Mail Time! Answering Your Questions

I will engage in a semi-frequent throw down with Seattle SB Nation writer Kevin Cacabelos in an attempt to show the world how much smarter, better looking and wittier I am than he. It should be quite easy.

Who do you want the Mariners to draft on Monday? – Anthony D.

Brian: I think it comes down to one of three players and none will come as shocks if you follow the mock drafts at all. The biggest question is: do the Mariners go with the best player ready to contribute soon or the best overall talent? Obviously we don’t know the Mariners “Big Board” so maybe they consider the best player to contribute IS the best overall talent. In my view (from reading different sources),the best player overall is Byron Buxton, a high school outfielder from Appling County High School in Georgia. Buxton gets compared to players like Matt Kemp, the Upton brothers and Josh Hamilton based upon his five tool talent. Whether he gets there or not is up for debate. He isn’t labeled a “sure thing” like some other potential #1 overall talents (Griffey, ARod, Strasburg, Harper). Buxton is commonly referred to as either a star or a bust – with no one knowing which he will be. Dangerous, but right now he is the most talented player on the board.

The next best talent might be high school shortstop, via Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Carlos Correa. He gets a variety of reviews (much more varied than Buxton who Law, Mayo and Baseball America all have #1 overall). Correa is regarded as a project by some and as a stud talent by others. If you watch Buxton’s swings on these clips versus Correa, it isn’t close in my opinion. Buxton looks very smooth while Correa seems to have a bit of a hitch (it slows down at one point in his clip and you can see how the bat goes back before coming through the zone).

The most ready hitter, due to his college success, is catcher Mike Zunino of Florida. Fresh off leading Florida to the #1 overall seed in the College Baseball NCAA tournament, Zunino led the team in average at .323, homers at 16 and RBI at 55.

There are numerous reports that claim Zunino won’t get past Seattle and that they love him. These are probably the same people who didn’t even have a clue that the M’s could select Danny Hultzen last year. Zunino projects as a major league catcher which makes scouts compare him to Jason Varitek at his best. While that is awesome, I only think of Jeff Clement. I don’t ever want to think of Jeff Clement. I think they go with Correa as Buxton will be off the board at #1 or #2 overall. Not sure if I like it, but for some reason I think it will happen.

Kevin: Is anybody up for the Mairiners drafting another pitcher? If Buxton and Zunino go 1-2, the three next best players on the board according to Baseball America are right handed pitchers from college:

Kyle Zimmer (San Francisco)

Mark Appel (Stanford)
(Skip ahead to like 2:08)

Kevin Gausman (LSU)

Zimmer had a 104-to-17 strikeout to walk ratio this season, Appel has a 116-24 ratio of his own while Gausman has an ideal tall, slender and athletic build with a fastball that goes up to 100mph. If one of these three guys is available, they’d be major league ready within three years (best guess). Yes, the Mariners are stocked with young pitching talent, but you must draft based on who you think the best player is not who best fits your needs. If one of these three guys is rated higher than Zunino or Correa, than I wouldn’t mind another top notch pitching prospect in the Mariners farm system.

If the Heat win the NBA title, do you think the LeBron-hate-level will go down, or does Skip Bayless have everyone convinced? – Matt A.

BFFs

Brian: I started to type something about how no one believes Skip Bayless, but then I remembered that we live in America. This is the same country that elected a President to office who failed as a baseball executive, dabbled in cocaine and carried a 2.35 GPA while in college. This is the same country that passes laws prohibiting people from marrying each other because of their sexual orientation. This is the same country that allows Chone Figgins to be guaranteed a $9 million salary for doing nothing or even sometimes doing harm to the psyche of an entire city. So yes, people probably do listen to Skip Bayless. And those people are idiots just like him.

With that said, people have the right to criticize LeBron until he wins it all. He “earned” that right by making a mockery of free agency on ESPN. He “earned” that right by playing in the NBA where the spotlight is bright. So he does need to win it all. It will lower the hate level and it will start to create his legacy. No great player can truly be great unless they win a championship (or more than one), especially in basketball. (I would argue that baseball falls into a different conversation).

Kevin: LeBron’s hate level won’t go down until he wins multiple championships. Actually, Kobe Bryant has five championships and he still has a bunch of haters, so it’s difficult to gauge how the public will react to LeBron winning one championship. One ring doesn’t remove the fact that he burned the city of Cleveland and everyone still hates him for that stupid introduction event he had in Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. I personally love LeBron and have been fascinated by the fact that he is rumored to weigh anywhere between 250lbs and 270lbs. How ridiculous is that? That weight is considered obese by most standards, but LeBron is all muscle and is the most athletic and most gifted physical specimen to ever play a sport. Why can’t people appreciate that? I hate the haters.

If you could undo one sports moment, what would it be? Mine is definitely at the 7:17 mark (video below). They probably still would have lost, but you don’t want to go out like that. – Greg P.

Kevin: Easy. Mike Jensen’s foul on UConn’s Marcus Williams with 11 seconds remaining in the 2006 Sweet 16 game. UW was up 80-76, Williams drove to the basket and Jensen just blatantly fouled him. Though Williams didn’t convert on the basket, he hit the two free-throws and extended the basketball game. Then, Brandon Roy was fouled, hit his two free-throws, but now UW was only up 82-79. The rest is history. Williams hits a 3 to send the game into overtime and UW loses its best shot at a Final Four bid. Hit the 4:20 mark on this video link to see the horror movie.

Brian: This is maybe my favorite mailbag question of all time. I am sure any Italian-blooded human would agree with Greg on the Baggio blunder. Kevin came up with a great response too. That game was painful to endure for any Husky fan. While I considered various responses such as the selling of the Sonics to Clay Bennett (does that count?) or Bill Bavasi’s drafting Jeff Clement over Troy Tulowitski, I narrowed it down to one of two choices. (Note: if Bavasi would have drafted Tulo instead, would he still have his job? Would the Mariners be in better shape now or worse? It is an interesting question but maybe too much revisionist history to endure).

It’s Too High

In 2001, I firmly believed the Seattle Mariners were going to win the World Series. They won 116 games behind a roid filled Bret Boone and a mysterious Ichiro. They had a rotation that just won games and a bullpen that was lights out. Jeff Nelson had a 2.46 ERA, Norm Charlton posted a 3.02, Kaz Sasaki recorded 45 saves and Arthur Lee Rhodes was a ridiculous 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA. Yet after a tension filled opening series win over Cleveland, the M’s lost 4-1 to the New York Yankees. It seemed like Seattle wasn’t even close in this series, but they lost game two by a score of 3-2 and they lost game four (while down 2-1 in the series) by a score of 3-1. They got absolutely destroyed in Game 5 in New York and lost the series. The pivotal moment in this series was in that Game 4 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Following a Bret Boone home run that gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning, Rhodes came on a gave up a game tying homer to Bernie Williams in the bottom half. On a 3-2 count, Rhodes threw an inside fastball that Williams sent out of the park for a game tier. I wish we could take that single pitch back. The Mariners would have a chance to even the series at 2-2 with one more game in New York. Even if they lost that game (remember the M’s won Game 3 by a score of 14-3), Seattle would have all the momentum and guarantee another game in Seattle. While this haunts me still, this moment still wouldn’t guarantee a series victory nor a World Series win (Arizona Diamondbacks magic!).

This leads me to my number one pick for changing history. Super Bowl XL – Seattle vs. Pittsburgh. People point to many moments in this game including a phantom offensive pass interference call against Darrell Jackson (awful), an illegal block against Matt Hasselbeck after an INT, and a Big Ben touchdown that shouldn’t have been. Yet my moment would have to be this one:

Sean Locklear’s “holding” against Clark Haggans. The Seahawks were down 14-10 and driving. Hasselbeck threw the ball 18 yards to tight end Jerramy Stevens, placing the ball at the one yard line and giving the Hawks an incredible opportunity to take the lead. Referee Bill Leavy has since admitted to blowing this call and of course three plays later Hasselbeck threw an INT. I don’t hate the Steelers for this win. I don’t blame Leavy either since the Hawks still had the ball on the Steelers half of the field before Matty Hass blew it. But I do want to take this play back. I want Leavy to make the right call. I don’t want the refs to make that kind of impact. I want the fricking Super Bowl win.

What is going on with the Sounders lately? – Alex W.

I Was Running! (Forrest Gump voice)

Brian: I have been wondering the same thing. Sigi Schmid insinuated that there was a bit too much individual play of late and essentially the Sounders needed to get back to sharing the ball and working harder. This seemed reasonable after watching Eddie Johnson try to do too much around the goal as well as David Estrada. I also noticed Adam Johannson sucking it up pretty badly at right back, while Marc Burch didn’t give me much confidence either.

I like the play of youngsters Alex Caskey and Cordell Cato on the outside and Andy Rose in the middle. If Rose could spell Brad Evans a bit more often and Caskey could get some of El Flaco’s (my player of recent scorn) time, the Sounders could see more crisp passing and better team play. The good news is that they don’t play again in MLS action until June 16th. In the meantime, they whooped (there it is!) on some sub-MLS Atlanta scrub team at Starfire. This allows them to gain that U.S. Open Cup swag back and get on track for MLS games this summer. Their next match is Tuesday against an even scrubbier team who beat Portland to advance in U.S. Open Cup action. People are calling it the biggest upset ever. Portland is awful and that is fantastic.

Kevin: I’m ready for Steve Zakuani to make his return. Hopefully he appears in the team’s next reserve game; recent reports say he’s 50-50 for Friday’s game against the Whitecaps. His return will solve a handful of the Sounders FC’s curent offensive woes.

(Note: Zakauani is slated to play in his first game action tonight vs. Vancouver in a reserve match).

Who has more street smarts: Kevin or Brian? – Erik K.

Kevin: Obviously me. I grew up in South Seattle, I’ve been taking the bus since 7th grade and I go to college just miles away from Ingelwood. Forget the fact that I’ve gone to private catholic schools my entire life, and that I’ve been a blogger since my  sophomore year of high school — those are besides the point. I can hold my own on the streets.

Hard Knock Life

Brian: This coming from the kid who still has his mom drop him off for job interview. The same kid who probably has his mom make him lunch every day this summer. You don’t know the ways of the street my young friend until you attend Villa Academy. This castle/school in Laurelhurst is where street smarts are formed. Add on to that my Seattle Prep and Santa Clara experiences and you have one street wise mutha.

The reality is that I have very little sense of direction, I can only tie one type of knot, and I got beat up on a bus as a freshmen in high school. My street smarts are only formed through years of living, not a particular skill set. Being 33 versus Kevin’s youthful 20, I have the advantage. Although I am up to a summer challenge where we are dropped in the middle of a random neighborhood with no phone and no money and forced to find our way to a neutral location. That would be awesome. Also it would be stupid. It is equally awesome and stupid. See – street smarts right?

Brian to Kevin: What is the most impressive athletic feat you witnessed in person?

Kevin: The first thing that comes to mind is Rainier Beach’s Michael Berry running the 400 meters at the Metro Track and Field championships in 2010. For those not familiar with track events, the 400-meter dash is the second most difficult race after the 800 meter run. After running a 400, a sprinter has no gas left in the tank. The final 100 meters is the most painful feeling after giving birth (controversial comparison!!!). Berry JOGGED that 400-meter dash and came away with a Metro championship and eventually a district and state title in the race as well. While every runner finished the race out of breath, Berry looked relaxed and almost completely happy without any pain at all. Now he runs at Oregon and as a sophomore, has the fastest 400 time in the NCAA at 44.86 seconds. There is a good chance we will see him in London this summer.

I Just Ran! (Not Forrest Gump)

Brian: Amazingly I am going to have to stick with the Rainier Beach theme. While I have witnessed Shawn Kemp dunks, a ridiculous Luke Ridnour pass in a playoff game, the Griffey spiderman catch, insane Fredy Montero goals and a variety of other athletic achievements, my vote goes to Terrence Williams. In 2005, Rainier Beach took on Seattle Prep in the Metro championship. As an assistant coach, I got to witness Martell Webster battle with Terrence Williams in a shootout. It was a fun game to watch and the Ingraham gym was packed. Somewhere in the first half, Terrence Williams had a fast break opportunity and was running full steam at our point guard Jordan Wheeler. He took off (not an exaggeration) from one foot inside the free throw line. Wheeler, being the Prep player that he is, decided to take a charge. While he could have gotten the call, it didn’t happen since Williams groin area had met Wheeler’s face on the way to the most insane dunk I have ever seen. The crowd went so bananas that three fans started celebrating on the court while the game kept going. It was like an old And1 video from the early 2000s. (Remember those mixtapes? I loved them). While there is video evidence of this dunk, it is currently on an old tape that needs to be converted to DVD so I can sell it on eBay.

Second best feat? Probably my 25 points as a senior in intramurals at Seattle Prep. The sophomore team that played us moved to face guarding me and they still couldn’t handle me. Truth.com.

You can read Kevin’s stuff at SB Nation (http://seattle.sbnation.com/authors/kevin-cacabelos) or follow him on Twitter @KevinCacabelos. Kevin gave up Seatown Sports recently to focus more on this mailbag.