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The List: 710 ESPN Seattle’s top 10 Seattle sports stories of 2019

Every December, 710 ESPN Seattle puts together a list of the top Seattle sports stories of the year, then votes on them to find out our top 10.

This year, something unexpected happened after we had finished our voting – Marshawn Lynch returned to the Seahawks.

That’s a pretty big story, one that likely would have landed someone near the top of this year’s list. But this time of year being what it is with holidays, vacations and odd work hours to deal with, it was easily decided that a recount was unfeasible. The good news is that Lynch’s return will continue into the playoffs, which are set for after the New Year, so we’ll be able to vote on it in December 2020.

As for what was on this year’s ballot, we had no shortage of big Seattle sports stories, whether it was a championship won in Seattle, the final games of several legendary players, or a shocking college football coaching change. Oh, and there are those Seahawks, who have their franchise quarterback locked up in a new long-term deal and caught everybody off-guard by winning 10 of their first 12 games.

So enough explanation. It’s time to reveal how our voting shook out this year.

Honorable mention

Earl Thomas leaves Seahawks in free agency for Baltimore Ravens
Seahawks’ run game stuffed in playoff loss to Cowboys
UW Huskies men’s basketball snaps eight-year NCAA Tournament drought
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner signs contract extension
Mariners go 13-2 in blazing start to the season
Storm make playoffs despite Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird missing season
DK Metcalf falls to Seahawks in NFL Draft, becomes Seattle’s No. 2 receiver
Mariners set MLB record for players used in a season in first year of rebuild
Mariners’ Kyle Lewis second player to HR in each of first three MLB games
WSU QB Anthony Gordon breaks multiple Pac-12 records
UW Huskies softball makes third straight Women’s College World Series

10. Ichiro retires after surreal final game for M’s in Japan

From Shannon Drayer’s March 21 story:

For Ichiro’s 29 teammates in the Mariners clubhouse at the Tokyo Dome, the entire night was surreal. Ichiro received a curtain call 25 minutes after the game ended, hundreds of media members and cameras following him as he made his way across the field, teammates doing the same with their personal cell phones.

It was an incredible night for an incredible player.

“He just retired and there are still 40,000 people out there,” (Dee) Gordon marveled. “He deserves it.”

And now it is time to ease into a new chapter. Somehow Ichiro will find a way.

9. Seahawks’ Doug Baldwin pens letter to announce retirement

From the May 12 news story:

The Seahawks confirmed what had been in the air for nearly two weeks: Doug Baldwin has played his last down for Seattle.

On Sunday night (May 12), Baldwin broke his silence following the Seahawks’ termination of his contract with a failed physical designation, writing a poignant letter to his younger self that was posted in a series of tweets, hinting at his retirement. 

8. Seahawks trade Frank Clark, resulting in a massive draft haul

Mike Salk on why the Clark trade was a big story:

It ended an era and set up the future. The Seahawks were looking at extensions for three big-name, high-ticket-item players with Frank Clark, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, and there was just no way they were going to be able to keep all of those guys. One of them was going to have to go, and it was probably going to be Clark, so that was the way they ended these last few years of the post-Super Bowl era where he was one of the stars of that defense.

The way Seahawks general manager John Schneider did the trade, to get as much as he did out of it – the draft picks that followed and the way that it set up – you change the entire complexion of the Seahawks in 2019 and for the next few years beyond that. It allows you to get Jadeveon Clowney, it allows you to draft all the new players they did. Say what you want, but you’ve seen something from a lot of your rookies. There’s actually been some promise there right off the bat, and the Clark trade allowed the Seahawks to get them.

7. Sounders claim second MLS Cup title, first time at home

From the Nov. 10 game recap story:

The Sounders experienced a pair of big firsts – they hosted the MLS Cup in Seattle for the first time in their 11-year history, and they scored their first goal in a championship game.

That resulted in the team’s second MLS Cup title as the Sounders rode a trio of second half goals to a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC in front of an announced attendance of 69,274 – the biggest crowd ever for a sporting event at CenturyLink Field.

6. Seahawks trade for Pro Bowl pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney

From Danny O’Neil’s Sept. 3 column:

Make no mistake about this: Clowney chose Seattle. He couldn’t get traded until he signed Houston’s one-year contract offer, which meant that he could dig his heels in if he wanted. That’s the reason that he’s in Seattle this week instead of Miami, where it’s clear the Texans would have preferred to trade him.

And the quarterback that some former Seahawks have – anonymously – said they resented here in Seattle? Well, Russell Wilson was a selling point for Clowney.

“Russ is a great quarterback,” Clowney said. “I was like, ‘Who should I go play for?’ Somebody who can move that ball down the field and can score points. I know he’s good at it. We played him. He’s a great quarterback and that played a big role in it also.”

5. Seahawks begin season 10-2 to jump atop NFC playoff race

Dave Wyman on why the 2019 Seahawks season is a big story:

That was a huge surprise that they started out 10-2. I don’t think anybody would have ever guessed that they would have gotten to that point. I think everybody thought it was going to be a 9-7 or 10-6 team. To me, that was big news. I know it happened gradually, but 10-2 – the last time they were that good, they won a Super Bowl.

I think the thing that stands out is what a scrappy team it is because they have older guys like Duane Brown, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, but they have young guys too that have kind of been taught how to win. I also feel like it’s Russell Wilson’s team now and he just wills them to win games. That sounds kind of corny and I think there were some guys on the team who thought that was corny, but now this is Russell’s team and Bobby’s team and I feel like they reflect that. I think that’s going to help them win in the playoffs.

I think general manager John Schneider deserves a lot of credit. Obviously Pete Carroll coaches them up and I don’t want to discount that, but the Quandre Diggs trade is a great example of not knowing who this guy is and them seeing something in him that would fit the defense perfectly, and it showed up immediately in his first game with the Seahawks against San Francisco.

4. King Félix takes his final bow in a Mariners uniform

Shannon Drayer on why Félix Hernández’s last start was a big story:

It was a story that basically wrapped up an entire era. Not just for Félix or the Mariners, but for Mariners fans. I think it caused a lot of reflection and it grabbed people a lot more than they thought it would. We knew it would happen at some point, but I think a lot of people didn’t know how that was going to turn out.

I think the biggest part of that story was the surprise element of how Félix handled it and how we reacted to it. You heard about fans that hadn’t been to Mariners games in years showing up to the game. A lot of people watched it, too. I was on ROOT Sports that night talking about Félix and for the next week I couldn’t go anywhere without people saying, “Hey, I saw you on TV the other night.” Everybody was tuning in to that game.

I think what he did with that moment was pure Félix. When he got that first strikeout and he spun around and he pointed to the King’s Court, I have never seen anything else like that on a baseball field. He let the fans relive what he was all about. The emotion of getting to relive that one more time and to see what it meant to him and see what it meant to the fans, it’s right up there with just about anything that I’ve seen with any player-fan interaction. It was just an absolutely crazy, beautiful, bittersweet moment.

 

3. Edgar Martinez finally inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

From the July 21 news story:

A moment 15 years in the making – Edgar Martinez’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. – finally happened.

Multiple times throughout the day, fans in attendance in Cooperstown broke into chants of “Ed-GAR” just like they used to at the Kingdome and Safeco Field during Martinez’s playing career.

Martinez is the second player to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame to feature a Mariners cap on his plaque, joining his former teammate Ken Griffey Jr., who went into Cooperstown three years prior. He also joins Randy Johnson, another teammate from those mid-90s Mariners teams, who went into the Hall with an Arizona cap in 2015.

2. UW Huskies football coach Chris Petersen walks away

Jim Moore on why the Petersen resignation was a big story:

He’s considered a top 10 coach nationally and probably the second or third best coach in Washington history, and it just came out of the blue.

I was shocked. When I heard the news I thought it was like a April Fools type deal and somebody was just kidding around. I heard it at a news break and I didn’t think it would be of that magnitude of Chris Petersen stepping down.

Good for him for doing what he wants to do and focusing more on his personal life. No one knew it was going to happen. Usually you get reports that leak out a little bit, but no one had heard of that.

1. “Hey, Seattle”: Russell Wilson signs extension with Seahawks at 11th hour

Since Russell Wilson’s rookie season with the Seahawks in 2012, there’s been little doubt that he was anything but Seattle’s franchise quarterback – save for a brief period last spring.

With Wilson set to enter his last year under contract, he set a deadline for the Seahawks – sign him to a new deal by midnight April 16 or be prepared for negotiations to end until his contract comes up.

After weeks of talk and speculation, the deadline neared. And at the 11th hour, Wilson dropped a social media bombshell.

“Hey, Seattle. We got a deal.”

In a video just begging to be parodied – something teammates Tyler Lockett and D.J. Fluker gladly took care of – Wilson and wife Ciara announced that he had come to terms with Seattle on a long-term extension. It turned out to be gigantic, as he became the NFL’s highest-paid player.

The story doesn’t stop there, however. When Wilson got back to work in the 2019 season, he played like the NFL’s highest-paid player too, vaulting to the top of the MVP conversation during the first half of the campaign and leading Seattle back to the top of the NFC playoff picture.

But think about how different everything might have been had a deal not been reached.

On Dec. 17, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy discussed how they voted on the top Seattle sports stories of 2019, and both Tom Wassell and Jake Heaps each revealed Wilson’s contract extension as their personal No. 1 story. To them, it wasn’t just about how the new deal ensured Wilson would stay in Seattle for a long time, but also what was on the line if a deal wasn’t reached.

“There were a lot of implications,” Heaps said. “It would have been a crazy situation and this would be a much different storyline as we’re watching this team rather than Russell Wilson playing at an MVP level and this being his organization.”

Said Wassell: “It involves the city’s NFL team and it involves the quarterback who has done a lot of winning around here and happens to have a lot of fans. If he were to leave here, that would have been a catastrophe for the city and the sports landscape. That’s by far to me the biggest story.”

More on Russell Wilson’s year:

Russell Wilson makes NFL history with win over Eagles
The story behind Russell Wilson’s contract extension with Seahawks
Wilson: ‘I want to be a Seahawk for life’
Wilson signs four-year, $140 million extension