson go as well.  I like Willson, but he’s just a guy.  Sure, he was a fighter, but you wouldn’t say blocking was his specialty.  You know whose specialty that is?  Will Dissly, 4th round draft pick out of the University of Washington.  “Best blocking tight end in the draft” is what I’m told.  Good enough for me.  He could catch 0 balls this year and he’ll still be worth his weight in gold if he can live up to that moniker for this team.

Beyond that, it’ll be a fight between Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, the 3rd round pick from 2016 vs. the undrafted rookie from 2017.  Vannett has largely been considered a disappointment, and you can see why.  You pick a guy in the 3rd round, you expect more than 15 total receptions and 1 touchdown in his first 2 years.  Beyond that, I really don’t remember him making any sort of special teams contributions, so what is he good for?

Well, I’d argue he was buried behind two very established veterans in Graham and Willson, and how often do you really see a team’s third tight end?  It’s now or never for this kid, and you’d have to say his chances are never going to be better.  I have to believe – heading into the pre-season – Vannett is probably the most gifted offensive, pass-catching weapon at tight end on this team.  If he can’t stand out over a guy in Ed Dickson (who you know what you’ve got) and a rookie in Dissly not known as much of a pass-catching threat in college, then we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Vannett.  From a blocking perspective, he doesn’t even need to be that great to make an impact, so long as he’s a catching machine.  But, regardless, he HAS to be better than Graham, so we’re talking about a considerable improvement any way you slice it.

As for Swoopes, he more or less rode the Practice Squad all of 2017.  He’s seen as more of a project, but with great potential as a pass-catcher, so again there’s probably only room for either him or Vannett.  Unless he shows tremendous skills – and tremendous improvement over what was probably a pretty raw rookie campaign – then he’s going to need to be a force when it comes to blocking.  I have no idea, but my hunch is that’s probably the biggest part of his game that’s lacking.  We’ll see.

Regardless, when it comes to just blocking, I’m giving our tight ends an A+.  I couldn’t be happier!

The question now is:  when you factor in the combo of the O-Line and our Tight Ends, will we have the blocking to be successful?  Assuming we scheme it up right, and take advantage of all of them, I think we do.  Darrell Bevell liked to spend all his free time trying to out-think opposing defenses (hence why you always saw Graham on the field in obvious rushing situations, to try to “fool” defenses into thinking we’d throw to him; only problem with that is it never made up for the liability he was in actually trying to throw a block).  It sounds like Brian Schottenheimer is more old school in that regard.  I’d expect a lot of ground & pound.  In which case, it’s our best guys against your best guys, and may the best team win.  With the group of guys we’ve got, I think that suits us to a T.  I could easily see our blocking unit end up with a grade of a B-, which is all we need with our skill position guys doing their things.

I really do believe there’s potential for greatness out of this offense.  Of course, there’s also potential for utter ruin, but that’s what makes this season so exciting!

Trout Keeps Hitting Homers & The Mariners Keep Winning Ballgames

Look, all I’m saying is MAYBE Ryan Cook isn’t the guy you want on the mound to face Mike Trout.  Also, MAYBE just walk Mike Trout’s fuckin’ ass every single time he steps up to the plate, because this shit is getting ridiculous.  He’s in Barry Bonds In His Prime Minus All The Steroids Allegedly territory, where at this point as long as it doesn’t mean the go-ahead run comes in, I’d walk Trout with the bases fucking loaded!

And even then … I mean, do you have another set of at-bats coming up?  Maybe walking in that go-ahead run is better than the alternative of him clearing the bases?

He’s fucking Superman, what can you say?  I hate him.  I wish he was on any other team outside of the A.L. West (in which point, I’d probably love him).  He’s like Griffey in his prime, minus all the personality.  The fact that he isn’t the biggest superstar on the planet is ridiculous, because I’d venture to say he’s better at baseball than any other guy is better than everyone else in any other sport (aside from LeBron, of course).

Or, I dunno.  Maybe he’s just this great against the Mariners, and he’s a little more mortal against the rest of the league.  31 homers is the most against any team he’s faced in his career; 81 RBI is the second most against any team behind the 86 he’s hit in against the Rangers; 9 triples (tied for the most; again with the Rangers); 93 runs are again the second most (Rangers, 103).  I guess Texas has a claim in this argument.  Also, Trout’s 117 career strikeouts against the Mariners are the most against any team, but I would argue the lion’s share of those came against Felix in his prime.

Anyway, that’s all preamble to say Trout had 2 more homers last night, after having hit 2 homers on Monday.  He’s already at 23 homers on the season, and 5 of them have come against the Mariners.  Also, his slash line in 5 games is .636/.680/1.545; so if it feels like Mike Trout has fucking obliterated the Seattle Mariners this season, take whatever you’re feeling and quadruple it.

I should point out that the Angels have lost both of those games, so if we’re going to beat the Angels every time Mike Trout hits 2 homers in a game, then sign me up!

On Monday, Wade LeBlanc gave up back-to-back solo homers in the first and didn’t look to be long for this world.  He managed to gut his way through 5 innings, keeping them to just those 2 runs, and allowing the Mariners to overtake them.  Nelson Cruz matched Trout homer for homer, hitting a game-tying 2-run bomb in the bottom of the first, then a go-ahead solo homer in the fourth.  Ryon Healy hit the game-winning 2-run home run in the fourth as well, and the Mariners were able to hold onto a 5-3 victory.  Ryan Cook gave up the second Trout homer in this one, spoiler alert.

Aside from that, the bullpen was rock solid on Monday, going 4 innings and giving up just the 1 run.  Bradford and Pazos both took care of business, and Edwin Diaz got his 24th save of the season, no problem.

On Tuesday, Mike Leake’s only blemish was a solo homer to Trout in the fifth.  He went 6 innings, giving up that 1 run on only 4 hits and 3 walks, with 4 strikeouts.  Both Haniger AND Healy hit 2 homers apiece to pace Trout in this one, which is pretty cool.  It’s been a while since the Mariners brought their big boy sticks to the ballpark.  Haniger hit a solo homer in the first to take the lead; then a 2-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to RE-take the lead.  Healy’s homers were both of the solo variety (in the sixth & eighth), and Segura tacked on an RBI double in the seventh.  Trout’s 2-run homer (again, off of Cook) made it a 1-run game temporarily, but we put them away late by the score of 6-3.

Again, aside from Cook, the bullpen was great.  Pazos got us out of the 7th, Colome took care of business in the 8th, and Diaz got his 25th save of the season … oddly enough by striking Trout out swinging.

This obviously puts the Mariners in a better position.  We were 1-2 against the Angels heading into this series; after today, we can be no worse than .500 against them.  We’re 0.5 games up on the Astros for the division, and a whopping 6.5 games up on the Angels for the second wild card.

I know I made a lot of noise about how difficult June was looking, but with Tampa shitting the bed, and now the Angels losing a lot of important players to injury, the nagging doubter in my brain wants to poo-poo what the Mariners are doing.  But, this shit is seriously impressive any way you slice it.  If we’re all going to boil this season down to how the Mariners play against the Red Sox and Yankees, then feel free to be my guest.  I mean, odds are we’ll have to play one of those teams in the wild card game, and the other of those teams in the ALDS (if we get that far), so we better figure out a way to either beat them or avoid them.  All I’m trying to say is that this is pretty fun, and let’s keep the ball rolling!

I’m A Worrier: The Carolina Panthers

That’s why my friends call me Whiskers.

I more-or-less think the Seahawks are going to be the best team in football in 2013.  They’re young, talented, hungry, and they enjoyed playoff success as recently as last year.  They also tasted playoff defeat, which may not sound like a good thing (when is it ever?), but I would argue it makes them even hungrier.  Not just the fact that they lost, but the WAY that they lost.  The most notable trait of this team is that it’s led by a smart quarterback with the will to be the best.  I have no concern about the offense.  But, this defense will be the linchpin.  This team goes as far as its defense takes it.  Games like that Atlanta game can’t happen again (in the playoffs).

Anyway, I’m getting off topic.  Yes, I think this team is going to win the Super Bowl, but just because I think what I think doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen.  I tend to think a lot of things.  And I tend to be moronic, short-sighted, and homerific more often than not.  It’s like playing a strategic board game like Chess.  I get so focused on my own plan, I’m blinded to what my opponent is doing, and before I know it, I’ve been king-fucked.  I believe that’s the technical term.  King-fucked.

There are other good teams too.  Right in our own back yard!  The NFC is riddled with quality football teams to the point that I envy good teams in the AFC.  Mostly because there aren’t many, and all of them have flaws.  If the Seahawks were in the AFC West, yeah, they’d have to worry about the Denver Broncos, but they’re not as good as the 49ers!  Their defense is kind of a joke, and I think our secondary could slow down Manning’s receivers just enough to whup his ass.  Houston’s a good team, but they’re mighty flawed.  They say you can’t count out Baltimore, but look at what I’m doing right now!  I’m counting out Baltimore!  And good luck to New England, because you’re going to need it with your total lack of weapons on offense and your joke of a defense.  If the Seahawks were in the AFC, I could guarantee a 14-2 record, home field advantage, and a Super Bowl appearance and it would most likely happen.  In the NFC, I’m looking a lot more foolish.

Even the non-elite NFC teams are pretty good.  For the record, the elite teams are the Seahawks, 49ers, Falcons, and Packers.  The next-level teams are better than MOST AFC teams:  Saints, Rams, Redskins (with RGIII), Bears, Vikings, Lions, Giants, Cowboys, Bucs & Panthers.  These are all teams the Seahawks should consistently beat, but they do just enough to scare the bejesus out of me.

The Panthers were 7-9 last year, but they were the “good” kind of 7-9.  You know, that “good” kind of 7-9 where they won 5 of their last 6 games to close out the season, including wins over Atlanta and New Orleans.  Essentially, they did just enough to save their head coach’s job, which absolutely blew my mind.

A lot of football experts like the Panthers to make a leap this year.  That seems like a tall order for them to fill, considering the talent in their division.  Still, they fared quite well in games within their own division in 2012, going 3-3 with their three losses all within one score.  In fact, they were one fumble (and one bone-headed coaching decision) from going 4-2 and beating the Falcons twice.

If there’s one thing that doesn’t scare me, it’s the Panthers’ coaching staff.  They’re too conservative and I don’t think they get the best out of the talent around them.  If you’re at mid-field, it’s 4th & 1, you’ve been averaging over 5 yards per carry on the ground, and you’re one first down away from winning the game, you do NOT punt and put the game in the hands of your defense with its non-existent secondary.

I still don’t think their defense is all that good, but they don’t have to be the best defense around.  They just have to be good enough.  And on any given Sunday, they CAN be good enough.

I begrudgingly like Cam Newton.  I don’t think he’ll ever be one of the elite passers in the game, but I think he can top out as a Donovan McNabb-type passer, which is certainly good enough to compete in this league year-in and year-out.  When you tack on his ability to run and his ability to stay healthy, that puts Newton into an entirely different class.  He strikes me as a younger LeBron James – a mental head-case who every so often can completely take over a game and win it by himself.  Their overall running game is as strong as can be, and they’ve got just enough weapons in the passing game to keep defenses honest.

The Seahawks play the Panthers in Week 1.  I know there are plenty of other, scarier opponents on our schedule in 2013, but for some reason I can’t shake this feeling that this Panthers game is a must-win.  It’s a road game, and if the Seahawks are going to contend for a playoff BYE, they’re going to need a good road record.  Anything less than 5-3 is unacceptable.  So, it would be good to not be in a hole right out of the gate.

This Panthers game also comes immediately before our huge showdown at home against the 49ers.  I would argue it’s impossible to overlook your first opponent of a regular season, but if it’s even remotely possible, it’s because those 49ers loom large the following week.  You really want to go into that game 1-0, with the opportunity to go 2-0 and run wire-to-wire in the NFC West.

Truth be told, there isn’t an easy road game in the bunch.  After the Panthers, we head out to Houston and Indianapolis in weeks 4 & 5.  Then, it’s off to Arizona and St. Louis (two tough divisional foes) in weeks 7 & 8.  Then, we go to the Falcons in week 10, followed by our final two road games in San Francisco and New York (against the Giants) in weeks 14 & 15.  If I had to rank these games on the toughness scale, quite honestly the game against the Panthers would be pretty low on that list.  But, that doesn’t make them any less difficult of an opponent.

My nerves are going to be on edge throughout the 2013 season, but they’re going to be at an all-time high going into that first game.  Until we’re able to hold a comfortable lead, I’m just going to have to live with this tightness in my chest.  And this numbness of my arms and legs.  And this profuse sweating and panicked breathing … heart attack.  I’m having a heart attack.  LASSIE, GO GET HELP GIRL!

Isaiah Thomas Is Still Great For Husky Recruiting

What does it take to bring in top-flight talent into a college basketball program?  Top-flight talent.

In other words, if you’re starting where the Huskies started when Lorenzo Romar was hired, you’ve got a VERY daunting task ahead.  But, thanks to him, we had a big influx of talent.  And he took that talent and turned it into more talent.  And now he’s continuing the cycle.

A 4-star recruit, Nigel Williams-Goss, just declared that he will sign with the Huskies in their 2013 recruiting class.  In the Seattle Times blog post I read today, he’s attributed to this quote:

They have a track record of sending a lot of pros through the years …

Which got me to thinking.  That’s true!  That:  is a true statement!  You’ve got Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas, and soon to be pros in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.  Those are eight guys who have had (or will have had) extended periods of time in the NBA.  But, how good are they really?

Nate Rob has the most experience, having played in 448 games, winning multiple Slam Dunk contests.  But, he’s an old man by basketball standards, being a 7-year pro and all.

Brandon Roy probably had the greatest NBA career (or, at least, he was the best of the bunch in the NBA), but he suffered chronic injuries and was forced into early retirement.  Plus, for as great as he was, it’s not like he was a flashy, me-first type of guy.  He was never one to grab the glory, so for the most part the country as a whole didn’t pay a lot of attention to him (compared to other superstars who shall remain nameless).

Hawes, Brockman, and Pondexter have all had nice little careers, but they’ve been role players at best, and bench-warmers at worst.  No 4-star recruit comes to college with a dream to one day play 3 minutes per game in the NBA.  They all want to be the Next LeBron, or the Next Kobe, or whatever.

IT, on the other hand, is doing what none of those other Huskies have been able to do.  He’s young – having just completed his rookie campaign.  He’s awesome – having made a real case for Rookie of the Year.  He’s getting all the right kinds of publicity – starting as a rookie at point guard, with his size, etc.  He’s one year removed from the college program that helped make him a star – the same college program that just featured two guys who are pretty much guaranteed to be First Round draft picks in the upcoming NBA draft.

When high school guys talk about the Washington Huskies as a program that “sends a lot of pros through,” they’re talking about Isaiah Thomas.  He’s the cocky underdog, a fighter with a sass-mouth that can back up all his shit-talk on the court.  And even though he plays for Sac-town, he’s always going to be a Husky.  He’s always going to be an asset to the program (just like Wroten and Ross will be assets, even if they didn’t exactly lead us to a title while they were here).

Washington has a reputation now.  We’ve always had a reputation, but now we’ve got a GOOD reputation.  We’re a program who has seen elite guys come and go.  We’ve got a head coach who has made NBA players out of raw, unsculpted Play Doh.  We’ve got a community in the 206, 253, and 425 that continues to come back home and remind the world there are some elite basketball players playing in the Pacific Northwest.

And the better IT does as a pro (not to mention all the other guys mentioned), the better the University of Washington is going to do as a program.  We will never be lacking in guard talent, I’ll tell you that for free.

Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings (Part 3)

Editor’s NoteThis is the original blog post.  If you want to see the comprehensive list, click HERE.  I update the master list semi-regularly, whenever I can find the time.

Here we go with Part 3.  As far as Part 3’s go, this one is probably The Matrix Revolutions:  I bring up a couple of good points, but it’s mostly just filler and getting-it-over-with-already.

Since there were a bunch of moves left off of the first two installments, I still haven’t gotten around to the “Omissions” part yet.  Then again, there aren’t all that many supposed bad moves I’ve found defense-worthy yet.  Here we go.

October 16, 1984 – (Sonics) – 1986 1st Round Draft Pick to Boston Celtics for Gerald Henderson:  this pick ended up being the #2 overall, so that right there is pretty indefensible.  The fact that the #2 pick that year was Len Bias marginally softens the blow; of course, had he not overdosed, we might be talking about this as one of the worst Sonics moves of all time.  Still, it kept us from drafting at all in the first round that year, and Gerald Henderson really didn’t give us a whole lot (until we traded him to the Knicks for their 1st round pick in the 1987 draft; see below for repercussions of THAT move).

June 22, 1987 – (Sonics) – Scottie Pippen to Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice:  with the draft pick we received from the Knicks for Gerald Henderson, the Sonics drafted Scottie Pippen (5th overall).  On the same day, we traded Scottie Pippen to the Bulls for Olden Polynice; ouch.  On the one hand, this would open the door for Shawn Kemp to flourish when we picked him up in the draft two years later.  On the other hand, Scottie Pippen made the Bulls into a championship juggernaut (without Pippen, who’s to say Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been the LeBron James of his time?).  Besides that, what would our team have looked like with Payton, Kemp, and Pippen?  I’m thinking, it would’ve looked like an early 90s dynasty.

February 20, 1997 – (Mariners) – Dennis Martinez signs 1-year, $250,000 deal:  this isn’t a deal about the money.  It was simple common sense that eluded the Mariners.  El Presidente was 42 years old at the time of signing!  You’re telling me there was NOBODY else out there who could’ve signed for the minimum and given us better than a 1-5 record in 9 starts, with a 7.71 ERA?  No triple-A kid who could’ve done better?  I hated this deal at the time, because it was yet another representation of a stacked team not doing what it took to go the extra mile.  Martinez was cut on May 24th.

February 6, 1998 – (Mariners) – Bobby Ayala re-signs for 2-year, $3.3 million deal:  yes, Ayala managed a decent 1997 season; but the two years before that he was an absolute trainwreck!  And, in spite of his numbers, he was ALWAYS a blown save waiting to happen.  After an attrocious 1998 campaign, he was traded and never heard from again.

February 14, 1998 – (Mariners) – Bill Swift signs 1-year, $425,000 deal:  all you need to know is that we gave this assclown 26 starts in 1998.  26!  He boasted a 5.85 ERA and his services were not retained further.  One thing about Lou Piniella I’ll never understand:  his devotion to aging pitchers over giving a young guy a chance to prove himself.  I mean, you can only go to that 1995 well (with Belcher, Bosio, etc.) so many times!

November 13, 1998 – (Mariners) – Jose Mesa signs 2-year, $6.8 million deal:  he hadn’t been a closer since he fell apart in Cleveland a few years prior, but we said, “What the hell?” and brought him in for two years and handed him the 9th inning.  After a full season in the job, he was beaten out by Japanese rookie Kazuhiro Sasaki and that was the end of that experiment.  How he managed to play another seven years is truly a testament to the idiocy of Major League Baseball.

April 17, 1999 – (Seahawks) – Lamar King, 1st Round Draft Pick:  22nd overall.  This is the primary pick most people pointed to when they wanted to take the GM responsibilities away from Mike Holmgren.  It’s not just that Lamar King was terrible – 5 seasons, 12 sacks – it’s that there was so much TALENT after him!  We could’ve had Patrick Kerney BEFORE he was a washed up shell!  In keeping with the defensive end theme, Mike Rucker was picked early in the 2nd round; Aaron Smith was drafted in the 4th round!  But, instead, we had Lamar King.  This was NOT a case of giving a defensive end more time to mature; this was a case of a defensive end being a suck-ass.

April 15, 2000 – (Seahawks) – Chris McIntosh, 1st Round Draft Pick:  sometimes busts aren’t made out of stupidity (or Monday Morning Quarterbacking).  Sometimes guys who might’ve been great get injured early in their careers and never see the light of day (see:  Steve Emtman).  Nevertheless, McIntosh WAS a bust.  Had he made it, with Walter and Hutch, we might never have seen Sean Locklear in a Seahawks uniform.  Too bad.

September 20, 2000 – (Sonics) – Emanual Davis, Greg Foster, Horace Grant & Chuck Person to Los Angeles Lakers; Lazaro Borrell, Vernon Maxwell, Vladimir Stepania & Two 2001 2nd Round Draft Picks + One 2002 1st Round Draft Pick to New York Knicks for Patrick Ewing:  I originally wasn’t going to put this one in my list, but the haul of players we gave up is pretty extraordinary!  Ever wonder what Tayshaun Prince would’ve looked like in a Sonics uniform had we had our 2002 1st round pick?  I haven’t either, because I can’t get the sight of Patrick Ewing to leave my brain!  I don’t really remember the point of this trade (except, I guess, to clear a lot of crappy players off our roster and end the agony with Ewing’s final year on his deal), but I distinctly remember him starting most every game and giving us nothing in return.  And what did we do with all that money coming off the books?  Oh yeah, Calvin Booth.  Burning all this money would’ve been more satisfying to Sonics fans!

October 18, 2000 – (Mariners) – Damaso Marte granted Free Agency:  some bad moves aren’t moves that you make.  Sometimes, they’re the moves you don’t.  Not giving Marte a chance at our bullpen – again, in favor of aging veterans – was a brutal mistake.  He had PLENTY of good-to-great years ahead of him.  Too bad he was once a former Mariner.

December 21, 2000 – (Mariners) – Raul Ibanez granted Free Agency:  another one of these non-moves that bit us pretty hard.  Ibanez was just starting to come into his own!  He left for Kansas City for three quality seasons; meanwhile we had the likes of Al Martin in left field.  Pity.

June 27, 2001 – (Sonics) – Vladimir Radmanovic, 1st Round Draft Pick:  12th overall.  Could have had Richard Jefferson.  Could have went guard and picked up Tony Parker or Gilbert Arenas.  Instead, we had Radman, who did nothing with the Sonics.  He went on to win a bunch with the Lakers, but no one is calling Radman instrumental to their success.

January 30, 2002 – (Mariners) – James Baldwin signs 1-year, $1.25 million deal:  we brought in a guy who was never all that great and decided to make him an everyday starter with no contingency plan.  He started 23 games and had a 5.28 ERA.

June 26, 2003 – (Sonics) – Luke Ridnour, 1st Round Draft Pick:  if, in our 2001 draft, we went with Tony Parker, we would’ve already HAD our Point Guard of the Future.  Instead, we had no such guy and went after the Oregon grad and he STUNK.

January 20, 2004 – (Mariners) – Joel Pineiro re-signs for 3-year, $14.5 million deal:  these were some frustrating seasons for the Mariners.  Maybe not as frustrating as the mid-to-late 90s when we had all that offensive talent but little in the way of pitching; but pretty damned frustrating nonetheless.  We thought we had our rotation of the future shaping up with the likes of Pineiro and Gil Meche (and, to a lesser extent, Mr. 5-pitch Wonder himself Ryan Franklin).  All were draft picks, all were guys we furiously refused to trade away to other teams for more-productive players.  In fact, we went so far as to give Pineiro a 3-year deal instead of going to arbitration, after a studly 2003 season.  Pineiro promptly went on to get worse and worse every year after, until he was finally tossed from our rotation and ultimately not re-signed thereafter.  I shudder to think of what we could’ve hauled in if we would’ve sold high on the likes of Pineiro and Meche.  Instead, we ended up with a whole lotta nothin’.

April 24, 2004 – (Seahawks) – Marcus Tubbs, 1st Round Draft Pick:  23rd overall.  Unfortunately in this draft, we missed out on some better defensive tackles (including Vince Wilfork a mere two picks prior), but it was hard to argue with Tubbs’ selection with the 2005 season he gave us.  Knee injuries kept him off the field; potential recovery kept hope alive, but Tubbs never gave us much of anything after our Super Bowl run.

January 19, 2005 – (Mariners) – Aaron Sele signs 1-year, $700,000 deal:  until last night, I’d forgotten that we brought Sele back four seasons after he was remarkably productive for us in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.  After his 3-years of futility in Anaheim, we took a flyer on him in 2005; but he was as done as done could be.  After 21 starts and a 6-12 record, he was waived on July 31st.  Fun fact:  Felix Hernandez was called up and took over his rotation slot on August 4th and never looked back.

June 28, 2005 – (Sonics) – Johan Petro, 1st Round Draft Pick:  28th overall.  The Frenchman was another in a long line of busted center prospects for the Sonics.  Not the first, not the last, but ultimately just as irrelevant.

March 5, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Shaun Alexander re-signs for 8-year, $62 million deal:  after an MVP season, we re-signed the 28 year old to a max deal.  Some might blame the loss of Steve Hutchinson; others will surely blame his foot injuries.  Either way, Alexander was never the same.  He played two more years in a Seahawks uniform, giving us production he’d normally churn out in a single season, and that was the end of that.  We ended up paying him more to NOT play for us.  The moral of the story:  don’t sign running backs to big deals when they’re approaching 30 years of age.

June 28, 2006 – (Sonics) – Mouhamed Sene, 1st Round Draft Pick:  10th overall.  This whole draft was pretty much a bust, aside from just a few players; but that doesn’t make the Sene pick any less difficult to swallow.  By this point, Sonics fans were fed up with the team picking up foreign prospects with little in the way of actual basketball skills.  Sene was the end of the road for Sonics going after non-sensical big men; a run that went back as far as I can remember.

July 13, 2007 – (Mariners) – Ichiro re-signs for 5-year, $90 million deal:  I can’t imagine another Major League Baseball team giving a leadoff hitter who does nothing but slap singles and steal bases this kind of money, but honestly, what were the Mariners supposed to do?  At this point, Ichiro was the only bona fide superstar the team had seen since A-Rod left; he was the face of the franchise and our only true All Star.  The PR hit the team would’ve taken would’ve been a nightmare.  Nevertheless, his contract has crippled this organization in subsequent years.  Nearly $18 million in cap space per season for a singles hitter … yowza.

October 30, 2007 – (Mariners) – Jose Guillen granted Free Agency:  this isn’t the kind of move you have to kill in hindsight; most fans and pundits agreed that losing Jose Guillen almost single-handedly ushered in our 2008 disaster.  Maybe a 2-year deal for Guillen would’ve been a year too much, but you can’t argue that even his lackluster numbers in ’08 were better than Jose Vidro’s.

March 4, 2008 – (Seahawks) – T.J. Duckett signs 5-year, $14 million deal:  once it was apparent that Shaun Alexander’s best days were behind him, Tim Ruskell went on the offensive the only way he knew how:  bring in past-their-prime veterans to pick up the slack.  I’m certain Duckett never saw the majority of that money, but still.  What was he thinking with a 5-year deal?  He had 8 goal line touchdowns in 2008, then was released.

March 7, 2008 – (Seahawks) – Julius Jones signs 4-year, $11.8 million deal:  Julius Jones is 4 years younger than Shaun Alexander, but his skills had already deteriorated to the same point.  Jones was a castoff from Dallas – who quickly learned that he would never be a productive every-down back – and we lapped him up as a quick fix.  Jones gave us 2 years and 2 games and never had more than 700 yards in a single season.  Probably would’ve been smarter to just draft ANY running back and pay him a rookie’s salary, but “smarter” was never really Tim Ruskell’s forte.

April 25, 2008 – (Mariners) – Kenji Johjima re-signs for 3-year, $24 million deal:  the Mariners went back to the Japanese well one more time and struck a modest amount of gold.  Johjima was as productive as you could hope in his first two seasons, but it was odd that they’d re-sign him to a contract extension so early on in the 2008 season.  Most believe it was a call from the owners, but whoever’s to blame, it doesn’t change the fact that Johjima took a huge nosedive in 2008.  He was eventually supplanted as the starting catcher by Rob Johnson (mostly because pitchers hated pitching to Johjima, but also because his bat disappeared), and that’s all you need to know about where he was at the end.  The only good thing to come out of this contract was that Johjima asked for his release after the 2009 season, saving the team a solid $16 million.

November 11, 2009 – (Mariners) – Ken Griffey Jr. re-signs for 1-year, $2.35 million deal:  after the miraculous 2009 season – where we came out of nowhere to post a winning record amid tidings of joy and hugs of glee – it was a no-brainer to bring Griffey back for the 2010 season.  Yes, the .214 batting average was a concern.  But they drained fluid from his knees (maybe another red flag, perhaps?) and Griffey hit the treadmill a little bit in his offseason.  SURELY he could get the batting average up to … what?  .225?  .230?  And those 19 home runs he hit in 2009; SURELY he could keep up that production inside the confines of the House That Griffey Built!  Except, no.  He played in 33 games, had 2 extra base hits (0 homers), allegedly fell asleep during a game, and abruptly retired in early June.  Everything could’ve been so much more magical had he just retired after 2009 … he could’ve ridden off into the sunset like a conquering hero.

December 8, 2009 – (Mariners) – Chone Figgins signs 4-year, $36 million deal:  it’s getting harder and harder to ignore this deal.  Until Figgins proves otherwise (at which hypothetical point, I’ll retract this statement and take him off the list), here he stays.  This is the first real Bavasi-esque misstep from Jackie Z.  Only, instead of being seduced by the long ball of an aging veteran, Z was seduced by a high batting average, higher on-base percentage, and a tremendous base-running threat.  Except, one problem:  Figgins was a little over a month away from turning 32 years old BEFORE he signed the contract.  His 2010 season was half-unmitigated disaster, half-just okay.  His 2011 season, two months in, has been dramatically worse.  Not only does he have to finish this season – while making $9 million – but he has to go two more (making a combined $18 million).  We can’t trade him, we can’t cut him, we can’t NOT play him – just in case he DOES turn it around and we can trade him later – we’re just stuck.  Like we were with Sexson and Silva and so many others.

January 29, 2010 – (Mariners) – Eric Byrnes signs 1-year, $400,000 deal:  he was waived by the Diamondbacks (who had to pay the rest of his $11 million contract) and he figured out a way to make it onto our team in 2010.  The money isn’t an issue.  What’s unforgivable is the April 30th contest (and Cliff Lee’s first start).  He was SUPPOSED to suicide squeeze the ball with our runner going from third base; instead he pulled the bat back in what has to be the most moronic baseball play I’ve ever seen.  That led to us losing in extra innings and me forever hating Eric Byrnes.  He was released 3 days later.

Who Gives A Fuck: High School Basketball Stars Picking Their College Edition

Tony Wroten Jr. verbally committed to the University of Washington yesterday.  I think that’s fantastic!  Big time college basketball is really a Rich Get Richer kind of scheme.  First, you have to win ballgames.  Then, you have to get better players to sign with your team.  Then, you have to win some more.  THEN, you start getting really good players.  And the more really good players you get, the more you’re likely to get in the future because good players like playing for good teams where they’ll get noticed on a national stage and ultimately land a bigtime basketball contract with the NBA.

The Washington Huskies are currently involved in this cycle.  And it’s exciting as all hell.

Tony Wroten Jr. verbally committed to the University of Washington yesterday.  And of course what you hear and what you read after some big prospect commits to a college in front of family and friends and classmates in his high school gym, with reporters and television cameras and ESPN and the like waiting in the wings like panthers about to pounce on a feeble-minded gazelle … it’s always the same: 

I Don’t Like This. 
I Don’t Think We Should Be Making A Big Deal About A High School Kid. 
I Don’t Think We Should Be Putting All This Pressure On A High School Kid.
I Don’t Understand This.
What Has The World Come To?

You know what I hear when I hear people argue this point:

“I’m An Old, Out Of Shape White Man Whose Athletic Zenith Happened When I Hit A Grand Slam In Tee-Ball.  And Because I Was Never Anything More Than A Pale, Friendless Virgin In High School, I’m Jealous Of All The Attention This Kid’s Receiving Now.  This Kid Who Will Ultimately Make More Money In A Season Than I Will In My Life.  This Kid Who Will Ultimately Amount To More In His Profession Than I Ever Will In Mine Is A Threat To My Sanity And So I Must Tear Down This Experience.”

Can we all, for a second, just sit back and try to put ourselves in his shoes?  Why does this … I dunno, press conference?  Why does this experience automatically have to be a bad thing?

Remember when YOU were in high school?  What did you want more than anything besides getting laid?  You wanted attention.  You wanted validation for the things you did well.  And maybe that didn’t involve an A you received on that presentation about the Kent State shootings.  You didn’t necessarily want validation and attention from your teachers; but you sure as shit wanted it from your peers.  You wanted to be held in high regard, regardless of what you did to get it.

The class clown wants to crack up his fellow students during a quiet moment in a test.  The rich kid wants to bring his fancy new gadget to school and show everyone how it works, thereby making them incredibly jealous.  The tough kid won’t take no shit and wants to show off how bad ass he is by beating the shit out of anyone who crosses him.  And the basketball player wants you to leap out of your seat when he jams over the outstretched arms of someone taller than him.

That’s high school in a nutshell.

In other words, you don’t have the experience of life to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong.  You’re not wise enough to have your ego in check.  All you want is to soak in all the adulation that you can.  And what’s wrong with that?

It’s only when you become a grown-ass man and are still pulling the same high school stunts (LeBron), that you become a joke.  If you haven’t at least learned how to fake humility by the time you’ve made it to the Show, then there’s something wrong with you.

There’s nothing wrong with a high school senior relishing his time in the sun.  And you old white pricks need to get a life and move on.  Don’t like all the attention being heaped on Tony Wroten Jr.?  Then don’t watch.