Mariners come home in last place; is it time to panic?

They were supposed to challenge for first place this season.

Twenty-eight games into the season, the Seattle Mariners are in last place, seven games out of first in the AL West. They’ve lost six of their last seven.

What’s up?

“I think the baseball gods are testing us a little bit,” said manager Lloyd McClendon following a second straight walk off loss to the Anaheim Angeles on Wednesday.

I wonder if McClendon believes in the Church of Baseball? You know, the one Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) talked about in the movie “Bull Durham.”

Annie’s philosophy:

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring… which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250… not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. ‘Course, a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. ‘Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.

Baseball gods or no baseball gods, other than Nelson Cruz (,333, 14 HRs, 26 RBI) and Felix Hernandez (5-0, 1.73 ERA ), there’s not a lot to get excited about right now when it comes to the Mariners.

Annie Savoy wouldn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to finding a hitter to sleep with. Other than Cruz, Robinson Cano (.263), Kyle Seager (.255) and Seth Smith (.250) are the only players hitting above .250.

This is a bad baseball team right now. Fernando Rodney has eight saves, but a 5.56 ERA. Hishaski Iwakuma is on the DL, Taijuan Walker (1-3, 8.74 ERA) and James Paxton (0-2, 5.08 ERA) were thought to be can’t-miss prospects, and now you know why they play the games.

It’s frustrating for the fans because the franchise had such lofty expectation coming into this season. The Mariners were considered, by just about everybody, a pretty good bet to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2001.

Seattle opened the season as 12-1 favorites to win the World Series, one of the four favorites in MLB according to the sports book Bovada. The odds have dropped to 33-1 and the Mariners now own the fourth-worst record in baseball.

Is it time to panic?

The Brewers (9-19, .321), Phillies (10-19, .345) and Indians (10-16, .385) are the only MLB teams with worst records than Seattle (11-17, .393).

Catcher Mike Zunino is hitting .177 and the strikeouts (31) keep coming.

Dustin Ackley is off to another slow start, hitting .182.

The team is hitting .236 with an American League-worst .289 on-base percentage. Only San Francisco (63) has scored fewer runs than Seattle (65). That’s an important statistic, right? Scoring runs is the name of the game.

Only Toronto (109) and Boston (95) have walked more hitters than Seattle (90) pitchers. Opponents are hitting .256 against the Mariners; the league average is .251.

Seattle’s also not getting it done on defense. The Mariners are tied for 10th in fielding percentage (.982) and have made 19 errors in 28 games.

I repeat: Is it time to panic?

Will Zunino figure it out at the plate?

Will Cano find a semblance of a power stroke? He’s on pace to hit 6 home runs.

Will Smith, Seth Ruggiano and the Rickie Weeks — three off-season acquisitions — come to life. So far, only Smith has produced and his numbers are marginal at best.

Austin Jackson’s on the DL with an ankle injury, but the center fielder wasn’t getting the job done anyway.

The M’s have already started making moves. Chris Taylor was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and is now starting at shortstop. Brad Miller is reportedly not happy about being turned into a super utility player. And if Miller is the super utility guy, where does that leave Willie Bloomquist? Can a team afford to carry two super utility guys?

What happens to the offense if Cruz goes into a slump, and you know it’ll happen at some point. What happens if Hernandez hit the wall at some point? Will others step up?

Is it time to panic?

As bad as the results have been thus far, I think it’s too early to throw in the towel. Check back after the upcoming home stand. The Marineros play Oakland three times, the Padres visit for two and Boston invades Safeco for a four-game series.







Softball collegians: Kinney, Buss getting it done at Linfield

Bainbridge’s Erin Kinney and South Kitsap’s Alissa Buss had big seasons to help Linfield reach the NCAA Division III softball playoffs.

Kinney, a sophomore third baseman, earned first-team Northwest Conference honors after hitting a team-high .403 with a .441 on-base and .604 slugging percentages. Kinney hit four homers and drove in 30 runs for the Wildcats (31-12), who will play in a regional tournament on May 11-13.

Buss, a speedy shortstop, was a second-team NWC pick. Buss is hitting .392 with a .447 on-base and .445 slugging percentages. Buss has three doubles, three triples and had 15 RBI for Linfield, which won the NWC Tournament after finishing fourth in league play.


Texas Tech: Lea Hopson (sr., Sequim/Southern Idaho) i shitting .326 with 11 home runs and a team-high 37 RBI for the Red Raiders (25-26).

Jamestown (N.D.) University: Emma Keller (fr., North Kitsap), a part-time starting outfielder, hit .329 with five doubles and a home run for the Jimmies (36-14), regular-season North Star Athletic Association champs.  Backup second baseman Kalea Chapman (jr., Juneau, Alaska/Olympic College) hit .241 for the Jimmes, who lost in the finals of the conference tournament to Dickinson State and are waiting to see if they get an NAIA at-large tournament berth.

Pacific Lutheran: Makayla Bentz (fr., Sequim) appeared in nine games, all in relief. She was 1-1 with a 7.44 ERA in 16 innings.

Concordia (Portland, Oregon): Rylleigh Zbaraschuk (so., Sequim/Washington) hit .300 for Concordia (40-16). The outfielder started 20 games.


Olympic College: Center fielder Sam Gorham (fr., Olympic) is hitting .494 for the Rangers (17-10) with 3 HR, 21 RBI, 18 BB and 10 stolen bases. … Outfielder Tiffani Ferrell (fr., Central Kitsap), a late addition, is hitting .474 with a home run, 11 RBI after seven games. …. Mariah Frazier (so., Port Angeles) is hitting .444 with 3 HRs, a team-high 24 RBI and has seven stolen bases. She also made the NWAC’s all-academic team. … Pitcher/outfielder  Christina Bigelow (so., Olympic) is hitting .270 with a home run and is 8-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 78 innings pitched. … First baseman Miranda Holt (so., North Kitsap) has five HRs, three doubles, 17 RBI and is hitting .250 for the Rangers.

Edmonds: OF/3B Madison Wood (fr., Klahowya) is hitting .341 with five HRs and 29 RBI for the Tritons.


Thursday musings: NFL Draft, Mayweather-Pacquiao, M’s …

Just the numbers, with a little commentary sprinkled in as we head to a big weekend for sports fans:

NFL Draft/Seahawks

9: That’s how many ex-Oregon Ducks are on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster. Somehow, I think head coach Chip Kelly is going to make it No. 10 when the Eagles figure out a way to trade up for the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft. Latest rumors have Cleveland dealing a pair of first-round picks to Tennessee for the No. 2 pick. The Eagles would then package QB Sam Bradford to the Browns and Kelly gets the Duck he really wants. Mariota could be the next Russell Wilson, but he won’t have the same level of talent around him if he winds up in Philly.

11: The number of picks the Seahawks have in this week’s draft. With Seattle reportedly not picking up the option on Bruce Irvin’s contract and rumors of a possible trade with Atlanta, the Hawks might have a serious need for an outsider linebacker. How about former Washington star Shaq Thompson, who could also project as a safety or running back?


$40,955.25: Someone paid that much for a ticket to Saturday’s fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, according to StubHub.

$6,820: Via StrubHub, the average price for a ticket to a fight that has brought boxing out of the dark ages.

I’m not predicting a winner, but I am predicting a rematch. The fighters are expected to split $300 million this time around, why not do it again?


.328/.316: Batting averages of prospects Chris Taylor and Jesus Montero at Triple-A Tacoma.

.229/.205/.194/.192/.121: Batting averages of Austin Jackson, Rickie Weeks, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley and Mike Zunino.

It’s still early, but if things don’t change by the middle of May, I’m going to figure out a way to get Taylor and Montero in the lineup. Taylor’s a better defensive shortstop than Brad Miller, who should be able to play the outfield or even first base. Montero can be the fulltime DH if you keep Nelson Cruz in RF, or split time at first with Morrison. Release Weeks, try to trade Ackley and hope Jackson and Zunino, both stellar defenders, can figure it out at the plate.

4-0: That’s Felix Hernandez’s record. This is his 10th fulltime season as a starter, and it’s crazy he’s never won 20 games, but that’s because he was part of a lot of bad Seattle teams. He was 19-5 in 2009 when he was second in the Cy Young balloting. He was 13-12 in 2010 when he won the Cy Young and 15-6 a year ago when he should have won the award, but finished second to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. Prediction: Felix gets to the magical 20-victory mark this season and wins another Cy Young.

10: Numbers of home runs Nelson Cruz has hit thus far. That puts him on pace to hit 77. Here’s a look at his latest blast, measured at 483-feet.

MLB predictions

The Nationals, Mariners, and Indians were among the trendy preseason picks to make a big splash this season. The Nats (9-13) just crawled out of the NL East cellar; the M’s (10-11) are third in the AL West and Cleveland (7-13) is last in the AL Central.

The Astros (14-7) and Yankees (13-9), picked for last-place finishes, are first in the AL West and AL East. Not many of the experts gave the Royals much love after reaching the World Series, but KC (14-7) is proving everybody wrong.

The Dodgers (13-8), Cardinals (14-6) and Tigers (14-7) are among the predicted favorites off to solid starts.

Chambers Bay/U.S. Open

$249: That’s what it’ll cost a Kitsap County resident to play Chambers Bay from May 1-July 12, providing you can get a tee time. Here’s my column after playing Chambers Bay this week.

Chambers Bay is already creating quite a buzz for the uniqueness that it offers.  Ryan Palmer said it wasn’t a championship course.

Kentucky Derby

149: This is the 149th edition of the Kentucky Derby. Horse racing is just a blip on the sports radar anymore and the Derby will take a backseat to the fight in Vegas, the NFL Draft and NBA and NHL playoffs. For those of you interested, American Pharaoh is the 5-2 favorite and it’ll break from the No. 18 post position on Saturday. Here’s the derby odds.

20: This is the 20th season of horse racing at Emerald Downs, which opened April 18. There will be racing Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend at the Auburn track.



Tough break for Drew Vettleson

Central Kitsap grad Drew Vettleson, a former first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, missed eight weeks a year ago after getting hit by a pitch on his right wrist while playing for the Harrisburg Senators, the Double-A club of the Washington Nationals. He broke his pisiform bone. Surgery was not required.

Vettleson started the season once again at Harrisburg, and suffered another injury in the first game of the season while fouling off a pitch. The left-handed hitting outfielder broke a hamate bone in his left wrist.  It required surgery and he’s expected to miss 4-to-8 weeks.


Big weekends for Curtis Wildung, Riley McKean & more updates on local collegians

This is another update on local collegians, the baseball edition:

Kingston grad Curtis Wildung was named to the team of the week. The Pacific Lutheran catcher, a four-year starter, was 5-for-7 with four doubles in two wins against cross-town rival Puget Sound last week.

Wildung drove in three runs, scored four and added a walk and stolen base for the Lutes (23-8, 15-6 Northwest Conference). Wildung’s hitting .283 for the season. He played for his uncle, Brent Stenman, in the summers on North Kitsap’s Senior Babe Ruth squad.

George Fox’s Riley McKean, a sophomore from North Mason, had one of those dream games on Saturday. McKean, a third baseman, was 6-for-6 with two home runs, four runs scored and six RBI in a 15-4 win over Lewis & Clark. McKean was 1-4 with an RBI in the first game, a 7-1 win. The big day raised his average to .293. George Fox is 16-19 overall, 12-9 in conference play.

More baseball updates:

Kasey Bielec (North Mason, sr.) continues to pound the baseball for Central Washington. The first baseman/second baseman is hitting .396 for the Wildcats (18-21, 9-15 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) with four home runs, nine doubles, three triples and 30 RBI. He has walked 17 times and been hit by pitches eight more and has a .481 on-base percentage. … Tanner Romo (South Kitsap/Everett CC, jr.) hasn’t got untracked offensively (hitting .121 in 31 at-bats) but has played well defensively at shortstop and second base for CWU.

Third baseman Shane Matheny (Olympic HS, fr.) has started all 35 games for Washington State (18-17, 5-10 Pac-12). Matheny is hitting .229 with a home run and is third on the team in RBI with 13.

Logan Knowles (South Kitsap, fr.) is starting at third base for Navy. Knowles has made 19 starts and appeared in 25 games for the Midshipmen (26-13, 8-4 Patriot League). The former SK pitcher/infielder is hitting .234 with two doubles and six RBI.

Linfield pitcher Joe Stevick (Olympic HS, sr.) has made 10 relief appliances for the Wildcats (24-9, 14-7 NWC). He’s 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In 18.1 innings, he’s allowed 18 hits and has 10 strikeouts and just two walks. Stevick was part of a D3 national championship team in 2013. Scott Brosius, an 11-year MLB veteran who won three World Series rings with the Yankees, coaches the Wildcats. He’s a Linfield alum.

Landon Cray (Chimacum, jr.) has helped Seattle University (19-15, 11-1 Western Athletic Conference) move to the top of the conference standing, although he’s been out of the lineup of late with an injury. The center fielder is hitting .299 with a .417 on-base percentage. He has a homer, six doubles, three triples and six stolen bases. He was 72-10 in high school as a pitcher and once struck out 20 batters while throwing a no hitter.

Corban 1B Daniel Orr (Kingston/Everett CC, sr.) is hitting .272 with 23 RBI for the Warriors (21-23, 9-11 NAIA West). Orr was 7-for-15 with a couple home runs in a four-game series against NAIA power LC-State over the weekend. Former all-state and all-NWAC player led Corban in about every hitting category a year ago, finishing with a .374 average and 48 RBI.

It didn’t take Tyler Ludlow (South Kitsap, fr.) long to adjust to college pitching. The 1B/DH is hitting .366 with nine home runs and 37 RBI for Jamestown University (N.D.). Nick Torres (Bremerton, fr.) also plays for the Jimmies (17-14, 7-5 North Star Athletic Association). Torres has appeared in six games as a relief pitcher and has a 7.04 ERA with a save.

A.J. Konopaski (Port Angeles, sr.) is having another solid season for Pacific Lutheran. He led D3 in saves (13) and earned All-American status as a junior. He has nine saves and a 1.26 ERA in 14.2 innings for the Lutes this year.

Whitworth’s Arory (also goes by A.J.) Milyard (so., North Kitsap) has appeared in seven games for the Pirates (22-13, 13-8 NWC), all in relief. He has pitched 13.1 innings and has an 8.10 ERA.

Around the NWAC:

Olympic College: Alex Sablan (South Kitsap, so.) leads the Rangers with a .353 batting average and 22 RBI. He has 11 doubles and two triples. … Matt Noll (Bremerton, fr.) is the Rangers’ third-leading hitter with a .260 average. Batting leadoff, he has four doubles and a triple. … Go to for complete OC and NWAC statistics.

Edmonds: Outfielder Jesse Moore (South Kitsap, redshirt fr.) is hitting .322 with five home runs, 27 RBI and 10 stolen bases for the defending NWAC champs. Paul Gehring, former Bremerton High, Olympic College Centralia CC and York College catcher, is the top assistant at Edmonds.

Tacoma: Catcher Riley Paschal (Central Kitsap, fr.) is hitting .176 in a backup role for the Titans.

Pierce: Conner Sharp (South Kitsap, fr.) has appeared in four games, pitching six innings with a 9.00 ERA.

Bellevue: Outfielder Dylan Vchulek (Bainbridge, fr.) is among the NWAC’s top hitters with a .356 average, 10 stolen bases and five RBI. … First baseman Tino Peleti (Bainbridge, fr.) is hitting .212 with a homer and six RBI for the Bulldogs. … Tracy Casey Bohlmann, former Central Kitsap, Bellevue and Hawaii Pacific Hilo pitcher, is an assistant at Bellevue.

Everett: C/DH Tyler Pinkerson (South Kitsap, fr.) is hitting a robust .364 in 21 games for the Trojans. … Shortstop Kevin Whatley (South Kitsap, so.) is hitting .219.

Shoreline: Drey McInnes (Bremerton, fr.) starts at shortstop and bats leadoff for the Dolphins. He’s hitting .226 with a home run.

Green River: Catcher/infielder Rob Ackerley (Bainbridge, fr.) has played in 23 games and is hitting .253.

Yakima: Pitcher Shane Crowell (North Kitsap, fr.) is 3-0 with a save and 4.21 ERA. In 21.3 innings, he’s allowed 22 hits, 11 runs, struck out 10 and walked five.

Grays Harbor: 1B Bryce Gourley (.200 in 11 games) and OF Mitchell Gourley (.229 in 15 games), both from Port Orchard, are playing for the Chokers.





Gold Mountain alums doing OK in the Masters

At least six golfers who have passed through Gold Mountain on their way to successful PGA careers were playing in the Masters the past two days.

You probably have heard of some of them.

Justin Spieth is having a historic tournament, setting a record for the lowest score through 36 holes (64-66—130). Spieth’s connection to Gold Mountain? The lad from Texas won the U.S. Junior Amateur  in 2011.

Dustin Johnson set a Masters record with three eagles on Friday enroute to shooting a 67. He’s tied for third at 137, a really good score, but seven back of the Spiethmaster. Johnson was at Gold Mountain in 2004 when he tied for seventh in the Husky Invitational while playing for Coastal Carolina.

Jonas Blixt is tied for 19th after rounds of 72-70. Blixt was a senior at Florida State when he passed through Gold Mountain for the NCAA regionals in 2008. Blixt tied for second with Spieth at the 2014 Masters, which was won by Bubba Watson, and was fourth at the 2013 PGA Championship.

Keegan Bradley won a PGA Championship in 2011, the same year Spieth was running the table at the Junior Amateur at Gold Mountain. Bradley played his college golf for St. John’s and he found his way to Bremerton for the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links. He lost in the second round of match play. Bradley is tied for 27th at Augusta after rounds of 71-72.

Florida’s Billy Horschel also lost in the first round at the 2006 APL. He missed the cut at the Masters, as did Luke Donald, a native of England who was playing for Northwestern when he finished in a four-way tied for second at the 1998 Husky Invitational. Donald was the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year in 2011, when he won four events and wound up as the No. 1-ranked player in the world. Horschel tied for fourth at the 2013 U.S. Open and made 23 straight cuts at one point during that season.

Did you know? The University of Washington will host the NCAA West Regionals on May 14-16 at Gold Mountain.





Getting excited about the Pumas and US Open Cup

The Sun’s soccer expect, Jeff Graham, is home with his newborn baby, so I’m going to ramble on with a little soccer news about your hometown Kitsap Pumas.

If you’re a fan of the Pumas, you probably know by now that they will open the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup against FC Tacoma of the National Premier Soccer League on May 13. The game will be played at Mount Tahoma High School at 6:30 p.m.

The winner of the first-round game will play the Sounders FC 2, the first-year USL side, on May 20 at Starfire Complex in Tukwila at 7:30 p.m. Here’s the complete Round 1 and Round 2 draw.

The Pumas’ 1-0 victory over the Laredo Heat for the 2011 USL Premier Development League championship at Bremerton’s Memorial Field remains the highlight for the franchise, which hosted the Final Four. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Here’s Jeff’s game story and my column after that championship match.

The Pumas, which lost the PDL championship game to the Michigan Bucks 2-1 a year ago, are one of 91 teams competing for the championship of the United States. The Open Cup is the second-longest, continuously- running soccer tournament in the world. This is the 102nd edition and my favorite memory was the run the Pumas made in 2011.

Kitsap won a first-round match on the road at El Paso, took down a solid Colorado Rapids side at home in the second round and then traveled across the water to take on the Sigi Schmid’s Sounders. Before an enthusiastic crowd of 3,811, the Pumas hung with the MSL boys before falling, 2-1.

It was great drama and entertainment and the performance carried the team, then coached by current Seattle University head man Peter Fewing, to the PDL championship later in the season.

Now, they’ve got another chance to make a run in a really cool tournament. It looks like new coach Cameron MacDonald, an assistant a year ago, has done a nice job of assembling another quality team, one that will challenge for another PDL championship. The Northwest Division is comprised of just seven teams. Here’s the Pumas’ PDL schedule.

If they can get past Tacoma FC and Sounders 2, they would likely face a team from the North American Soccer League (Division II). Third-round winners will earn dates with a team from the MSL.

The odds are against it, but how much fun would it be if the Kitsap Pumas could find a way to earn another shot at the MSL Sounders, who won a record fourth US Open Cup a year ago?

Also: Here’s a look at Karamba Janneh, an exciting striker signed by the Pumas. He placed for the Ocala Stampede, which lost to the Pumas in the national semifinals, a year ago. … The Victoria Highlanders, one of the most successful PDL teams in terms of organization and attendance, ceased operations in February, but recently announced they will field a team in the Pacific Coast Soccer League, an adult league based in British Columbia.

Opening Day: Thoughts and links about the Mariners

Before you hear the umpire yell “Play Ball!” today at Safeco Field, here’s some thoughts about the Seattle Mariners, one for every inning of today’s game (1:10 p.m., ROOT TV):

1, The Skipper: After going through Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu and Eric Wedge, I think the Mariners have finally found the right guy to lead this club in Lloyd McClendon. He seems to have that right mix of fire and steadiness. He knows how to keep his veteran stars like Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano happy, and instill confident in the role guys. He’d been a manager before in Pittsbugh, and worked seven years under Jim Leyland in Detroit. Seattle improved 16 games in the win column in McClendon’s first year. He’s got more talent to work with now. It should be, as all of the pundits are telling you, a fun season.

Here’s a really good story by Jerry Crasnick about McClendon carrying the torch as the only African-American manager in the majors.

 2, If Fernando Rodney stumbles, and I don’t know why I think he might, I’m not worried. Yoervis Medina, Carson Smith, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen — part of a bullpen that was as good as any in baseball a year ago — all have what it takes to be closers. Farquhar saved 16 games in 2013 when he was thrust into that role. Here’s an analytical look at why some think Rodney, who had 48 saves in 2014, might fall off a bit in 2015.

3, Expecting big things:   When Taijuan Walker got an opportunity last season, he wasn’t ready for it. Physically, yes, but mentally, no. Now he’s ready to take steps toward establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Walker’s delivery is so smooth and the ball just flies when he releases it. You wonder how he generates so much power. It’s kind of like a Freddy Couples drive. Effortless. He starts the season as Seattle’s No. 4 starter. He might be No. 2 by the end of the year.

4, Reason for caution: I wrote about it last month, and several others have made the same point. The outfielders are going to have to prove to me that they can produce on a consistent basis. Based on what we saw a year ago I think it’s justified to be a little concerned about center fielder and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson (.229/.267/.260 slash line after coming over from Detroit). And, OK, I don’t follow baseball like I used to but I’d never heard of Seth Smith or Justin Ruggiano until the Mariners acquired them. Dustin Ackley? He’s a career .245 hitter. Rickie Weeks is the one piece I’m reasonably confident about. To borrow a quote from Lou Piniella, “He’s a professional hitter.”

5, Experience: I like the fact that the Mariners are no longer a young team. This is a veteran team, with stars like Hernandez, Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Hiashi Iwakuma. There are no rookies on the club. Art Thiel of sportspress.nw writes that the Mariners have no one younger than 24 or older than 34 in Monday’s starting lineup. I also like the fact Seattle won’t be counting on Justin Smoak this season.

6, Speaking of Iwakuma: With King Felix and Walker, and talented lefty James Paxton and  newcomer J.A. Happ garnering a lot of preseason attention, Hishashi Iwakuma tends to get   overlooked at times. We forget how good he is. When he’s got the splitting diving, he’s one of the premier pitchers in the game. Remember 2013 when he was 14-6 and finished third in the Cy Young balloting (Felix was eighth that year). Kuma ranked second in the AL in WHIP (a club-record 1.006), third in ERA (2.66), innings (219 2/3) and opponents’ batting average (.220), fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.40) and quality starts (23), and fifth in opponents’ OPS (.630). He battled some arm issues a year ago, but still managed to make 28 starts and finished with a 15-9 record and 3.52 ERA. The arm was strong this spring, and I think you can look for another All-Star type of season out of the right-hander, who is in the final year of a 3-year, $20  million deal.

7, Beer: Yes, it’s expensive, but the options at Safeco Field are endless. I bet you can’t sample one of each before the end of the season.

8, In case you missed it: This is the preview about the Mariners from Sports Illustrated, Lookout Landing, and a prediction column by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times about the Mariners putting it all together after years of disappointments (there are also links to other previews stories). And Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (his stuff also appears in The Sun) had a good story on Opening Day starter Felix Hernandez.

9, Road trip: The Mariners are in San Francisco to play the defending World Champion Giants on June 15 (Monday, 7:15 p.m.) and 16 (Tuesday, 12:45 p.m.), and the Giants are in Seattle June 17 (Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.) and June 18 (Thursday, 7:10 p.m.). That’s a four-game series I’d like to see.



Villopoto wins in Thailand

In case you missed it — and I did — Ryan Villopoto has already secured his first victory in the World Motocross Grand Prix Championships.

After placing seventh in the season opener at Dubai, where some critics wondered if the American was really all that, the rider from Poulsbo bounced back to win in Thailand.

Villopoto won four-time Supercross championships, stamping himself as one of the all-time greats, but decided to skip the 2015 season and head to Europe for the MXGP World Championships. It’s the first time in the modern era of motocross that a U.S. rider has competed in the full series. For Villopoto it’s a one-shot deal. He says he’s retiring at the end of the year.

The next race is March 29 in Argentina.

Chandler, Edwards, Owens, Sumners, Walker, Pocock elected to state HOF

The Washington State Hall of Fame announced its class of six inductees on Thursday morning. Here’s the press release:

Chris Chandler and James Edwards, who starred at the University of Washington then went on to long pro careers in football and basketball respectively, are among six individuals voted this year into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame.

The others are figure skater Rosalynn Sumners, women’s basketball phenom Joyce Walker, the late Post-Intelligencer sports columnist John Owen and legendary racing shell builder George Pocock.

 “This is a wonderful class for our hall of fame that started in 1960,” said executive director Marc Blau. “It was selected by a panel of experts, many of them sportswriters and broadcasters, from throughout the state.”

Chandler, who earned letters in five sports at Everett High School, was MVP of two bowl games as a Husky. In his 17-year NFL career he passed for 170 touchdowns and more than 28,000 yards. He led Atlanta into the 1999 Super Bowl after a 14-2 regular season record.

Edwards, a 7-footer from Roosevelt High School, played 19 seasons in the NBA following an All-American career as a Husky. He won two NBA championship rings with Detroit (1989, 1990) and one with Chicago (1996). He scored 14,862 points and collected 6,004 rebounds in his pro career.

Walker is considered one of the best female basketball players in state history. She led Garfield to a state championship and in the 1980 tournament opener outscored the entire Renton team with 40 points in a 68-35 victory. She starred at Louisiana State where she averaged 25 points, played in Europe and later was one of the first women to play with the Harlem Globetrotters. She is the girl’s basketball coach at Garfield and formerly assisted at Kingston.

Sumners, who grew up in Edmonds, was world figure skating junior champion in 1980, U.S. champion in 1982, 1983 and 1984 and a silver medalist in the 1984 Winter Olympics.

  Owen was at the P-I for 36 years until 1993 and seven times was named state sportswriter of the year. He was sports editor as well as columnist for much of that span and also wrote a popular food column “Intermediate Eater” that he continued to write after retiring. Owen died last year.

Pocock was a native of England and a master boatbuilder who was invited by UW rowing coach Hiram Conibear to establish his shell-building business on campus. He mentored UW coaches and athletes and became famous internationally as a boat-builder and rowing authority. His expertise and contributions to the 1936 UW crew that won the Olympic Gold Medal are described in the best-selling book “The Boys in the Boat.”

 The State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame was started by sportscaster Clay Huntington of Tacoma. The addition of this year’s class will bring the total of inductees to 195. An induction ceremony will be held at Safeco Field prior to a Seattle Mariners game at a date to be determined. Plaques honoring hall of fame members are on display in the Tacoma Dome at the Shanaman Sports Museum.

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