BY John Hickey 02:00AM 04/21/2011

M’s may find leadership in Cust, Ryan & Kennedy

Veterans talk up the game of baseball and teammates even through losses

Jack Cust and teammates Adam Kennedy and Brendan Ryan talk a good game. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Another game Wednesday, another loss for the Mariners, this one 3-2 to Detroit.

After the game, three of the Mariners gather as they often do – DH Jack Cust, shortstop Brendan Ryan and utility infielder Adam Kennedy.

They sit in chairs on the north side of the clubhouse, Cust in front of his locker, Ryan in front of his locker and Kennedy, whose locker is on the south side, pulls up a chair and sits in front of the empty locker between the other two.

They talk in quiet tones. Teammates occasionally file by. When reliever David Pauley, who threw four shutout innings, or starter Erik Bedard, who took the loss after an adequate start No. 4 of the season, walks by, the conversation stops and they salute each for his efforts.

Then the quiet talks continue.

Just watching this triangle of men, uniforms half off, kicking back after a game and talking in such low tones is intriguing. Most of their teammates have places to go and people to see. These three may, too, but for now each seems to be in no hurry to leave their private scrum.

What is it that they are talking about that is so compelling each is reluctant to leave?

The answer, it turns out, is simple. They’re talking baseball.

“We’re all fans of the game,’’ Kennedy said once things finally broke up. “We’re not the kind who can stop thinking about the game 10 minutes after it’s over. We really enjoy talking about the game.’’

Hmmm. You enjoy talking about a 3-2 loss or a 6-13 start to the Seattle season?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

“We talk about today, we talk about the season, we talk about situations that come up,’’ Kennedy said. “And we enjoy it.’’

“We’ve all been around a while,’’ Cust said. “We know that things are going to turn around. That’s why it’s enjoyable. We’re going through a tough stretch now. But we know it can turn. And talking about the game and understanding the game is important.’’

It doesn’t seem like much, but this triumvirate has a chance to be the anchor of the 2011 team. They set examples in being available to the media, true, but that’s only part of their clubhouse contribution.

They talk the game, they talk up their teammates. They set examples of how players should carry themselves. In the Seattle clubhouse, like in all others, there’s a tendency to hit the iPad, the cell phone or the computer after the game to catch up on the rest of the world and leave baseball in the dust after a game, particularly after a loss.

What these three are suggesting is that the game is bigger than the 2½ hours it takes to play. The game doesn’t end. They’ll be back at in the next day and the next day, and it doesn’t hurt to sit and talk about the way things have gone and the way things need to go. There will be plenty of time for catching up on texts and voicemails and social media after leaving the clubhouse.

“You try to set an example with the stuff you do,’’ Cust said. “Are we team leaders? I don’t know about that. But we enjoy talking about the game, playing the game and being part of the game. That’s the example we’d like to set.

“Most of us, individually and as a team, are off to slow starts this year. We haven’t started as we would have liked. But we know enough that we just have to grind it out. The fact that we have a losing record doesn’t change the fact that we care what we do and how we do it.

“Baseball is a game that you find can turn around in a hurry.’’

All three are baseball orphans in a fashion. Cust wasn’t wanted by the A’s after he’d hit 101 homers for Oakland the last four seasons. Ryan had the worst year of his career (.223) in 2010 after playing hurt most of the year, and the St. Louis Cardinals couldn’t wait to trade him. Kennedy didn’t have a job until the Mariners signed him on Jan. 10, long after most of the coveted free agents on the market had been snapped up.

Between them, they’ve played 36 years coming into this season and have played in 31 different major and minor league cities. They’ve seen about all there is to see. And they seem to believe that a season isn’t defined by the first three weeks or what happened yesterday.

“You have to come to the park every day expecting success if you’re going to help the team,’’ Cust said. “That’s just the game of baseball.’’

And Cust, Kennedy and Ryan expect to be talking again Thursday. And Friday and Saturday. And beyond.

Talking baseball. Maybe they’ll set an example their teammates will be able to follow.

Twitter: @JHickey3


  • Hawk Nut

    Column sounds a little snarky there, Art.

    Here’s the deal: You win, you get to control your destiny.  You’re on a team that wins 9 out of 32 of the games that count over two years, NOBODY controls their destiny and almost everybody’s going to get fired.

    I’d rather lose while going in a positive direction than lose sticking with once-great players whose skills are clearly in decline, as if “continuity” could overcome lack of talent, durability and physical strength.

    And frankly, after years of watching Ruskell’s “little, high-motor” guys on the defensive line look like the French Army refereeing a damned track meet in second half after second half after second half — after the elephants they were playing against simply wore them out and overpowered them — I’m amazed Timmy can find a job in pro football where they let him anywhere NEAR talent evaluation.
    I love what PC and JS are doing with the Hawks even if it takes a while to get back to the Super Bowl.  Bigger, faster, stronger, younger works just fine for me, plus give me two guys with a clear vision of what they want to do — and the cred that says they know what they’re doing — and I’ll gladly indulge them and follow. 

  • SpudzDP

    Junior Siavii, Pep Levingston, Jeff Reed and David Vobora were all cut as four players were added – by the time I finish posting this a half a dozen other transactions will have probably taken place.

  • UW interim president Phyllis Wise didn’t care for the Duck diss, and ordered Woodward to apologize  Forgot to mention that wise as member of Nike board was instrumental in getting new nike contract for UW.  Interesting omission

    • Art, Ive seen this story written a lot the last couple years, as Oregon has taken off. And I agree to an extent, it is a “competitive advantage” perse we here at Oregon have with Uncle Phil. However, I think its a little too easy and convinient to just say we are winning bc of him. Uncle Phil has been contributing to the school since the mid 90’s, with facilities and uniforms that have been cutting edge and are being copied across the nation the last couple years. But we didnt get to the status that we are now until the last couple years. How could that be, since as you say its all about Uncle Phils money? I have a different theory, and most Oregon fans will agree. Two words: Chip Kelly. Mike Bellotti did a great job building up the program, but 5-6 years ago when we had basically the same facilities, same cutting edge uniforms and the same type of athletes, and we were muddling around in the middle of the Pac 10. We had a great BCS run in 2001, but that was 10 years ago. The difference was the hire of Chip Kelly who has taken this program to a new level. And done so btw, without elite talent. We havent started to recruit at an elite level until the last couple years, since hes been the head coach and we have started to win (that means watch out Husky fan, Chip Kelly with elite NFL athletes as juniors and seniors all over the field is going to be scary). Last years Natty team only had one player drafted, in the 4th round. So while its convinient to put this all on Uncle Phil, saying we are to an extent buying our place in the upper echelon of college football, I think if you look closer it has a lot to do with the Chipper. All things have remained the same at Oregon for the last 15 years or so except for him, hes gotten us over the hump.


      • Artthiel

        I wrote that it was “mostly” due to Knight, not all due. Sark mentioned some other reasons, and I pointed that out. Oregon began dominating Washington before Kelly was here. The stadium upgrade was in 02, but in the pipeline before that. Bellotti recruited to it in the 90s, which he should. The system and the players and the success are products of it. 

        • Agreed Art, but again to an extent. 5-6-7 years ago we were kind of a laughing stock, a team that was all flash, but lacked substance. We didnt win a bowl game in my 4 years (didnt make it once and lost the defunct Seattle/Emerald bowl, Sun bowl and Holiday bowl). This was all happening 7-10 years after Uncle Phil got initially involved with the progam during the mid-90’s. Again, Chip has changed things completely and taken us to that next level. From a good program that had good to great teams every couple of years, to a potentially great program challenging for BCS bowl games yearly. And as far as us dominating you Husky’s before Kelly got here, you have to look into the mirror on that one. You had some awful, awful teams there for a while, a lot of teams dominated you Husky’s. Continuing with my theme, that probably had more to due with Keith Gilbertson and Tyrone Willingham than the “futility” in fundraising for a new stadium.


      • Michp

        You are correct about Chip. Once all the cheating finally comes out and clarified that will be the end of that story. Cause running backs from Texas want to go to tree hugging Eugene ??? For installments of 25K , I guess it make more sense.

    • Art Thiel

      Good point, but a different one.  All schools with Nike apparel deals end up supporting, at least indirectly, the Ducks’ rise. Woodward’s point was about dwindling state support, and his reckless blurt. Conflicts of interests abound on college campuses. How about ESPN’s position as power broker in the conference affiliation mayhem? 

  • Soggyblogger

    Wow. Far out. Awesome, dude. I laughed out loud three or four times as I read this article. I was wondering if/when you would make the effort to write like that again after reading three or four of your barroom chats with friend Steve that you published for reasons I couldn’t fathom.

    You have restored my faith in you and this site. Write on. 

    • Artthiel

      As long as you love us, we’re here.

  • GoDucks

    “formerly arrogant Huskies.”


    • Michp

      I’m still arrogant. :) Go Dawgs!

    • Artthiel

      0-12 does a lot for the rise of humility.

  • Sara Orr

    Phil Knight attended the University of Oregon as an athlete.  He graduated and continued on with his education at Stanford.  He is generous with the money he has earned.  Both Stanford and Oregon have received large funds from him.  HIs dedication to the schools that helped him reach his professional goals is to be admired.  Nike money does flow into the Athletic department at the University of Oregon as many Nike employees graduated from that school.  How Phil Knight chooses to spend his money is his choice.  Many colleges in America have facilities named after large money donors.  The fact that Oregon has a former athlete contributing to the school is something to be proud of.  

    • Artthiel

      Never said he did anything wrong. But he is the unappointed, unelected, unpaid king of the university. Which is good and bad. Ask anyone from feudal Europe over the last 1,500 years. 

  • Mssearch

    Art – Psst, Art…you spilled a little purple Kool Aid on your beard.  Phil Knight has supported his alma mater(s) as is his right, but he’s never caught, thrown, or shot a ball @ Autzen and or MattCourt…..swell that the Huskies dominated the rivalry in the early 90’s, but irrelevant to the current players who were infants at the time.  You sound very similar to the lost souls demonizing their plight as 99%ers, blaming others for one’s lack of achievement.

    • Artthiel

      Never said Knight did anything wrong. My point was that college ball is all about the money, and Oregon has it. So does Okla State with T Boone Pickens. Wouldn’t that be wonderfully underscored if they met in the BCS title game? 

  • Chris

    I was a student at the UO in the early 80s.  During my 4 years in Eugene the football team won a total of 14 games, finishing 9th in the conference standing twice.  In those days sports writers from the big cities would write about how Oregon and Oregon State didn’t belong in the Pac-10, that they should leave for the WAC, because they simply were never going to be able to compete with the likes of Washington, USC and the other big schools.

    There’s an old saying in military circles about how generals from the winning side are always fighting the next war with their winning strategy from the previous war, and that losing generals have to come up with something new for the next war…or they’ll continue being the losing generals.

    With that analogy in mind, here in the NW it’s fairly clear that the Huskies have been stuck in 1991 for quite a while.  And it’s also clear that the Ducks have NOT been stuck there.  As long as Husky fans are complaining about Phil Knight, I guess that means the Ducks are winning.  Ouch!! 

    • Arttthiel

      Absolutely true that the Huskies were stuck in the 90s, from tactics to facilities. They’re playing catch-up. As a former Huskies coach once said, scoreboard, baby. But now they appear, with the investment in coaches and facilities, to be joining the arms race. 

  • Michp

    Phil Knight owns Oregon and should not be long till we get the official Phil Knight U name change. Oregun has no tradition so they market with laughable uniforms. Enjoy your 15 seconds of fame Oregun, soon you will be back where you belong…chasing owls in trees. Washington has decades and decades of tradition and will never sell out to market a sneaker company. Go Dawgs!

  • Cgerv25

    Great article Art, you nailed as you usually do!

  • #7inarow

    Huck the Fuskies