Two developments over the weekend emerged from Minneapolis that figure to be of intrigue to Seattle sports fans.
The Mariners’ new ace (of April, anyway) is, of all pitchers, Yusei Kikuchi. Partly by ability and partly by default.
And former Mariners star Alex Rodriguez signed a deal to become, in 2023, co-owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, arguably the least successful NBA team in the 21st century. So his Mariners roots are likely to come handy.
First, the current M’s.
A likely season-ending elbow injury has foreclosed on the comeback of No. 2 starter James Paxton at two innings. No. 1 starter Marco Gonzales is on an anything-but-very-boring tumble off the edge of the earth after two unexpectedly bad outings.
Yet the Mariners are 5-4 after winning their second series of the season Sunday despite the non-production of the two starters, as well as star CF Kyle Lewis, yet to play because of a bruised knee.
Lots of contributors, of course. But in 12 innings over his first two starts, Kikuchi struck out 16 and walked three, including a 4-3 win Saturday in 10 innings over a strong Twins lineup when he permitted five hits over six innings, with two walks and six strikeouts.
Not All-Star material. But for a guy with a U.S. career ERA of 5.30 entering his third season season of a four-year deal worth $56 million, it’s overdue production at a good time.
Since his American arrival, Kikuchi, 30 in June, had issues with mechanics, control and command that overshadowed his flashes of competence. At $16.5 million, his salary occupies 20 percent of the payroll, and is second only to 3B Kyle Seager’s $18.5 million. After a 4-for-4 Sunday that included two home runs to help Seattle overcome a 6-0 deficit to win 8-6, Seager is earning his keep.
Kikuchi has begun.
“Kikuchi was outstanding again,” manager Scott Servais said after Saturday’s game. “He feels really good about where he’s at, the adjustments he’s made and the growth he’s made. Not just with his pitches but his approach, his attitude when he’s out there. I like it.
“He’s more animated, he’s fired up. You see more of his personality starting to come out. That’s a good thing . . . We’re going to need many, many more outings like that out of him. He’s got that type of ability and it’s great to see it playing out.”
We all understand it’s mid-April, and we all understand the Mariners’ are in step-back year No. 44. But since no one else is doing much in the American League, the prospect of having high expectations met finally met by someone in blue represents a breakthrough in a world otherwise given over to dithering.
Regarding Rodriguez, his latest effort to stay in the headlines after his break-up/make-up drama with fiance Jennifer Lopez is to buy into a sports league that knows what it’s doing, as opposed to MLB.
He and a billionaire partner and friend (he does have one), Marc Lore, have signed an agreement to buy from Glen Taylor the Wolves and WNBA Lynx for $1.5 billion, according to ESPN. Taylor will hold the team until after the 2022-23 season.
The development was a surprise to all, although Taylor, 79, who has owned the Wolves since 1994, has shopped the team before.
The traditional knee-jerk consequence of news about an NBA franchise sale is suspicion of relocation. No knees jerk harder than those in the void Seattle market.
But Taylor, who also owns the Minneapolis Star Tribune, told his newspaper that a stipulation will be in the agreement to preclude such a move.
“They will keep the team here, yes. We will put it in the agreement,” Taylor said. “At this point we have a letter of intent, but when we make up the contract we’ll put that in there. That’s no problem. That won’t be a problem.”
Legal observers in July told the Star Tribune such language in a potential deal would be tricky to enforce and would have to avoid being overly punitive in the case of a move for it to hold up in court.
In any event, the likelihood of relocation is minuscule, precisely because of what happened in Seattle in 2008.
The NBA has not relocated a team in the 13 years since the hijacking of the Sonics to Oklahoma City (other than the temporary move of the Raptors from Toronto to Tampa for reasons of COVID-19). In the 13 years prior, however, the NBA moved four teams.
While it’s wise to never say never, the NBA monopoly has reached such financial imperviousness that operating a team in any city has become nearly idiot-proof. Taylor’s tenure helps make the case.
Over the past 16 seasons, the T-Wolves have had one winning season and one playoff appearance, and are on their eighth coach in that span. Ryan Saunders, who in his third season, is 13-40 and on the plank. Still, the sale is worth $1.5 billion.
Additionally, the blowback the NBA received from then-Commissioner David Stern’s ruthless pettiness has left a scar, even if owners and executives dare not show it. Bad look to do to another town what was done to Seattle.
Besides, the pandemic has changed the sports world, even the NBA.
The notion of expansion, once distant, is potentially a fix for the financial damage from the shutdown.
Commissioner Adam Silver raised the expansion idea himself in a preseason press conference in December. Now that Seattle will have an NBA-capable arena by this fall, speculation was that expansion to two among four likeliest cities — Seattle, Las Vegas, Kansas City and Mexico City — would net a one-time fee of $2.5 billion each. That would give the NBA $5 billion to share among the 30 clubs.
The Wolves’ sale price would seem to tamp down the notion of a $2,5 billion fee. Whatever the fee is down the road, it is far more lucrative than giving one of the bid cities to a Wolves relocation.
Especially this relocation. Because Seattle fans would be forced to consider forgiving Rodriguez for his duplicitousness after the 2000 season, and general career smarminess.
Some things are just not possible.
I can give Marco a break. His alma mater was on an incredible run in basketball and his wife is due with their first child any day now. He might be a bit distracted. Very glad to see Kikuchi turning the curve. So many teams were bidding for his services. I knew there were talent and skills there, it was a matter of developing them. Props to the coaches for their role there and to him for not giving up.
I feel for Minnesota that they’ll always be uneasy about their team possibly moving. I didn’t realize how futile their history has been. I remember when Marbury and Garnett were just starting out and they lost a hard fought playoff series to the Suns. As they walked off the court Barkley put his arms around both and told them if they stuck together they’d bring a championship to Minneapolis. Now they have MLB’s Eddie Haskell as the owner who is probably taking notes on Clay Bennett’s tenure in Seattle. I predict in 3 years he’ll move them to Vegas or Virginia.
I expect Gonzales will rally. His consistency has been a hallmark.
A move isn’t happening. Not during or after a pandemic, not when expansion is a quicker fix.
More than likely. However when I jokingly said the same on social media a T-Wolves fan said that can’t happen because the Wolves have an iron clad lease. After I recovered and pulled myself off the floor I pointed out that so did the Sonics which got silence as a response. I’m sure the NBA realizes how they handle the sale of the T-Wolves will be looked at closely by Seattle.
And then there was more ugly news out of Minneapolis……
Keeps happening . . .
The New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012. Not quite the move that the Sonics did to OKC. Of course, it did have Governor Chris Christie fuming.
The Golden State Warriors moved from Oakland to San Francisco last year, and the Clippers are moving from Los Angeles to Inglewood.
The Pistons moved from Auburn Hills back to Detroit a few years ago.
Suburb to city. No comparison.
The league actually was glad to see that happen, from what I recall. They’re apparently big on franchises located in the ‘burbs moving (back) to the city.
The league is always glad to see teams go where the big money and new arenas are located, especially when it’s in proximity to the original.
Same point. Fans and of the Warriors and and Clippers don’t need to get on a plane to continue to watch their teams. But the numbers of fans who can afford a ticket have dropped.
Speaking of affordability, I think “hockey fans” here who’ve never paid to attend an NHL game before might be in for a bit of sticker shock when their new favourite team opens the doors.
Sticker shock will be a YUGE understatement.
Yes. Take a spin on team websites and look at ticket prices.
I’m going to say that the 13 miles between Brooklyn and Newark isn’t moving out of the fan base, although I’m sure the four Nets fans in NJ were pissed.
New Jersey has a bigger attachment to the Devils than they ever did for the Nets. Three Stanley Cups and five conference championships in two decades, compared to a combined zero Cups and one conference title for the Rangers and Islanders combined in that span, certainly don’t hurt.
Good point. The only thing East Rutherford had going for it – as it relates to basketball – after the ABA/NBA merger was a shiny new arena at the beginning of the ’80’s that was an obvious upgrade (capacity-wise) from Nassau Coliseum. Not sure when construction and planning began, but, you have to think whomever owned the Nets at that stage had their eyes on it. Made no sense to move the Nets out of New York otherwise.
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Imagine the consternation and conflict for A-Rod haters when he leads a move of the T-Wolves to Seattle and becomes a civic hero for bringing back the Sonics… -Won’t happen, but sort of fun to think about the gnashing of teeth that would be involved with that scenario.
“Fun” only for those who unnecessarily hold a grudge against a guy they don’t actually even know personally and/or have had nothing more constructive to do with their lives after he bailed as a Free Agent. I honestly can’t believe anyone would even consider him/that as anything more than a footnote here in 2021.
This is Seattle, the king of passive-aggressiveness. We’ll hate him until his grandchildren are dead.
As mentioned, A-Rod is a grudge for the 30-and-over crowd. And maybe NBA owners.
Minnesota has also seen two franchise moves, the Lakers and North Stars. They’re as sensitive to those as we have to ours. And with the area being in the news for terrible reasons, any relocation talk right now would look be a terrible look.
I think Seattle definitely gets the 31st franchise. Las Vegas or Mexico City gets 32.
I think long-tenured owners still won’t like Seattle Center for reasons that now may be outdated (transpo/city owned and managed). The NHL has time to prove the concept. But new owners almost have to come from within the NHL group. Outsiders won’t like owning the building’s third ticket.
I’m actually not in favour of league expansion to 32, but, I understand that neither the NHL/NBA, nor, eventually MLB want to lag behind the NFL in that department. But, if/when the NBA does expand, I don’t think the optics of bestowing that (once) grand honour upon any North American city other than this one will be in the owners favour. Meaning: I don’t think they have the balls to go in any direction other than this one. Not after what happened in 2008. Silver’s been publicly leaning in our direction for years, and, Climate Pledge Arena only bolsters his case. For better or for worse.
I don’t know what the status of Chris Hansen’s SoDo proposal is, but, now that the City avoided a money pit by ramrodding the Seattle Center project down everyone’s throat, maybe he and his investors might give it another go. Assuming the City/OVG aren’t petty enough to let a competing arena keep them awake at night, of course.
SoDo is essentially in a holding pattern. In the meantime, Hansen has continually amassed land around the arena site, so he’ll be doing something grandiose whether the arena goes ahead or doesn’t (say, office towers, mixed use, distribution centers, etc.).
Since the pandemic forced the Port, the other major SoDo arena foe, to abandon their planned cruise ship terminal near the stadiums, there are fewer concrete objections for Hansen to overcome. I’m thinking he’s biding his time for a bit until people realize what a logistical nightmare Climate Pledge will be, and then he’ll raise his hand and say, “Remember me?”
Agree ARod “ick”…good line.
But it’s been long enough that most anyone under 30 won’t know what happened between the fan base and him.
Yes, but the “ickness” extends way beyond the smarmy leave-taking from Seattle. Sadly, I don’t think there’s been any change in character.
For some of us, also big Sonic fans in the day, it would be gut churning for him to gain “hero” status by bringing a team back to town, no doubt then wanting to become the face of the franchise, a new “ick.”
I can easily see some people boycotting the basketball team simply because he owns it.