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 February, 2011

UW-WSU hoops: bad, bad, bad ball; but a good finish

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

And on Oscar Night, the award for the worst half of basketball between Pac-10 rivals goes to (long pause) …. Washington and Washington State.

My, my, that was some bad hoops played in the Dawg House.

WSU shot 32 percent (8 for 25) from the field and turned it over 10 times, but still led Washington 24-17. The Huskies missed 16 of their first 18 shots and wound up shooting 22.2% (8 for 36) in the opening 20 minutes. The Huskies were 1-for-13 on 3-pointers, had nine turnovers and missed the only two free throws the attempted.

Bad, bad, bad basketball for a team that’s still not a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The second half has to be better ….

Or maybe it doesn’t.

Lorenzo Romar just drew a technical after stomping his feet and protesting a call. Aziz N’Diaye picked up his third foul and the refs decided to put DeAngelo Casto at the line, even thougt it looked like the foul was well before he knocked down a shot in the lane. Casto completed the 3-point play and Thompson made both freebies on the technical and the scoreboard reads: Cougars 38, Huskies 23 with 16:54 to play.

Timeout at the 15: 41 mark: WSU 41, UW 28.

Guess what? Washington’s back in it. The Huskies are with 65-59 with 3:48 left. Cougs are starting to unravel and Washington’s starting to hit some shots. Big key down the stretch for WSU is keeping Klay Thompson in the game. The WSU star has four fouls.

DeAngelo Casto putback with 3:00 left pushes WSU up 69-59 and Abe Ludwick takes a charge at the other end. Momentum turns back to WSU. Thompson hits two free throws and WSU leads 71-59 with 2:48 left.

2:33: Casto two more free throws. WSU 73, UW 59. I think WSU has weathered the storm. Husky fans are leaving and the only chants in the building are: “Let’s go Cougars!”

Not a great finish, but the Huskies made it interesting for a couple minutes.

Best Oscar for a late-game scrap goes to (who else?) Venoy Overton of the Huskies. Overton and WSU’s Marcus Capers got into a little scrap with 1:50 left. Nothing serious, but both picked up technicals.

Best Oscar for player in a leading role: WSU’s Casto (23 points, 12 rebounds and he was 8 for 8 from the lie).

Best Oscar for player in a supporting role: WSU’s Reggie Moore. Not great numbers (10 points, 5 rebs, 4 assists) but he got the Cougs settled down on offense and just made some smart plays.

Best Oscar for a coach: Former Husky assitant and WSU head coach Ken Bone gets the call. Afterall, he’s the only coach to come into Hec Ed this year and win a game. Nobody else had come within 10 points of Washington at home.

Final score: WSU 80, UW 69.


Links on Locker’s combine workout; University of Washington QB has a good day

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

University of Washington QB Jake Locker impressed with his speed at the NFL Combine and he and Ryan Mallett apparently were more accurate than Cam Newton during their throwing sessions on Sunday in Indianapolis.

NFL analyst Rob Rang said Locker helped himself with his workout.

But others took a few shots at Locker. Mel Kiper said: “Jake Locker runs a 4.52 in the 40 yard dash. Perfect speed to chase down defenders that intercept his passes.”

Here’s an interview with Locker after the workout. He said he’s confident with how he’s throwing the ball right  now.  He said he’s feeling comfortable and confident with his mechanics right now. “For me the most important thing is just getting as many reps as I can throwing the football,” he said. Locker will work out two more weeks with former Jets QB Ken O’Brien in Irvine, Calif., and will get one more chance to impress NFL scouts and coaches at Washington’s pro day workout later this month.


5 things I don’t understand; 5 things I think I know; 5 things on my bucket list

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Five things I know I don’t understand:

Why do golfers where white belts? Not that I’m ready to challenge Joan Rivers and the Red Carpet critics, but those wide, white belt’s are not a good fashion look. Maybe it’s just me.

Why doesn’t Legion Field have a restroom/concession facility? Surely, somebody in the community is willing to step up and organize a fund-raising drive or find some carpenters, electricians and brick-layers who might be willing to donate their services and help the Bremerton School District build a modest building.  It’s time to trash that sani-can that sits along the right-field line.

How have the Washington Huskies managed to lose eight basketball games this season, five in what is generally regarded as a weak Pac-10 Conference. That team has not played to its potential. Oh, it does at times, but that team is simply too talented to lose to teams like Oregon and Oregon State. Until it learns to play every possession like it is its last, it’ll never be the team is should be. My friend at the Garagemahal has become so frustrated  he can’t watch ‘em anymore.

How can Chris Bosh make just one of 18 field-goal attempts in an NBA game, as he did Thursday against the Bulls? Talk about the all-ineptitude team.  According to the Elias Sports Bureau, you have to go back to Mike Newlin (1-for-22) in 1972-73 to find a worse shooting percentage for a player with 18 or more attempts.

How can players on an NBA basketball team boycott a shootaround because it doesn’t like its current coach? That appears to be the case in Detroit, where Richard Hamilton is leading the mutineers because of differences with John Kuester. It’s just another sign that the players, not the coach, are the ones running the show with too many NBA franchises.

Five things I think I know:

Instead of condos, instead of a marina, instead of the Kitasp Conference Center at the Bremerton Harborside, I think a convention center/sports arena should have been built first. A building that holds 5,000 to 6,000 people, big enough for concerts, major conventions, state high school and community college tournaments, a minor league hockey team etc. It could have been built on the the block where the old J.C. Penny’s building sits. I think it would have been successful and would have jumped started the development of downtown Bremerton faster than the current plan.

 Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Michael Pineda and Nick Franklin are the four top reasons why the Mariners are going to be a good baseball team again. Maybe not this year, but soon. Predictions: Smoak will emerge this year as the leader of the M’s offense; Ackley will be an early call-up from Tacoma be a .300 hitter (he’ll come up as a second baseman, but don’t be surprised if he winds up as a left fielder when it’s all said and done); Pineda will spent about half of the season in the M’s rotation this year and become the No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez next year; Franklin will rip it up in the minors again, and will challenge for a starting middle infield spot next year.

The Big East is, by far, the best college basketball conference in the country. In the latest USA T oday/Coaches Poll, the Big East has seven teams ranked in the Top 25, and five are in the Top 15. A couple weeks ago, seven of the Top 15 were from the Big East. The conference might send as many as 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament. The way things stand right now, they would have 1 No. 2 seed (No. 6 Pittsburgh), 2 No. 3 seeds (No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 11 Georgetown) and 2 No. 4 seeds (No. 14 Villanova, No. 15 Connecticut). No. 20 Syracuse and No. 25 St. John’s are also ranked. You could also make a case to put West Virginia and Cincinnati in the Top 25.

Bubba Watson is my new favorite golfer. Did you see the 290-yard shot he hit with his 3-iron during the Match Play Championship on Friday? It was pure magic. Watson called it “a low, bullet 3-iron.” It run onto the green and settled about 15 feet away on the par-5 hole.

Major league baseball games take too long to play, college football games are way too long, NASCAR races are about two hours too long. Let’s forget about television commercials (OK, that’ll never happen) but isn’t it time the leaders of those sports did something to make their games a better experience for the fans.

Five live sporting events currently on my bucket list:

A Yankee-Red Sox game at Fenway Park, the Kentucky Derby, the Masters, North Carolina vs. Duke at Cameron Indoor, the Carribean World Series.


Shooting from the hip

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Some quick hitters on a Thursday morning:

I can feel Dick Ostrander’s pain and understand why he would want American Legion Post 68 to continue to operate Legion Field in Bremerton, but it is Bremerton School District property and if they want control on the field, it’s their prerogative. Effective today, the district is in charge of that facility. Here’s hoping they step up to the plate and make the necessary improvments to turn it into a first-class facility and I hope the district is fair when it comes to making it available to youth groups who need a field to play on. And, ah, wouldn’t it be nice to get a bathrooms/concession facility?  The sani-can experience has worn out its welcome.

While on the subject of baseball fields in this part of the county, and I’ve harped on this before, but FieldTurf would sure solve a lot of problems when it comes to maintenance and scheduling. There’s a reason why the University of Washington, Lower Columbia CC and Seattle and Tacoma school districts have installed artificial-turf in fields to go with natural grass in the outfield on their baseball fields.

Speaking of facilities, I wonder if I will still be alive when the South Kitsap School District builds a new football /soccer field in Port Orchard?

Good luck to Jeff Weible, who’s now the football and baseball coach at North Kitsap. And best wishes to Steve Frease, a first-class guy who deserves some credit for standing up to an administrator who was clearly out of line during an incident last fall that appears to have greased the skids for his firing. At least that’s the story I hear.

NBA or college basketball? What do you prefer? The players in the NBA are freaks and what they do on a routine basis is absolutely amazing, but give me college basketball. I watched the entire Ohio State-Wisconsin game on Sunday. As much fun as it is to watch a high-flying, athletic bunch like Washington, I enjoyed that Ohio State-Wisconsin game as much as any game I’ve watched in a while. The Buckeyes and Badgers were just sound at both ends of the court. They defended like it mattered, blocked out for rebounds and were patient on offense;  neither team  forced shots or flung up threes.  I tip my cap to the coaches, Thad Motta (Ohio State) and Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and won’t be surprised to find either one in the Final Four.

It’s Mat Classic weekend and I always think of Ty Smith this timeo year. The former Olympic wrestler who was 98-1 for his career heading into the tournament his senior year. Ty didn’t get his threepeat at state, but he’s still the best wrestler the area has produced. Here’s a profile I wrote about Smith during the week before Mat Classic VII his senior year.

If Washington quarterback Jake Locker was a safety, he might be a top-3 pick in the NFL draft.  I really believe that.

I’m sure there’s an M’s player that will have a break-out year. Isn’t there? First baseman Justin Smoak is the likely candidate. And Brendan Ryan’s supposed to be a defensive wizard. Beyond that, I don’t have confidence in any new players on the current roster that will blow anyone away. Do you?

This story caught my eye because Jake Plummer’s a handball player, and I’m a handball player. At least, I pretend to be when by body’s says it’s OK to play. But you gotta like Jake Plummer, the former NFL QB who walked away from millions to return to his roots in Idaho. Check out this story in Sports Illustrated about the Sandpoint, Idaho, native.

The Kitsap Athletic Roundtable’s trying to line up a meeting that will feature a member or members of the University of Washington football coaching staff.  Read the print edition of The Sun or this blog to stay informed. We’ll let you know when (or if) it’s going to happen. The KAR (formerly Bremerton Athletic Roundtable), meanwhile, is in the process of re-inventing itself. The club’s been around since 1967 and it’s looking for new members who want to help promote youth and amateur athletics in the region. If you have ideas or want to help, give me a call at 360-792-9231 or e-mail cstark@kitsapsun.com and I’ll get you connected.

The Kitsap BlueJackets are holding their Fan Fest on Monday (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and Events Center. Stop by the Eagle’s Nest and bring your kids. BlueJackets assistant coach Ryan Parker, the head coach at Olympic College, will conduct a free clinic at noon. The BlueJackets will are entering their seventh season in the wood-bat West Coast League, a summer college circuit. I get out there as much as can. It’s quality baseball, and you can’t beat the prices in the beer garden on a nice summer night.

Have a good day and check out The Weekly Sports Paper. That’s a new product The Sun started publishing in February. Terry Mosher’s the executive editor.


Mr. Know-It-All on M’s greatest seasons, Part IV

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

This is the final installment of K-I-A’s thoughts on the Seattle Mariners’ greatest seasons. He broke it down by position.

Today: Designated hitters and the overall best seasons. Can you say E-D-G-A-R?

Designated Hitter

95 Edgar Martinez dh 1.103
96 Edgar Martinez dh 1.055
97 Edgar Martinez dh 1.004
2000 Edgar Martinez dh 1.002
99 Edgar Martinez dh 0.998
98 Edgar Martinez dh 0.995
88 Ken Phelps dh 0.983
1 Edgar Martinez dh 0.964
87 Ken Phelps dh 0.951
86 Ken Phelps dh 0.927
84 Ken Phelps dh 0.894
2003 Edgar Martinez dh 0.893
2002 Edgar Martinez dh 0.885
81 Richie Zisk dh 0.846
85 Gorman Thomas dh 0.781
79 Willie Horton dh 0.781

 Back to Edgar and the golden years. Six great years and three pretty good years. Simply a wonderful player.  Then Kenny Phelps  checks in with one very good year and three great years.  We traded him to get Jay Buhner.  He and Alvin Davis were the two best hitters the M’s had until Edgar, Junior and Jay showed up.  Ken Phelps gets no mention, but he was a very good  player.

Overall

1 95 Edgar Martinez 3b 1.103
2 94 Ken Griffey cf 1.075
3 96 Edgar Martinez 3b 1.055
4 96 Alex Rodriguez ss 1.046
5 97 Ken Griffey cf 1.028
6 2000 Alex Rodriguez ss 1.027
7 93 Ken Griffey cf 1.024
8 96 Ken Griffey cf 1.018
9 97 Edgar Martinez 3b 1.004
10 0 Edgar Martinez 3b 1.002
11 99 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.998
12 98 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.995
13 88 Ken Phelps dh 0.983
14 98 Ken Griffey cf 0.972
15 1 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.964
16 99 Ken Griffey cf 0.955
17 87 Ken Phelps dh 0.951
18 2001 Brett Boone 2b 0.949
19 92 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.947
20 99 Alex Rodriguez ss 0.942
21 94 Jay Buhner RF 0.933
22 91 Ken Griffey cf 0.931
23 86 Ken Phelps dh 0.927
24 96 Jay Buhner RF 0.922
25 95 Tino Martinez 1b 0.919
26 89 Alvin Davis 1b 0.918
27 98 Alex Rodriguez ss 0.913
28 95 Jay Buhner RF 0.911
29 2006 Richie Sexson 1b 0.906
30 2003 Brett Boone 2b 0.899
31 2002 John Olerude 1b 0.896
32 84 Ken Phelps dh 0.894
33 3 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.893
34 92 Ken Griffey cf 0.892
35 87 Alvin Davis 1b 0.888
36 81 Tom Paciorek lf 0.888
37 84 Alvin Davis 1b 0.886
38 97 Jay Buhner RF 0.885
39 2 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.885
40 79 Bruce Bochte 1b 0.882
41 2000 Jay Buhner RF 0.879
42 88 Alvin Davis 1b 0.874
43 96 Paul Sorrento 1b 0.873
44 2001 John Olerude 1b 0.873
45 2006 Raul Ibanez lf 0.872
46 78 Leon Roberts RF 0.872
47 2004 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.868
48 94 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.867
49 95 Ken Griffey cf 0.862
50 85 Ivan Calderon lf 0.859
51 2009 Russell Branyan 1b 0.859
52 93 Jay Buhner RF 0.858
53 97 Paul Sorrento 1b 0.857
54 85 Phil Bradley lf 0.853
55 91 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.852
56 2009 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.848
57 77 Leroy Stanton lf 0.848
58 90 Ken Griffey cf 0.847
59 81 Richie Zisk dh 0.846
60 87 Phil Bradley lf 0.846
61 87 Mickey Brantley cf 0.845
62 86 Phil Bradley lf 0.843
63 97 Alex Rodriguez ss 0.841
64 2007 Richie Sexson 1b 0.840
65 86 Danny Tartabull 2b 0.837
66 2008 Raul Ibanez lf 0.836
67 2001 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.833
68 2000 John Olerude 1b 0.833
69 2007 Raul Ibanez lf 0.831
70 2001 Mike Cameron cf 0.829
71 91 Jay Buhner RF 0.829
72 86 Dave Henderson cf 0.828
73 90 Edgar Martinez 3b 0.827
74 2007 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.825
75 85 Alvin Davis 1b 0.824
76 90 Alvin Davis 1b 0.818
77 85 Jim Presley 3b 0.812
78 95 Mike Blowers 3b 0.811
79 2002 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.811
80 2007 Adrian Beltre 3b 0.801
81 82 Al Cowens RF 0.800
82 2002 Brett Boone 2b 0.798
83 2010 Russell Branyan 1b 0.798
84 86 Alvin Davis 1b 0.797
85 2007 Jose Guillen rf 0.796
86 2005 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.785
87 2006 Adrian Beltre 3b 0.784
88 2003 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.783
89 2006 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.783
90 85 Gorman Thomas dh 0.781
91 79 Willie Horton dh 0.781
92 77 Ruppert Jones cf 0.779
93 2002 Mike Cameron cf 0.777
94 96 Dan Wilson c 0.773
95 2006 Kenji Jojjima c 0.768
96 86 Jim Presley 3b 0.764
97 2009 Franklin Gutierrez cf 0.762
98 92 Jay Buhner RF 0.752
99 2010 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.751
100 97 Dan Wilson c 0.745
101 2008 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.745
102 2007 Kenji Jojjima c 0.741
103 87 Dave Valle c 0.724

 

Several conclusions to make:  On average there have been about three good seasons per year.  However some rudimentary analysis will tell you that there was a 10-year span from 1994 to 2003 where a huge number of those seasons occurred.  Since 2003 11 good or better seasons have occurred and that is not enough to sustain winning, only one a year.

Coming next: TheMariners scored 513 runs last year. They were the lowest DH-enabled team ever.  How important is that?  What is the minimum runs scored needed to win 90 games?  Is that the right question to ask?


Cardinals shows some sanity amidst all of this money madness

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t cave in to superstar Albert Pujols. They didn’t feel like it was in their best interest to dole out a $300,000,000, 10-year contract to a 31-year-old who has one year left on his contrct. They couldn’t make a deal on an extension before Pujols’ self-imposed deadline on Wednesday. The Cardinals reportedly offered a deal that would have paid Pujols $27 million to $30 million a year over a six or seven-year period. Those figures may or may not be accurate. Only St. Louis management and Pujols know for sure.

Granted, Pujols will probably go down in history as the greatest first baseman in baseball history. Yeah, even better than Lou Gehrig. But I think the Cardinals did the right thing.

I don’t blame Pujols for asking for the bank, and he deserves to be the highest-paid player in baseball. And he will be if he tests the free-agent market next season. I feel bad for Cardinals fans. It would be cool for Albert to finish his career in St. Louis, but how many great years does he have left — four, five, maybe six? And there’s no guarantee he stays a healthy. Sure, he’s averaged 155 games a season, but he’s had elbow surgery and some back issues.

So 3-time MVP Pujols will have to get by on $16 million this season, chump change in this crazy baseball world we live in. Hey, Milton Bradley’s collecting $12 million from the M’s this season. Alex Rodriguez is currently the game’s highest-paid player, making $275 million over 10 years. A-Lot was originally lured away from the Mariners by Texas when owner Tom Hicks signed waved a  quarter-billion deal ($252,000,000, but who’s quibbling over a measly $2 mil these days) in his face. That’s more money than Hicks bought the franchise for. Hicks wound up selling the Texas franchise in bankruptcy court last year.

A decade later, this is what Hicks said about his decision to give Rodriguez all that money:

“I’ve done some smart things. I’ve done some dumb things. That was one of the dumb things.”

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, in this instance, made the right call. Hopefully, both sides will be able to come to some sort of middle ground and the Cardinals will keep Pujols around for the rest of his career, but not at $30 million a year for 10 years. That’s just plain dumb.


Mr. Know-It-All’s greatest seasons by M’s players, Part III

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Today: Outfielders. Not a lot of surprises here, but statistically, the greatest seasons by a right fielder were achieved by Jay Buhner, not Ichiro. Read on and see if you agree wth K-I-A’s logic.

Mr K-I-A weighed in on the greatest seasons by catchers, first basemen, second basemen in his first post, which included an introduction to the whole exercise. For here’s a look at the best seasons by shortstops and third basemen. Check ‘em out.

Tomorrow: Part IV will look at DH’s and conclude with the overall best seasons.

Left Field

81 Tom Paciorek lf 0.888
2006 Raul Ibanez lf 0.872
85 Ivan Calderon lf 0.859
85 Phil Bradley lf 0.853
77 Leroy Stanton lf 0.848
87 Phil Bradley lf 0.846
86 Phil Bradley lf 0.843
2008 Raul Ibanez lf 0.836
2007 Raul Ibanez lf 0.831

 Well now there is something to talk about.  Wimpy Paciorek! Show of hands, who heard Dave Niehaus call the back to back games Tom won with 9th inning home runs against the Yankees?    This was a great year .888 OPS, .326 avg, .379 onbag, .509 slug his fourth season in Seattle.  He was traded to the White Sox afterwards for Todd Cruz, Rod Allen and a bucket of balls.  He had two subsequent good years with the White Sox posting OPS in excess of .800.  Rual Ibanez everybody’s hard working good player checks in with three very good seasons in 2006, 2008, and 2007:  .872, .836 and .831.

Phil Bradley put in three very good years in 1985, 1987 and 1986:  .853, .846, .843.  Ran well had some pop, scored hundred runs in of those years and close in the other. Very good RBIs in 1985 with 88.  He was traded to the Phillies for Dave Brundage, Michael Jackson and Glen Wilson.  He never approached the level shown with the Mariners again. For those who check on Ivan Calderon’s season it was but 210 at bats, but he had 16 doubles, 4 triples and 8 homeruns. He was traded early the following year for Scot Bradley a left handed hitting catcher who was one of Rick Rizz’s favorite guys to quote. I always wanted to write a sentence where I could write Rizz’s.  A three stooge moment of sorts, better said than read.

Phil Bradley was Division I quarterback at Missouri with some success.  Based on what he showed  here, probably did not throw a lot of long touchdowns, but a better than average player.  Then there is Raul Ibanez a guy who puts up three very good years here in his second stint with the Mariners.  First time through he could not play well enough to play consistently.  Good but not great.

Center-Field

94 Ken Griffey cf 1.075
97 Ken Griffey cf 1.028
93 Ken Griffey cf 1.024
96 Ken Griffey cf 1.018
98 Ken Griffey cf 0.972
99 Ken Griffey cf 0.955
91 Ken Griffey cf 0.931
92 Ken Griffey cf 0.892
95 Ken Griffey cf 0.862
90 Ken Griffey cf 0.847
87 Mickey Brantley cf 0.845
2001 Mike Cameron cf 0.829
86 Dave Henderson cf 0.828
77 Ruppert Jones cf 0.779
2002 Mike Cameron cf 0.777
2009 Franklin Gutierrez cf 0.762

 Having set the definition of what was minimum good at .800, I put as a reference point seasons by Mike Cameron, Ruppert Jones and Franklin Gutierrez that are sub .800.  All those seasons were generally more than acceptable from a speed defender, in fact there are many worse years to reflect on than those years.  Dave Henderson was the most gifted player to hit the Mariners from their inception.  Big, fast, some juice, great arm and he did not quite ever put it fully together here before he went off to play in several World Series with Boston and Oakland.  I have felt if he had arrived in majors with either Boston or Oakland he would be talked about more than he is now.  I still think he was the first really high level player to play for Mariners.  Mickey Brantley played two years with the Mariners and put up one good year and one so-so year and then was supplanted by a 19 year old rookie named Ken Griffey Jr.  He was traded to Milwaukee and Frank Bolick Jr. and neither were ever seen again.

 His swan song the past two years has clouded the first time through with the Mariners.  I am glad that he came back, there is some ritualistic aspects of saying goodbye to a star athlete that were satisfied by that even with the twenty-five bobblehead nights and fifteen Junior poster nights that came with that swan song.  Ten remarkable years replete with nightly highlight reels full of defensive gems and big and long hits.  Eight straight games with home runs, an unjuiced 58 home runs.  You will notice that there are four years greater than 1.0 and a bunch in the .900s.  Simply marvelous stats. 

Seeing him was revelatory.  I called a great friend the first week of the 1989 season, who played ball for Cal when he was in college and said to him, I’ve just seen a player that might be better than Willie Mays was.  Well if that did not prove out, he was as good.  Better than Mickey Mantle, who I revere.  Better than Barry Bonds, who was left off the top 100 players list in 1999, and deservedly so. 

The double is the Mariners’ play of plays.  It is revelatory that he scores from first on the play, because yes he could hit with power and consistently and he could catch the ball and throw the ball, but he could fly around the bases. Best player I ever saw, by a long, long margin.

Right-Field

94 Jay Buhner RF 0.933
96 Jay Buhner RF 0.922
95 Jay Buhner RF 0.911
97 Jay Buhner RF 0.885
2000 Jay Buhner RF 0.879
78 Leon Roberts RF 0.872
2004 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.868
93 Jay Buhner RF 0.858
2009 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.848
2001 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.833
91 Jay Buhner RF 0.829
2007 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.825
2002 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.811
82 Al Cowens RF 0.800
2007 Jose Guillen rf 0.796
2005 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.785
2003 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.783
2006 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.783
92 Jay Buhner RF 0.752
2010 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.751
2008 Ichiro Suzuki rf 0.745

Fourteen seasons above .800, Jay Buhner has the top five seasons.  Ichiro has three of seasons six through ten, Leon Roberts checks in at six, then Ichiro, Jay, Ichiro and Ichiro;  7,8,9,10.  Then are nine seasons of sub .800 for reference points.  Jay Buhner was a very, very good player as those numbers show.  Hands down the best right fielder that the Mariners have ever had.


President Obama’s remarks on Stan Musial, Bill Russell

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Former Seattle SuperSonics’ coach, NBA great and Mercer Island resident Bill Russell, still a regular at Gold Mountain Golf Club, and St. Louis Cardinals’ great Stan Musial were among those presented Medal of Freedom Awards on Wednesday at the White House.

Here’s what President Obama had to say about them during his speech:

Stan Musial’s brilliance could come in blinding bursts; hitting five home runs in a single day’s doubleheader, or leading the league in singles, doubles, triples, and RBIs over a single season.  But to win three World Series; to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer; to be worthy of one of the greatest nicknames in sports – “The Man” – he made that brilliance burn for two decades.

Stan matched his hustle with humility.  He retired with 17 records – even as he missed a season in his prime to serve his country in the Navy.  He was the first player to make $100,000 – only to ask for a pay cut when he didn’t perform up to his own expectations.  Stan remains, to this day, an icon, untarnished; a beloved pillar of the community; a gentleman you’d want your kids to emulate. “I hope I’ve given [baseball] nearly as much as I’ve gotten from it,” Stan wrote in his memoirs, knocking it out of the park one more.

When Bill Russell was in junior high, he was cut from the basketball team.  Turns out he got better after that.  He led the University of San Francisco to two championships. And in thirteen seasons with the Boston Celtics, he won eleven championships; two while also serving as the team’s coach – the first African American to ever hold that position on a major league sports team.  More than any athlete of his era, Bill Russell came to define the word, “winner.”

And yet, whenever someone looks up at all 6’9” of Bill Russell and asks “Are you a basketball player?” – a question he apparently gets more than you’d think – he says “No.” “[T]hat’s what I do, that’s not what I am.  I am not a basketball player.  I am a man who plays basketball.”

Bill Russell the man is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.  He marched with King and stood by Ali.  When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game.  Enduring insults and vandalism, he simply focused on making the teammates who loved him better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow.  And I hope that one day, in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.


Mr. Know-It-All: M’s greatest seasons Part II

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Mr. Know-It-All examines the greatest seasons by shortstops and third basemen in Mariners’ history.

Mr. K-I-A’s introduction was in an earlier post and included his thoughts on the greatest seasons produced by catchers, first basemen and second basemen. In case you missed it, click here to read it.

Tomorrow: The outfielders.

Third Basemen
92    Edgar    Martinez    3b    0.947
94    Edgar    Martinez    3b    0.867
91    Edgar    Martinez    3b    0.852
90    Edgar    Martinez    3b    0.827
85    Jim     Presley    3b    0.812
95    Mike    Blowers    3b    0.811
2007    Adrian    Beltre    3b    0.801
2006    Adrian    Beltre    3b    0.784

Edgar would have had another year on this list for 1993, except he was hurt.  Which probably led him to the dh permanently in 2005.  1992 was a monster year.  He had seven greater years as a dh.  Joe Posnanski has remarked and he is a remarkably good analyst that Edgar was one of the best right handed hitters ever, certainly top ten.  The guy that kept him in the minor leagues, Jim Presley  chipped in with a nice year in 1985.  Mike Blowers in the booth now without Dave Niehaus had his career year in 1985, good for him I say as a kid from Spanaway.  Adrian Beltre playing in Yellowstone, otherwise known as Safeco had two good but not great years.  Playing in Fenway Park in 2010 he had an incredible year, like he did in LA before he came to Seattle.  He should do well in Texas, too.
As a general statement over thirty four years there should be more players here.  Particularly given the years in the Kingdome.  The rule in old school baseball is that you must have power from the corners and defense up the middle to go with your pitching to win.  If you don’t have that power, then you are in a deficit and must get it from one of the middle positions, which is verra hard to do as those guys are scarce and you have to pay them a lot.  The Ms in Jellystone had no juice at third base last year with Jose Lopez and will not this year with Chone Figgins.  Is there the prospect of power from ss, 2b, cf or catcher this year?  Maybe Olivo, nowhere else really.
Does that doom the Mariners?  The team has finished last or second to last in runs scored in every year except 2007 since 2003.  They had winning records in 2007 and 2009.  Is there anything to draw on from those years?  Well 2007 the team had Ichiro in center, Jose Guillen in rf and Ibanez in lf, Beltre and Sexson 3b and 1b and Jose Vidro as the dh.  They scored runs and won games more or less traditionally.  In 2009 they had Jose Lopez’s career year at 2b which compensated for the lack of production from Ichiro but they did not really score runs at all finishing last in the league with 640 runs, which was 127 more than they did in 2010. But what does it mean?  How can you score less runs than anyone and win?  Well, they defended very well, especially in the outfield with Ichiro, Gutierrez, and the gang in left field.  Infield made plays.
Last year that did not happen, fewer balls get caught than year before all over the place, outfield and infield.  It can happen again and it must if they are to win. In 2009 (see appendix on UZR) the Mariners were the best defensive team in all of baseball.  There UZR was 85.3 a full 30 runs better than any other team in baseball.  They were the tenth best last year.  What happened? Two things seem bigger than anything other factors.  Franklin Gutierrez had a far less productive defensive season, getting to far fewer balls in 2010 than the year before.  Figgins although possessed with greater range than Lopez at second base made some errors.  The catchers did not throw as well as they had the year before.  Beltre was better at 3b than the year before.  Josh Wilson is not an everyday ss.  It all adds up.

Shortstop
96    Alex    Rodriguez    ss    1.046
2000    Alex    Rodriguez    ss    1.027
99    Alex    Rodriguez    ss    0.942
98    Alex    Rodriguez    ss    0.913
97    Alex    Rodriguez    ss    0.841

Five of the greatest offensive years a short stop has had in baseball, let alone for the Mariners.  His first five years in the majors.  He’s a professional hitter on target to hit 900 homers or so, barring injury before he’s through.  Awfully insecure guy, what with the steroids and stuff.  I question whether that started in Texas, but I have no evidence or anecdote to suggest that it did not.  The Mariners had another shortstop who might squeak into the hall of fame for all of his other work, including eleven gold gloves and that is Omar Vizquel.  The Mariners traded him for Felix Fermin, Reggie Jefferson and cash.  Felix showed up and was not good and got hurt and was beat out by Luis Sojo until Alex took over.  This sort of is like the Tino Martinez trade.  The guy finally figures it out, starts to play at a high level and he got dumped.  Spike Owen was not as good as Omar, but the same thing happened.  After Alex, Carlos Guillen was a very good short stop who was traded away to Detroit for a guy named Raymond Santiago who the Ms released.  Both are still with Detroit.  Carlos was thought to be a bad influence on Freddie Garcia and was thrown away.  Freddie was shipped off too, so as not to pollute Felix’s world.  Both Freddie and Carlos were good to excellent major league players who participated in World Series with their new teams after being dumped by Seattle.
Twenty seven hundred words before I suggest that the M’s have not been to the World Series yet.  That is wrong at so many levels.  But to sum it up, when he’s done Alex Rodriguez will be in arguments about if he was the greatest player ever.  Deservedly so.  That he was a Mariner will be a footnote not discussed by many away from this fair state.  Long term contracts aside, we should have signed him.
As he slides into the last part of his career he’s better than any three players the Mariners have had since 2003.


Monday links: The Duke, The Goal and more

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The Duke: Ryan Divish of the News Tribune in Tacoma does a really nice job of profiling M’s manager John Wedge. The man from Fort Wayne, Ind., has pictures of John Wayne hanging on his walls and is a lot like The Duke.  “I joked with Jack (Zduriencik) that he is John Wayne,” said Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro. “But it’s legit. There’s no bravado there. It’s not for show.” Read the story here.

The Goal: Even non-soccer fans have to appreciate Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick goal against Manchester City. Check it out here.  As the announcer says, “It’s spectacular beyond belief.”

And More

NFL labor dispute: If there’s no agreement between players and owners in March, then it won’t get settled until September or October. That seems to be the consensus. This column by Mike Freeman of CBSsports.com doesn’t give you a lot of hope that things will be settled anytime soon. “I think this is going to be bloody,” said one player.

Locker’s stock: Quarterback Jake Locker has dropped out of the first round in most of the mock drafts. Click here to see how a couple of CBSSports.com analysts see the first round. The University of Washington QB isn’t on Mel Kiper’s Big Board either. Walterfootball.com has Locker going to Jacksonville in the second round with the 49th overall pick. Here’s what they say:

“The Jaguars need a young quarterback to groom behind David Garrard.

“Jake Locker was abysmal at the Senior Bowl. He seldom threw two accurate passes in a row, and his mechanics were completely exposed. It’s now looking like Locker has a good chance of falling to Round 3. It’s really a shame how much money he cost himself by going back to school for one more year.

“This is a good fit for Locker because he can sit for a year or two behind Garrard while he gets his footwork and accuracy straightened out. He could still end up being a good professional quarterback, but he isn’t anywhere close to being ready to start in the NFL.”

There’s a lot of mock drafts out there. I found one that had Buffalo take Locker with the second pick of the second round. Another had the Seahawks taking him with the 25th pick in the first round.

Another arm for M’s?: Are the M’s interested in signing free-agent reliever Chad Durbin? According to this report, they are.

Spackler wins! Spackler wins! Read about Bill Murray’s “Cinderella story” at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am here.


Available on Kindle