The Stark Truth

Former Kitsap Sun sports editor Chuck Stark shares insight, laughter, news, views and analysis of Kitsap sports and beyond.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to The Stark Truth

Archive for August, 2010

Hasta La Bai Bai

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I’ll be south of the border for nearly two weeks and don’t plan on doing any blogging, but stranger things have happened.

* I’ll be back in time to catch a couple performances of the Kitsap Stampede & Xtreme Bulls (Aug. 25-29). Sounds like they’ve got another who’s who of rodeo lined up. The world’s best cowboys and some of the top stock (possibly the bull of the year Frank Abbott tells me) will be here. Check it out. They’ve got 456 entrants. The Friday and Saturday evening performances usually pack Thunderbird Stadium. It’s  a good time if you’ve never been. Xtreme Bulls will be on Sunday afternoon (the 30th).

* When I get back, Central Kitsap outfielder Drew Vettleson will have either signed a professional contract with the Tampa Rays or headed off to Oregon State. The deadline is Monday, the 16th. Vettleson was a supplemental first-round pick (42ND overall). It’s not unusual for high schoolers picked in the upper rounds to wait until the deadline before a deal is struck.

* By the time I get back, the Seahawks will have a couple preseason games under their belt. Anybody as curious as I am to see quarterback Charlie Whitehurst in action? There’s got to be a reason the Hawks signed him to a two-year, $8 million deal. That was a big gamble for a guy who’s never thrown a pass in an NFL regular-season game.

* And the Washington Huskies will be down to their final week of practice before playing Brigham Young in Provo, Utah. Jake Heaps, the Skyline star who got away, might be flinging passes at the Huskies. That’s an exciting first game for the Dawgs, who haven’t won a road game since Don James was here. Well, it feels like that. Their last road win? It was 27-9 over Stanford … on Nov. 3, 2007.

* The Huskies will also learn on Monday, Aug. 16, if they’re going to get Gig Harbor tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He’s making an announcement at the Gig Harbor Yacht Club that night. He’s narrowed his choices to Washington and Texas. He’s 6-foot-7 and 243 pounds and the top-rated tight end prospect in the country. And I believe he could probably play Division I basketball if he wanted to, and there’s rumblings he might want to be a two-sport guy in college. He’s only recently gotten serious about basketball, where he played for Total Package in the summer. He could be a rebounding monster, similar in style to Jon Brockman.

 * Congrats to Silverdale’s Erynne Lee on another fine performance at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. A semifinalist in 2008, a quarterfinalist this year, that’s pretty impressive. And good luck to Carl Jonson, the Bainbridge golfer who will tee it up in the U.S. Amateur at The Home Course and Chambers Bay on Aug. 23. The 17-year-olds are best young golfers to come out of the area since Troy Kelly. Lee’s headed to UCLA and Jonson’s committed to UNLV.

 * While I’m gone, I’ll also miss the international Pan Pacific swimming meet where Bremerton’s Nathan Adrian will be one of the stars in the pool. Adrian’s right on target to be one of the favorites in the 50 and 100 freestyles when the 2012 London Olympics roll around.

* By the time I get back to the office, we’ll be right in the middle of our high school football previews. We’ll kick off our preseason coverage with a story about another rebirth of the Olympic League by Nathan Joyce on Sunday, Aug. 22. Jeff Graham will report on the evolution of the football uniform and what it costs to outfit a player today in our Sunday, Aug. 29 editions. The daily team reports start Aug. 23. Klahowya’s on tap that day. The final preview will feature Central Kitsap, which runs Sept. 1. Week 1 games are on Friday, Sept. 4. We’re already planning our first live streaming broadcast of the season. It’ll be the Bainbridge-North Kitsap game in Poulsbo. We’ll feature the Battle of Bucklin Hill – Central Kitsap vs. Olympic – in Week 2.

Well, it’s time to go. The clock’s ticking and I’ve still got bags to pack and a deadline to meet on a story about the BlueJackets’ ownership. Damn deadlines. You can’t get away from ‘em.

Hasta luego.


Trying to Make Sense of Wak’s Firing: Sometimes Plans Go Awry

Monday, August 9th, 2010

By now you know that Don Wakamatsu and three of his coaches - bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Rick Adair and performance coach Steve Hecht - have been fired.

General manager Jack Zduriencik just wrapped up a press conference at Safeco Field, where he said he lost confidence in Wakamatsu as the leader of the club and that a new direction was needed and it was needed now.

With just seven weeks left in the season, Zduriencik said it was time to act. He didn’t want to prolong the decision. “It wasn’t a 24-hour decision,” he said. “I thought about it for a period of time. It’s time to start afresh …”

So little-known Daren Brown, the Tacoma manager, will take over for the remainder of the season and  Zuriendcik has surrounded him with a couple of guys he’s comfortable with. Roger Hansen, longtime minor-league catching instructor, is the new bench coach and Carl Willis, the organization’s roving pitching instructor, is the M’s new pitching coach. (Here’s a Q&A with Brown that was published recently in the Tacoma Weekly)

You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who is surprised by the decision to let Wakamatsu go. The man who once lived in Bremerton as a youngster while his dad commuted to Seattle to help build a skyscraper, seemed to be a competent baseball guy, but his team didn’t execute like a major-league club.

( Here’s a column I wrote in January of 2009 when Wakamatsu and Zduriencik met the media before spring training. This is what Zduriencik said when asked what fans should expect: “If you ask me today do I feel warm and fuzzy about this roster? No, I don’t,” Zduriencik said. “I know how much this organization means to our fans. I’m a fan, too. Be patient with us. There is a plan in place “)

Wakamatsu was a big part of that plan.

Wak, at the time, said the emphasis was going to be on teaching “from the neck up.”

“We’re trying to educate the players on their own abilities and weakness,” he said. “We’ll try to get them to play the right way. That’s a cliché, and we’ll go a little more in-depth. We’re not just going to tell them what has to be done, we’re going to tell them why, help them understand the game. A lot of players today, some are expedited to the big leagues and aren’t spending as much time in the minor leagues. They haven’t fully learned the game. We’re going to continue to educate them at the major league level. We’ll tell them, then we’ll show them video, then we’ll show them statistics.”

The education of the Mariners, for whatever reason, took a major step back this season. This team doesn’t perform like a team that understands the game, and that’s a reflection on the manager.

It’ s always easy to second guess when things are going bad. Zduriencik said it wasn’t one thing or a particular incident that cost Wakamatsu his job. He simply lost confidence in Wak.

“You’ve all seen what I’ve seen,” the GM said.  “Don’ s a terrific person. But at the end of day, rather than go into any specifics on any one individual thing, it was just about making the decision that I thought was necessary as we move forward.”

It was interesting that CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong — not popular with the M’s fan base — weren’t at the press conference. Zduriencik went out of his way to praise the “great leadership,” of those two and he said that it was “solely” his decision to fire Wak.

If that’s the case, then Zduriencik needs to take responsibility for the dysfunctional roster he put together, and for hiring the manager he eventually lost confidence in. If not, then it’s time for Lincoln and Armstrong to step aside and let somebody else take over command of this sinking ship.

Zduriencik said this is about moving forward, but this is a team stuck in quicksand. It’s not going to be easy, with or without Wak.

Sometimes plans just don’t work out, but it’s been that way with the M’s for a while.

So for the next seven weeks, it’s Daren Brown’s turn to audition for a job that Don Wakamatsu, and Jim Riggleman, and John McLaren before him, and Bob Melvin before him, couldn’t hold on to. And one that Mike Hargrove walked away from in the middle of the season, never really giving a good explanation of why he did it, other than saying he was burned out.

So Brown becomes the sixth manager to take over the team since Hargrove left in the middle of the 2005 seasons. There’s been a lot of plans, a lot of new era since. None, for varying reasons, have worked out.

Who knows, maybe Brown, the 17th manager in team history, will be the guy? If not, they’ll find another guy. That’s the way this business works.


Obama’s State of the Saints Address

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Ever wonder what the President says to all of those athletes and teams that visit the White House?

Just for kicks, here’s a transcript of what President Obama, a Bears’ fan, said to the New Orleans Saints, who paid a visit today:
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

HONORING THE

SUPER BOWL CHAMPION NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

East Room

9:20 A.M. EDT


THE PRESIDENT:  Well, welcome, everybody.  Please have a seat, have a seat.  It is wonderful to see all of you.  Welcome, and congratulations to the 2009 Super Bowl Champions -– the New Orleans Saints.  (Applause.)

I want to start by recognizing some folks in my administration who are big fans of this team — Lisa Jackson — (applause) — from the EPA; Secretary Donovan from HUD; — (applause) — Craig Fugate from FEMA.  (Applause.)  We’ve got a few very proud members of Congress with us –- Senator Mary Landrieu — (applause) — and Representative Steve Scalise are in the house.  (Applause.)

Congratulations to the owner, Tom Benson, who has led this team through times that would test anybody; and General Manager Mickey Loomis, for building this extraordinary championship squad.

Congratulations to your outstanding head coach, Sean Payton, who’s done just great work.  (Applause.)  I must point out Sean is a Chicago guy.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  By way of Naperville.  You’ve got to be tough to be a Chicago guy.  I make some tough decisions every day, but I never decided on an onside kick in the second half of the Super Bowl.  (Applause.)  That took some guts.  Were you okay with that?  Did he check off with you?  (Laughter.)  I’m glad that thing went all right.  (Laughter.)

Coach Payton led this team to a remarkable season:  13-0 start, a franchise record for wins; a heck of an overtime win in the NFC Championship.  And then after falling behind in the Super Bowl, with the onside kick, huge second half; Tracy Porter’s interception guaranteeing that the Lombardi Trophy would go to the city of New Orleans for the very first time.  It was an unbelievable moment.  (Applause.)

I want to congratulate the Super Bowl MVP, your quarterback, your captain — Drew Brees.  (Applause.)  I have to say all of us were very excited after the game — all my wife wanted to talk about was Baylen, that little boy sitting with Drew, and everybody going, “Awww,” (laughter) — which, I’m just saying, you made a lot of fans then.  (Laughter.)  Drew and his wife, Brittany, are expecting their second child in October.  So, congratulations to you both.  (Applause.)

Drew threw six touchdowns in the opening weekend, making it pretty clear that the Saints were coming to play.  And over the course of the season, he set a new NFL record for accuracy, completing more than 70 percent of his passes.  I have a few staffers who were thrilled to have Drew on their fantasy team.  (Laughter.)  So they are grateful for that.

And by the way, this is not Drew’s first time to the White House.  Last year, we filmed a PSA some of you may have seen, encouraging America’s youth to get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  He tossed me a nice tight spiral that I then lateraled to a kid on DeMarcus Ware’s shoulders.  I also want to point out I beat Troy Polamalu over the middle on that throw.  (Laughter.)  You remember.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure he was going top speed, but — (laughter.)

Finally, Drew has agreed to serve as co-chair of the new President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.  And I want to thank all the players who put on a clinic earlier this morning with children from the Boys and Girls Club as part of the Let’s Move and the NFL’s Play60 program.  So, thank you very much, guys, for participating in that.  (Applause.)

So this was an unbelievable season.  After decades of frustration, the Saints finally won the big one.  The “ain’ts” and the “sad sacks” gave way to the “Who Dats.”  Local musicians even gave a jazz funeral to retire the “ain’ts” nickname.  But I think we all know that this season meant far more than that to the City of New Orleans -– and to all Americans, really.

Look, I’m a Bears fan.  I’m not going to lie.  (Laughter.)  But this was a big win for the country — not just for New Orleans — because five years ago, this team played its entire season on the road.  It didn’t have a home field.  The Superdome had been ruined by Hurricane Katrina.  The heartbreaking tragedies that unfolded there when it was used as a shelter from that terrible storm lingered all too fresh in a lot of people’s minds.

And back then, people didn’t even know if the team was coming back.  People didn’t know if the city was coming back.  Not only did the team come back -– it took its city’s hands and helped its city back on its feet.  This team took the hopes and the dreams of a shattered city and placed them squarely on its shoulders.

And so these guys became more than leaders in the locker room -– they became leaders of an entire region.  And the victory parade that we saw earlier this year made one thing perfectly clear, that New Orleans and the New Orleans Saints are here to stay.

So plenty of cities carry their sports teams through  a tough season.  It’s a rare thing when a sports team carries a city through tough times.  And that’s why there’s such a deep bond between this organization and the city.  I’m not sure there’s any other city that feels that same way right now.  And that’s not just for what the Saints have done on the field, but what they’ve done off it to see that the city keeps rising.

In fact, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said that every team in professional sports should use the Saints as a model for how to interact with their community.

This entire team has worked with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild neighborhoods in New Orleans.  Many of these guys and the coaches and the players run foundations to help children in need.  All of them are off to Walter Reed later this morning to spend some time with wounded warriors who served our country.

And obviously the Gulf region has spent the last few months besieged by yet another crisis.  But last week we received the news that we had hoped for.  Yesterday, we learned that a procedure to prevent any more oil from spilling with a cement plug appears to have succeeded.  And the final steps will be taken later in August when the relief well is completed.  But what is clear is that the battle to stop the oil from flowing into the Gulf is just about over.

Our work goes on, though.  I made a commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast that I would stand by them not just until the well was closed but until they recovered from the damage that’s been done.  And that’s a commitment my administration is going to keep.

So with the ongoing reopening of Gulf fisheries, we’re excited that fishermen can go back to work and Americans can confidently and safely enjoy Gulf seafood once again.  We’re certainly going to enjoy it here at the White House.  In fact, we had some yesterday.

While they’re here today, several Saints players are going to spend some time teaching our staff their favorite Gulf seafood recipes.  So who’s cooking?  (Laughter.)  Which one — it’s you back there?  All right.  (Laughter and applause.)  And Sam Kass, the White House — he’s very excited, he’s very excited.  And after weeks of hearing about food from our response teams down in the Gulf, I can tell you that our staff is excited about the 30-foot po’ boy we’re serving at lunch today.  (Laughter.)

But let me just say in closing, we are very proud of this team, and we are very proud of the owner of this team, because it required a great commitment on your part to help pull this team and this city along.  And so there is a heartfelt congratulations not just from those of us here in the White House, but I think all across America.  These are big guys with big hearts, and shoulders big enough to carry the hopes and dreams of an entire city with them.

So with that, congratulations to all of you — the New Orleans Saints, 2009 Super Bowl Champions.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

END            9:29 A.M. EDT


Three Things: CK Babes Lose In Finals, Marvin’s in Africa, Carden Honored

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

This just in …

CK Babe Ruth: Central Kitsap beat Powell, Wyoming, 15-2 in the semifinals of the Pacific Northwest Babe Ruth Regionals for players 13 to 15. Central’s currerntly playing Kelso with the winner earning a trip to Monticello, Ark., for the Aug. 20-27 World Series. Check our website later for an update on the championship game. UPDATE: Kelso beat Central Kitsap 5-0 in the championship game. CK was held to one hit.

Marvin Visits Africa:  The Atlanta Hawks forward is expected to be back in town this week after a visit to Africa. The Bremerton native left Wednesday to Senegal as part of a program called NBA Basketball Without Borders. Williams’ buddy, former Bremerton High and Olympic College guard Phil Houston, has a new album out. The rapper’s release party is set for Aug. 28 at the South Pacific in downtown B-town. … FYI: Bainbridge’s Steven Gray, who will be a senior at Gonzaga, also spent some time in Africa this summer, as did Bremerton’s Olympic bobsledder Bree Schaaf. They were all their on goodwill missions.

The Grand Master: Bremerton’s Glenn Carden is featured in this month’s edition of Handball Magazine after winning his 11th age-group national championship last month in Austin, Texas. Carden, one of the most consistent players of his generation, won the 55 singles title and was awarded a sweater by the United States Handball Association, honoring him as a “Grand Master.” You have to win 10 national titles to earn that status.


Links: All About Huskies and Hawks

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Here’s some links to stories about the Seahawks and Huskies.

Starting with the Seahawks:

ESPN’s Chris Mortenson was in Seattle and recorded this interview with Hawks’ coach Pete Carroll.

Who’s going to be the backup quarterback to Matt Hasselbeck – Charlie Whitehurst or J.P. Losman? It’s one of the most intriguing battles in camp. Percy Allen of the Seattle Times has an update on the battle.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune sizes up top pick Russell Okung, the offensive tackle from Oklahoma who was the sixth overall pick in the draft.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald covers the Seahawks for the Kitsap Sun. He wrote about the defensive line today. You can find Boyle’s blog here.

Seattle players were happy to hear official Bill Leavy admit that he blew a couple calls in the 2006 Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh, but the Steelers feel a little differently. Read this espn.com report.

More on Leavy’s confession from Mike Sando of espn.com.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune, and formerly of the Kitsap Sun, writes about Isaiah Stanback’s Achilles tendon injury.

Here’s some links about the Washington Huskies:

If you can’t get enough Jake Locker, here’s a piecy on Ferndale’s Golden Boy by Doug Pacey of the Tacoma News Tribune.

Scott M. Johnson of the Everett Herald covers the Huskies for the Kitsap Sun.  With the Huskies opening camp on Monday, they have a few questions to answer. That’s what he wrote about in this piece that appeared in today’s editons and online at the Kitsapsun.com. Read Johnson’s blog here.

Follow the Huskies at coach Steve Sarkisian’s blog. If you live and die Husky purple, the Dawg Blawg is also worth checking out.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times provides a position-by-position breakdown of the Huskies.


One ‘Morrow’ Reason Why It Hurts To Be An M’s Fans

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Pitcher Brandon Morrow showed flashes of brilliance with the Mariners, but GM Jack Zduriencik decided to trade the fifth pick in the 2006 draft to Toronto for reliever Brandon League.

Morrow, who came within four outs of throwing a no-hitter against the Yankees in his first big-league start in 2008, came within one out of no-hitting Tampa Bay on Sunday. He struck out 17 and walked two in the 1-0 victory, his fifth straight. Morrow’s now 9-6 with a 4.45 ERA.

League, meanwhile, has been one of Seattle’e most consistent performers this season. He’s appeared in 50 games, leads the team with eight wins and a 3.21 ERA.

But with Cliff Lee gone, Eric Bedard out with more arm problems and Ryan-Rowland Smith struggling, it might be nice to have a 26-year-old starter like Morrow. You always knew the potential was there.

Yeah, I know, it’s easy to second guess, but Zduriencik didn’t exactly hit home runs with the signings of Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley and Casey Kotchman either

So do you stick wih these guys for another year, and hope they put up numbers that are on the back of their baseball cards, or do you wheel and deal, and try to replace them? The farm system seems to be a year or two away from having anybody ready to step in and make a major contribution.

Any thoughts?


Community Steps Up for Olympic Tigers

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Juts got off the phone with Nate Andrews, who coaches the Olympic Tigers. Got him on his cell phone somewhere in Idaho. The Tigers are on their way to Bozeman, Mont. to play in the Americn Legion Pacific Northwest Regional A baseball tournament.

Andrews’ summer team — comprised of Olympic High athletes — won a state title over the weekend in Arlington and didn’t have much time to plan or fund-raise for the trip.

But the community stepped up, and Andrews couldn’t be prouder of the community.

The Tigers were out in force the past two night at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and Events Center, where the Kitsap BlueJackets allowed them to solicit donations and run a 50-50 raffle. It turned out to be extremely successful, Andrews said.

The East Bremerton Rotary was also “extremely generous,” said Andrews. Another 20 businesses chipped in $100 each.

“If we were to stay the whole time,” Andrews said, ‘we now have the money to cover it.”

Andrews doesn’t charge an excessive amount of money to play in the summer. “We ran out of money at state, which is what we really budget for,” he said.

Winning a state title and going to regionals was a bonus, and thanks to the community, they’re able to continue their season in Bozeman.

The Tigers open tournament play on Friday against the host GallatinValley Outlaws.

Here’s the rest of the field: Bonneville (Utah) Bees, Laurel (Mont.) Dodgers, Ashland (Ore.) Pilots, Blacksmith (Utah) Fork Trappers, Powell (Wyo.) Pioneers and Wasilla (Alaska) Road Warriors.

The guy at the next desk wondered why Wasilla’s not called the Mavericks (think Sarah Palin).

You can follow Olympic’s progress and the tournament online at http://www.2010nwregional.com/


Detlef, McCormick Woods in SI This Week

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I haven’t seen the Aug. 2 issue, but Detlef Schrempf’s featured in this week’s special “Where Are They Now” summer double issue of Sports Illustrated.

A photographer tagged along with the ex-SuperSonics’ star during his celebrity golf tournament at McCormick Woods in June. The Detlef Schrempf Foundation raised over $590,000 for charity this year through the golf tournament and its annual gala. Since the tournament’s in our own backyard, I thought I’d share the news.

Detlef’s one of the best all-around players the Sonics ever had. Would he made your all-time Sonics team? Here’s mine:

C: Jack Sikma

F: Spencer Haywood

F: Shawn Kemp

G: Gary Payton

G: Lenny Wilkens

The second team:

C: Sam Perkins

F: Detlef Schrempf

F:Xavier McDonald

G: Dennis Johnson

G: Gus Williams

Meanwhile, here’s the press release from Det’s foundation:

Detlef Schrempf in his 17th year of fundraising benefits local organizations Rise n’ Shine, The Healing Center and Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation

SEATTLE (August 3, 2010) – While there’s a lot of buzz about where Detlef is these days, after his appearance on NBC’s Parks & Recreation March 6th and now an article in this week’s Summer Double Issue of Sports Illustrated, it’s safe to say his roots are still deep in the Seattle area.  His 16-year NBA career is now surpassed by his 17 years of raising funds for charity – nearly $10,000,000 to date.

The Detlef Schrempf Foundation raised nearly $600,000 at their Annual Golf and Gala Weekend this past June.  Funds raised at the Celebrity Gala and Auction held at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, WA on June 19th benefited Rise n’ Shine and The Healing Center, and Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation received proceeds from the Celebrity Golf Classic on Monday, June 21st at McCormick Woods in Port Orchard, Wash.

“The community that forms around this weekend is unbelievable,” said Mari Schrempf, co-founder of the Detlef Schrempf Foundation.  “Everyone that supports our Foundation has a great time at these events, but in the end it’s the generosity of our guests and partners that allow us to give back to our community’s children in need.”

About the Detlef Schrempf Foundation:
Founded by Detlef Schrempf and his wife, Mari, the Detlef Schrempf Foundation is committed to supporting organizations that provide hope, care and assistance for children and families in the Northwest.  To date the Foundation has raised nearly $10-million on behalf of local charities since its inception.  For more information, visit the Detlef Schrempf Foundation web site at www.detlef.com or call the Foundation at (206) 464-0826.


Five Things: A-Rod, Favre, Wak, Smith, Dawgs

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

1, A-ROD HITS NO. 600: Alex Rodriguez joined an elite home run-club on Tuesday that includes Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609). And the first overall pick in the 1993 draft by the Seattle Mariners did it at Yankee Stadium. Do we cheer or boo? For me, it seems like just another day at the ballpark. It’s hard to get revved up about that number considering A-Rod admitted using steroids. And beyond that, as much as I like baseball, I’ve grown weary of the sport’s obsession with records and numbers.

2, BRETT FAVRE: Will the 40-year-old NFL quarterback retire or not? Reports from several sources on Tuesday indicate he will. Even if he does, my gut says he’ll be back on the field sometime this year. Don’t know if it’ll be a Tarvaris Jackson injury or simply an offer from the owner that he can’t refuse, but something tells me Favre will be making plays for the Minnesota Vikings this fall. (This ESPN.com report says Favre will play if he’s healthy.)

3, WAKAMATSU WATCH: Stick a fork in him. He’s done. I don’t necessarily agree that it’s the right thing to do, but M’s GM Jack Zduriencik didn’t exactly give him a ringing endorsement before Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Texas. A year ago, Wak pushed all of the right buttons, and the M’s overachieved big-time. This year, nothing’s worked out. They’ve played about as a bad as a major league baseball team can play.

4, ALEX SMITH: Here’s some good stuff on the 49ers quarterback who was born in Bremerton. Former Seahawks QB Trent Dilfer, a friend and former teammate of Smith’s, said: “I don’t think he’s one of the most talented guys in the league. But Alex Smith is as physically and mentally tough as anybody I’ve been around. He was 175 pounds and led Utah to the Fiesta Bowl and almost won the Heisman. He’s not first (overall)-pick talented, but he’s got first-pick makeup.” It’s hard not to pull for a guy like Smith after reading this piece by Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports.

5, HUSKIES GO TO A BOWL: Washington’s football team was picked to finish sixth in a Pac-10 media poll last week. That’s probably about right. Right now, I’m predicting a 6-6 or 7-5 season, which should be good enough to get the Huskies back to their first bowl game since 2002. Considering where they were two years ago (you remember that 0-12 season in Ty Willingham’s final season?), that would be a nice achievement. The Dawgs hit the practice field Monday, Aug. 9. Fans are welcome. Here’s the practice schedule.


Griffey Turns Out To Be Wak’s Biggest Nightmare

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Ken Griffey, Jr., we never really knew him. That’s the way he wanted it.

Now, he’s become even more mysterious. As great a player as he was, as much as he was (and still is) adored by fans in Seattle, Griffey’s a strange cat.

Griffey reportedly phoned team president Chuck Armstrong from a gas station in Montana to tell him he was retiring. That’ s not exactly the way most mega superstars go out, but it fits Junior’s quirky personality. He was never comfortable in front of microphones and tape recorders. And that’s OK. But will we ever hear from him again?

Will he ever fess up and tell everyone what was going through his mind when he drove off into the sunset on June 2. Of course, he’s not obligated. And I’m OK with that. But his silence raises questions.

Now, there’s news — speculation is probably a better word — that Griffey and Wakamatsu weren’t seeing eye-to-eye. Geoff Baker, who covers the M’s for the Seattle Times, told 950 KJR today that Griffey won’t come back to be honored by the organization until Wakamatsu is fired.

Would could Wakamatsu have done to make Junior so mad? Did he really force him into retirement? Sorry, but I find that hard to believe. Is there a good way to tell a Hall of Famer that he’s washed up? Jeez, the guy was hitting .184 and you could add up the distance of all of his pop outs and they probably didn’t add up to a home run.

I must admit I snickered every time I read a story about all of the love that Griffey brought to the clubhouse a year ago. People forget how bad the M’s clubhouse was when he was here before, especially during the 1998, ’99 seasons when the M’s slipped back to mediocrity after emerging as contenders from 1995-97.  The place was always devoid of players following losses. Even when the team won, you never got the feeling there were a lot of warm and fuzzy things happening with the club.

This is what I wrote in July of ’99 when I wondered it it might be time to get rid of Lou Piniella. After four straight winning seasons, things had turned stale and I thought it might be time for a change.

I’m not saying these guys don’t like each other, but something’s missing.

Ken Griffey Jr. remains aloof, blowing off serious questions and refusing to be any kind of a leader or get excited about anything.

“I’m just here to play the game,” he said. “What else do you want me to do.”

You’d think the move to their palatial outdoor stadium would bring nothing but good vibes.

If anything, it seems like a house divided.

As you walk in the clubhouse, Griffey’s lounging in a reclining chair next to his duelign cubicles. Griffey and Jay Buhner have the entire west wall to themselves. Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez own the east wall, which is nearly half a football field away.

There’s clearly something wrong with this picture. Yeah, they’re the four biggest names. Other than Randy Johnson, they’re probably more responsible for saving baseball in Seattle than anybody.

Griffey had a Hall of Fame-worthy career that spanned 22 seasons, but if what Baker is saying is right, he sure didn’t go out like a Hall of Famer. He won’t be remembered for hitting .l84 in his final campaign, he’ll be remembered for dividing a clubhouse, for helping ruin a season that seemed to have a lot of promise when it started.

Then again, it’s hard for me to imagine that Griffey would be so petty as to say that he won’t return to Safeco Field until Wakamatsu’s gone.

Either way, Griffey did his old franchise no favors with the way he handled his retirement.

The franchise seems headed for another 100-loss season, its second in three years, and there’s not a lot of young talent to get excited about. Not being there on a regular basis, it’s hard for me to make a judgment from afar, but Wakamatsu and GM Jack Zduriencik seem like smart baseball guys. Sure, they’ve made mistakes, but the biggest was bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back to the house that he helped build.

And if Armstrong, the team president who’s as close to Griffey as anyone in baseball, was responsible, then he should be the next to go.


Available on Kindle