Oregon Sports News

Seattle Mariners – A week of mettle tests

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USA Today

Seattle Mariners – A week of mettle tests

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This past week felt longer than it had to for the Seattle Mariners.

The team hadn’t had a day off since May 7th, unless you count the delayed and later postponed game on the 11thin Detroit, which might have boded more tiresome than actually playing a full nine innings. This delay set off a chain reaction of feet-dragging events.

After the postponed game, the Mariners split a double-header against the Tigers the following day and ended up losing the series on the next day. The day that followed saw them travel up to Minnesota in an effort to make up for a game that was rained out on the 8th of April. The Mariners beat the Twins on that day after yet another rain delay and flew back home, arriving in Seattle in the darkest hours of the night. They managed to go 2-2 within three days and had a whole week of games to go until they were to see another off day.

But Tuesday morning brought even darker skies to Seattle, as a metaphorical storm was brewing for the Mariners front office. On Tuesday, May 15th, Robinson Canó was suspended for testing positive for Furosemide, a known PED masking agent. He is suspended for 80 games without pay and if the Mariners are to make the playoffs this season, Canó would be ineligible to play.

It was a cataclysmic Tuesday morning. Sports media outlets were burning every lead they could to find out every bit of information about the suspension and PED usage. Twitter was divided into three factions; Objective reporters, Canó supporters, and Canó accusers. The Mariners players had just come off a bad weather weekend and woke up to a torrential downpour of tweets and blurbs about their star teammate. But metaphorical rains do not delay games. The show had to go on as the Mariners were set to face the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers the rest of the week.

The Mariners scrambled. They called up Gordon Beckham from Tacoma. They began transitioning Dee Gordon back to second base. They called up Christian Bergman for a start and optioned him back to Tacoma to call up Ryan Cook, the 30-year-old right-handed reliever who had not been on a big-league mound in two years. In the process, the Mariners designated Erik Goeddel for assignment. It was all hands on deck for the Mariners, trying to cover the gaping hole at second base and make the most of what they have.

And thanks to the Robinson Canó foofaraw, the Mariners were given the opportunity to prove that they are the prime example of what a team should be; a true sum of parts working together to win games. A team made up of various players, not just one mega-star.

Out of the six games the Mariners have had without Canó, they’ve won four. These wins included complete games by pitchers, walk-offs, and come-from-behind wins with lineups that not only were Canó-deficient, but sans Nelson Cruz as well, since he was hit by a pitch on Tuesday and had to take a couple of rest days.

This 2018 Mariners team is a team that, even if they are down and out, they find ways to make things work. In wake of the Canó news, they team banded together like brothers, and the fanbase followed suit. Off the field, they have chemistry and on the field, they have grit. Criticize what you will about intangibles, but the Mariners are every bit as talented as any team in the American League. Pitching may still be an issue, but with Canó’s suspension allowing an empty spot on the roster, the Mariners have an opportunity to keep their success moving despite the setbacks.

And that’s the thing about this team. They’ve managed to end this long and terrible week on a high note despite all the setbacks that came their way. Like Safeco Field, the Mariners too have a roof to shield them on the days were the downpour is just too much to handle, and that roof is their comradery as teammates and talent as players.  If they can keep it up, they can be ten games above .500 by Wednesday night and potentially in first place if the Astros drop their next two games. If they can ride this wave of success against all odds, their June schedule might not seem as daunting, as they are set to face the Red Sox and the Yankees, powerhouses of the east.

The Mariners are a bounce-back team this year. It’s time they bounce back from years and years of misery.

Seattle Mariners – All hands on deck in the American League West

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USA Today

Seattle Mariners – All hands on deck in the American League West

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The American League West is the place to be.

Let us start in the middle. The American League Central Division is currently being led by the Cleveland Indians who, as of this writing, have a 17-17 record. The Twins and the Tigers are following closely behind the Indians at 2 and 2.5 games respectively.

This is not the epitome of competition. The Indians are one game away from being sub-.500. The division as a whole has been held back by injuries and weather. They are competing amongst themselves, surely, for the playoff spot their division bestows upon the leader. But when it comes to playing teams outside of their division, teams in the AL Central have not been able to make the cut, winning only 17 games and losing 37 games against teams in the West and the East.

The East, on the other hand, has been dominated by the Red Sox and the Yankees, each having won at least 24 of their first 34 games played. The Red Sox are currently in first place with the Yankees trailing by only a single game. In their rivalrous battling for the division lead, both teams have been able to gain a significant lead ahead of their divisional counterparts, pulling ahead of the Blue Jays and the Rays and completely obliterating the Orioles, who are 8-26 on the season.

This has created an AL East division that is completely top-heavy. Though the season is young, one can assess that the division lead will go to either Boston or New York, since both teams have such a stellar record to start the season. The first wild card spot in the American League will go to whichever of the two powerhouses is not on top.

Which leads to the American League West Division, current residence of the Seattle Mariners. Because of the intensity and sheer win percentages the Red Sox and the Yankees have brought to their division, and the lackluster performances of the Central, the West is by far the most competitive division in the American league.

The West has the reigning World Series Champion Astros, whose pitching has been devastatingly superb. The West has, arguably, the best players in baseball. The West has four of five teams that theoretically have a chance at a postseason berth. It is because of this that the Mariners need to take an all hands on deck approach to the next part of the season.

As of this writing, the Angels currently lead the division with a record of 21-13 on the season. The Astros also have 21 wins, but with 15 losses, they’ve managed to fall to second place. The Mariners are in third, trailing only by 1.5 games. The A’s are trailing first place by only three games after sweeping the Orioles this weekend.

Other than the Rangers, each team has a reasonable chance at being on top. Next week these standings can be completely flipped. It is that close. And with a Wild Card spot almost guaranteed (despite the sample size) to either the Red Sox or the Yankees, each team in the AL West is contending for either the division lead, or the second Wild Card spot.

So far, the Mariners have faced each of their divisional counterparts at least once. They are 9-7 against teams in their division, which is in line with the Astros, who are 8-6. Though they are above .500 against their division, the wrath of the Angels is strong. After defeating the Mariners in two out of three games this weekend, the Angels’ record against the division stands at 12-3.

The Mariners have only lost two series this season, each of those losses coming from the two teams that are above them in the AL West standings. The M’s have been crafty in their contact, scoring runs in necessary situations and combining small and long ball, but have struggled when opponents take early leads. They need to reassess their approach in these scenarios. Such as they did in their only win against the Angels.

After being down by four runs, the Mariners managed to score in the sixth and eighth innings and took a two-run lead into the ninth. The Angels tied, and began a battle that would last until the eleventh, with each team scoring in each extra inning.

The Mariners, when cornered, when their backs were to the wall, managed to come back and fight for a win. In those innings, they took pitches, they waited to make good contact, relievers kept the ball on the ground. That strategic desperation is what allowed them to take a win in the end.

The Mariners need to see that when push comes to shove, they have the ability to make do with what they have. They will struggle and they will fall as they always have, but this team has what it takes to pick themselves up again. It will not be easy, not against this division, but if they can win against the Angels with the circumstances they faced, even if it was only one game, the M’s have more than just a dying chance at a postseason berth.

2018 Oregon Sports News NFL Draft – First Round Reactions … And Overreactions

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USA Today

2018 Oregon Sports News NFL Draft – First Round Reactions … And Overreactions

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First Round Reactions… and Overreactions

Winner of the Night… Los Angeles Chargers

A lot of people had the Chargers targeting a quarterback to be the heir to the throne when Phillip Rivers hangs it up. They likely would have had to trade up to grab a quarterback that they wanted. They didn’t have to do that to get a complete game changer for their team.

Dane Brugler is the NFL Draft scout that I respect the most. He puts everything into his scouting and evaluations of NFL players. He had Derwin James as his #8 player on his board. The Chargers sat and took him with #17. The Chargers add a freak athlete at the safety position.

Loser of the Night… New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints were set to pick towards the end of the first round at pick #27. All of a sudden the Saints were on the clock after trading for the #14 pick in the draft. They gave the Packers the #27 pick, the #147 pick, and their 1st round pick in 2019. Two first round picks and a 5th round pick to move up 13 spots. This has to be for the quarterback of the future, right?

They used the pick to draft Marcus Davenport, the Edge rusher from University of Texas – San Antonio.

Davenport is a raw pass rusher who has never played a high level of competition. Davenport played basketball and ran track in high school. He still has a lot of development in front of him to become worthy of all of the assets the Saints gave up.

Davenport could be a stud… but when the Saints were set to pick at #27 the more established rusher, Harold Landry, was on the board!

Quarterbacks

Baker Mayfield going first was no surprise if you were paying any attention to ESPN’s Adam Schefter at all on Draft Day. Sam Darnold goes to New York… the Jets. Josh Allen lands in Buffalo, where a lot of people thought he would. Josh Rosen winds up in the desert with the Cardinals.

For the first time in Draft history, four quarterbacks go in the Top-10.

Lamar Jackson later went to the Baltimore Ravens as the 32nd pick in the first round to make up the five quarterbacks that everybody thought would go in the first.

My favorite quote of the night was by the #10 pick Rosen, who said “there were 9 mistakes ahead of me.”

Running Backs

Saquon Barkley went to the New York Giants with the #2 pick. After that there was a lot of silence on the running back front until the Seahawks took Rashaad Penny with the 27th pick.

Both picks are crazy to me.

Barkley is a great back but I have said all along that the Giants needed to draft their quarterback of the future. Instead they took a running back at #2.

Then the Seahawks drafted Penny later on. Penny is a good back, but should have had no place in the first round. Penny is a small back that is brutally bad in pass protection. The Seahawks offensive line is bad enough already. You have to have a running back that can pick up a block occasionally.

After those two, Sony Michel went to the New England Patriots, which is an absolutely great fit.

There is SO MUCH running back talent left for Day Two of the NFL Draft. Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, Kerryon Johnson, and Nick Chubb. All of whom I have rated as better running backs than who the Seahawks drafted in the first round.

Best Available Headed into Friday’s 2nd & 3rd Rounds

  1. Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
  2. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
  3. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
  4. Justin Reid, S, Stanford
  5. James Daniels, OC, Iowa
  6. Ronald Jones, RB, USC
  7. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
  8. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
  9. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
  10. Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
  11. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
  12. Rasheem Green, DE, USC
  13. Connor Williams, OG, Texas
  14. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
  15. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

Why the Seattle Seahawks traded back in the draft

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USA Today

Why the Seattle Seahawks traded back in the draft

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The Seattle Seahawks trading their first-round pick to move back is nothing new for fans. We see this year after year because we understand that the NFL Draft is a big gamble. A scout can only do so much to predict if a college prospect will succeed in the NFL, and that leads to some of the best players in the NFL being drafted after the top picks in the first-round. Last year’s Pro Bowl game featured 86 players and only 34 of them were first-round picks.

I know that is not a perfect example, but it illustrates my point that the draft is a crapshoot. The smartest decision is to get more picks so you have a higher chance of getting a player that can contribute and excel for years. This year Seattle has more holes than usual and they need a couple guys that can come in and play significant snaps immediately. I believe the Seahawks need players at every position except for quarterback this year. Linebacker is the Seahawks second most stable position so I would avoid drafting a linebacker early as well.

Best case scenario is the Seahawks trade back in the first-round and then make another trade back into the second-round. They would accumulate at least four to five picks in this year and next year’s draft, that increases their chances of finding a starter or impact player.

What they got from the trade-

After making a trade with the Green Bay Packers the Hawks have a third-round and a sixth-round pick to play with, along with their original picks. The Seahawks believed Rashaad Penny was the right fit for them at pick 27, and they even said they were going to pick him at 18 until their trade was finalized. So, they got the trade they were looking for and the player they wanted. I wanted them to trade back but when Derwin James was almost available at our pick I wanted him on the team. He was the only player at that point that I would have taken over a trade.

Now, Seattle has Penny and will fit him into the offense. He has big play ability and has shown consistency throughout his career at San Diego State University. I wrote about him in an earlier article about which prospects I wanted Seattle to pick in this draft. I think he is an instant upgrade to our running back group and he could be the missing piece in the offense.

Snap Draft Judgements-

I liked the Seahawks moves, I thought they got what they could for a trade and selected someone they felt strongly about.

Lamar Jackson will be the best quarterback coming out of this draft class.

Derwin James will win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Sony Michel will score 10 touchdowns this year with the New England Patriots.

Josh Allen will not pan out but will flash enough potential that he starts for three years.

I liked the New Orleans Saints’ trade the most out of all the trades, except for the one for Lamar Jackson, they got one of the best pass rushers in the draft to add to an improving defense.

I was tooting Frank Ragnow’s horn throughout the draft process and was very happy he was the first center picked.

I am very surprised both Harold Landry and Josh Jackson are still on the board for the second-round.

Justin Herbert is taking on a new leadership role

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USA Today

Justin Herbert is taking on a new leadership role

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Although Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert is already considered to be one of the favorites this year to win the Heisman trophy, in order to seal the deal, his offense has to thrive. This means that Herbert, along with his young, talented wide receivers will have to step up and make big plays against teams like Stanford, Washington, and Utah. The only problem, however, is that this has been a difficult task for Oregon to accomplish throughout the past couple seasons.

To make matters worse, wide receiver production has crumbled throughout the years in Eugene, ever since the departure of Marcus Mariota — the 2014 Heisman trophy winner. But not all hope is lost for the Ducks, since they have candidates that can turn things. Aside from Herbert himself — who’s demonstrated key leadership skills in the classroom due to his academic achievement, the Oregon Ducks also have their receivers. Dillon Mitchell, Johnny Johnson III, and Brenden Schooler have all shown head coach Mario Cristobal and quarterback Justin Herbert what they can do with the ball in their hands.

In order to be recognized nationally and win the Pac-12, however, the Oregon offense will have to put up big-time numbers. How much are we talking? They’ll have to put up at least 950 more yards than they did last year. In other words, their offense would have to average out between Mariota and Vernon Adams Jr. in order for Herbert to get an invitation to New York in 2019 for the upcoming draft. With that much pressure on their plate, it’s easy for athletes like Herbert to forget how important rest and rejuvenation are when it comes to staying energized and injury free.

What needs to be done moving forward?

Oregon has to find ways to put the ball in the hands of their playmakers. Schooler, who’s become one of those much-needed players did well during his first season as a wide receiver. In fact, he did so well, fans forgot he was once a safety as he caught three touchdown passes and averaged 13.7 yards per catch last year. Now that he has a full year of practice under his belt at the wide receiver position, Schooler has shifted his focus from learning the plays to leading his team to victory.

Mitchell (another much-needed receiver), not only led the team in receptions, he also led the team in receiving yards. That, however, hasn’t slowed down his work ethics, which means this is another key player Oregon can count on. Johnson III, who’s become a return specialist for the team has also improved throughout the off-season. With that kind of potential, along with a healthy quarterback, the Oregon ducks could easily find themselves making a run for the Pac-12 championship.

One other thing that makes the receiver’s abilities even stronger is the relationship they all have with their quarterback. Michael Johnson III, for instance, noted that their quarterback is pretty special and that guys enjoy being around him — another key leadership quality that Herbert has shown his teammates throughout the off-season. The question fans are wondering, however, is with so much talent surrounding Eugene, can Oregon pull through and be the team they were three years ago? If everyone can stay healthy and Herbert can avoid having another season dealing with chronic pain, then the Ducks could possibly be a top contender. For now, however, only time will tell.

How Will They Do This Year? – Seattle Seahawks’ Schedule Prediction

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OR Sports News

How Will They Do This Year? – Seattle Seahawks’ Schedule Prediction

BY TIM KEARNY, Oregon Sports News

The NFL regular season schedule has just been announced. We finally have a better sense of what this year will look like. And with that knowledge comes predictions. So here they are, my pre-draft 2018 Seattle Seahawks predictions.

Week 1- Denver Broncos W

The Seahawks pull out the win against the team they beat for their first Super Bowl in franchise history. The Broncos are a far cry from what they were when these two teams faced on the league’s biggest stages.

Week 2- Chicago Bears W

Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are not enough to beat Seattle in Week 2. The Seahawks are able to load up against the run and scratch out a victory in their first primetime game of 2018.

Week 3- Dallas Cowboys W

Without Dez Bryant the Cowboys passing game won’t be able to get off the ground against Seattle. Just like with the Bears they are able to load the box against the run and beat the Cowboys.

Week 4- Arizona Cardinals W

The Cardinals do not have a great quarterback situation right now and that will hurt the entire team. This is the first divisional game of 2018 and the Seahawks will somehow struggle in this matchup and Arizona gets the win in Week 4.

Week 5- Los Angeles Rams L

LA is too much for Seattle to handle in Week 5 and they put a hurt on the Seahawks this week. They have too much firepower on both sides of the ball for Seattle to win this game so early in the year.

Week 6- Las Vegas Raiders W

The Raiders game is a toss-up at this point. It is in London and the Raiders are hard to project going into the season, but I believe they lose to Seattle at this point, because of some Russell Wilson heroics.

Week 7- Bye Week

Week 8- Detroit Lions L

Luke Willson gets his first game against his former team here, and I do not think he gets a catch in this contest. Seattle will smother the Lions coming off of their Bye Week with a terrific defensive performance.

Week 9- Los Angeles Chargers L

The Chargers are still trying to put everything together this year and I think they will find a way to win against Seattle in this matchup. Philip Rivers finds a way to win in this Week 9 game.

Week 10- Los Angeles Rams W

Seattle gets revenge in this second game against the division rival Rams. It is the home stretch of the year and the Seahawks are going to find their groove gearing up for the postseason.

Week 11- Green Bay Packers W

This is a Thursday Night game against one of Seattle’s biggest non-division rivals. And the Seahawks are very good in primetime games, this does not bode well for a Packers team that still has Aaron Rodgers but little else this year, the Seahawks win this game handily.

Week 12- Carolina Panthers L

The Seahawks are coming into this game hot off a couple of good wins, but the Panthers find a way to win this one. Russell never gets untracked against the defense and they can’t pull out the victory here.

Week 13- San Francisco 49ers W

The Seahawks finally get to play the 49ers in Week 13, and they have no problem rolling over them. Pundits are very high on the 49ers this year but they are still at least another year away from being an outside contender for the Super Bowl. Seattle wins this one going away.

Week 14- Minnesota Vikings L

The Vikings are a very good team and they have only gotten better this offseason. This is not going to be a pretty game with both defenses slugging it out but I think the Vikings win this game by at least a touchdown at this point.

Week 15- San Francisco 49ers W

In the Seahawks’ second game against the 49ers in two weeks the get to flex their muscles. Seattle wins another division game and gets to nine wins on the year.

Week 16- Kansas City Chiefs W

Seattle will be fighting for playoff position at this point of the year and the Chiefs won’t be able to stop them. With a new quarterback and some changes on defense the Chiefs cannot pull this game out and lose handily to the Seahawks.

Week 17- Arizona Cardinals W

In the finale of the 2018 regular season Seattle is looking for their eleventh win of the year and possibly first place in the division. I think they are down at halftime but end up winning this game and securing a berth in the playoffs.

Prediction: 11-5 but they are still second in the division to the Rams and are a wild card playoff team.

What Are The Seattle Seahawks Telling Fans About Potential First Pick?

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OSN

What Are The Seattle Seahawks Telling Fans About Potential First Pick?

BY: SEBASTIAN PYCIOR

Since Marshawn Lynch’s time had ended in Seattle, the Seahawks have been desperately searching for an identity in the backfield. Rawls, Prosise, Lacy, and Carson are just some of the names that have rolled through the backfield since Beast Mode left. With the draft coming up, fans hope that the Hawks select a running back with the kind of personality that can get tough yards and make big plays in the zone-running scheme. Even the Oregon Sports News staff have the Seahawks going with Derrius Guice in the mock draft.

Plain and simple, fans in the northwest want a running back workhorse.

It’s clear that the Seahawks have met with Derrius Guice, a definite 1st round running back talent, but the team has also met with a variety of other premiere talents. These other visits consist primarily of players working in the trenches.

Chalk it up to a team just doing its homework, but there seems to be a consensus on grabbing a lineman in the first round. Former University of Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea paid a visit to Seahawks’ brass yesterday. H’s a prospect that probably won’t fall as far as the Seahawks could hope for, and given that Seattle isn’t well stocked in mid-round draft picks, the team can’t even think to move up a couple of rungs on the ladder just to ensure Vea’s selection. The Seahawks have also met with other prospects that are expected to hover around the 18th pick in the draft including linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and wide receiver Christian Kirk.

The thing about sitting at the 18th spot is that there’s no guarantee that a gem could fall to the Seahawks. Most of these guys like Vita Vea will be gone.

There’s one move that could move the Seahawks up the draft board, and that’s by pairing their current 1st round pick with Earl Thomas. As draft day gets closer, and the fact that the Seahawks won’t be picking for a while after the 18th pick, this thought experiment doesn’t seem too farfetched. If you’re only going to have one pick, might as well work on getting the highest pick possible.

Seeing how Richard Sherman left without the Seahawks getting any real compensation outside of some cap savings, I doubt that the team will ship Thomas. Why not trade down?

The Seahawks have also visited with prospects like defensive lineman Maurice Hurst, running back Akrum Wadley, and running back Kalen Ballage. Even cornerback prospect like Isaiah Oliver can be available on the second day of the draft, and although the Seahawks did their due diligence, they just won’t be able to get a chance at selecting him.

Thinking about running backs, Wadley and Ballage promise that the depth at the position will be there on the second day of the draft. Seattle might not need a flashy name in the first round to carry the ball.

The visit with Vita Vea is promising, and the Seahawks are telling fans that they’re indeed trying to move up in the draft if possible. Should that fail, look for the Seahawks to trade out of the first round in exchange for draft picks on the second day. This will allow them to bring in more bodies for depth and potentially find a day one starter.

But, don’t be surprised if the Seahawks decide to package Earl Thomas and their first pick for a bevy of mid-round picks in this deep draft. It just so happens that the Dallas Cowboys have opened up cap space to absorb Earl Thomas. The Seahawks would swap 1st round picks and at the very least see a 3rd round pick in return. Dallas is desperate for a free safety, so they might have to give a little more to sway the Seahawks.

 

Unsolved Mysteries – The Seattle SuperSonics

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OSN

Unsolved Mysteries – The Seattle SuperSonics

BY: CASEY MABBOTT, OR Sports News

For nearly a decade, the Seattle SuperSonics have been relegated to the past tense. Once a staple in the NBA, they are now the league’s lone cold case, with few willing to relive the events that became the demise of the once proud franchise. 

The Sonics played their final home game on April 13th, 2008, a win over the Dallas Mavericks. They finished their season three days later on the road facing Golden State, a game in which rookie of the year Kevin Durant scored 42 points. 

Two months later in the 2008 NBA Draft, Seattle selected point guard Russell Westbrook and forward Serge Ibaka, who would become franchise building blocks in the years to come. 

Except, there were not any years to come, because that was the last time Seattle did anything in the NBA. 

In 1996, the Sonics were one of the best teams in the league, returning to the Finals for the first time since 1978, losing in 6 games to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Their stellar lineup of Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Sam Perkins, and aging vets Nate McMillian and Detlef Schrempf appeared ready to take a title in the next 2-3 years, and everything was perfect in Seattle.

Except that there was trouble, and the family didn’t seem to want to stay together. 

Kemp was unhappy with his contract, and wanted to renegotiate. Due to the CBA at the time, the team could not alter his deal until 1997, instead spending a small fortune to bring in Jim McIlvaine, a seldom used shot blocking specialist whose career numbers make La’Var Ball’s college stats look stellar. Imagine seeing Damian Lillard take Portland to the Finals, demand a new deal, and see the team instead choose to highly over pay Meyers Leonard. There may not have been a way for the team to compensate their superstar, but you can see the problem. 

An extremely seasoned Craig Ehlo was brought on board in 1996-97, and the team made it to the 2nd round, losing to eventual champion Houston in seven games. Ehlo retired following the season and in a startling move, the team traded the extremely popular Kemp to Cleveland, signaling the end to what many consider the golden era in Seattle. In 1997-98, the Sonics added Vin Baker, Jerome Kersey, and Dale Ellis. They again advanced to the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to the Lakers in five games. 

In the 1998 offseason, the team continued its descent. Head coach George Karl, who led the team to Space Needle heights in the 1990’s, was out the door thanks to a disagreement with the front office on the direction of the team. He was not fired, he was just not invited back after his contract expired either. 

Nate McMillian, affectionately known by the fans as “Mr. Sonic”, retired, Sam Perkins and Jerome Kersey signed with new teams, and extremely unpopular center Jim McIlvaine was traded to New Jersey. They missed the playoffs in a strike shortened season in 1999, and by the start of the 2000 season, superstar point guard Gary Payton was the only player remaining from the 1996 Finals team. 

Barry Ackerley had owned the team since 1983 (after purchasing the Sonics from previous owner Sam Schulman who founded the team in 1967), and in 2001 sold the franchise to the Basketball Club of Seattle, led by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz 

The Coffee King of Seattle helped lure future Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing to the northwest after spending his collegiate and professional career on the east coast, but Ewing was well past his primed and the team struggled and missed the playoffs. Ewing left after just one year, returning to his beloved east coast. The team elevated Nate McMillian to head coach after firing Paul Wesphal. The Sonics made the playoffs in 2002, losing in the first round, and trading Vin Baker to the Celtics. 

In 2003, Gary Payton was traded to Milwaukee, officially ending the dreams of any Sonics fan to see Payton or Kemp win a title in Seattle. In return, the team was sent star shooting guard Ray Allen, known as supporting character Jesus Shuttlesworth in “He Got Game”. Allen definitely had game, as he led the team back to the playoffs in 2005, beating the Kings in the first round and losing to the eventual champion Spurs in the second round. Nate McMillian left for Portland and was replaced by Bob Weiss, who was replaced by Bob Hill in 2007. 

In 2006, following financial struggles related to poor performance and attendance as well as a lack of public funding for a new stadium, the Sonics were sold to the Professional Basketball Club LLC, led by Clay Bennett, who will be referred to here as puke face mcgee, of course in all lower case. As the group was from Oklahoma City and did not have professional or personal ties to the area, Schultz foolishly bought their intentions to represent OKC AND keep the team in Seattle, so he sold them the team, but also made certain that part of the sale included an agreement by the new ownership to make a “good faith effort” to keep the team in Seattle. Good faith, in OKC terms, means to hear millions of voices cry out, only to be suddenly silenced. With this agreement in place and the team still on a lease to play in Key Arena through the 2010 season, a move would not only be unlikely, but financially unrealistic. In other words, it meant that Clayface was about to pull one sickening joke over on the Seattle faithful. 

In 2007, Ray Allen was traded to Boston on draft day in exchange for Boston’s first round pick Jeff Green, who would be paired on the court with the Sonics’ first round pick Kevin Durant. The 19 year old Durant finished his rookie season with 20 points per game, joining LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as the only teenage players to average 20 points over an entire season. In his only season with the Sonics, Durant outplayed #1 overall selection Greg Oden by 82 games. 

During the 2007 season, as the Sonics struggled on the court, their ownership struggled (whether their hearts were in it or not – we’ve all seen the emails, they weren’t interested in Seattle) to secure public funding for a new stadium. The city passed a new measure that would make securing funding for stadiums very unlikely, and with pressure from the league to build a stadium that met current standards and capacity (Key Arena was the smallest venue in the league), Bennett and his extremely wealthy partners decided not to fund their own stadium, and instead began working on a newer, and darker plan. After watching too many Star Wars movies (and an excellent fan made documentary SonicsGate), I have reason to believe that this was their intention all along. 

The Sonics’ regular season ended on April 13th, and on April 18th, the league owners voted to allow Seattle to move to Oklahoma City. I know their season was bad, but I didn’t think it was a “good lord let’s get this riffraff the hell out of there” level of awful. Of the 30 owners, only Paul Allen and Mark Cuban voted against the move. After leaders in Seattle brought on a lawsuit and a failed attempt by a new group of investors to purchase the team back, on August 29th, new team owner Clay Bennett held a press conference to introduce his new team to the world, in a new city, with new fans.

And just like that, the Sonics, after being in the league for 41 years, disappeared without a trace, with many wondering if they will ever see them again. They had two owners from 1967-2001, and in one stretch of 8 years under bad ownership, everything fell apart. 

In 2013, a new investment group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer attempted to revive the Sonics. Their group intended to purchase the Sacramento Kings and relocate them to Seattle. The Kings agreed to the deal in principle, so long as the league approved the sale. But then hated rival point guard Kevin Johnson (formerly of the Phoenix Suns) who was somehow mayor of Sacramento at such a crucial time, stuck his foot in the door and countered with a lower offer. Golden State Warriors minority owner Vivek Randadive joined the Kings new investment group and it seemed that the Western Conference still had it in for the Sonics.  

Despite the King’s current owners publicly stating their intent to sell to Hansen’s investment group and not the locals, the league voted against allowing the Kings to relocate, which in turn forced Hansen to withdraw his offer. Because who wants to own a team in that place (Modern Family is cool though). 

As the league and the new local investors worked together, the Kings stayed in Sacramento and have a new stadium that opened in 2016, that is located on David J Stern Walk. And if that doesn’t make you want to puke, well, what will?

UPDATE: In 2017, the city of Seattle approved funding to renovate Key Arena to moder standards in order to attract potential NHL and NBA teams. The NHL is currently considering Seattle as the site of an expansion team. Currently, there are not any NBA teams considering relocating, and the league has no plans to expand. One can only hope that one day, the Sonics will be resurrected, and in their rightful place in Seattle. 

If you have any information on this case, write to us at Unsolved Mysteries… You need not give your name.

Preview of the 2018 Seattle Mariners – The Infield

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USA Today

Preview of the 2018 Seattle Mariners – The Infield

By 

As pitchers and catchers assemble in Peoria, Arizona with position players not far behind, it’s time to start thinking about baseball. Barring any last minute free-agent signings, the Seattle Mariners lineup is pretty much set for the 2018 season. Barring injuries, the following players will be in the infield for the Mariners for the majority of innings this season. Let’s take a look at what to expect in 2018.

Catcher – Mike Zunino

Two years removed from a horrendous 2015 season in which he hit .174/.230/.300, Mike Zunino has settled in behind the plate for the Seattle Mariners, posting a solid 3.6 fWAR while hitting .251/.331/.509 with 25 home runs. While Zunino still strikes out a ton – 36.8% last season – he makes up for it with solid defense behind the plate – ranked 13th in fielding runs by Baseball Prospectus – and is recognized by his peers for handling pitchers well.

This season he is projected by Steamer to hit .224/.298/.450 with 25 HR while catching around 110 games and adding roughly 2.5 WAR to the lineup. Zunino will turn 27 before opening day and agreed to a contract in arbitration for this year of $2.975MM. Barring injuries or any unexpected regressions, the M’s should be above average behind the dish.

First Base – Ryon Healy*

The majority of the plate appearances at first base should be by off-season acquisition, Ryon Healy. Healy, who came over from the Oakland Athletics in November, primarily played third but has played first as well. He is a big guy. Listed at 6’5”, 223, Healy hit .271/.302/.451 with 25 HR in 605 PA for the A’s last season. In a very small sample size, Healy seemed to be about league average defensively at 1B with one defensive run saved in 307.1 innings. At his size, he was expectedly below average at 3B, so the switch to 1B may generate more WAR for the Mariners than Healy did for the A’s last season, that being 0.2.

Ideally, it would be nice if Healy walked more – just 3.8% of the time last season for the A’s – which would improve his below average OBP of .302. Perhaps the M’s emphasis on “controlling the zone” could pay dividends this Spring. Steamer projects Healy to hit .259/.297/.430 with 16 HR and 0.1 WAR in 110 games. Depth Charts projections are a bit more bullish on Healy’s playing time at 140 games, but the same slash line of .259/.297/.430, albeit with 21 HR and 0.3 WAR.

However, many scouts have noted that Healy changed his mechanics in 2017 and that the power on display last year is legit, thus discounting many of the projection systems that predict major regression.

Playing on a pre-arbitration eligible contract in 2018 at age 26, Healy could either be a big surprise for the Mariners at 1B or the decided weak link in an otherwise top infield.

Second Base – Robinson Cano

In 2017, the fourth year of his ten year $240MM contract, at age 34, Robinson Cano remained productive at second base. Ranked ninth in the majors for the position in fWAR at 3.2, Cano hit .280/.338/.453 with 23 HR. His hitting and average defense – exactly zero DRS last season – made Cano one of only three Mariners hitters with 3 or more WAR. The other two being Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

For his age 35 season, Steamer projects Cano to put up a stat line very similar to last season – .282/.339/.470 with 25 HR, a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 116, roughly 16% better than league average, and a 3.1 WAR.

However, despite the above average numbers at his position, Cano is no longer one of the premiere hitters in the game. The 2017 campaign saw Cano post the second lowest wRC+ of his career. (The lowest of 86 came in 2008 with the New York Yankees was fueled by a .151 BA in April and speculation that he may have been injured and/or feeling the pressure of a new contract extension.) He also posted the third lowest WAR of his career, the others being that very same 2008 season and his second season with the Mariners when he battled an abdomen injury much of the season.

It’s interesting and possibly alarming that one of the most recent comps for a hitter of Cano’s profile, according to Baseball Reference, is former Texas Ranger 3B, SS, and 2B Michael Young. Young fell off precipitously at age 35, losing nearly seventy points off his lifetime SLG, dipping below .400, and retiring after his age 36 season. Cano isn’t going to retire with four or five years left on his contract, but then maybe the severity of Young’s drop off isn’t in the cards either, but a drop off is coming. But, for 2017, Cano should continue to be one of the best 2B in the league.

Shortstop – Jean Segura

In his first season with the Mariners, Jean Segura, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Taijuan Walker deal, produced 2.9 fWAR at shortstop. While that contribution fell short of what will more than likely end up being his career best 5.0 fWAR from the season before in the desert, last season’s contribution in the middle infield was a major upgrade in the Emerald City.

Segura hit .300/.349/.427 with 80 runs and 22 SB. The 20 HR from the 2016 campaign in Arizona was probably an outlier, but he still managed 11 dingers in a shortened season of 125 games due to early injuries.

This season, Steamer projects Segura to hit .275/.323/.404, which seems a bit conservative given the previous two seasons of over 1200 plate appearances. Segura clearly changed his approach in 2016 and projections trending more back to the light hitter of pre-2016 seem out of whack. With the launch angle and exit velocity revolution of the past few seasons, it’s reasonable to accept up-ticks in contact and power as more legit than in the past. Even with the conservative projection, the 2.0 WAR at SS will ensure the Mariners have one of the more productive middle infields in baseball.

Third Base – Kyle Seager

It’s funny how four years after signing Kyle Seager to a seven year $100MM deal that seven-year deals seem a thing of the past but $14.3MM per year seems like a bargain. Entering his thirties, Kyle Seager has been eclipsed by his younger brother, Corey Seager, in Los Angeles, but remains a solid fixture at the hot corner.

In 2017, Seager struggled at the plate, hitting a career low .248, with his second lowest OBP of .323, and a .450 slugging percentage that reversed a three year upward trend. Still his 3.5 fWAR ranked third in the AL and 8th in all of baseball at third base.

While a return to 2016 form when Seager generated 5.5 fWAR and a 132 wRC+ would be welcome, Steamer does project a slight bounce back for Seager, predicting a slash line of .262/.338/.469 with 26 HR and a 116 wRC+, up 10 points from 2017. And, like his compatriots to the left of the diamond (or maybe the right in a shift), Seager is an average glove at third with 11 DRS in his 8,545.1 innings over seven seasons. Thus, third base finishes out what should be one of the better infields in baseball.

Infield Grade A-/B+

Definitely the strength of the 2018 Seattle Mariners lies with it’s infield play. While there are no plus defenders, the infield is solidly average with no serious liabilities. The upside over most major league rosters comes at the plate. In Zunino, Cano, Segura, and Seager, the Mariners could legitimately have four 3+ WAR players in the infield. The question mark is Healy at first. The projection models are skeptical, but we do seem to be in an era where approaches at the plate are changing with the advent of Trackcast and the identification of exit velocity and launch angles. Look for Healy to perhaps outplay his computer model projections and insure Seattle has all 2+ WAR players in the infield for 2018.

*Editor’s Note – Ryon Healy is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his right hand – ESPN

Portland Fighters Jake Smith And Tyree Fortune To Make Bellator Debuts Friday At Bellator 193

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Portland Fighters Jake Smith And Tyree Fortune To Make Bellator Debuts Friday At Bellator 193

BY: DAVID GOLDEN

With Bellator 193 just two days away, a pair of Portland-based fighters are set to make their promotional debuts. Jake Smith and Tyree Fortune are two of the rising stars coming out of Gracie Barra Portland. Head coach Fabiano Scherner has turned the once small Jiu Jitsu school into a mixed martial arts powerhouse, with Smith and Fortune being two of the hottest prospects. After a successful promotional debut by their teammate, Cris “Sunshine” Williams, last month at Bellator 189, Smith and Fortune will look to keep the rising stars of Gracie Barra Portland undefeated in the Bellator cage. The pair will have their hands full for their debuts and neither has an easy road ahead. Let’s take a look at the matchups and discuss just what we can expect to see from the two of them this Friday.

Tyree “X-Man” Fortune vs. Michael “The Brown Tiger” Quintero  

This matchup seems to be rather favorable for Fortune. One half of the Fabulous Fighting Fortune brothers (Tyree’s twin brother, Tyrell, also fights for Bellator), Fortune has a very strong wrestling background. As a senior at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, he was the state runner up in both Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling. This is a problem for his opponent, Michael Quintero. Quintero is a very large light heavyweight who has not always shown great ability to stop the takedown. In many of his fights, his takedown defense was solely based on strength (of which he has plenty), and he allowed his opponents to win the positional battle. However, even out of position, he was able to use his strength to stay standing. This will not work against a wrestler the caliber of Fortune. Fortune’s takedowns are often paired with explosive striking and quick returns to the takedown attempt. These tools will make it difficult for his opponent to avoid the mat. Quintero does possess dangerous power and should Fortune leave himself exposed, it could end violently for the young prospect. Beyond that, Quintero is a very coachable athlete; he does an excellent job of listening to his corner and making adjustments. If he and Fortune end up in a stalemate, he may be able to turn the tables on Fortune if his corner can walk him through the position. Quintero has good straight punches and knees from the clinch but he his lack of speed will likely make both of these tools even more situational.

Prediction: Fortune takes it by 2nd round TKO

Jake “The Half Black Attack” Smith vs. Steve “Thunderbeast” Kozola

This fight is almost certain to bring fireworks. Both Smith and Kozola have a penchant for striking and knockout power to go along with it. Kozola has the edge in experience, having fought for Bellator four times already. He is 3-1 with the promotion but is coming off his first professional defeat. The loss showed a hole in Kozola’s game, as his opponent put him on the mat and kept him there throughout the fight. Smith would be wise to keep an eye open for the takedown but, like Kozola, his bread and butter is his striking so don’t expect to see him shoot in on Kozola too early. Kozola is a larger lightweight, so any size advantage Smith was looking for coming down from welterweight will not be there. Kozola brings good speed and accurate strikes when throwing in the pocket but has shown a lack of head movement and wild strikes coming in and backing out of exchanges. He will need to keep his strikes disciplined if he hopes to work his game effectively against Smith. Smith has very sharp striking and excellent head movement on his feet. Expect to see Smith try and use accurate counter strikes as Kozola comes in and heavy leg kicks when they are striking at a distance. Smith can at times over extend in exchanges if he is looking for the knockout; in the past, he has taken some unnecessary damage as a result. While Smith is known as a fighter who likes to stand and trade, my gut tells me he will look to exploit Kozola’s wrestling deficiency.

Prediction: Smith by unanimous decision   

This Card takes place this Friday on the all-new Paramount Network (Formerly Spike TV). Jake Smith is the first fight on the main card so be sure to set your DVR for the event. Tyree Fortune will be on the undercard, which will air live on Bellator.com

Bellator.com Prelims – 4:55pm PST

Bellator 193 Main Card, Paramount Network – 6:00pm PST