Are the Huskies Primed for a Tourney Run?

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Andrew Andrews has been a huge mentor to this young squad.

At the beginning of the season, nobody would’ve predicted the Washington Huskies basketball team to have a chance at the NCAA tournament. They were picked to finish 12th in the conference, as many were skeptical of how much the roster turned over in the offseason. Nine new players. Seven freshmen. One senior. Talent and athleticism everywhere, but hardly any experience and certainly no chemistry. There was simply just too much to overcome for this team to make any noise during their 2015-16 campaign. What Lorenzo Romar was building was a two-year project.

To the surprise of many, UW raced out to a fast start in Pac-12 league play, winning five of their first six conference games. Senior Andrew Andrews was an early favorite for conference player of the year as he led UW to early season success. Possibly the most impressive part was that the young Huskies were winning close games.

However, it was still evident that the Dawgs struggled with maturity. Many of the freshmen got in early foul trouble. The concepts of the defense Romar wanted to run seemed difficult for the young players to master. The lack of a true big man to match up with many of the taller players in the Pac-12. These things caught up to the team in the second half of the league season, as the Huskies limped to a 9-9 record after starting 7-3. They lost the close games that they were winning earlier in the year.

This is when Dawg fans once again voiced their displeasure with Coach Romar and another year without an NCAA Tournament appearance – this would be five straight seasons. Yet another frustrating year for a fanbase that has come to expect more from a coach that put this program on the map a decade ago. But the season is not over.

Now, as the Huskies prepare for their first Pac-12 Tournament game against Stanford tomorrow, they have an opportunity in front of them. Many experts think if they can get win a few games in the conference tournament and beat some superior competition along the way, that they may have a chance for an at-large bid. Though, the only way for the Dawgs to make the tournament for certain is to win the Pac-12 Tournament. And that’s a tall task for a young squad.

Is it possible? If there’s anything that I’ve learned from watching college basketball over the years it’s to expect the unexpected. The Huskies are full of talent and are athletic enough that they can cause some problems for their opponents.

On the other hand, it’s tough to believe this young of a team can pull off this difficult feat. But the Huskies’ youth is also the reason for optimism for fans. I truly trust what Coach Romar has done with the last two recruiting classes, headlined by 2016 five-star point guard Markelle Fultz. Even if blossoming talents like Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss leave for the NBA – which I don’t think they will, barring a huge tournament from them – this program is headed the right direction. There are plenty of freshmen on this team that will be tremendous four-year players: Matisse ThybulleDavid CrispNoah Dickerson, and Dominic Green.

Overall, this season has been a success, even if UW is left out of the Big Dance. It’s the definition of a rebuilding year after cleaning house a season ago. Although it’s difficult to be patient, I think next year could be a special and memorable season for Husky basketball. I guarantee it.

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Beast Mode Bids Farewell

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Miss you already, Beast.

There will never be another Marshawn Lynch. After nine seasons in the NFL, and six with the Seattle Seahawks, the 29-year-old running back declared his retirement on Sunday during the Super Bowl. The man nicknamed “Beast Mode” was a man of few words, so it was quite fitting for Lynch to make it official through this tweet:

Lynch came to Seattle in the middle of the 2010 season, one of the many moves that Pete Carroll and John Schneider made early in their tenures. Little did we know at the time how impactful this trade would be to the Seahawks franchise. The physical running style he brought embodied the style of play Carroll wanted from the team. I’ve never seen a running back with the mentality of a linebacker, but that’s essentially what Lynch did on every carry. And boy did he live up to the name Beast Mode during his time in the Emerald City.

From 2011-2014, Lynch rushed for 5,357 yards (1,339 per year) and 48 touchdowns (12 per year) and was consistently one of – if not the – best running backs in the league. He led the team to a Super Bowl title, and, if given the chance, almost another. In a run-heavy system, he thrived and was the heart beat of not only the offense, but the entire team. Everyone fed off Lynch’s energy and effort on the field, including the fans.

While he struggled through injuries this year, it’s important to remember all of the incredible runs Lynch had throughout his career as a Seahawk – the best of them in clutch moments. Many of his runs were some of the greatest moments in the team’s history. Here is a beautiful tribute to Beast Mode by the Seahawks:

While the above runs were the highlights of Lynch’s career, we shouldn’t lose sight of how many two-yard losses he turned into three-yard gains. It was those kinds of plays that made him so special.

It’s a sad day seeing #24 hang his cleats up, but I’m so thankful to have seen his greatness while it lasted. Even better, he chose to retire in Seattle rather than moving on to another team. I look forward to the day that Marshawn Lynch joins the Seahawks Ring of Honor.

Enjoy retirement, Beast. Cheers to you and your $50 million in game checks you haven’t spent yet!

Seattle Sounders: Reviewing the Offseason

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I don’t think I’m the only one who is excited to see this guy in Rave Green.

With their first preseason game tomorrow, the Seattle Sounders are ready to kick off 2016 after a relatively busy offseason. 2015 was an up-and-down year for Seattle soccer fans. At times the club looked like the best in the MLS, led by the dynamic duo of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. However, during periods where one or both of those two are injured or away on international duty, goals and victories were hard to come by – the team only won a single match between June 16 and August 9. Much of that was because of lack of quality depth in areas in the team, so improving that was obviously a huge focus for this past offseason. The other emphasis was more of a youth movement and making the team younger.

While most of the core players from the past remain intact, there are some notable changes to this year’s squad. I thought it would be helpful to introduce each of the new faces and how they look to impact the Sounders this season. Here are all of the new players (with highlights), in alphabetical order:

Tony Alfaro, Defender

Selected with the seventh pick of the second round (27th overall) in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Tony Alfaro is a technically-gifted center back out of Cal State Dominguez Hills. At 6’2″ and 190 lbs., he has a great left foot and is someone who can begin a counter attack with a long ball. Alfaro likely won’t see very much first-team time this season with the more experienced depth ahead of him, but he could be a a big part of the club’s future. For now he will develop with Sounders 2 (S2), where he and the staff can determine whether he projects better as a center back or outside back.

Emir Alihodzic, Midfielder

A third round pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Emir Alihodzic is a Bosnian midfielder out of Nebraska-Omaha. From what I’ve seen, he seems to have a good work rate and can hit a long ball. This is another player that projects as an S2 development with the potential of eventually being worked into the first-team.

Michael Farfan, Midfielder

After training with the club prior to the 2015 season, Michael Farfan joins the Sounders in 2016 hoping to shore up the first-team midfield. A former MLS All-Star, he spent last year with D.C. United and before that was a member of the Philadelphia Union. One of the best qualities of Farfan is the fact that he is versatile, so he should definitely factor in the first-team rotation. Here is a highlight of a chip goal he had with the Union in a friendly against Real Madrid.

Joevin Jones, Defender

A 24-year-old left back out of Trinidad and Tobago, Joevin Jones came over from the Chicago Fire in exchange for the Sounders’ first round pick this year. Jones is a talented and speedy outside back who should immediately compete for a starting role this season. He is also a player with international experience, debuting for Trinidad and Tobago back in 2010. There’s been comparisons to former Sounder DeAndre Yedlin, so take that for what it’s worth. Either way, his pace on the left side combined with Tyrone Mears‘s  pace from the right side makes this team’s offensive potential even more dangerous.

Zach Mathers, Midfielder

Zach Mathers was drafted by Seattle in the second round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. As a senior at Duke, Mathers led the Blue Devils with eight goals and eight assists. While he does have scoring potential, he projects as more of a holding midfielder with solid technical skills. This is yet another player who will likely start with S2 and hopefully earn his way onto the first-team at some point.

Jordan Morris, Forward

Signed to the most lucrative homegrown contract in MLS history, Jordan Morris comes back to Seattle with enormous expectations. There was much debate about whether Morris would sign with his academy team following his decision to train with German club Werder Bremen. After leading Stanford to a national championship in 2015 and debuting for the Men’s National Team, the forward from Mercer Island is considered the next great U.S. player and he will immediately play a huge role in the Sounders’ forward rotation. There’s little doubt he will be extremely successful as long as he continues to work hard and not get caught up in his hype.

Michael Nelson, Defender

With the 76th pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, the Sounders selected Michael Nelson out of Old Dominion. Nelson was an all-conference center back in college after being highly recruited out of high school. I could not find any highlights of his, but he also will be in the mix as an S2 player.

Jordan Schweitzer, Midfielder

Another homegrown talent, Jordan Schweitzer signed with the Sounders just last month after a successful career at the University of Denver. Schweitzer hails from Everett, Washington and will probably start at S2 with a chance to see some first-team action sometime this season. He is a talented, distributing defensive midfielder who will continue to develop in the Sounders system.

All of the draft picks remained unsigned, but that will likely change fairly soon. Another player who could join the mix is Panamanian center back Roberto Chen, who just arrived at training camp this week. If all goes well, expect to see Chen signed next week or the week after.

It will be interesting to see how each of these new players factors into Seattle’s plans this year and beyond. One thing is for sure: it’s a talented and youthful bunch. Less than a month until CCL play and just over a month until MLS play. Go Sounders!

2015-16 Seattle Seahawks: Top 10 Plays

What a crazy year. While the season may have come to a bitter ending, there were many great moments during the Seattle Seahawks’ 2015-16 campaign. I thought that rather lament on how it ended, why not focus on the positives?

Coming off arguably the most heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl history, Pete Carroll did a masterful job at keeping his players focused and confident during some extremely tough circumstances. Kam Chancellor, one of the true leaders on this team, holding out – something that I still think affects the locker room today. Stumbling to a 2-4 record to begin the year. But our Seahawks, as they do time and time again, silenced the critics once again on their way to a fourth straight playoff appearance.

They may have come back to Seattle without a second Lombardi Trophy in three seasons, but the 2015-16 Seahawks were a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Let us visit some of the top moments of the year (bear with me if the videos don’t play on this screen…you should be able to click to view them on YouTube).

10.

One of the biggest headlines of the offseason, Jimmy Graham came to Seattle to give quarterback Russell Wilson a legitimate red zone target. Unfortunately, for Graham and the Seahawks, the superstar tight end was injured late in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but not before showing us a glimpse of his potential.

9.

Off to a rocky 0-2 start, Seattle hosted the Chicago Bears for their first home game of the season. But the home team was struggling to put points on the board until All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman ripped off a huge 64-yard gain on a fake punt return. This gave the Seahawks good field position for the first time in the game.

8.

This play would likely be higher on my list if it wasn’t for the guy who made it. Cary Williams was one of the worst signings in the franchise’s history, but he did make a handful of good plays before being cut late in early December. One of those came in the first game of the season, and likely should’ve been a game-winner.

7.

After a shocking loss on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals in the week prior, Seattle returned to CenturyLink Field to host the undefeated (and Super Bowl bound…) Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks roared out to a 20-7 lead, highlighted by this flea-flicker pass to Ricardo Lockette. The scoreline would not hold, though, as Cam Newton and the Panthers would rally in the fourth quarter for a 27-23 win.

6.

It sure didn’t take long for rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett to make his presence felt. After taking a couple of returns back for touchdowns in the preseason, Lockett began his Pro Bowl season with a touchdown on the first punt return of his career. Seattle has had trouble drafting wide receivers since Carroll took over, but it seems they really found a gem in the speedster out of Kansas State.

5.

Lockett wasn’t the only Seahawks rookie to burst onto the scene this year. Thomas Rawls may have gone undrafted, but he sure made the most of his opportunity. With Marshawn Lynch on the mend, the kid was thrust into the starting lineup early in the season. Before his injury in Baltimore, Rawls was leading the league in yards per rush, mostly because of runs like the one above. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have found a successor to Beast Mode.

4.

Even though Sherman’s fake punt led to Seattle’s first points of the day, the Seahawks were only up 6-0 at halftime against a Jimmy Clausen-led Bears squad. That was short-lived, however, as Lockett took the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. Something tells me that won’t be his last.

3.

Everyone should remember this one, as it just happened a couple of weeks ago. In my opinion, this play is the epitome of the Seahawks season. A nightmarish beginning. A scramble. A magical run. A bit short of the goal. A great play (season) nonetheless.

2.

The Seahawks-Steelers game was possibly the best game in the NFL in 2015. The game was largely a back and forth battle, with Seattle leading 32-30 late in the fourth quarter. Facing a crucial 3rd and 10 and trying to run the clock out, Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin on a completion over the middle of the field. 80 yards later, the Seahawks clinched a win that put them back in the thick of the playoff race.

1.

After a 1-2 start, the Seahawks hosted the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. It was a sloppy and low-scoring affair, with Seattle leading the entire game. However, Calvin Johnson and Detroit’s offense were driving down the field late in the fourth quarter. The Lions appeared ready to take the lead for the first time when Johnson caught a pass and ran for the goal line. But before he could cross the plane, Bam Bam Chancellor knocked the ball free. The result was one of the most controversial plays of the year, but one that gave the Seahawks a much-needed win.

Seattle Fans: Be Patient, Baseball is a Marathon

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So this guy pitches tonight.

In a city that has been swept up by the success of the Seahawks since quarterback Russell Wilson‘s arrival three years ago, it’s easy to describe Seattle as a “football town.” Add the fact that the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since a magical 2001 season and the Sonics were robbed from this city seven years ago and it’s no wonder why everyone in Seattle has jumped on the Seahawks’ bandwagon. That’s not a bad thing at all.

However, over this time, Seattle sports fans have taken on the mentality of football fans, which are much different than baseball fans. In the NFL, everything is so emotional because nearly every play matters. With only 16 games in a season, one loss can be detrimental to a team. Combine that with the reality that the Mariners missed the playoffs last year by one game, and it’s no wonder why this city has learned that every game matters.

So when the M’s enter 2015 with lofty expectations and stumble to a 6-9 start, some fans naturally abandoned ship. The trademark phrase, “same old Mariners” has been murmured in households and bars throughout the state of Washington for the past two and a half weeks. Gut-wrenching losses have filled the first 15 games of this season.

So far, Mariners fans have seen solid offensive contributions, especially from the newly acquired Nelson Cruz, who is batting .328 and already has 8 home runs and 17 RBI’s. At the same time, though, they’ve seen some terrible pitching. Outside of Felix Hernandez and J.A. Happ, the starting rotation has failed to go deep in games. This has put pressure on a bullpen that has been overused early in the year. As a result, the Seattle has blown late leads and lost a few games that they absolutely should have won. The Mariners’ pitching staff has a 4.83 ERA, which is 14th out of 15 teams in the AL and 28th out of 30 teams in the MLB. Not good.

But as a rational fan, it’s hard to think that a team full of talented pitching will continue to struggle this much. I’m confident that the starters will get right and this team will turn it around – starting tonight against the Minnesota Twins. And this leads me to the point of this post: settle down Seattle fans and please read the following reasons why.

1. The offense is better at the pitching will turn it around. There’s simply too much talent on this pitching staff for them to not turn it around. It couldn’t get much worse than it has been. Once they do the M’s will win a lot of ball games because the offense is better and will continue to get better. Adding Cruz to this lineup has allowed everyone in the order to see better pitches. It’s only a matter of time before they start hitting them consistently.

2. The rest of the AL West has also struggled so far. The 8-7 Houston Astros lead the division, and that should tell you everything about the beginning of this season. As disappointing of a start as its been, the M’s are only two games back in a division race that we shouldn’t even be talking about in April.

3. Baseball is a marathon. It’s way too early to jump to any kind of brash conclusion about this ballclub. There’s 147 games left in the 2015 season. Last year’s squad started the season 7-13 before nearly making a playoff run. At least wait until June to start making judgments about the 2015 Mariners.

I felt like it was important for me to put my emotions about this topic on paper (or the internet, rather) because I, too, am guilty of approaching baseball with a football mentality at times. But the truth is we all need to relax and just enjoy the romance that is baseball, however frustrating it can be at times. There’s still so much season left and there are so many good (and bad) times ahead of these 2015 Mariners.

As Seattle fans, we’ve all witnessed some really tough times throughout our sports history (RIP Sonics). Yet we continue to cheer on our teams because years of failure have to be followed by success at some point, right? So keep your heads up and believe that this team is going to be different. Believe that Seattle can once again be a “baseball town.”

Besides, what choice do we have?

Opening Day Win Creating Buzz Among Mariners Fans

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I already love this team.

Yes, it’s April 7th. Yes, baseball is a marathon of a season. Yes, it’s only one game. But yesterday’s 4-1 Opening Day over the defending AL West Champions Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim?) win felt different, and it’s already creating a buzz among Seattle Mariners fans. Aside from a first inning Mike Trout home run, the game felt easy and fluid. Everyone did their job and it showed in the box score.

A revamped Mariners offense piled up 10 hits, led by Seth Smith‘s three extra-base hits (a club record for an Opening Day game) and two RBIs. Smith was one of the quieter acquisitions of this past offseason, but he played a vital role in the M’s first win of the season. For those who are unfamiliar with him, Smith is what one might call a “professional hitter,” which basically means that he’s someone who will put in good at-bats and work a pitcher’s pitch count. This kind of batter is incredibly valuable in the second spot in the order because it allows the middle of the order to see the opposing pitcher’s repertoire before they bat. Having Smith in this lineup will provide consistency and veteran at-bats and is definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.

Possibly the most encouraging thing I noticed yesterday was the fact that the Mariners produced this kind of offense without much from the middle of their order. Robinson Cano lined an RBI single up the middle to give Seattle a 2-1 lead in the third inning, but Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager combined to for a 1-12 day. Just think about how much potential there is if these three All-Stars begin to manufacture runs. That is something this club hasn’t had in YEARS.

One thing that felt similar is Felix Hernandez, who had another stellar Opening Day outing. The King tossed seven frames of two-hit baseball, one of which was Trout’s first inning homer, and striked out 10 Angels batters. While it’s unfair that we take Felix for granted, this kind of performance seems to go under the radar often because he does it so regularly. He basically made one bad pitch and then completely baffled a lineup that led the MLB in runs (773) in 2014. Hernandez improved to 6-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 8 Opening Day starts. The best part? Felix got run support! YAY!

Oh yeah, and young reliever Carson Smith came into the game in a two-on, two-out jam and struck out Trout, arguably the best hitter in baseball. This guy has NASTY stuff and he is virtually unhittable against right-handers when he’s on his game.

Ahhhhh. Baseball is back, my friends. And it feels so good. Don’t get me wrong, this season isn’t going to be perfect and there’s going to be bumps in the road. But there’s something about this team that is special and I can’t wait to see what they do this year.

So far, so good.

Preview of Your 2015 Seattle Mariners – Starting Rotation

Felix Hernandez Opening Day Seattle Mariners

This picture has me feeling all kinds of emotions…

Well I didn’t get to this preview as soon as I’d have liked to, but with Spring Training half over and Opening Day three weeks away it’s still a great time to preview the 2015 Seattle Mariners starting pitching staff. This was a group that ranked second in the MLB and first in the American League last season with a 3.17 ERA. While the starting rotation was solid with ace Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma, and 2014 AL Comeback Player of the Year Chris Young, it was the bullpen that was the most impressive part about last year’s club. They kept the M’s in games last year and were a huge reason why the team was within a game of the playoffs.

While they did lose a few of their better bullpen arms from last season, the rotation, if healthy, could be even better. This post will highlight each of the five starting rotation spots. Manager Lloyd McClendon has already said who four of the five starters will be, but the fifth spot is becoming clearer as we near April 6th.

Starting Pitchers:

1. Felix Hernandez – It’s good to be King. What else is there to say? King Felix was robbed of the Cy Young in 2014 and is one of the most (if not THE most) dominating pitchers in the game of baseball. He posted a 15-6 record last year with a 2.14 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, both the best in the MLB. His arsenal is unmatched, as every pitch he throws would be considered elite. Once a pitcher that relied upon power, Hernandez has mastered a changeup with movement like a breaking ball – and it’s nearly un-hittable. Felix will again be the ace of this staff, and it’s not unreasonable to expect anything but greatness from The King this season.

2. Hisashi Iwakuma – One of the coolest things about the Mariners’ starting rotation is that they basically have two aces. Iwakuma had somewhat of a “disappointing” season in 2014 after posting a 14-6 record with 2.66 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 2013 and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting. He still had good numbers last year, though, allowing around 3.5 runs per nine innings. Part of the reason for his struggles was because he was injured at the beginning of the year so it took him a while to “get right.” With ‘Kuma healthy, he should be in for another big season.

3. James Paxton – While Iwakuma may have more experience, this is the guy that is destined to eventually become the second starter in this rotation behind Felix. If he had been healthy, Paxton may have challenge Iwakuma for the spot last season. In 13 starts he compiled a 6-4 record and a 3.04 ERA in 2014. While that’s impressive, the best thing about Paxton is that he’s a lefty that can get both right-handed and left-handed hitters out. 95+ MPH from the left side is so rare and the M’s are lucky to have this gem in their organization.

4. J.A. Happ – An offseason addition, Happ has spent his eight year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Houston Astros, and, most recently, the Toronto Blue Jays. In 140 career starts, he’s posted a 51-53 record with a 4.26 ERA. While those numbers won’t “wow” anyone, Happ should bring a much needed veteran presence to this rotation, which is probably the biggest reason that McClendon has already penciled him into the starting five. It’s also worth noting that he’s often pitched in what would be considered “hitter-friendly” ballparks, so he could find more success and better numbers inside Safeco Field.

5. Taijuan Walker/Roenis Elias – This is the only spot in the rotation that is up for grabs and was one of the few true position battles this spring. Walker, once considered the next Felix Hernandez, has had a better spring than Elias, who was a pleasant surprise last season for the M’s. Walker has struggled with his command at times in the big leagues after struggling through injuries and being called up and down between Seattle and Tacoma. But he’s looked incredible so far this spring and one of the biggest reason is a new and effective pitch: a slider. With a plus-fastball already, adding an effective breaking pitch would go a long way towards his success. Both are young pitchers with bright futures, but it’s hard to argue against the upside that Walker brings to the table. Add the fact that having Elias would mean three lefties in the rotation, and it’s becoming more apparent that Walker will likely win the job coming out of Spring Training. However, expect him to be on a short leash with Elias just a phone-call away.

This is a very brief preview on each of these pitchers, but it should give you a better idea of what to expect from this year’s starting rotation. It’s crazy to think that we’ll all be watching baseball in a matter of 21 short (but not short enough) days.

As always, here’s a video for entertainment. KING FELIX IS INSANE.

Seahawks Acquire Superstar Tight End Jimmy Graham

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These two will get to go against each other in practice every day now.

Just when we thought there wouldn’t be much news for the Seattle Seahawks on the opening day of 2015 NFL Free Agency, Jay Glazer broke Twitter when he reported the that superstar tight end Jimmy Graham was coming to Seattle:

My first reaction to this move was confusion. The Seahawks just restructured and extended Marshawn Lynch‘s contract after they found out the hard way how much he means to this team. So why would you get rid of arguably your best run-blocker in All-Pro center Max Unger and acquire a tight end, as talented as he is as a receiver, that isn’t known for his blocking ability. Unger was also one of the leaders in the locker room and as steady of a player as you can get. Plus losing a first-round pick is never a good thing, especially when you’re a team like the Seahawks and you’re trying to restock talent without paying for high-priced free agents.

You also have to account for the fact that quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner are also due for new contracts soon, and Graham’s cap hit will make this harder to accommodate who they resign in the coming years.

Not to mention, the first thing that came to mind was the altercations between Graham and some of the players on Seattle’s defense the past couple years. In the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints in 2014, Graham was warming up on the Seahawks’ side of the field and linebacker Bruce Irvin didn’t take too kindly to it. After the Percy Harvin-debacle, I don’t want any players, no matter how talented, entering Seattle’s locker room if they aren’t going to get along with the players. I’m not saying that everyone on the Seahawks’ roster is buddy-buddy with each other, but they can at least stand each other. It’s at least an issue that needs to be addressed before the season.

Because of these reasons I was skeptical about this trade. But once these initial emotions calmed down a bit, this transaction makes total sense, and it addresses the concerns this team faced this offseason. The Seahawks needed a tight end after the loss of Zach Miller, and they got one. They needed a legitimate first option for Wilson and the passing game, and they got one. They needed a big red zone target (2nd and goal at the one…), and boy did they get one. While they may have missed out on Julius Thomas in free agency, they ended up with an even more proven player in Graham.

Graham is the best tight end in the NFL and, at 28, still has many years of great football left in him. A three-time Pro Bowler, Graham compiled 4,752 receiving yards and and 51 touchdowns in his five years in the league. And at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, he’s a freak-athlete and a matchup nightmare for any defense, especially in the red zone. His presence will give Wilson and the offense an excellent second option in the red zone other than handing it off to Lynch and hoping for the best.

As far as losing Unger, it may not be as bad as it looks on paper. He missed 10 games in 2015, and most of them were during the second-half of the year when the Seahawks made their incredible run. Patrick Lewis did a pretty good job filling in for Unger during this time, and head coach Pete Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable seem to like him. It’s likely that Seattle was concerned about the long-term health of their now former center.

It will be interesting to see how the team will replace Unger, but if you want talent, you have to give up talent. The Seahawks definitely received a talented player, so what will they do with him? Well, only six months until we find out, but here’s a preview.

Deuce’s Brace Leads Sounders Past Revolution



Obafemi Martins backflip Sounders

It’s so great to see backflips again!



It’s always nice to begin the season with a victory. A 3-0 victory over a team that appeared in the MLS Cup just a few months ago is even better. Your Seattle Sounders made a big statement in last night’s win over the New England Revolution, and here are my observations from the game:

  • Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins started the season where they left off last year: combining to make the most potent offensive attack in the league. “Deuce” netted a pair of goals and Oba added another, celebrating with his signature backflip. Watching the duo play off each other is one of the coolest things because of the backyard nature of it. They just have fun. This team will go as these two go, but it’s to hard to think that Seattle will have a problem scoring goals this year.
  • The Revs were without two of their stars, Lee Nyugen and Jermaine Jones, who are both nursing injuries. That being said, this version of New England’s team was much different than the one that was the MLS Cup runner-up in December. Nonetheless, Seattle dominated this match and I still believe they would have won with Nyugen and Jones in the lineup.
  • Tyrone Mears was an outstanding offseason addition. With DeAndre Yedlin departing or Europe after last season, one of the biggest questions going into 2015 was who was going to replace the young and budding star at right back. Enter Mears, a savvy veteran with experience in Europe. I was very pleased with his performance last night as he looked comfortable and even assisted on Oba’s goal, whipping a beautiful cross into the box that the forward headed home. Having a right back that is able to get forward and make quality crosses is only going to make this offense harder to defend. Expect Mears to play a big role this year.

Man of the Match: While many players had solid games, this one has to go to Dempsey. He was constantly in good attacking positions and played a part in all three of the Sounders’ goals. A full offseason has the star midfielder looking fresh and energized for his 2015 campaign.

Moment of the Match: The final goal was created by some cheeky passing and was simply a thing of beauty. The dynamic duo traded passes before Marco Pappa made a fantastic through ball to Martins, who unselfishly dumped the ball to Dempsey for his second goal of the game.

That was a fun game for everyone. While it won’t completely make up for the Super Bowl, it’s nice to get a victory over a New England franchise.

Overall, it couldn’t have been a better start to the year for the Sounders. If you missed any of the match here are the highlights in the link below.

Sounders vs. Revolution Highlights

What’s Next: Seattle plays at home again on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes, with kickoff scheduled for 7pm.

Preview of Your 2015 Seattle Mariners – Position Players

Felix Hernandez Robinson Cano Nelson Cruz

This picture gets me all kinds of excited for 2015.

Baseball is officially back, my friends. With their first spring training game against the San Diego Padres tomorrow afternoon, the Seattle Mariners are that much closer to the 2015 World Series. While there’s a hint of sarcasm in the previous sentence, the 2015 Mariners (on paper) look like a team that could compete for the AL West title and earn their first postseason berth since that miraculous 2001 season. The key addition of a legitimate right-handed power bat in Nelson Cruz along with a couple of savvy moves to acquire platoon candidates Rickie WeeksSeth Smith, and Justin Ruggiano – all of whom are sure to have an impact on this team’s success – means Lloyd McClendon‘s ballclub may have an acceptable lineup for the first time in over a decade. Combine that with the stellar pitching that carried the Mariners to within one game of the playoffs in 2014, and it’s no wonder why this team has this city excited.

While Seattle fans are still recovering from the Seahawks’ heartbreaking defeat in the Super Bowl last month, the Mariners should give them a reason to look forward instead of dwelling on the past. Those spring and summer days inside the friendly confines of Safeco Field are right around the corner. So without further to due, here is a position-by-position preview of your 2015 (World Champion) Seattle Mariners.

Catcher:

Depth chartMike ZuninoJesus SucreJohn Baker

This position is firmly held by Zunino, who is already one of the best defensive catchers in the league. Not only that, but he is a huge reason for the success of Seattle’s pitching staff because of how he calls games. The one caveat of Zunino’s game is his batting average and strikeout rate, as he only hit .199 and struck out 158 times in 476 plate appearances (nearly one in every three at-bats) in 2014. Despite this, Mike has insane power. He stroked 22 home runs last year and it’s not out of the question that he could swat 25-30 dingers this season. If he can continue to play elite defense and provide some offensive power numbers, it will be considered a successful season for the young catcher, even if his average numbers stay down – though I expect him to eventually hit in the .230-.240 range.

I would expect Sucre to beat out Baker for the backup catcher spot, but that will be a battle to watch this spring. Both of them are legitimate 2nd-string catchers and the M’s should feel comfortable with putting either one out there once a week to rest Zunino.

First Base:

Depth chartLogan MorrisonRickie WeeksWillie BloomquistJesus Montero

Without a doubt, Morrison – better known around the clubhouse as “Lo-Mo” – can be at least an average every-day first baseman. He was one of the hottest players on the team toward the end of last season. He ended 2014 batting .262 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI’s, but hit .302 and .342 in August and September, respectively, while swatting 6 home runs during that those two months. Unfortunately, Morrison has huge health issues and he’s only played over 100 games once in five MLB seasons (he only played in 99 last year). He’s incredibly productive when healthy, as is evidenced by his numbers the final two months of 2014. The M’s are aware of this, and are betting on Lo-Mo to be healthy in 2015. His bat will be key for an improved offense.

The late acquisiton of Weeks provides a bit of a safety net at this position in case Morrison goes down. Weeks will compete with Bloomquist this spring for a utility-role on the team, but I expect Rickie to win the battle. A slimmed-down Montero also makes for an intriguing spring training story, but he will likely start in Tacoma.

Second Base:

Depth chart: Robinson CanoRickie WeeksWillie Bloomquist

Robbie Cano. Enough said. Easily the most complete position-player on the team and fans shouldn’t expect anything but greatness for Cano’s 2015 campaign.

The winner of the Weeks-Bloomquist battle will serve as the primary fill-in on Cano’s off-days (again, probably Weeks). Weeks has never played any position besides second-base, but he’s capable of learning other positions.

Shortstop:

Depth chartBrad MillerChris TaylorWillie Bloomquist

By far, this is the biggest position battle and position of uncertainty this spring. The experts say that Miller’s bat has more upside but his defense still needs some work. On the other hand, they say that Taylor is more polished defensively, but his bat is below average. While we’ve seen bursts of Miller’s potential, he’s failed to deliver any kind of consistency in his young career. So much so that the M’s decided to bring up Taylor late last season to platoon with Miller. Taylor hit .287 and flashed great defense in 47 games, but his bat has very little pop.

The ideal situation for the Mariners is for Miller to figure out his consistency issues offensively and defensively and to win the starting job at shortstop, meaning that Taylor would likely start the year in Tacoma (McClendon stated that the loser of the battle won’t be on the Opening Day roster). If he resolves his issues, Miller is too valuable offensively for Seattle to not have in the lineup every day. He’s shown flashes of his bat and it’s potential during his first two years, so hopefully he can provide a more steady offensive presence at the bottom of the lineup.

Bloomquist is slated as the third-stringer on the Mariners’ website, but that will likely change if Weeks beats him out and either Taylor or Miller are sent to Tacoma at the beginning of the year.

Third Base:

Depth chartKyle SeagerWillie BloomquistRickie Weeks

The development of Seager over the past three years has been one of the most pleasant things for any Mariner fan. Originally in Dustin Ackley‘s shadow as a prospect, Seager has panned out while his fellow North Carolina-product has had trouble finding stability in the M’s lineup. Seager earned his first All-Star bid in 2014 when he batted .268 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI’s and led the team in the latter two categories. Oh yeah, he also won a Gold Glove. In other words, it’s safe to say that we know what we’re going to get from third base.

Again, the winner of the utility-man battle will back up Seager on his occasional off-days (though he’s only missed 12 games the past three seasons).

Left Field:

Depth chartDustin AckleyRickie WeeksStephen Romero

Speaking of Ackley, he is penciled in as the starting left fielder in 2015. However, McClendon has openly stated that left field will be a platoon job with Ackley and Weeks, meaning Ackley would start against right-handed pitchers and Weeks would start against left-handed pitchers. Once the second overall pick in the MLB Draft, Ackley has largely been a disappointment to the organization. He batted .245 last season while hitting 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. However, his second half (.269, 10, 36) was much better than his first half (.225, 4, 29), and that was encouraging to many Mariner fans.

He can be a solid second-hitter in this lineup, especially if he continues where he left off in 2014. But if Ackley fails to deliver, Weeks is a good option and is capable of being a quality starter.

Romero has seen time in the big leagues but doesn’t belong on this roster at the beginning of the year.

Center Field:

Depth chartAustin JacksonJustin RuggianoJames Jones

Jackson is arguably the most vital player to Seattle success this season. After coming over from Detroit last year, Jackson had terrible offensive production, only batting .229 with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .267. That’s not good enough for a leadoff hitter. McClendon, who was Jackson’s hitting coach for a while in Detroit, has stated that Jackson is plenty capable of hitting .275 with a .340 OBP, which he did in both 2012 and 2013. If he can put up those numbers, this offense is going to score a lot of runs because of the quality bats behind him.

This is also a contract year for Jackson, so that should serve as extra motivation. Hopefully he can put up the numbers he had in 2012 and 2013.

Ruggiano, an offseason addition, will occasionally get a start or two in center field. James Jones and his incredible speed make him valuable to have on the team, but probably not at the beginning of the year. He will be up and down from Tacoma this season.

A guy not on this list who may factor into the outfield mix is Endy Chavez, who was signed to a minor league contract this offseason with an invitation to spring training. Chavez is getting up there in age, but can still be a productive backup if need be.

Right Field:

Depth chart: Seth SmithJustin RuggianoNelson Cruz

This is another platoon position for the Mariners. Smith, another offseason addition, is an experienced veteran with a solid bat. He’s hit .265 over his eight year career in Colorado, Oakland, and, San Diego. If Ackley fails to live up to the hype as a 2-hitter, Smith will be a good option to bat behind Jackson in the lineup. Hopefully that isn’t the case, and he will bat around 7th in the lineup.

Ruggiano came over from Chicago this offseason. While he’s never been an every-day player like Smith, he absolutely destroys left-handed pitching, so he will prove valuable as a right-handed bat in the outfield. He also has some solid power, so that will also be helpful. Ruggiano is basically the perfect platoon player, and a combination of him and Smith should equate to a slightly above-average right fielder.

Cruz, the biggest splash of the offseason, will play right field when the Mariners travel to National League stadiums and there is no designated hitter.

Designated Hitter:

Depth chartNelson CruzRickie WeeksJesus Montero

Oh how sweet it is to finally have a steady right-handed power bat in the lineup. Cruz was the prized addition of the Mariners’ offseason, and for good reason. He led the majors with 40 home runs in 2014 in his lone year in Baltimore. He also batted .271 with 108 RBI’s. The definition of a clean-up designated hitter, Cruz will be the perfect piece to plug in between Cano and Seager in the lineup. His power threat will also provide protection for Cano and opposing pitchers won’t be able to pitch around him anymore. As a domino effect, this will lead to better production from the top of the lineup and to more runs for this offense.

Weeks will get a few days at DH as well, and Montero may be in the mix at some point in 2015.

And so concludes the position preview of the 2015 Seattle Mariners. Words can’t describe how excited I am for this season to begin, and this next month will be one of the longest of the year. Expect a preview of the pitching rotation and bullpen in the coming days.

I’ll leave you with this thought…how neat would it be to have postseason baseball in Seattle? For now, there’s this.