The Mariners flew 12 hours to Japan to get ready for the opening of the major league baseball season. Naturally, Ichiro was No spotlight, however, for owner Hiroshi Yamauchi.
Ichiro, with teammate Munenori Kawasaki, received a rousing reception upon his return to Japan with the Mariners. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest
Big week for returns: Ichiro returned to Japan, where the Mariners returned to 2011 form by going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position (also two whiffs with the bases loaded) in a 5-1 loss to Hanshin Tigers, not exactly the Yankees. The University of Washington secured a return to Madison Square Garden (where it played in December) for the NIT semifinals, and an in-house scoring crew returned to David Estrada of the Sounders a goal that it had first judged an “own goal.” Good thing: it proved the game winner against the hated Houston Dynamo. That Was The Week That Was:
MARCH 19-25, 2012
- GOOD WEEK — From the time he stepped off the airplane in Tokyo, where more than 100 reporters had come to welcome him home, Ichiro received treatment worthy of a potentate as the Mariners launched their swing through Japan. The main attraction in Seattle’s 5-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers, Ichiro drew huge cheers when he hit a first-inning single (maybe the most-cheered single in the history of the Japanese Empire). Three subsequent ground outs didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for Japan’s most celebrated player. “I felt a lot of tension so that was quite a moment,” said Ichiro, referring to his base hit. “It didn’t feel like an exhibition game and there was a different atmosphere.”
- BAD WEEK — Former Seahawks executive Mickey Loomis, with the franchise from 1983-98, was suspended for the first eight games of the NFL season without pay for turning a blind eye to the New Orleans Saints’ infamous bounty program. Loomis, the Saints’ GM, apologized, but that failed to spare his pocketbook. Saints linebackers coach Joe Vitt, once an assistant under Chuck Knox with the Seahawks in the mid-1980s, drew a six-game suspension.
- EX-SEATTLE JOCKS OF THE WEEK — Former Sonic Kevin Durant tallied 40 points and snatched 17 rebounds and teamed with Russell Westbrook, who had 45, to lead the OKC Thunder to a 149-140 double-OT win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday. Durrant and Westbrook became the first tandem in NBA history to have two games in the same season with 40 points apiece (is the arena deal done yet?) . . . Peyton Siva, the former Franklin High stud who spurned UW, scored nine points and handed out eight assists to help Louisville beat Florida 72-68 and reach the Final Four.
- SUNDAY, March 25 — Mariners starter Hector Noesi endures a horrendous third inning, giving up a double, a two-run homer, a walk and a balk. He also plunks a batter among his 76 pitches as the Mariners get hosed by the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League 5-1 in the first of two exhibitions in Japan’s Tokyo Dome. Ichiro, playing in Japan for the first time as a member of the Mariners, collects a first-inning single from his new No. 3 slot, and his every move is applauded. Casper Wells crushes a ninth-inning homer, but, reminiscent of Seattle’s 2011 season-long death watch, the Mariners go 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position as Dustin Ackley and Chone Figgins whiff with the bases loaded in the fifth . . . UW women’s hoops team gets ousted from the NIT 58-47 by a San Diego team that holds UW to 25.9 percent shotmaking, in large part because of a San Diego filly named Sophia Ederaine, who comes off the bench to swat away NINE! Husky shots.
- SATURDAY, March 24 — Western Washington Vikings holds off a late run and defeat Montevallo of Alabama 72-65 to win the NCAA Division II basketball title at Highland Heights, KY. It’s the first national championship for WWU (nice job!) . . . Mariners quietly mention that 84-year-old Hiroshi Yamauchi, principal owner of the Mariners since 1990, will not attend his team’s games in the Tokyo Dome, continuing his streak of never having seen his own team play. Weird, but at least no one can ever accuse of him of being a meddling owner — in person.
- FRIDAY, March 23 — David Estrada scores his MLS-leading fourth goal and Brad Evans converts a penalty kick as the Sounders blank the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in front of 38,304 at CenturyLink Field. Estrada, last week’s hat-trick hero, sends in what proves to be the game-winner in the 23rd minute as the Sounders improve to 2-0 (MLS). “Everything I hit is going in,” says Estrada, who never scored a goal before the 2012 season . . . Seahawks ink 228-pound running back Kregg Lumpkin, a free agent via Tampa Bay. Lumpkin’s signing brings to three the number of outside free agents imported to play for Seattle.
- THURSDAY, March 22— Western Washington University defeats Springhill (MA.) to earn a spot in the NCAA Division II national championship game for the first time in school history. . . The Mariners finalize their 30-player roster and jet to Japan, where they will open the regular season against the Oakland A’s . . . The Seattle Sounders’ women’s team makes a major signing when it inks national team star Megan Rapinoe to a roster that already includes Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux.
- WEDNESDAY, March 21 — A “distracted” Felix Hernandez gets smoked in his final spring training start, allowing 10 hits and eight runs in a 13-8 loss to the Chicago White Sox. “They hit everything I threw,” says Hernandez, whose poor outing comes an hour after Eric Wedge names Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood as his 2012 starting pitchers. The surprise: most had expected that 30-year-old Hisashi Iwakuma would land a spot in the rotation, but Wedge says long relief is the best option right now . . . The Seahawks snatch another outside free agent, signing 6-4, 315-pound Frank Omiyale, who has started at right tackle, left guard and left tackle in three previous seasons with the Chicago Bears, who released him last month.
- TUESDAY, March 20 — UW basketball team punches its ticket to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York by holding off an Oregon team that shellacked the Huskies by 25 a month ago, 90-86. Terrence Ross embellishes his status as a potential NBA first-round pick with 24 points, and Tony Wroten scores 22, becoming the most prolific freshman scorer in school history, eclipsing Isaiah Thomas . . . Kevin Millwood states his case for a spot in the Mariners’ rotation by allowing one run on four hits in 5 innings in a 9-1 win over Cincinnati that also features 3 doubles by Kyle Seager . . . UW women’s basketball team secures its first 20-win season since 2003 with a 55-49 NIT victory at Oregon State . . . Obit: Mel Parnell, the winningest lefty in Boston Red Sox history and the manager of the 1963 Seattle Rainiers, dies in New Orleans after a battle with cancer. Parnell, who replaced Johnny Pesky and was replaced by Edo Vanni, had a 68-90 record in his only year of managing the team.
- MONDAY, March 19 — Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declares an “open competition” between quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and newly acquired Matt Flynn after Flynn agrees to a three-year, $24 million contract, of which just $10 million is guaranteed. Of course, no one buys this “open competition” business. Doug Farrar, who has contributed to SPNW, tweets this about Jackson, who once lost his starting job in Minnesota when the Vikings inked Bret Favre: “Does anybody hate ex-Green Bay quarterbacks more than Jackson?” . . . Mariners: Jason Vargas, scheduled to start the second game in Japan vs. Oakland, allows 7 earned runs on 8 hits and walk in 0.2 IP in what becomes a 12-7 loss to the Cubs. After his ERA bloats to 12.46, Vargas mysteriously says, “I feel good” (we don’t) . . . Hong-Chih Kuo, competing for a spot as a left-handed reliever, is outsourced by the Mariners into free agency with a 17.55 ERA, .417 BA against and 5 dongs allowed in Cactus action . . . Acknowledging his March 17 hat trick against Toronto FC, MLS names David Estrada of the Sounders as the league’s Player of the Week.
TOP 5 NUMBERS
56: Points scored by Washington’s Terrence Ross in NIT victories over Northwestern (career-high 32) and Oregon (24).
27: Season high in points for former WSU star Klay Thompson in Golden State’s 101-92 win over the Houston Rockets Wednesday. Thompson made 11 of 24 shots.
Away fans to be allocated 800 tickets for Cascadia games in 2012 for matches involving Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, up from 500 last year.
4: Number of goals by David Estrada during Sounders’ wins over Toronto FC and Houston — the only 4 goals of his MLS career.
20: Consecutive years that Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi has gone without seeing his own ball club play.
WAYBACK MACHINE: Lined up in T formation, the 1946 Tacoma Indians backfield included (front), Marv Harshman (33), the team's quarterback. Behind Harshman, left to right, are halfback Tippy Lockard, fullback Bob Barrett and halfback Tommy Tommervik. / David Eskenazi Collection
READS OF THE WEEK
- Seahawks’ New QB: “Ready To Work My Tail Off”: Although its hard to imagine Matt Flynn not becoming the Seahawks starting quarterback, especially after the clubs $24 million ($10 million guaranteed) deal with the former Green Bay backup, both Flynn and head coach Pete Carroll emphasized Monday there will be an open competition for the position once Flynn arrives in Seattle and the team gets back to work . . . MORE
- Wayback Machine: Marv Harshman’s Athletic Life: Lorenzo Romar is a three-time Pac-10/12 Conference Coach of the Year, has won 20 or more games six times, and directed the Huskies to six NCAA and one NIT tournament appearances. Romars record is unmatched in the modern history of University of Washington basketball, but even Romar will have to go some to warrant a night like the one that his UW mentor, Marv Harshman, enjoyed when the Huskies . . . MORE
- Thiel: Nintendo Part 1 — Mariners Oddness: We in sports media love anniversary-date stories. Last summer in Seattle, sports fans celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 2001 Mariners team that won 116 games, a feat that with each passing year grows closer in freakishness to the day an asteroid struck the earth and eventually wiped out the dinosaurs . . . MORE
- Thiel: Nintendoball Part 2 — After Ichiro, What?: For good reason, Mariners bosses are proud of and eager to see blossom their 2012 collection of youthful baseball talent, which presages a return to contention . . . MORE
- Thiel: Mariners Seek Value For ‘Historical’ Player: To see Ichiro adored in his homeland is a remarkable thing. Which only complicates matters. Sitting behind the dugout at the Tokyo Dome Sunday were the Mariners’ top executives — Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong, Chris Larson, John Ellis, Jack Zduriencik and others who will . . . MORE
Ichiro is entering the fourth and final year of a contract that will pay him $18 million in 2012. The issue then becomes what to do about Ichiro's future. / Sportspress Northwest file
POLL OF THE WEEK
What Will The Mariners Do About Ichiro?
- It is going to be a competition (with Tarvaris Jackson) and whatever my role is, I just want to make the Seahawks a better football team. Ive always been a very competitive and confident guy and a big believer in competition because it brings out the best in everybody. Im excited about it and I cant wait to get started” — Matt Flynn, Seahawks quarterback, after joining the team
- “He just wasn’t able to be consistent, and with where we are in camp and the decision we have to make, he just wasn’t going to be part of the puzzle initially” — Eric Wedge, Mariners manager, on the release of reliever Hong-Chih Kuo
- “If I wasn’t so hoarse, I would start to sing ‘Start spreading the news.'” — Lorenzo Romar, UW basketball coach, after his Huskies secured a trip to New York for the NIT semifinals
- “I was a little bummed when I came in at halftime and I heard it was an own goal. Thankfully they reviewed it and gave it to me. I’ll take it.” — David Estrada, Sounders, after his goal against Houston Friday, first called an own goal, was changed to a regular goal
- “I didn’t feel anything out of the standard. We had some media, but it wasn’t too much. I was able to flow right by.” — Ichiro, after more than 100 journalists greeted him and the Mariners upon their arrival in Japan
- “I don’t know if it’s sunk in all the way yet, but it’s a pretty incredible feeling” — Richard Woodworth, Western Washington junior, after the Vikings won the NCAA Division II basketball title Saturday
- “It was awesome. It felt like a European soccer game. They’re extremely enthusiastic. It’s good baseball, obviously, and they have a lot of passion and pride in the game. I had a really fun time” — Michael Saunders, Mariners outfielder, after Seattle opened its two-game exhibition series in the Tokyo Dome against the Hanshin Tigers
- Monday, March 25: Pittsburgh at WSU basketball, CBI, Pullman
- Tuesday, March 26: UW basketball vs. Minnesota, NIT, New York
- Wednesday, March 27: Mariners at Oakland, Tokyo
- Thursday, March 28: Mariners at Oakland, Tokyo
- Saturday, March 30: San Jose at Seattle Sounders FC, 7 p.m.