BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 01/01/2014

Who won and who lost in 2013? Weigh in here

From Seattle’s failure to wrest away the Sacramento Kings to the Seahawks’ run toward the Super Bowl, 2013 provided much to chew on. What resonated most? Vote here.

Jack Zduriencik, Robinson Cano and new manager Lloyd McClendon were unexpected participants in  $240 million deal in mid-December. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

Who won 2013? Certainly the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, although the early part of 2014 might be a different story. Who lost 2013? Most assuredly the Mariners, although their spectacular desperation spawned several of the most intriguing yarns of the year, including revelations of upper-management dysfunction and the franchise’s outlandish attempt to fix the wreck by handing $240 million over 10 years to a 31-year-old second baseman.

Who won 2013? Certainly Chris Petersen, handed as he was a revitalized Husky football program and a guaranteed, five-year contract worth $18 million to run it. Who lost 2013? Most assuredly Chris Hansen and Seattle’s still-robust NBA fan base. Hansen offered a record sum for an NBA franchise and had a tentative deal for an arena only to have a vengeful David Stern and the league snub his efforts in a landslide vote.

Each palate responds to a different taste. The non-return of the Sonics will not resonate nearly as much with some as the failure of the Sounders to avoid a late-season crash. For others, Washington’s inability to achieve BCS-level bowl status five years after an 0-12 season warranted cries for Steve Sarkisian’s scalp.

All of the following dominated the conversation in 2013. Which resonated most with you?

NBA rejects Seattle

In early May, many thought Seattle had the Sacramento Kings secured and that the transplants would begin play at KeyArena in the fall for the two to three years it would take Chris Hansen to build his $500 million basketball-hockey facility in Sodo. But the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 22-8 to keep the Kings in Sacramento, virtually demolishing a year-long effort to return the NBA to Seattle. The setback provided arena foes time to gather wits and resources. It seems increasingly that Hansen, facing formidable opposition on multiple fronts, will not see his arena built where he wanted.

Ken Griffey Jr. enters Mariners Hall of Fame 

Three years after his playing career ended, Griffey sparked another sellout at Safeco Field in August, the throngs gathering to witness a celebration, heavy with nostalgia, of the greatest baseball career locals are likely to see. Griffey’s feel-good induction, to the on-going chagrin of veteran Mariners watchers, marked the highlight moment of another ineffectual slog to 90 losses.

Re-opening of Husky Stadium 

UW completed the $281 million remodel, actually nearly a complete do-over, of the facility in time for the season opener against Boise State Aug. 31, re-inaugurating it with a slapdown of Chris Petersen’s No. 19 and — as it turned out –highly overrated Broncos. The stadium drew rave reviews and finally gave the Huskies the recruiting tool they needed.

Cancer claims Don “Dawgfather” James

Three local coaching legends died in 2013: Former PLU football’s Frosty Westering in April, former PLU-WSU-UW basketball coach Marv Harshman within days of Westering and, six months later, the greatest football coach in modern Washington history.

James’ death, from pancreatic cancer, made A-1 news and his public memorial attracted 1,000 mourners, including many of his ex-coaches and dozens of his former players, to Alaska Airlines Arena. “I’m not in this business if not for Don James,” Alabama coach Nick Saban, who worked under James at Kent State in the early 1970s, told the mourners via video hook-up.

Sounders execute epic pratfall

The Sounders in August made a $5 million move to sign Clint Dempsey, but it failed to produce the desired results, at least in the short term. Bothered by injuries, Dempsey took a long time adjusting to his new environment and didn’t score his first goal until the season’s final days. By then, the Sounders had gone kaput. Seattle held the pole position for the Supporters’ Shield with three weeks left in the regular season, but had only one win in its final 10 in one of the great fades in MLS history.

The collapse nearly cost Sigi Schmid his job, set him up for ouster next year if matters don’t improve, and prompted the club to sever ties with several players, including fan favorite Mauro Rosales, leading scorer Eddie Johnson and starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.

Dysfunction at the top

Two months after saying he wouldn’t return to the Mariners even if they awarded him a five-year contract (fabulous job of bridge burning), still-inflamed ex-manager Eric Wedge went on record in the Seattle Times in December with allegations that the team’s front office suffered from “dysfunction” and a “lack of leadership.” Wedge, as well as other former club employees, didn’t say much that surprised anyone, but the fact they went on the record about the stewardship of Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong broke ground. GM Jack Zduriencik, his own position in peril, largely ignored the story, glaring in itself. The Times published its indictment one month after Armstrong announced his retirement, sending the Twitterverse into a happy frenzy.

Steve Sarkisian bolts for USC

Sarkisian always wanted to coach his hometown USC Trojans and got his wish, to the joy of some at Montlake, after guiding the Washington Huskies to an 8-4 regular-season finish, an Apple Cup win, and their fourth bowl game under his watch. Sarkisian’s bolt curiously caused few laments. Rather than acknowledge the job he’d done in bringing UW back from 0-12, the hardcore largely denigrated him for failing to “take the Huskies to the next level” quickly enough. Chris Petersen is now tasked with that.

Mariners lavish $240 million on Robinson Cano

The Mariners set an all-sports record in the desperate-measures category Dec. 12 when, to stanch further erosion of the fan base, they signed Cano, a five-time All-Star and .309 career hitter, to the third-richest contract in major league history — taking him away from the New York Yankees, no less. As per custom, it said a lot about the Seattle franchise that the biggest news of the year occurred when no games were being played.

Leach, Cougars botch New Mexico Bowl

Washington State, making his first bowl appearance in 10 years, had a 15-point lead on Colorado State with 2:52 to play. By employing stunningly inept clock management, the Cougars fumbled the game away, creating an epic entry in the annals of “Couging it” boobery. “I will spend my next 50 years in broadcasting wondering why the Cougars didn’t take a knee,” Bob Robertson told his Cougars radio audience. Leach took no responsibility for blowing the game, choosing instead to bark at a reporter who quizzed him about his obvious poor decisions.

Seahawks favored to win Super Bowl

The talk about a Seattle appearance in the Super Bowl began shortly after April’s NFL draft and never abated on local talk radio, where the Seahawks became the prime topic of conversation into the New Year. Shoving all other stories to the background, the Seahawks justified the banter, starting 11-1, winning the NFC West at 13-3 and securing the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. “They are the best team in the league,” ESPN’s Jon Gruden announced after the Seahawks dismantled the New Orleans Saints Dec. 2. Point of caution: In the last 19 seasons, only once (New Orleans and Indianapolis in 2009) have the top two seeds entering the playoffs reached the Super Bowl.







  • jafabian

    The Seahawks are the talk of the town right now but they’ve been ranked high in Super Bowl talk in the past. In fact they closed out the ’86 season similar to how they did for the ’12 season: with a strong five game win streak and even beat both Super Bowl participants that season. Then had some draft choices that were highly praised the next season with Brian Bosworth, Tony Woods and Dave Wyman after having a good draft the previous season that included John L. Williams, Bobby Joe Edmonds and Patrick Hunter. There was also Super Bowl talk for the Hawks after they finished 9-7 in ’83 and went to the AFC championship. Talk is just that: talk.

    From the list here I voted for the NBA rejecting Chris Hansen’s bid. That has the biggest impact on the Seattle sports scene and was done for no other reason than the NBA wants to close it’s exclusive men’s club doors to the Seattle market. Has anything like this happened anywhere in professional sports? The pettiness of that decision amazingly is still alive after the NBA authorized the Sonics to move to OKC in 2008. Hansen’s bid was strong, his credentials impeccable and the NBA went with the lower bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento citing that they couldn’t turn their backs on a 29 year history in the Sacramento market. And yet they can flush 41 years in Seattle down the toilet just like that. To add insult to injury after the final decision was made Stern, when he announced the final decision to the media about moving the Kings, said with a smirk that he had to make the press conference quick because he “had a game to go to in OKC.” To paraphrase Johnny Carson I hope an unclean yak sits on his dinner.

    • oldfan

      I got to say I admire your historical recall. I remember those events, but I likely couldn’t pull those names and dates out of my head (at least ’til after you mentioned them). I’m impressed.
      As for the Sonics and NBA , personally I couldn’t care less. I’d given up on the NBA long before the Sonics were stolen, for more reasons than I could list here. But with the Sonics gone, and this latest debacle, I’ll never watch, or spend a penny on, any NBA product for as long as I live. I feel for the fans that got suckered in on this mess, but hopefully they’ll see now that the NBA is the worst of the mercenary sports business models.

      • jafabian

        Thanks! I remember because the expectations were high both times and justifiably so. As much grief Boz takes as a bust of a draft pick he had a good rookie season. And that year the Hawks still had Kenny Easley as the starting SS. If it weren’t for the NFL strike the Hawks might have gone further in the playoffs than just the opening round vs. Houston.

        My runner-up nominee was the Sounders. To go from the worst in MLS to the best then close out with a 1-10 record is very disappointing to say the least. I think they’re doing the right moves right now though.

    • RadioGuy

      Good post, jafabian, but my own take on the “Sonics” is that the NBA would have been willing to let the team be sold to Hansen and moved to Seattle because the Maloofs had become embarrassments, Seattle is a much better market for TV than Sacramento, and Hansen’s offer was in effect driving up the value of ALL the franchises. Stern may be a snarky little man, but he’s not a stupid one and he had to recognize that in terms of demographics, Seattle was the better option.

      What ended up happening, however, is that Kevin Johnson did what Mike McGinn and Chris Gregoire studiously failed to do: He stepped up to the challenge by brokering deals for new ownership and a new arena for Sacramento, which was something NOBODY expected. In doing so, he put Stern and the NBA in the position of having to justify moving a team out of a city that was now PROVING they were willing to do what they had to do to keep that team (which was not the message they got from Gregoire, Frank Chopp, McGinn or the Seattle City Council). Margarita Prentice was the one person in local or state government who showed a lick of fight and even she had her own motivation with the proposed arena planned for her district.

      Again, Stern is nothing if not a smart lawyer and he had to know that his league would be on the receiving end of the mother of all antitrust lawsuits if that move went forward…he did not want to delay his pending retirement by having to sit in a courtroom (especially one in California, where such a suit would undoubtedly be filed).

      • jafabian

        IIRC, the current Kings ownerships bid was lesser than Hansen’s and Hansen was prepared to put more on the table. It all stems from Frank Chopp telling Stern that the NBA needs to get its house in order before asking for arena financing. At the time the NBA was in the middle of a possible work stoppage and the NBA was saying they were in the red and couldn’t afford to give the Players Union what it wanted. Stern took in personally when he had his own words thrown in his face. He used Seattle to get the deal he wanted in Sacramento. KJ likes to say he kept the Kings in Sacramento but he got used about as much as Hansen was. So in that sense you’re right: David Stern is a smart man. He’s J.R. Ewing smart.

        • RadioGuy

          AND the average value of an NBA franchise still went up. We’re agreed on Stern and I’ll raise you one: He’s Machiavelli smart.

  • Wally Streetwalker

    Anyone here still drink Whorebux coffee?

    • RadioGuy

      Not for 20 years. Rather than blow $3 for a single cup anywhere, it makes more sense to spend $10 on a 2-pound bag of unground vanilla-flavored coffee beans at Grocery Outlet and make a daily pot of coffee for six weeks. I did the math and if that works out to six cups of java daily for 42 days, my wife and I are paying 4 cents per cup (plus whatever a dab of Bailey’s coffee creamer costs) and we’re perfectly satisfied. Who need Howard?