By Mike Salk
My birthday is April 28, but the local teams seem determined to help me celebrate a night early. Both the Seahawks and Mariners combined to make the night of Friday, April 27 a special one.
A day after the Seahawks surprised us all by taking a little known sack artist in the first round, they drafted the player I knew most about in the third.
I really like Russell Wilson. Yeah, maybe I’m just drawn to him because we are roughly the same height — at 5-foot-11, he has me by an inch. But he has everything I want in a quarterback: accuracy, good decision making, and leadership. And he has all three skills for days.
He is deadly accurate. Need proof? Check his NFL.com draft profile. Then realize that he completed nearly 73 percent of his passes at Wisconsin. He went 60-of-63 at his Wisconsin pro day workout. And unlike fellow height-challenged accuracy wiz Kellen Moore, he has the arm strength to make all the throws in an NFL playbook.
He makes good decisions. Need proof? That’s easy. He threw a grand total of four interceptions this past season. Four. He threw the ball 309 times, but only gave it up on four occasions. That’s a pick every 77.25 throws. By comparison, Andrew Luck was picked off every 40.4 throws and Moore threw one every 48.8 attempts. Wilson knows when to avoid the big mistake.
He is a leader. Need proof? You’ve heard how he was named a captain after just one week on campus at Wisconsin. That’s impressive on its own. But to talk to Wilson is to like him. I have been lucky enough to interview him twice, and both times I thought to myself, “That is the most impressive college athlete I have spoken to. Heck, maybe the most impressive athlete PERIOD!” He will, as John Schneider says, “tilt the room.”
To be honest, as excited as I am about the Hawks taking Wilson, I wasn’t watching when it happened. I have a good excuse. Well, actually, I have two of them. First of all, I have a three-month-old. Enough said. But that was only part of the problem Friday night. I was watching a memorable Mariners comeback — one of a few that they have already racked up this season.
Outfielder Michael Saunders reminded everyone of his massive potential with a pair of home runs on Friday. (AP)
Comeback victories have a special place for all baseball fans, but they feel especially exciting when they are keyed by players you desperately want to succeed. This latest M’s gem featured a solo shot from Jesus Montero and two big blasts from Michael Saunders, including the go-ahead grand slam in the 10th.
I know what you’re thinking: here goes Salk talking up Saunders again.
Well, you’re right.
You can’t know Michael Saunders and not root for him. He is quiet and unassuming but with a personality that baseball usually weeds out over years spent on buses. He has gone through hell with his mother’s cancer and eventual passing last year. He has disappointed every time he’s gotten his chance at the big-league level.
But Saunders keeps getting chances, and it’s not because he’s a good guy. He is talented. Really talented. Have you seen the way the ball jumps off his bat when he makes contact? It’s effortless! He has huge power to all fields, and it comes with excellent defense at a marquee position and enough speed to steal important bases in key situations.
He is a legitimate five tool player … who keeps forgetting to use the two most important tools: hitting and hitting for power.
So far this year, that has changed. In 18 games, Saunders has hit a respectable .254 but with three home runs and slugging percentage over .500. It’s early, but he has shown us another glimpse of that potential. I’ll be rooting for it to continue, both for the team’s sake and for his own.
This win, however, wasn’t just about Saunders. It was about the Mariners continuing to show that they are not the same team that has hit new offensive depths over the past few years. As Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider points out, “A year ago after 21 games, the Mariners had plated only 75 runs and were 8-13. This year, they have scored 90 runs and are 11-10.”
That means they have scored 4.3 runs per game, up nearly a full run from their 2011 mark.
They have had their ups and downs, just as we figured a young team would. But when they have hit, they have been fun to watch. And with their fourth straight road win over a quality opponent, they have helped make for a fun night!