Jean Segura poised for big season for Mariners

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USA TODAY

Jean Segura poised for big season for Mariners

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The Seattle Mariners take the field Saturday to face the San Diego Padres in their first spring training game of the 2017 baseball season. There’s a new man at shortstop who will make his Mariners debut with high expectations, but will Jean Segura be able to repeat his career-best numbers from last year in a new uniform?

That has to be one of the bigger questions Mariners fans are asking themselves as their team begins the spring training game schedule.

Segura, the 26-year old middle infielder, will be entering his sixth major-league season, but none of them have yielded the numbers quite like last season when he played in the launching pad at Chase Field in Arizona. His first five seasons were played in Milwaukee, which is also a fairly hitter-friendly park.

Welcome to Safeco.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Segura’s home run totals as a member of the Brewers were 0 (144 at-bats), 12 (588 ABs), 5 (513 ABs), 6 (560 ABs) and 20 (637 ABs), respectively. A jump to 20 homers last year is quite significant, but in all honesty, hitting the long ball isn’t his strength. I expect him to hit second in the Seattle order where he will hope to get on base, run around a little bit and let the big thumpers Nelly Cruz, Robbie Cano and Kyle Seager drive him in.

In his previous four, full seasons, Segura stole 44, 20 and 25 bases with the Brewers and 33 bases last season in Arizona. He also hit .319 for the Diamondbacks as he eclipsed the .300 mark for the first time in his career.

If he can repeat those numbers — .319 average, 33 steals and 20 home runs – the Mariners will be more than pleased. Segura also had a career high in RBIs last year with 64 and a career-best 102 runs scored.

SIGNS HE CAN REPEAT HIS 2016 CAMPAIGN

Segura isn’t just a one-year, out of nowhere success story. He was an all-star in 2013 – his first full season in the majors. The year before while still in the minor leagues, he was selected to the MLB Futures Game – generally reserved for top prospects from the 30 organizations in baseball. In 2011, Segura was named as a “Rising Star” in the Arizona Fall League and was a two-time organization all-star in 2010 and 2012 as a member of the L.A. Angels system before being traded with other players for Zack Greinke.

Point being – he’s always had success and he’s always been projected to be a really good player.

The ‘magical age’ in baseball theories is 27. I’m not sure who created this theory or even if it still holds true, but when hitters turn 27 they are presumed to be “in their prime and playing their best baseball”. Not everyone goes all Nelson Cruz and waits till they are 36 to blast off arguably the best season of their career, but generally speaking 27 is when hitters have it figured out and are playing their best.

Segura will turn 27 on March 17.

While on the topic of popular phrases that I don’t know where they came from – speed never slumps. Segura is still fast, so there’s no reason to think his stolen base numbers will slip. In short, he’s almost at the ‘golden age of productivity’ (I just made that one up. Consider that trademarked) and he still has his speed to help him get on base and be a factor on the base paths.

He will have plenty of protection behind him in the lineup as well, which usually means a lot of fastballs. Segura, like many hitters these days, is a good fast ball hitter. Not too many pitchers will want to walk him with Cano on deck and Cruz staring creepily from the top of the dugout waiting his turn to tee off. Pitches to hit are usually beneficial for players like Segura.

WHY HIS NUMBERS MAY FALTER

It’s kind of hard to duplicate career highs in home runs, doubles, runs scored, on-base percentage and batting average in back-to-back seasons for anyone. The sheer odds of it are I’m sure staggeringly low. By default, I assume he won’t top all of those categories.

If I had to guess which ones, I would assume a slight dip in batting average – something closer to .285 perhaps and maybe more like 15 homers. That’s still a foundation for a solid season, but to top all of those power categories will be a challenging task.

In the ‘don’t blame it on Chase Field’ category, we can look at Segura’s home vs. away split last year courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

It’s a fairly even split. I have seen some players who can’t even remotely hit on the road – it’s disgusting (and not all of them play for the Colorado Rockies).

FINAL WORD

The Mariners are stressing they can make the playoffs this year after narrowly missing the wild card game last season. Granted, every team always thinks they can make the playoffs in the spring – except maybe the Braves, Phillies, Padres, Angels or Twins this year – but the Mariners do in fact have a legitimate chance.

Jean Segura will be a big part of their success. He needs to stay healthy, he needs to be active on the bases and he needs to hit as close to .300 as possible. If he can do all those things and provide above-average defense, the Mariners can go a long way in the AL West.

Baseball season is finally here. It’s a beautiful, beautiful time of year. Go Mariners!

Did NHL Coyotes "tour" Moda Center? If so, McGowan didn't see them

Did NHL Coyotes "tour" Moda Center? If so, McGowan didn't see them

There have been plenty of reports the past few days that the National Hockey League's Arizona Coyotes "toured" arenas in Portland and Seattle in preparation for a possible move.

Look out, Portland hockey fans -- you are about to be used as leverage.

Chris McGowan, the president and CEO of the Trail Blazers and a man with a background in hockey with the Los Angeles Kings, says he knows nothing about any representatives of that team paying a visit to Moda Center.

"To my knowledge no representatives from any NHL teams have toured the Moda Center recently," he said Thursday.

Portland, with an existing arena that is NHL-ready, was rumoed to be in the hunt for the Coyotes franchise at one time but the owners of the team decided to stay in Glendale, Ariz. But payments on the arena there continue to be a problem and the team recently studied the idea of moving to Tempe -- a plan which has apparently been abandoned. Officials of the Coyotes denied the reported visit to the Pacific Northwest but there is no question that the Glendale site, where the Coyotes are near the bottom of attendance in the league, is a real problem.

But in this case, I'd say that Portland is likely being used by operators of the NHL franchise as a possible landing spot for the franchise in order to get a better lease or a new arena. It's nothing new in sports.

But that doesn't change one thing: Portland is still the best NHL market without a team in the country. And the NHL wants to come to this region, too.

I believe it's coming at some point. But this may not be the time.

 

FEB. 15 BLAZERS VIEWING PARTY

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FEB. 15 BLAZERS VIEWING PARTY

Rip City! Need somewhere to watch the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz? 

CSN Northwest is hosting a viewing party atMcmenamins Mission Theater with brews, food, team gear raffle, and Blazers Stunt Teamers! 

· Wednesday, February 15th Blazers @ Utah
· Doors open at 5:00 PM, game at 6:00 PM 
· Scoop pregame and half-time show live from event
· Door prizes for the first 20 people
· Raffle prizes, including a signed Evan Turner jersey
· Games & Slow Motion Video Station 
· Blazers Stunt Teamers
· Drink Specials

All ages welcome! Event is free!

Enjoy McMenamins Mission Theater Big Screen experience and plenty of food/drinks to go around as we cheer on our Blazers!

Today in college FB: THE DAY the seeds of entitlement are planted

Today in college FB: THE DAY the seeds of entitlement are planted

I'm going to go undercover the rest of today. You know by now that this is National Signing Day, the day when high school kids from all over the country announce their preference of where they will spend the next four years of college majoring in football.

Or, in my opinion, the very day -- THE DAY -- when the first seeds of entitlement are planted in the hearts and minds of young football players. This is when it all starts, when players carry on with all sorts of attention-getting devices to make their declaration of college seem important. Or just to turn it into a big show with themselves in the starring role. The spotlight shines bright before they even get their high school diploma.

Already today, I've seen this display of tastelessness by a kid in Texas, teasing two other colleges before revealing his ultimate choice. And then there was this declaration from outer space from a kid in Tennessee who is headed for Maryland. My twitter account is full of all those "#blessed" tweets and video of kids sitting behind the desk with an array of baseball caps in front of them. They look at them all, maybe reach for them all, before finally putting one on their head to indicate their choice of college.

As alumni, fans, coaches and family applaud the decision. Several players have already committed, of course, prior to signing day. They do so wherever they can get the most attention: at all-star games, special events or even -- for the very best of them -- live on ESPN.

Alums can't wait to hear about their school's signees -- it's become a yearly project to sit down and project these kids into a uniform or a starting lineup. It reminds me of little kids sitting on the floor playing with action figures. The experts, of course, rank the recruiting classes and deliver the good or bad news about how well or poorly your school did in recruiting.

And then, fortunately, it goes away for awhile. Reality sets in. Some of these kids will never see the field. Others will never see a classroom -- although that doesn't necessarily mean they won't see the field, depending on which college signs them. Yes, I'm pretty cynical about college football. Especially big-time, power-five college football.

I have seen those seeds of entitlement grow into out-of-control behavior and Egos Gone Wild. I think if these kids are talented enough, there will be plenty of attention headed their way after they've actually accomplished something. And until then, I'll just turn the music up a little louder today and forget the sports talk shows and "NSD" tweets.

Alexa, play me some "Foo Fighters."

Hillsboro Hops lock down new coaching staff for 2017

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Hillsboro Hops

Hillsboro Hops lock down new coaching staff for 2017

BY 

For the last two years of Single-A Short Season, the Hillsboro Hops have been under the capable hands of Manager Shelley Duncan. An experienced MLB outfielder, designated hitter, and first baseman, Duncan was new to his management career when the Arizona Diamondbacks organization hired him for the farm team. In his debut season in 2015, Duncan led the Hops to a Northwest League championship. Duncan has been popular in Hillsboro, with his aggressive and youthful attitude sparking late-in-the-game rallies and his successful batting career serving as inspiration to young players.

But, as any minor league fan can attest, baseball is a game of perpetual professional motion. Duncan has earned a manager position with a higher profile team within the Diamondbacks system, the Visalia Rawhide in California’s Advanced-A league. Much in the way Single-A baseball is a farm system that develops player talent for the big show, it is also a farm for coaching staff.

The next man to lead the Hillsboro Hops when they kick off the 2017 season will be Shawn Roof, a former infielder who started his career in the Detroit Tigers system after being drafted in the 33rd round in 2007. Roof played as high as Triple-A for the Toledo Mudhens in his 2010 season, but decided to pursue a coaching position beginning in 2013. After two seasons with the Orioles organization and one season as an assistant coach at Indiana University, he joined the D-backs system and coached in the Midwest League. Just as Duncan before him, this switch to Hillsboro will be Roof’s debut as a Manager.

Roof, though young and fresh-faced, will have a fountain of experience from which to draw. He will likely have an easy time connecting to his players and keeping energy up. And his staff is grounded by decades of experience, with veteran pitching coach Mike Parrot returning for his second season with the Hops and new batting coach Franklin Stubbs stepping in. Stubbs is a World Series ringholder with over 20 years in the MLB, and joins the Hops after his first season as a coach in Missoula, Montana for the Pioneer League.

The Hops had an up-and-down season in 2016, sometimes allowing sedate performances at the mound and at bat until the game was on the line. It’s no stretch to assume the Diamondbacks executives and Hillsboro’s General Manager K.L. Wombacher purposefully entrust the team to younger men just starting their careers in management. Roof’s prime directive ought to be for the 2017 Hops to fire on all cylinders right from the start and keep a culture of fun and competitive stakes. A NWL season is a meaty experience all at once, with games virtually every day and unglamorous travel and accomodations. Hops fans have more than five months to wait for Roof’s performance.

Submission Underground 3 boasts top talent from the Pacific Northwest

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USA Today Sports Images

Submission Underground 3 boasts top talent from the Pacific Northwest

BY  

This week, the complete Submission Underground 3 (January 29th, Roseland Theater, Portland) card was released, including an undercard that features a heavy focus on Pacific Northwest talent. Many of the undercard participants are standouts on the regional MMA circuit and will certainly bring with them a good feel for working inside a cage. Additionally, there are a slew of Sub-League winners, North American Grappling Association (NAGA) medalists, and IBJJF Invitational competitors. In total there are 18 matches scheduled for the event and the capacity crowd will certainly be as intense as usual. The entire card is listed below, as always this card is subject to change.

MAIN CARD

  • Dillion Danis VS AJ Agazarm
  • Hector Lombard VS Garry Tonon
  • Jeff Glover VS Chad Mendes
  • Gordon Ryan VS Jeff Monson
  • Andrew Alexander Vs Joe Baize

UNDERCARD

  • Phil Dunlap VS Morgan Mainz
  • Aaron Marti VS Mike Dewitt
  • Tom Burns VS Abel Briceno
  • Justin Mark VS Austin Springer
  • Roma Pawelek VS Hannah Sharp
  • Micah Brakefield VS Lee Flores
  • Daniel Swain VS Ricky Simon
  • Brian VanOrnum VS Billy Yi – Gi
  • Dan Walsh VS Taylor Ron Murders
  • Logan Skinner VS Brian Travis
  • Zach Force VS Andrew Sidelinger – Gi
  • Derrick Flaig VS Niko Hughes
  • Joey Elsmore VS Kyle Stafford

There are a few names on the undercard you may know and some you may not. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the matches you might want to pay a little extra attention to.

Roma Pawelek VS Hannah Sharp

This is a matchup that immediately caught my eye. Those of you who happened to attend or watch SUG1 might remember seeing Hannah Sharp in action. Sharp, who trains with Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Portland, found quick success against Misty Davison securing a triangle to win by submission in under a minute. She is an IBJJF World No Gi Medalist and is certainly a threat to repeat her success from SUG1. Some of you might recall hearing about Sharp as the jiu jitsu practitioner who quit her job and moved into her van so that she could spend more time training and less time stuck behind a desk. A dedicated jiu jitsu practitioner, she will have certainly improved since her SUG1 performance. Her counterpart in this matchup is Roma Pawelek. At one time, Pawelek was considered one of the hottest MMA prospects in the state of Oregon. Her professional debut was hugely successful and she was quickly signed on to fight for Invicta FC. Injury forced Pawelek out of her first scheduled bout with Invicta and shortly thereafter life would change for the Eugene based fighter when she became pregnant. Some of you might know Pawelek as the woman who famously practiced jiu jitsu into her 8th month of pregnancy. The videos are out there; pregnancy didn’t seem to slow her down a bit. Today, Pawelek continues her jiu jitsu training and has medals in IBJJF competition, NAGA, and many others. Both of these competitors are very strong and I expect a forceful match that will see positions earned, not given.

Ricky Simon VS Daniel Swain

On paper this could look like a pure wrestling match. Both of these MMA standouts have solid wrestling backgrounds, especially Simon. However, Swain has proven himself more than capable in the submission department with half of his 16 professional MMA wins coming by submission. Swain’s power has proven effective, as he has been able to pull off armlock submissions on multiple occasions in the cage. Swain has legit black belt caliber jiu jitsu to go along with his size; I expect he will try to overwhelm Simon early in this bout. For Simon, I see an advantage in diversity. He trains on a regular basis with Fabiano Scherner and crew at Gracie Barra in Portland. For him, that means being able to team up regularly with Ed Herman, Dave Jansen, Chael Sonnen and so many more great athletes. Additionally, you will find Simon training at Eastside Grappling with Pat “Bam Bam” Healy or over at 10th Planet Portland training with Phil Schwartz and Nathan Orchard. This matchup will certainly be one worth keeping an eye on. I would expect a hellacious pace and battle for control between these two Northwest MMA standouts.

Micah Brakefield VS Lee Flores

For Impact Jiu Jitsu’s Lee Flores, this matchup might seem like business as usual. Flores secured a win over Brad Pole at SUG2 in December and recently has been on quite the run as he also took the gold at the Seattle Open in 2016. Flores is certainly battle tested and ready for a challenge, but I am not sure if he has ever faced anyone quite like Micah Brakefield. Brakefield wanted on this card bad. He knocked on every door he could until they opened it up and let him in (just ask Chael Sonnen, Frontrow Brian, Flograppling, or Heather Standing). Brakefield competes with a bit of flair. He has an admitted love for the belly to back suplex, flying armbars, and even flying triangles. This style is likely going to get him a highlight reel finish or set him up for a huge disappointment. Either way the brown belt from British Columbia is on my radar and he should be on yours as well.

Steroid guys gaining ground on baseball's Hall of Fame

Steroid guys gaining ground on baseball's Hall of Fame

Yes, Tim Raines, "Pudge" Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell were voted into baseball's Hall of Fame Thursday. But did you notice that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- implicated steroid users -- are picking up steam among Hall of Fame voters?

In most cases, their rise in the voting is due to new people becoming eligible to vote and those new voters seem more forgiving of steroid use than many of their predecessors. That's obviously true. But if I had voted this year, I'd certainly give a thought to another factor.

The veterans committee is inducting former commissioner Bud Selig this year and that matters to me. Selig oversaw a big increase in baseball revenue and overall prosperity -- but he did it on the back of all those PED users. It was Selig turning his back on obvious steroid use while Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa brought baseball back to prominence with all those tape-measure home runs.

Selig was the gatekeeper. He was the one giving his tacit approval to PED abuse by acting as if it didn't exist. If he can get into the Hall, why can't the players who took advantage of the situation?

I will also add, as I've mentioned before, that my time as a clubhouse attendant for the Triple-A Portland Beavers and as a beat reporter covering that team many years later, there was rampant abuse of amphetamines throughout recent baseball history and that was cheating, too. Cheating that helped a lot of the sanctimonious old-timers now complaining about the steroid abuse.

Will Clemens or Bonds ever gather enough votes in their remaining five years of eligibility to get into the Hall of Fame? I doubt it. But they're going to continue to gain more support.

Olympic Champion Ashton Eaton retires from Decathlon

Olympic Champion Ashton Eaton retires from Decathlon

Two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton announced his retirement with a statement posted to his web site, calling it “my time to depart from athletics.”

Four years after taking gold in the 2012 London Games, Eaton, 28, defended his Olympic title in Rio last year. He also holds the overall world record, set at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, and the world record in the heptathlon set in Turkey in 2012.

Eaton's new Twitter bio reads: "I'm deciding what to do next. Being the 1st person on Mars would be cool. Other interests are; education, transportation infrastructure, architecture, & energy."

Heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton also announced her retirement on the couple's website. Theisen-Eaton, who represents Canada, won the bronze medal in Rio. 

It was painful to watch Rousey get battered by Nunes

It was painful to watch Rousey get battered by Nunes

In the beginning, Ronda Rousey seemed so invincible. She forced her will on opponents and eventually, on the sport itself.

Rousey became so popular and such an attraction that she forced Dana White and the UFC to sanction women's bouts, something that organization always resisted. She became the face of women's combat sports and handled that responsibility well.

But in the end, she started something she couldn't finish.

The sport evolved and she, or her team of coaches and advisers, seemed to forget the "mixed" part of mixed martial arts. It's a combination of so many disciplines, from Rousey's natural sport of judo to grappling, boxing and all the derivatives. And she paid a heavy price for not being well rounded.

Amanda Nunes knocked her out on her feet last week in what just has to be the final fight of Rousey's career. She was helpless trying to stand up to the vicious punches of Nunes, who gave Rousey no chance to grab her and turn it into a judo match. Rousey seemed to have learned nothing from her previous knockout at the hands Holly Holm more than a year ago. She couldn't dodge or take the punches and seemed to have no ability to take a shot at Nunes' legs in an effort to get her to the ground.

And this from a woman who misguided folks a couple of years ago who were saying she could beat men in MMA or even top boxers.

I felt sorry for Rousey. Embarrassed for her, actually. This woman started it all but just couldn't keep pace. This is a brutal sport, for men or women. Rousey deserves respect for being a pioneer and a great champion. She opened the door to all the women who are serious competitors in MMA these days.

I wish her good luck, which she has a lot better chance of finding it if she stays out of that octagon for the rest of her life.