5 takes: Mariners’ ace, manager show some fire

May 16, 2014, 9:42 AM | Updated: Jul 13, 2014, 7:41 pm
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Felix-644
Felix Hernandez earned the first ejection of his career when he was tossed while leaving Monday’s game. (AP)

By Michael Grey

Five thoughts on the week that was in Seattle sports and beyond:

Don’t make Felix angry; you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Monday night at Safeco Field was a beautiful evening here in Seattle. The sun was out, the skies were clear, temps were in the mid-70s and The King was out on the hill facing a team that he had thrown a perfect game against the last time he faced them in SoDo. Felix handled his business well into the sixth inning with a comfy 9-0 lead when a questionable call on a pitch cost him an out and the Rays went on to post three runs. Upon being called off the hill by manager Lloyd McClendon, Felix let the home-plate ump know what he thought about the botched call and was tossed from the game for the first time in his career. Think about that. A pitcher that just went 6 and 2/3, threw over 100 pitches and was leaving the game with a six-run lead was so angry that he was thrown out of the game. I have been accused of pumping sunshine on this Mariners team but if you want to know the difference between 2013 and 2014 look no further than the passion on the field Monday evening. This team has proven that it will grind when things are not going well and that it will grind when it’s way out in front. This is a passionate crew, a different team. Look no further than a new face from the most familiar name in the clubhouse on his way to the showers for proof.

Speaking of angry, how about the new guy?

After Felix looked virtually unstoppable in Monday’s game against the Rays, the offense took the rest of the series off. Hisashi Iwakuma pitched eight shutout innings Tuesday but only received a single run worth of support that didn’t hold up in the ninth when Fernando Rodney served up a pair. Then in Game 3, Jake Odorizzi was working on a no-hitter into the sixth until James Jones finally registered a hit. The Mariners ended up being shut out, losing 2-0. The biggest hit of the last two games of the series was actually McClendon’s eighth-inning meltdown after a botched strike call on John Buck. Flashing more than a little Lou Piniella, McClendon lit into the ump like he was being paid by the insult. First he shouted, then he tossed his hat into the infield, then he shouted some more, then he got his hat back, then he shouted some more, then he tossed his hat to the fans like John Cena and stormed off. Say what you will about his lineup decisions, the new skipper doesn’t lack for fire and won’t hesitate to rip someone when he thinks it will help his team. Three games. One win. Two ejections. If nothing else, it was fun.

What now?

The Sounders were riding a franchise-high five-game winning streak when that same number would come back to haunt them in a 5-0 drubbing by New England last Sunday. Obviously there was no way that the Sounders were going to continue winning the way that they were without a loss but the club not only has to overcome its first loss in a month and a half but the announcement that Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and Deandre Yedlin will all be on the 30-man roster for Team USA heading into the World Cup. Coming back from an embarrassing loss should be easy for a talent-deep club like Seattle, but there are legitimate questions to be asked about what this team will look like without its best talent on offense (Dempsey) and defense (Yedlin) and its most experienced player (Evans) for the extended stretch of the World Cup. The Sounders’ depth will be tested and while the early points earned will be help, this team will need to find a new way to win in the weeks to come.

Grading on a curve.

The “grading” of NFL draft classes has to be among the sillier of annual sports rituals. Not only is there no way to accurately analyze unproven rookies until they’ve had a chance to, ya know, play football, but the pundit powers-that-be have no way of knowing which players will continue to develop beyond their college abilities. Nonetheless, the NFL is king and there’s no analysis like over-analysis, which is precisely what the league is all about. In the NFL, it doesn’t matter if the talk is all unsubstantiated guesswork, just keep talking. With that said, Seahawks fans should be encouraged to see middling-to-mediocre (that’s “mediocre”) draft grades from most of the “experts”. General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have seen this type of analysis before (see: 2012) and come out of it looking much smarter for their efforts. For all the reasons I’ve listed above I won’t bore you with any contrived analysis of this year’s crop of players but I do believe in trends, and if the Seahawks’ draft picks have the draftniks scratching their heads, I’ll take that as a good sign.

One lap around the sun.

Monday marked one year for me here in Seattle and I would just like to thank anyone and everyone that’s taken the time to be a part of my move here with the radio show, this column or at the games. This is an incredible place and learning about Seattle, Washington and the Pacific Northwest has been a wonderful adventure. Looking forward to finding out what Year 2 holds. Thank you.

Thanks for reading, enjoy your weekend and if you feel the need to know more stuff that I think about please follow me on Twitter @TheMichaelGrey.

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5 takes: Mariners’ ace, manager show some fire