2024 Seattle Mariners Preview Extravaganza Part I: Run Prevention

It’s interesting how opinions can shift. Just two months ago, I was ranting and raving about the F-grade the Mariners deserved for this offseason (not necessarily the grade Jerry Dipoto & Co. earned, but the organization as a whole, starting first & foremost with ownership). Since then, it should be pointed out, three very important personnel moves were made. We traded for Jorge Polanco to shore up second base. We traded for Gregory Santos to shore up the back-end of our bullpen. Then, we signed Ryne Stanek after it became clear Santos (and Brash) wouldn’t be healthy enough to break camp with the Mariners out of Spring Training. You’re talking about some much-needed depth, and you’re also talking about – when healthy – a team that should at least hang around.

On top of those moves, the other thing that’s happened in the subsequent two months since I wrote that post is that the Mariners have had their entire Spring Training session. We have some more information than we did before. Even though we’re all loathe to talk positively about numbers, you can’t help but feel at least a little warm and fuzzy about hitters mashing the ball, and the stuff from your pitchers starting to come around.

I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve done a complete 180 on this team. But, between the additional moves, the exhibition performance, all the pundits and analytics being more bullish than bearish on this team, and the general optimism of spring and the new season directly before us, it’s hard not to have that … whatever the opposite is of cloud your thinking. Clear? Sunny up? They’ve gone and sunnied up my disposition – without my consent, I might add – and I’m not sure how to reconcile those feelings from two months ago.

You know what I hate? Being everyone’s “dark horse”. You know what else I hate? Being suckered into this fucking team, only for them to fall flat on their asses.

So, I’m trying to shut all that noise out and just focus on what my brain tells me. For starters, I have to give the usual caveat: all of this prognostication assumes we have an average amount of health (or better). Every team deals with injuries. Even the very best teams have to endure stretches where it feels like the baseball gods are whooping them with the ugly stick. The Rangers last year – World Series champions – had a spell in the second half where it looked like they might fall apart. But, they picked themselves up, steamrolled through the playoffs, and the rest was history. But, obviously, everyone remembers the 1996 Mariners, where Randy Johnson was lost for most of the year, and we also lost a good month from Ken Griffey Jr. Teams can’t endure the loss of their two best players for extended stretches and still hope to compete. If the 2024 Mariners lose Luis Castillo and Julio Rodriguez, no one is going to sit there and say, “Well, that’s just an average amount of baseball injuries.” It’s debilitating!

With that out of the way, let’s get going here. Since all I want to talk about is the hitting, we’re going to save that for Part II tomorrow. Right now, let’s get into the pitching and (a little bit on the) defense (at the end).

Baseball is tricky. You can’t sit there and say, “So and so is the most important guy on this team, and without him playing great, we have no chance.” It’s not football with the quarterback position. It’s not basketball with whoever your superstar is. Baseball is too much of a team sport. Yes, you need your stars to play well, but one guy can’t do it all. If that were the case, Mike Trout would be a champion countless times over.

You can’t even pin it all on a single pitcher, though I’ll contend until my dying breath that there’s nothing quite like an ace to dominate (particularly down the stretch of a pennant race). But, with the 2024 Mariners, we’re not even close to talking about them being contenders without this pitching staff, and especially this starting rotation. They’re the straw that stirs the drink. The most important aspect of this team, by far.

I don’t think you’re going to find a more talented one through five in Major League Baseball – nor one with a higher upside – than the one the Mariners are going to throw out there this seaason. Luis Castillo and George Kirby, right now, are among the best starters in all of baseball, and Logan Gilbert isn’t too far behind. And the pure, raw stuff of Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo, and Emerson Hancock (who is slotting into Woo’s spot while he starts the season on the IL with a little bit of arm inflammation) makes them more than the ideal 4 & 5 starters. There’s the kind of potential that we just saw in the first couple of seasons with Kirby and Gilbert! Now, obviously, that’s no guarantee they’re going to turn into bona fide All Stars, but if the worst thing you can say is that the guys projected to be in the back of your rotation – with mid-to-high 90’s fastballs with tons of movement and some promising off-speed pitches – are going to get hit around every now and then, that’s a pretty great problem to have.

Do you know how many teams have absolute bums in the back-end of their rotation? Do you know how many teams are relying on soft-tossing journeymen a la Marco Gonzales to simply eat up innings? Meanwhile, the Mariners have nothing but power arms fisting their way through opposing lineups; it’s outstanding!

Obviously, the knock against the rotation is the lack of depth. But, what team doesn’t have that problem? With Hancock, I’ve already listed six guys who we like. The top three guys are better than most other teams have in their ace spots; and the bottom three guys are better than most every other team’s back-end. If those other teams suffer rotation injuries, I can only imagine the drop-off in quality!

The fact of the matter is, the Mariners are uniquely positioned to withstand the injury bug every now and then. Obviously, it would be ideal if we can get through the next couple months without losing any more starters – to give our bullpen an opportunity to heal up. But, with our home stadium, with our marine layer, and eventually when we get our bullpen figured out, I don’t have a big problem ceding a few outings to a Quad-A starter every now and then. Let him five & dive and hope your offense is up to the task to win a squeaker.

Now, that bullpen does come with some questions. I think we’re all in agreement that when our studs get healthy, a top four (in whatever order you choose) of Santos, Brash, Stanek, and Munoz, is as good as it gets. Again, in all of Major League Baseball. At that point, it almost doesn’t matter who else you put out there. Saucedo and Speier are reliable-enough. Trent Thornton could conceivably be due for a bounce-back, after having a full offseason in our throwing program. And, I’m sure there are plenty of under-the-rader arms in our organization who are poised to be the next Justin Topa or Paul Sewald. Until this unit lets me down, I have to believe we have what it takes to get the job done in the bullpen.

If this team is going to get back to the playoffs, it’s going to be on the arms to get the job done. For as good as they are, it would be helpful if the defense could pick things up behind them, but we’ll see.

By all accounts, we’re going to take a serious step back defensively. Which is kind of shocking, if I’m honest. I always remember Mitch Haniger being better than average. Has he really taken such a dive with age and injury? If he has, that’s a problem, because we’re clearly not as good in left field with the loss of Kelenic. I don’t even know if Luke Raley is competent out there! We might be on the hook for Super Utility Dylan Moore more than we’d like (that is, if he’s not covering for third base).

Speaking of which, is Luis Urias the worst defensive third baseman in baseball? We’ll find out! He sure as shit seems to be worse than Suarez. And I don’t know if Rojas or Moore are much better. Also, what are we going to get out of Polanco at second?

Seems like the potential for a lot of holes. That being said, I don’t care how old Haniger is, there’s no WAY he’s worse than Teoscar Hernandez. We still have Julio and J.P. And our catching figures to be among the best in baseball as well (or, at the very least, the most underrated).

I don’t know if we can count on this defense to carry us. But, as long as it isn’t a total hindrance, then the run prevention half of this team should be among the best in the American League. Certainly good enough to get us to the post-season.

Now, will the hitting do its part? Check back tomorrow (and the rest of this regular season) to find out!

The Mariners Won 1 Game Per City On Their Last Road Trip

I guess it’s lucky the Rangers have been so atrocious lately, but the Mariners are free-falling, and I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done to fix it.

We lost 2 of 3 to the awful Mets. Then, we lost 2 of 3 to the average Reds. After a 1-0 victory to open up the Rays series, we lost the next 3 games to fall to 79-64, and as of Monday morning, up by only half a game over the Rangers for the final wild card spot (lost in all this has been the fact that the Blue Jays have been on a tear, winning 8 of 10 as we lost 7 of 10 on that road trip).

And, really, we were lucky to win two of those games. So, this hasn’t been the funnest September, after a record-breaking August.

The 1-0 win was everything this team needed. Dominant Luis Castillo start (6 innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts) and lockdown bullpen work by Campbell, Brash, and Munoz.

My hopes for a bounce-back series against the Rays were dashed the very next night, with another off-kilter performance by Kirby. He gave up 2 runs in a ragged first inning where he couldn’t throw strikes, then settled down through the sixth. We had a 4-2 lead heading into the seventh, but then we tried to squeeze another inning out of Kirby (who, in spite of a tough first inning, had a reasonable pitch count and probably should’ve been able to go one more). Kirby ended up getting one out before giving up a double and a game-tying homer before being pulled, turning a quality start into a no decision. Campbell entered the game and gave up a 2-run home run of his own, before Dominic Leone gave up a solo homer in the eighth to give the game its final score of 7-4.

Kirby didn’t have pleasant words to say about being put out there for the seventh. He questioned the manager’s decision, which I’m sure a lot of fans did as well. Kirby predictably walked those words back the next morning – heat of the moment and whatnot – but I’m sure a lot of fans were mixed. There’s the younger fans – who’ve become accustomed to what baseball is in today’s age – and a segment of Anti-Servais Mariners fans, who probably sided with Kirby.

Then, there’s the old timers, and the Unwritten Rules crowd (usually comprised of ex-players like Roger Clemens, who got his ass roasted on Twitter for wading into the conversation). Someone even had the gall to compare Kirby to Erik Bedard for … reasons. They point to Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, who would regularly throw 120-150 pitches per game, trying to go the full nine if at all possible.

I don’t like this argument. Yeah, complete games are cool. But that’s not what baseball is today. Instead, you’ve got starters regularly throwing in the high-90s, and that kind of strain isn’t conducive to throwing 110+ pitches very often, if ever (unless you’re a unicorn). Not if you want them to make it through an entire season, or multiple seasons, without arm surgeries. It’s a Get Off My Lawn stance, and I won’t hear it. Just accept that things change, and it’s never going to be the way it was when you were younger.

That being said, you have to take it in context. It’s early September. We’re in the midst of a 10 games in 10 days East Coast road trip. We don’t have an off-day until this upcoming Thursday, and after that we only have one more off-day until the end of the season. We’re also breaking in not one but TWO rookie starting pitchers, whose outings need to be carefully managed (including the occasional skipped start, as with what happened to Woo on Saturday). That means the bullpen gets taxed. We also – for better or for worse – traded our best and most-consistent reliever at the deadline, which means that taxed bullpen is that much less-effective. We brought in three veterans (Thornton, Weaver, and Leone) who look(ed) objectively terrible, we have another rookie in Campbell who is just trying his best, but is by no means a lockdown guy, and other veterans we brought in – like Saucedo, Speier, and even Topa – have shown serious cracks as this season has gone on.

To be blunt, the bullpen is over-worked, and that falls on the starters. That falls predominantly on guys like Castillo, Gilbert, and Kirby, who have experience, and should be able to go out there in the seventh inning, on 94 pitches, and take care of business for another three outs.

The home run Kirby gave up was to the #9 hitter! It’s not like we were asking him to take on the heart of the order for the fourth time through. This is a backup catcher!

I 100% see why Servais did what he did. If this was April or May, or if our starters had been rolling a little more of late – allowing our bullpen to stay fresh – Kirby would’ve handed over the ball after getting out of the sixth inning, and all would’ve been right with the world. But, it’s early September, in a pennant chase, and we desperately needed our second-best starter to squeeze another inning out of his arm. He failed. He failed with a questionable mix of pitches and locations. And, if he missed his spot, that’s on him. If he hit his spot, that’s still partially on him and partially on whoever was calling this game (either the catcher or the manager in the dugout). Maybe Servais should’ve walked him. I dunno. That’s a conversation. But, I’m not blaming Servais for his handling of the bullpen. And, I’m certainly not blaming him for his handling of Kirby. Kirby, more often than not, has had it easy. The team doesn’t ask him to over-exert himself very often. He could’ve done us this solid. And, quite frankly, he should’ve taken his loss like a professional, rather than whine about it to the press after the game.

Saturday was, *sigh*, a bullpen day. Trent Thornton got the opener role, couldn’t throw strikes in the first, and ended up going 2 innings, giving up just the one run. He gave way to Luke Weaver, who gave us the Luke Weaver Special (4.1 innings, 4 runs), and then was thankfully DFA’d by Sunday. I hope we never see him again, unless it’s on an opposing team’s pitching staff.

We, at one point, led 4-1. Then, the Weaver Experience left us trailing 5-4. We miraculously tied it in the eighth, before Saucedo lost it in the bottom of the ninth with a 2-run homer. We were 1/8 with RISP, and once again starting a backup catcher who failed to finish the game, necessitating us to overwork Cal Raleigh, as per usual this time of year.

I’m happy to say I didn’t see one iota of our 6-3 loss on Sunday, what with NFL football dominating the day. Bryce Miller stunk up the joint (5 innings, 5 runs), and I don’t even feel like talking about the rest.

Next up, we have the Angels in town. Then, it’s the Dodgers, then it’s the home stretch. One way or another, this season is almost over.

The 2023 Mariners Look Awesome As Fuck!

There’s a way this all goes FUBAR. Any number of injuries to key players – Julio, Cal, Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Munoz, Sewald, Teoscar, Ty – and let’s face it, the Mariners are in a world of hurt. Of course, you can say that about any contending team and be right; the season from hell can strike at anytime, when you least suspect it. I’m not sitting here saying the Mariners are so good they can withstand a tsunami of IL stints; no team’s that good.

But, assuming the Mariners have just the average amount of injuries, just the average amount of underperforming players, just the average amount of good and/or bad luck, we’re talking about a team that’s good enough to go all the way. I’m not saying they will. But, they’re one of a handful of teams who can. And that’s not something we’ve been able to say for over two decades.

So, what makes a legitimate championship contender?

I think you need a true #1 ace starting pitcher. Which isn’t something the Mariners had in the Pat Gillick years (which is why I think those teams ultimately failed). Luis Castillo – regardless of how well he kicks off this season – is a true #1 ace starting pitcher.

Behind him, you’ve got a former Cy Young Award winner, and two other starters who are entirely capable of joining him. There’s an argument to be made that Castillo isn’t even the best starter on the team. The aforementioned Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray has some awesome stuff, and is a bulldog strikeout guy, but I’m not even talking about him. Logan Gilbert is absolutely gnarly out there on the mound, often dominating his opponents; and I’m not talking about him either! George Kirby could be the very best of all of them one day, and he’s just getting going in his Major League career. That’s four legitimate ace-type pitchers in this rotation, with a guy in Marco Gonzales who will eat innings and keep you in ballgames more often than not. What more can you want from a rotation?

What else do you need? Well, an elite bullpen, of course. That’s something those Randy Johnson teams in the mid-90s always lacked (which is definitely why all those teams ultimately failed). Ace starting pitchers are very important, but they don’t do you much good if you don’t have the ‘pen there preventing comebacks. And even though there’s every chance this bullpen could fall apart by sheer randomness, I don’t believe for one second that it’ll actually happen. If there’s any part of this team where the Mariners are truly deep, it’s in the bullpen. Not to mention, their scouting department and coaching staff have seemingly found the secret sauce to keep this train chugging along forever.

What else? It sure helps when you have a superstar in your lineup. A true, bona fide MVP candidate. That’s Julio. He not only leads with his bat, and his glove, and his baserunning, but he leads with his demeanor and personality and the confidence he instills in those around him. When you know you’ve got Julio in your lineup, the makeup of the entire team changes. More importantly, when the opposing pitcher knows there’s a Julio coming up, it can make all the difference in how they take on those other guys. A healthy, dominant Julio lifts all boats.

You also need additional pop in your lineup. Winning baseball teams have to score runs, and extra-base hits are still the best way to do so, regardless of the rules changes. Teoscar and Eugenio and Ty and Cal all give you that in spades.

The Mariners don’t have the most fearsome lineup in baseball, but they have just enough. Combined with the pitching – which should be Top 5 in all of baseball – that’s a combo that can take us into the playoffs no problem. It’s also a combo that can do some real damage once we get there.

What’s the final piece to the puzzle? Management. Coaching. Scott Servais and company. He absolutely doesn’t get the credit he deserves, at least from a national perspective. For some reason, even a segment of the Mariners fanbase likes to shit all over him, but I don’t get it. He’s amazing! He’s the best manager we’ve had since Sweet Lou, and his winning percentage backs that up. What’s more, if he does what Lou never could – gets us to a World Series – then I don’t think there’s any doubt about it: Scott Servais – if all goes according to plan – will go down as the best manager in Seattle Mariners history.

Sure, Servais is still 300-some-odd wins behind, but Lou had the advantage of walking into a situation that already had three Hall of Famers on the roster! Griffey, Edgar, and Randy were already locked and loaded; who couldn’t win 800+ games with three future Hall of Famers?!

Regardless, the key to a great manager is the culture he builds. Both have/had winning cultures, though Servais is much more a man of this particular time. He – much more often than not – pulls the right levers when it comes to bullpen and lineup decisions. In a lot of ways, that has to do with trusting those around him. He has the right group of assistant coaches, and he listens to the analytics team who provides him the information necessary to make him look smart day-in and day-out. He isn’t some old timer coaching with his gut. And that shows up just about every year he’s been in charge. The Mariners, in his tenure, have often outperformed projections and the talent they had on the roster. That’s quality management to a T. He’s a major asset to this team’s ability to win baseball games, and one day he’s going to lead us to a championship.

I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a new Mariners season. Usually, I’m just hoping they can entertain us until football season, while dreading the inevitable (that we’ll be out of it by June). Not this year. Fuck the other sports; it’s time to go all in on the Mariners.

What’s funny is that I don’t think the 2023 Mariners will be the best team we see over the next decade. I think we’ll manage to get even better, very soon. But, I also have this weird feeling that instead of everything breaking bad, it’s all going to break in our favor. Houston will be the team that struggles with injuries. Houston will be the team that loses an inordinate amount of games to the eventual division winner (Seattle). The Mariners, meanwhile, will enjoy a second consecutive season of unprecedented health in the starting rotation. The Mariners will continue to be among the league leaders in 1-run games, and we’ll continue to win at an insanely improbable rate.

I’ve got the Mariners at 98-64, four games ahead of Houston for the division.

I’ve got the Mariners cruising to the ALCS.

I’ve got the Mariners winning in 7 games.

And, yeah, I’ve got the Mariners against the Padres in the World Series, where we’ll do to them what we weren’t able to do in the regular season: we’ll sweep them in four games.

Even if I’m wrong and this isn’t our year, don’t worry, because that time is coming. The Mariners will win a championship before the calendar flips to 2030. What’s crazy to think about is the very legitimate possibility that we might, in fact, win multiple titles by then.

And if we don’t? Well, print this out and tape it to your fridge, because apparently my words have the power to jinx teams to an unfathomable degree.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 3: My Top 5

Here’s Part 1 and Part 2. Get ready for tomorrow when I give you my Mount Rushmore, followed by my top three and a half, my top two and 7/8, and my top 0.991.

All right, let’s cut the bullshit. You already know who these guys are from yesterday’s post, so let’s get to ranking. Here’s my official Top 5 Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes:

  1. King Felix
  2. Beastmode
  3. Bam Bam Kam
  4. The Reign Man
  5. The Big Unit

I was never upset at Randy Johnson for forcing his way out of Seattle. Admittedly, for a while, I was annoyed by his 1998 season, when it seemed pretty obvious he wasn’t trying very hard for Seattle, only to lay the National League to waste upon being traded to Houston (going 10-1 in 11 starts with a sub-2 ERA after going 9-10 in 23 starts with a plus-4 ERA for the M’s). The fact of the matter is: the Mariners were being fucking tightwads and using his back issues as an excuse to lowball him. Of course, we know what happened: he won 4 consecutive Cy Young Awards in Arizona, at the exact time the Mariners most desperately needed a proper ace at the head of our rotation (Freddy Garcia was nice and all, but he wasn’t a true #1, and that hurt us in the playoffs). When he was here, though, and he was on his game, there wasn’t anyone more exciting to watch. Getting to witness Randy Johnson every five days was a thrill to behold. That raging fastball, that diabolical slider (known as Mr. Snappy), that imposing figure he cut on the mound, glowering at opponents moments before making them look absolutely foolish. Also, the stamina to regularly throw WELL over 100 pitches in order to get through 7+ innings. He was one of the last of a dying breed, and the game is all the worse for it.

Shawn Kemp was a man among boys, even when he was just a boy entering the league straight out of community college. The Supersonics of the early-to-mid 90’s were one of the best and most fun teams in the NBA. Run and gun and dunks and outstanding defense; they were everything you’d ever want out of a dynasty … minus the championships. It goes to show you how difficult it can be to get over the hump. Anyway, Kemp was mighty raw entering the league, but also one of the most athletic players on the court on any given night. Over time, he really developed his game, becoming a dominant post presence, and even perfecting a nice mid-range jumper. But, it’s the transition dunks that he’s most remembered for. Between his high-flying theatrics and Kevin Calabro’s genius play-by-play, Sonics fans were provided hundreds of hours of entertainment. It’s just too bad the signing of a shitty white center soured Kemp’s relationship with the organization to the point where he forced his way out. As with Randy, I don’t blame Kemp one bit. Only Gary Payton could possibly deserve more money than Kemp, but certainly not someone as oafish as Jim McIlvaine.

In keeping with great players who were also disgruntled for part of their tenures here, it’s hard to top Kam Chancellor for sheer bad-assery. The guy was the dictionary definition of an enforcer on defense. Punishing fools who dared cross his path. It’s hard to say who was more important and more vital to this team’s success between him and Earl, but even though both were safeties, they played vastly different positions. Kam was a hitting machine, could blow up your spot along the defensive line and in the short passing game, but unlike Jamal Adams, Kam also had the ability to cover guys down field. He frequently was tasked with shutting down the opposing offense’s best tight ends. No one ever gave Gronk a run for his money like Kam. Same goes for receivers like Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson. No one played bigger than Kam. Even better, you rarely got the sense Kam was a shit-talker. I love a good shit-talker as much as the next guy, but it’s even cooler when a total fucking stud goes out there and lets his play do the talking. Every once in a while – after a particularly important play – he’d drop the hammer with his Bam Bam Kam routine, and it just pumped everyone up even more.

It takes a lot to be higher in my esteem than someone like Kam, but Marshawn Lynch did just that. He was the offensive equivalent, bulldozing through guys, to the point where they just didn’t want to deal with him anymore by the ends of these games. When you talk about wearing down a defense with your running game, you’re talking about Beastmode. That’s the ideal. On top of which, by all accounts he was just the coolest fucking guy off the field, giving teammates the shirt off his back if they asked for it. And he also ended up being the first and only guy to hold the Seahawks hostage to the point where he actually earned a raise with his holdout. Isn’t that something?! There’s the Beastquake, the antics during Super Bowl Media Days, anytime he popped up on a TV show or on a late night show. He’s a delight everywhere he goes!

Of course, no one is topping Felix Hernandez. He was a tremendous prospect, he was electric as a younger player, he developed into the very best pitcher in the game, all on his rookie deal. Right there, that’s enough to rank him among my favorite Seattle athletes. But, then he did what absolutely no one thought he’d do: he signed an extension with the hapless Seattle Mariners. In February 2013, he signed a 7-year deal for $175 million dollars, and in my eyes was worth every penny. Oh sure, he didn’t age quite as gracefully as we hoped and expected. But, he played his entire 15-year career in a Mariners uniform, when he absolutely didn’t have to. All he wanted to do was win, was to lead this franchise into the post-season; when he signed his extension, we were already a dozen years removed from our previous playoff game. Then, we proceeded to keep letting him down year after year after year, until eventually he couldn’t carry this team anymore. But, you know what? He gave us 12 amazing years. Every fifth day was a new Happy Felix Day, and you never knew what you were going to get. One of those days was the most recent Perfect Game for Major League Baseball. But, there were countless Felix Quality Starts (7+ innings, 1 or fewer runs allowed). Even as his fastball waned, his change-up was the best in the game and turned him into a wizard out there on the mound. Teams didn’t know what to do with him for the longest time.

Felix is forever my guy. During his entire run here, I wasn’t a Mariners fan; I was a Felix fan. That more or less remains unchanged, even though he’s gone. I’d run through a wall for that guy. It’s the least I can do for all the times he made Seattle relevant and the Mariners worth watching.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 2: My Top 10

You can check out Part 1 from yesterday.

For the record, this isn’t in any particular order. Though, I will say – spoiler alert – that the top five listed here comprise my favorite five, which I’ll get around to writing about tomorrow. Sorry to really drag out this flimsy concept!

My Top 10

  • King Felix
  • The Big Unit
  • Beastmode
  • Bam Bam Kam
  • The Reign Man
  • The Glove
  • Young Zeke
  • Tui
  • Reg-gie
  • Steve Largent

Look, not everyone can have a cool nickname or shorthand. But, for the first – I dunno – 25 to 30 years of my life, Steve Largent was my favorite athlete of all time. When you’re a kid just getting into sports, you gravitate towards the very best players. And, in the late 80’s, that guy was Largent for me. He had every wide receiver record at the time of his retirement (eventually surpassed by Jerry Rice, among others), but nothing’s ever going to top this sequence of events with Mike Harden. What’s insane is that Largent didn’t even miss a game after that cheap shot in week one! Talk about tough as nails.

I don’t know of a great way to rank all the amazing Husky wide receivers through the years, but anecdotally the first name that comes to my mind is Reggie Williams. He started playing with us a year after that magical 2000 season, and is sort of synonymous with my friends and I following the team religiously. There just wasn’t anyone like him. It seemed like every game he was good for at least a small handful of big plays. And, as it turns out, it was pretty much exclusively thanks to his natural-born ability, as he was never really able to parlay his college dominance into NFL success. I’ll save that for some bitter old-time Jags fans who were underwhelmed by him on a regular basis after being a top 10 pick in the NFL draft. But, as far as Huskies go, there were few better.

One of those guys would be Marques Tuiasosopo. All I need to talk about is 300/200. Against Stanford. 300 yards passing, 200 yards rushing. For the longest time, he was on an all-time list of only his name, until very recently when Malik Cunningham did it with Louisville in 2021. Tui led us to an 11-1 record in 2000 and a Rose Bowl victory over Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers, and I still contend if we had a college football playoff system, that Husky team would’ve made some noise! Maybe even won it all! Just a fun guy to watch on a weekly basis though, especially when you consider how good the Pac-10 was back then, as well as how many times he pulled games out of his ass late.

Isaiah Thomas followed a succession of great Husky basketball players, but how could you not root for a guy of his size and ability? I’ll be honest, he’s on this list because of this, one of my top three favorite singular plays in Seattle sports history. I mean, it’s up there with The Tip and the Beastquake, but I’ll be honest, the one I keep coming back to and rewatching on YouTube is the Cold Blooded call from Gus Johnson in the Pac-10 Conference Tournament Championship Game. It’s just unfortunate that the program hasn’t even come close to getting back to that level of play.

The Supersonics were the model sports franchise in Seattle for the longest time. From the 70’s through the 90’s, they were consistent winners. Regularly in the playoffs. Made the finals three times – winning once in 1979 – and had our lone world championship until the Seahawks won it all in 2013. Clearly, there were a lot of tremendous players to wear that uniform, but none were better than Gary Payton. He was the heart and soul of all those 90s squads, and I’d put him up there with any Seattle sports all time great, Griffey, Largent, you name it. He made a name for himself with his unrivaled defensive ability, but over time he really developed a strong offensive game. He was one of the more potent post-up guards in the league, and eventually he even found his 3-point stroke. Things became a lot more challenging for him once he lost his partner in crime in Shawn Kemp, but he still did his best to keep this franchise afloat. Also, he makes this list for being one of the best shit-talkers in the history of mankind.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

Ahh yes, we’re in one of those dead periods of the sports calendar (unless your team happens to be in the Super Bowl, or you’re super-jazzed by what they’re doing with the Pro Bowl nowadays); it’s a struggle to find things to write about. So, to kill some time, I thought I’d write about my favorite Seattle athletes, both college and pros.

These aren’t necessarily people who were born and/or raised in the Seattle area (although, they could be). These are people who played their respective sports – either in college or as professionals – in Seattle. We’re talking Seahawks, Mariners, Supersonics, and Huskies. For this exercise, I went through each team and picked my favorite five guys. I’ll write a little bit about each, then we’ll narrow it down to a top ten overall, then we’ll see if we’re able to rank those. I don’t expect this to be easy.

I should point out – for frame of reference – that I didn’t really start getting into sports until 1987 or 1988, with the 90’s being my heyday. I got into the Seahawks first, then the Sonics in the early 90’s, then the Mariners in 1995, and it wasn’t until I started going to UW in the fall of 1999 when I truly became a Husky fan. This isn’t a ranking of the All Time Best Seattle Athletes. These are just MY favorites. If they’re not your favorites, I don’t care. Go start your own blog; they’re not too hard to make.

Mariners

  • Felix Hernandez
  • Randy Johnson
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Ichiro
  • Alex Rodriguez

Spoiler alert: Felix and Randy are making my Top 10, so I’ll write more about them later. It feels corny as hell to have Griffey in my top five favorite Mariners, but I don’t know how you leave him off. He balled out in the outfield, making insane catches and throws, and he was one of the best home run hitters of all time. You couldn’t take your eyes off of him when he was doing whatever it was he was doing, even if it was just chuckling with teammates in the dugout. I would say over time, the bloom came off the rose with Ichiro, but those first few years, he was a force of nature. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing out of this magnetic little guy, with his cannon of an arm, and his ability to beat out seemingly-routine grounders. Eventually, he became a slap-hitting singles guy who never dove for balls and whose arm stopped being challenged by baserunners. But, for a while there, he was all we had. A common theme going forward is going to be how tough I had it trying to pick a fifth favorite. Edgar was just boringly amazing. Buhner was certainly a terrific personality. And there were plenty of quietly-excellent guys around the turn of the century. But, A-Rod was a guy who could do it all, at least as long as he wore a Mariners uniform. Power, speed, defense (at the most premium defensive spot on the team), great eye, great average. We somehow brought in a guy who could legitimately push Griffey as the best player on the team. Say what you will about his exit from Seattle, but even then, it was fun to root against him on other teams.

Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Steve Largent
  • Russell Wilson
  • Richard Sherman

Spoiler alert: Lynch, Kam, and Largent are all making my Top 10. The Seahawks were tough in a different way, because I could’ve gone 20 deep in this preliminary list; it was difficult to limit it to just five. Cortez Kennedy, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Joey Galloway, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Ricky Watters, Brian Blades, Bobby Wagner, Michael Sinclair, Jacob Green, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones, Doug Baldwin. You could go on and on and on. But, in spite of recent schadenfreude, Russell Wilson was still a super fun quarterback to watch and root for on a weekly basis. In his prime, he would regularly pull our asses out of the fire late in games, and even late in plays as he’d avoid the pass rush in order to make some insane throw down field. Sherm ended up landing my fifth spot simply because of his personality. You could always tell what kind of shit he was talking even if he wasn’t mic’ed up on the field. If teams had the misfortune of trying to challenge him, they’d often find that plan thwarted real quick. Even later in his career – after quarterbacks by and large stopped throwing his way – it was always comforting knowing half the field was closed for business.

Supersonics

  • Shawn Kemp
  • Gary Payton
  • Detlef Schrempf
  • Sam Perkins
  • Nate McMillan

Spoiler alert: Kemp and Payton are in my Top 10. You’ll notice the top four listed here were the top four in minutes played in that amazing 1995/1996 season (and that all five were on that team in major roles). The fifth guy came down to Mac-10, Ray Allen, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, and Rashard Lewis, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mr. Sonic. For a lot of reasons, but I’ll never forget how banged up he was in those Finals against the Bulls. Yet, he came back and played a critical role in our winning games four and five. I’ll always believe that a healthy Nate would’ve propelled us to the upset to end all upsets against those juggernaut Bulls. Detlef was a consummate pro and a perfect complement to Gary and Shawn’s theatrics. And Big Smooth – for that nickname alone – very nearly made my Top 10. Just a stud of a big man who drained threes like nobody’s business (at a time in league history where that was an extreme rarity, unlike today where it’s the norm).

Husky Basketball

  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Jon Brockman
  • Nate Robinson
  • Brandon Roy
  • Matisse Thybulle

Spoiler alert: only IT makes my Top 10 from here. If I had to pick a second, I’d go with Brockman, who was a great all-around forward under Romar. He got better every year in a complementary role, and as a senior really picked up and led this team in ways we wouldn’t have expected from him as a freshman. Nate Rob was super flashy and fun to watch. Roy probably had the best game of all of them, but was one of those boringly-excellent players (who, unfortunately, could never stay healthy as a pro). And Thybulle really got unlocked under Mike Hopkins, in probably the only good thing he’s done as a coach of the Huskies. Honorable mention goes to Terrell Brown, for being super fun to watch game-in and game-out last year.

Husky Football

  • Marques Tuiasosopo
  • Reggie Williams
  • John Ross
  • Budda Baker
  • Michael Penix

Spoiler alert: Tui and Reggie both made my Top 10. If there was a Top 11, John Ross would be in it. Nothing more fun than my friends and I screaming JOHN ROSS at the tops of our lungs whenever he corralled a 40+ yard bomb for a touchdown. My love for Budda Baker started when he flipped from the Ducks to the Huskies. Then, he proceeded to ball out for us for three of the best teams we’ve ever had, before becoming one of the pros I most wanted the Seahawks to draft. We let him go to the Cardinals and part of me has never forgiven them for it. Consider this the kiss of death for Penix’s 2023 season, as I’ve surely jinxed him. But, he might be the best and most pro-ready quarterback I’ve ever seen in a Husky uniform. As someone who stepped in right away this past season and led us to double-digit wins – including a bowl victory over the Longhorns – it’s a remarkable feat, even if he is a transfer. Penix obviously gets extra credit for choosing to return for a second season – when he easily could’ve gone pro and been at least a Day 2 draft pick, if not a sneaky first rounder – and of course for all the Big Penix Energy jokes my friends and I get to rattle off. If he parlays this into a conference title in 2023, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s able to sneak into my Top 10 by this time next year.

Tomorrow: my top 10.

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.

Somehow, The Seahawks Aren’t Even Relevant With Russell Wilson

The Seahawks had to go to Green Bay to play the Packers on Sunday. There was a lot of excitement and general football interest in this one because it was the first game back for Aaron Rodgers after his COVID kerfuffle, and the first game back for Russell Wilson after his grisly finger injury.

I don’t think the analytic wing of Seahawks fandom had much hope for the Seahawks prevailing, but I do think your everyday beer-swilling, boorish Seahawks fan probably believed in an upset for the good guys. I, of course, ever-the-pessimist, not only expected a surefire Seahawks loss, but I didn’t even bother really watching the game (I saw most of the first half in a Round Table Pizza with the sound off).

I can’t remember a season where I’ve consistently missed out on watching so much Seahawks football. I’ll regularly dodge the Mariners or the Husky basketball team (admittedly, my Kraken viewership has waned considerably), but I’ve always made time for the Seahawks until this season. Of course, most of that has to do with me just having better things going on in my life, but regardless, you’d think at some point I’d have to pay for it. I’d return home having missed the greatest Seahawks game of all time.

That decidedly has not been the case!

The Seahawks lost 17-0 to the Packers on Sunday. Clearly, when you go on the road and play an Aaron Rodgers-led offense, and you hold them to 17 points, you’ve done your job on defense. Even though I’m criminally uninformed, no notes! Great job, everyone, go grab some cake and ice cream and enjoy the party.

The Seahawks’ offense, on the other hand, is bad. I don’t know if it’s the offensive coordinator or the play-calling, but since Shane Waldron is a first-timer for both jobs, I think it’s safe to say he shoulders some blame. The vitriol isn’t quite there for me, because Russell Wilson has been decidedly un-Russell Wilson-like this year, which I think we all should’ve seen coming.

This is the Superstar Trying To Force His Way Out Of Town playbook to a T. See, it’s subtle, but it’s highly effective. You start with a superstar. He’s had a miraculous career where he’s won lots of games and done remarkable things. He’s still close-enough to the prime of his career that you know there are lots of great seasons ahead. Then, he gets mad about this n’ that, and either publicly or privately demands to be traded. The important thing here – unlike most other trade demands – is that the team doesn’t trade him. At least, not right away. Instead, they mend fences and the superstar returns.

Only, his game is a little … off. He’s suddenly not very good! He’s suddenly below .500 with a 4.33 ERA, in the case of 1998 Randy Johnson, who would go on to be traded to the Astros halfway through and compile a 10-1 record with a 1.28 ERA the rest of the way. Or, he’s throwing multiple interceptions in the endzone, and generally not knowing where the ball needs to go, in the case of Russell Wilson.

We KNOW Russell Wilson isn’t finished. But, he’s playing JUST bad enough to provide nothing for this Seahawks team, so everyone won’t feel quite so bad when he gets traded next year. It’s brilliant, really, because all it does is harm the team trading you away. It reduces your own value – just temporarily – but that will be easily rectified when you go to a new team and suddenly start trying again.

Yeah, I’m saying Russell Wilson isn’t trying. Because, that’s the only explanation I can come up with for why the Seahawks are 2-4 in games started by Wilson. See, this goes beyond a 3-game Geno Smith stretch. You can’t watch the way Wilson is playing and the decisions he’s making with the football, and come away with any other impression. It’s like he’s willfully defying the whole point of bringing in this offensive scheme just to do his own thing.

We’ve seen the Seahawks lose before, obviously. But, we’ve rarely seen the Seahawks so non-competitive. Even in the losses of old – as recently as LAST YEAR – I would always believe the Seahawks were going to win those games, late into the fourth quarter, until the score got impossibly out of reach (and even then, the 2014 NFC Championship Game did a lot to warp my thinking towards what’s possible in a positive sense). But, this year? I almost never feel good about what I’m watching with the Seahawks. This is the third time we’ve lost by more than one score; we used to go multiple seasons without losing games by 9 or more!

Even if we lost, we were always fun to watch (usually in a heart attacky sort of way)! We were almost always the best game on television in any given week. But, now it’s like we’re only comprised of the worst elements of traditional Seahawks games with none of the old magic. We’re not even stressful to watch anymore, because that stress always came with the belief that we deserved to win games. I’m not sure if we even have more than two wins in us the rest of the way.

This is Russell Wilson’s last year in Seattle, so soak it in. He’s going to be traded in the off-season, and we’re going to get peanuts on the dollar for our trouble.

This is also going to be a multiple-year rebuild, so I hope you’re prepared to hurry up and wait. Remember when the Mariners were great from 2000-2003? Remember how many games they won in that stretch? And then, suddenly, the Mariners in 2004 fell off the cliff and ended up winning only 63 games? This is like that. Most of our stars were still attached to that squad, no one really saw it coming, but the fall from grace was there in all its glory. These Seahawks finishing with 5 wins and giving away a Top 10 pick to the Jets is absolutely the equivalent to those Mariners. And there’s no telling when we’ll be able to get back to our former glories. The Mariners are STILL waiting to be as good as they were from 2000-2003; I might be retired and stuck in an old age home by the time the Seahawks are seriously contending for Super Bowls again.

This got real dark. But, that’s what happens when you get shutout for the first time since 2011 in the NFL. Unfortunately, we don’t have a facsimile of the 2012 season waiting right around the corner. Instead, we likely have the second-coming of a Tarvaris Jackson-type to take over next year.

By then, I fully intend to still have better things to do with my time on Sundays. Here’s to missing many more Seahawks games!

Where Do The Seahawks Go From Here?

And, quite frankly, where do I go with my fandom from here?

I don’t expect the Seahawks to go into Pittsburgh and win this Sunday night. I come on here before every game and give my thoughts on what I think will happen; it’s usually a Friday ritual before the game two days later. Two things have happened this week that lead me to believe the streak might be coming to a close at some point: Russell Wilson mashed up a finger on his throwing hand, and the Kraken started playing games that count in the standings.

As long as I have Kraken games to watch, I’m going to try to write about them. Hockey is new and fun and interesting and I’d like to keep up on it in the early going, to see what soaks in. I haven’t fully embraced a new sport since the tail-end of 1995 with the Mariners and Major League Baseball. I was 14 at the time; my brain was much more malleable. I spent all of 1996 devouring that team – and the game as a whole – to try to learn all the little nuances. I read the newspaper most every day, I poured over the box scores; I was obsessed. As a result, even though that 1996 team severely underwhelmed (mostly thanks to a Randy Johnson injury that knocked him out for most of the year), that was probably my favorite Mariners team. A scrappy bunch of underdogs that couldn’t quite recapture the magic of their 1995 predecessors, but still had lots of fun players to root for (many of whom would go on to make the playoffs again in 1997).

I’m 40 now; I don’t expect I’ll be quite so rabid about the Kraken. But, right now, I’m much more interested in them than I am with a go-nowhere Seahawks team missing its best player in what’s looking more and more like a Season From Hell.

I know Geno Smith looked semi-competent in the fourth quarter of that Rams game last week, but again I would contend the Rams were playing him differently than Wilson, to try to bleed clock and force us to be perfect on multiple drives. I also know it’s easy to try to talk yourself into this not being the Same Ol’ Geno Smith of old. Of New York Jets fame. The huge, embarrassing bust who could never get out of his own way. The walking back-breaking interception waiting to happen. It’s fun to think this older, wiser Geno Smith might have stepped up his game significantly in the years he’s been backing up Russell Wilson.

I think that’s nuts. I think that’s a great way to get your hopes up, only to find them dashed on the floor as the Steelers’ defense gets in his face early and often. He’ll revert to his old habits in short order, I guarantee it. Lots of unnecessary checkdowns. Lots of errant passes. Lots of turnovers and 3 & Outs, with brief glimpses of competency.

It’s also easy to talk yourself into the Seahawks’ defense stepping up and carrying this team for a few weeks. What have they done so far that would lead you to believe they’re capable of that? Sure, the Steelers on offense have looked moderately inept with a WELL past-his-prime Roethlisberger looking like he should have retired three years ago. But, he’s not dead yet, and I don’t know if he’s had the luxury of going up against a secondary this mediocre.

Of course, Tre Flowers was just waived this week – picked up by the Bengals, for some reason – so maybe there’s a little Addition By Subtraction going on? Let’s hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

I kind of expect this game to be ugly and low scoring, but I also think it’ll end up being a blowout, where they beat us by multiple scores. Maybe something like 20-3?

And if this is indeed what we have to look forward to as Seahawks fans, then I can’t see myself giving nearly as much of a shit. My coverage of the Washington Huskies has been flushed down the toilet; I didn’t even watch one minute of the loss to Oregon State! There’s no way I’m driving myself batty with a Seahawks team that’s going to embarrass us on a weekly basis.

I have better things to do with my time. Like watch Kraken games.

The Mariners Were Swept In The First Half Of The Home & Home Series With The Dodgers

Ways to lose: the M’s have found a few.

I just wrote, on Monday, about how with teams like these Mariners, sometimes the offense will be great & the pitching will be bad, and sometimes the offense will go in the tank when the pitching is good. Then, as if I conjured it out of thin air, it came to be over the last two games.

How does a Monday evening slugfest sound to you? Justin Dunn had another hard go of it, managing to make it only two innings while giving up six runs. In his defense, Corey Seager tried to break all of his ribs with a line drive in the second at-bat of the game, and after that apparently Dunn couldn’t throw his slider (I’m assuming his best pitch?) without pain.

Miraculously, the bats picked him up, and for a while there had the Mariners in line for a potential victory! Moore, Lewis, Seager, Nola, and White all had multiple hits; one of those hits (apiece) were home runs for Lewis and Seager, and both of those hits were home runs for White (who, again, is putting up more quality at-bats of late). The Mariners were down 6-2 after two innings, but held an 8-6 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.

Then, in walked Matt Magill – one of the few bullpen arms whose praises I’ve sung in this space – who had yet to give up a run all season. He got two outs in this one, but five runs came across to break his scoreless streak. We got one more run in the eighth, but it wasn’t to be, as the Dodgers held on 11-9.

Out of sight, out of mind, though! Yesterday was a new day! Our ace, Marco Gonzales, was on the hill, and he was truly pitching like an ace this time around. In 100-degree Los Angeles heat, he went 7 innings (throwing 102 pitches), giving up 1 run on 5 hits and 0 walks, while tying his career high with 9 strikeouts! Simply and truly remarkable, with just a teeny, tiny hiccup of a jam in the sixth that he was able to pitch his way out of. He also, not for nothing, got some defensive help in this one, with a superb sprinting catch in the outfield by Kyle Lewis – leaping up and catching the ball as it would’ve hit the top of the wall for at least a double – as well as an exciting double play started by J.P. Crawford – who gobbled up a ground ball in the shift, tagged the runner trying to go to second, then rocketed a throw to first to end the inning. Again – and thankfully – some of the high-end kids continue to impress, giving me hope for the future of this organization.

But, the Mariners didn’t score until the top of the seventh, and even then only managed a single run. It didn’t feel like – when I watched this one almost all the way through – there were too many chances for the M’s to score, but it turns out there were plenty, as we went 0/7 with runners in scoring position. In that seventh, Austin Nola was up with runners on second and third and nobody out, and the ump rung him up on just an AWFUL called third strike, which really felt like a back-breaker. I would love to visit the universe where this game happened and his at-bat was handled properly (preferably by Robot Umps, of course), because I feel like he at least had a single in him – if not a walk to load the bases and put even more pressure on the Dodgers’ bullpen – but what can you do? Tim Lopes grounded out into a fielder’s choice RBI, but that was all she wrote.

In a 1-1 tie heading into the eighth inning, Scott Servais – for some reason – handed the ball to Dan Altavilla. While I agree, it’s better to give him a clean inning instead of having him come in with inherited runners, I’m wondering what he has EVER done in his career to deserve this level of trust? This is his fifth year with the Mariners; five years of Major League appearances. In all that time, he’s never been able to stick for a full season, often being sent down to the minors to continue working on his mechanics, or dealing with injuries. I can’t fault him for getting hurt, but in spite of a fastball that can hit 99mph, he has in no way, shape, or form managed to improve. The only reason he’s up here now, I’m sure, is because we just don’t have anyone who’s better; the rest of the bullpen is just as much of a disaster (he’s also still on a cheap, rookie deal, and I can’t imagine he has too many more option years left). So, in that sense, maybe it was just his “turn” and it doesn’t matter who Servais throws out there in the eighth inning of a tie game. But, whatever the case may be, it was frustrating to see Altavilla out there, and it was frustrating watching him gag away the game while throwing 29 pitches to get three outs. If anything, I guess I’m surprised he only gave up the one run, and we only lost 2-1.

As I feared, this brings our losing streak to seven games, with both the Dodgers and Mariners now flying up to Seattle for another two-game set here. We shot our wad with a 9-run scoring outburst, and we made as good a use as we could’ve hoped for with our ace, so breaking this streak seems outside the realm of probability in the next two days. We’re 7-18 with a -50 run differential (only the Red Sox are worse at -52). We’re still in line for the third overall draft pick (with the Red Sox taking over the top spot and the Pirates falling to second; though based on winning percentage you’d want to flip those two teams).

In more lighthearted news, ESPN just rated the Mariners as the third-most cursed franchise in the Major Leagues. Even that, somehow, feels like an insult; how are we not number one?! The only team to have never been to a World Series feels about as cursed as you can get. With only four post-season appearances in our history – dating back to 1977 – I dunno. It’s more than just the 2001 team winning 116 games and losing in the ALCS, I can tell you that. A franchise that had Griffey, Edgar, Randy, and A-Rod (four surefire Hall of Famers, if A-Rod wasn’t a steroid user who spent the bulk of his playing career being totally and completely unlikable to fans, players, and media alike) managed to do nothing. That same franchise who would go on to have Ichiro, Felix, Beltre, Cano, and Cruz likewise … nada. There have been lots of great players who’ve come through this moribund franchise over the years. If that’s not the makings of an all-time curse … I dunno, give it another decade, I’m sure ESPN will come around.