Category Archives: Mariners

The Top 11: Most awesome Seattle sports jerseys fans can buy, #11-7

What makes a jersey awesome, you ask? Well first of all, we’re not talking about your mainstream, find-it-at-Macy’s jersey here, oh no. The jerseys on our list are rare, tough to come by, and were at one time or another made available to the public for purchase in replica format. You may not be able to find all these jerseys in stores today, but they were out there and you had your chance, and chances are you passed. Which is why here at SSN, we’ve done the work in tracking these mesh memories down to show you one more time what you missed out on. From the very cool to the very unfortunate, we have 11 of the most awesome jerseys Seattle sports fans could ever want. Enjoy.

11. Detlef Schrempf, Sonics green-and-gold, 1993-1995, #11. Let’s face it. It’s never that cool to have the jersey of a white basketball player. Outside of Larry Bird, there aren’t too many mainstream white guy replicas out there. Even Steve Nash has trouble. But Detlef Schrempf is about as cool as they come for Sonics fans. His original green-and-gold jersey was first produced by Champion in 1993 when Det was traded to Seattle in exchange for Derrick McKey.

First of all, let me tell you about jersey manufacturer Champion. Back in the day, when cheap mesh jerseys became all the rage, Champion used to make player replicas on both a local and national level. Nationally, Champion would market one or two of the team’s biggest stars and sell their jerseys around the country. With the Sonics, those two players were always Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Locally, however, you could buy the jersey of almost any player on the Sonics roster from Nate McMillan to Sarunas Marciulionis. Schrempf’s jersey was confined to the greater Seattle area, making it hard to come by for out-of-towners.

Secondly, the green and gold Schrempf jersey was only produced for two years. In 1995, the Sonics changed their logo and jerseys to the ill-fated forest green-brick red combination. So any of the pre-’95 green-and-gold jerseys became that much more sought after.

In addition to all the rarities of this jersey, Schrempf turned out to be one of the greatest players in Sonics history and validated the wearing of his throwback jersey for years to come.

10. Rick Mirer, Seahawks royal blue-and-white, 1993-1996, #3. The distinction of being a first-round draft pick in the NFL comes with the glory of having a mass-produced replica jersey released in your honor. It’s part of the NFL marketing plan and almost any first-round pick of the last fifteen years or so has seen others proudly, or perhaps in Mirer’s case not-so-proudly, wear their jersey.

These days, you’re much more likely to find Mirer’s Hawks jersey on Craigslist, being sold to anyone willing to take it. Actually witnessing a Seahawks fan wear his or her Mirer jersey in public is like spotting Bigfoot or seeing Halley’s Comet twice; these kinds of things just don’t happen.

9. Lenny Wilkens, Sonics white-green-gold, 1968-1969, #19. If you happened to frequent Key Arena before the Sonics left town, you may have noticed Wilkens #19 jersey hanging from the rafters after having been retired way back in 1979. Wilkens was a good player and an even better coach. There isn’t a big market for Lenny Wilkens leisure suits however, so vintage jersey manufacturer Mitchell and Ness went with the classic approach and released Wilkens’ Sonics jersey a few years ago.

Even after just a couple years, Lenny’s jersey is tough to come by already and good luck finding it for under $200. But for those Seattle fans who are trying to get their hands on all things Sonics, you can still find #19 online. Just don’t expect to get a deal.

8. Willie Horton, Mariners powder blue-royal blue-and-yellow, 1979-1980, #53. Even a well-reputed jersey maker like Mitchell and Ness is apt to make a few mistakes here and there. Perhaps one of their bigger failures was the release of Horton’s Seattle Mariners jersey a few years back. Raise your hand if you actually recall Willie Horton playing for the Mariners. Ok, now raise your hand if you actually know who Willie Horton is. Exactly, whoops.

Just so we’re all on the same page here, Horton is a former Major League Baseball player who ended up being of the greatest Detroit Tigers of all time. Memo to Mitchell and Ness: that’s Detroit, not Seattle. Horton was one of the game’s premiere power hitters through the 1970’s and was a member of the Tigers organization from 1963 until 1977. Towards the end of his career, a cellar-dwelling Seattle club tried to rekindle Horton’s glory days by bringing him on board the good ship Mariner only to witness an old man try to hit baseballs. Horton actually did have a great ’79 season, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 106 runs for the M’s. But 1980 was a complete bust and the one-time great ended up retiring after that season, having spent only two years as part of the Seattle fabric.

Of course, that didn’t stop Mitchell and Ness from trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice with Horton and Seattle, although this time it may have ended up even worse than before. I can’t imagine too many Seattleites spending $250 on a Willie Horton jersey, nor can I imagine too many Detroit fans opening their pocketbooks for another team’s uni even with their favorite son’s name on the back. It’s like us buying a Gary Payton Heat jersey, or a Griffey Reds jersey…sure it happens, but not that often. Of course, if you really want to get your hands on Willie Horton’s #53, check out eBay, which is where I found the image above.

7. Washington Huskies football purple-and-gold, #15. Each year, every major college and their apparel sponsor come up with a few numbers to put on the backs of football jerseys to sell to the general public. If you’re a Husky fan, chances are you’ve seen a #10 jersey around (Jake Locker), or possibly a #7 (Greyson Gunheim), or a #4 (Isaiah Stanback), or even the generic #1 (a number that almost every school does, but often ties in with a player’s jersey–this year, it would be Chris Polk). If you wanted a Husky football jersey in 2004, however, chances are you were stuck with good ol’ #15, quarterback Casey Paus.

To be fair, Nike didn’t have too many options when deciding which jersey to mass produce and sell to Husky fans in ’04. Their option on defense was the jersey of linebacker Joe Lobendahn, but Lobendahn’s uni was considered the “backup” option and wasn’t produced in the same quantities as Paus’ #15. Nike rolled with the “safe” choice for their primary UW jersey and went with the starting quarterback of the team (almost always the fallback option when it comes to jerseys), who happened to kinda sorta be Casey Paus. Needless to say it was a total failure.

Personal story here. When the Paus jerseys were unveiled in ’04, I was working at Champs Sports, which some of you may know is a sports apparel retailer that is one of the best places to buy jerseys of any type. Near the start of the ’04 football season, we received a shipment of roughly 50 Paus jerseys, which we ended up sending back to Nike having not sold a single one. Amazing, I know. To this day, you can still find #15 UW jerseys buried amongst the racks at certain retailers. Two places I’ve seen #15 recently, in case you still want to purchase one: the Northgate Mall Finish Line and the Alderwood Mall J.C. Penney, but I’m sure there are others.

Anyways, the #15 jersey didn’t do so hot for Nike or the UW, but that doesn’t stop it from being awesome. Sure, rocking out in Paus’ old digs may say to the world, “look how bad I am at making decisions,” but just know that you’re of a rare breed and one of the lucky few who actually managed to take home one of those jerseys before the unsold were burned to ashes.

Breaking News: Putz, Reed, Green traded

Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times is reporting that the Mariners have just traded closer J.J. Putz, outfielder Jeremy Reed, and reliever Sean Green in a three-team deal centered around Indians outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

The Mariners will also receive outfielder Endy Chavez and pitcher Aaron Heilman from the Mets, as well as four minor league prospects. The big name of the four prospects is Class AA first baseman Mike Carp of the Mets system.

Interesting trade as Baker had previously mentioned the Cardinals and Tigers as possible destinations for JJ, but now Putz heads to the Mets who just signed closer Francisco Rodriguez yesterday. I guess this makes Putz one of the premiere setup men in the game then.

The departure of Reed comes as no surprise as the Mariners have been looking to deal him for years. Green is interesting, however, as he could have been a potential replacement for Putz in the now-vacant closer role. The M’s also sent minor league second baseman Luis Valbuena to the Indians.

From a return standpoint, the M’s get back an eclectic group of players. The big name here is Gutierrez, a 26-year-old former top prospect of Cleveland who spent all of last season struggling to stay afloat in the big leagues. His minor league numbers were impressive, however, and he was at one time projected to be a future superstar when he reached the bigs. With his rookie season out of the way, we’ll see how Gutierrez adjusts in year two.

Heilman and Chavez are two big-league veterans that are nothing more than stopgaps. Chavez is a fourth outfielder at best and features speed and defense, but has no arm and isn’t much of a hitter. Heilman demanded a trade earlier in the offseason after being informed that his future with the club was as a reliever. Heilman has excelled as a setup man for the Mets, but has been mediocre as a starter. He probably can’t crack the M’s rotation as they already have about ten guys vying for five spots next season. However, if the Mariners want to make a statement and send Carlos Silva or Jarrod Washburn to the bullpen, then that may open up a starting spot for Heilman.

Mike Carp and the Pips, aka the other three minor leaguers in this deal, are relatively unknown, though Carp is a supposed power hitter who has put up good numbers in the low minors.

Obviously a trade based on the future, and a bit of a gamble by going after a guy like Franklin Gutierrez. Overall though, the Mariners did need to deal Putz, since a losing team has little use for a closer, and moving Reed was good as well. The only negative is the loss of Green, who has improved each year he’s been with the club and should do well pitching in the National League. More to come as we know it.

M’s news: Putz on way out?

The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker is reporting that closer J.J. Putz may soon be on his way out of Seattle in a potential trade with a number of suitors. The Tigers and Cardinals are supposedly the biggest pursuers of the right-hander.

The Mariners would be looking to obtain Major League-ready prospects in a deal, such as the Tigers Matt Joyce and Jeff Larish. The name of Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel has also been thrown around (though could not be confirmed by Baker).

This presents an interesting scenario for the 2009 Mariners. Without Putz at the back end of their bullpen, the M’s may be encouraged to turn Brandon Morrow back into a reliever. This would seemingly be counter-productive to the work Morrow has done in becoming a starter over the past year after relieving in 2007 and the first part of 2008. Another possible closer solution were Putz to exit would be unsigned first-round draft pick Josh Fields. The Mariners have yet to agree on a deal with Fields, however, and there’s a chance he may not be with the club when Spring Training kicks off in February.

From a rebuilding standpoint, the trading of Putz would be a smart move for the M’s front office. Closers tend to be overrated no matter how great their “stuff” may be, and Putz is no exception. He proved his vulnerability during an injury-plagued 2008 season. If the Mariners can obtain two solid prospects in return for J.J., they will have made a good deal. We’ll see what happens from here.

The Top 11: Christnukkazaa gifts that Seattle sports fans want, #6-2

6. Mariners grab bag of distractions. Do you like Nintendo DS? How about hat tricks? Are you a fan of electronic video board hydro racing? What are your feelings on large, furry, loveable moose? Are you interested in creating an entire 40-man roster of bobblehead dolls?

If you’re easily entertained, suffer from attention deficit disorder, or generally don’t care much about winning, then the Mariners grab bag of distractions is the ultimate gift for you!

The Seattle Mariners organization is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to draw your attention away from the product on the field and towards just about anything else. If you have one or more of your senses intact, the Mariners have something other than baseball that will appeal to you. Take a break from that Carlos Silva meltdown and enjoy some garlic fries. Not big on Willie Bloomquist groundouts? Wander over to our in-stadium team store. Regret bringing your hyperactive kids to the game? Let them try out our jungle gym.

You can eat, shop, and play just about anywhere for an affordable price. But why sell yourself short? The Mariners want you to use that $45 ticket as your personal pass to overpriced alcohol, an expensive fast food dinner, annoying Mickey Mouse theatrics, and a 100-loss season. You gotta love these guys!

5. Richie Sexson air purifier. Richie knows a thing or two about fanning, and now that he is currently unemployed, he’s taken his expertise to the world of air purifiers. Sexson’s top of the line purifier, the Richie218 (named after his final 2008 batting average with Seattle), is unique in that it both sucks and blows. In order to fully purify the air around you, the Richie218 will first clear the room of any dust particles by sucking unclean air into its reserve holding tank. The Richie218 really sucks! Amazingly, the Richie218 will then purify that air, recycle it, and blow it back into the room, creating a fresh, clean environment. The Richie218 really blows!

Not unlike a space heater or air conditioner, the Richie218 can blow both hot and cold air. Just ask the Seattle Mariners! They’ve watched Richie blow hot air for years in their clubhouse!

4. David Stern adult diapers. We all reach a point where even the best of us lose control of our bowels. David Stern, NBA commissioner, realizes this and wants to help. Stern should know. He’s been full of crap for years!

It’s no secret why David Stern always has such a weird look on his face, no matter what he’s doing. Stern lives by the motto “when you gotta go, you gotta go.” Press conference, NBA Draft, public appearance, it doesn’t matter. When David Stern needs to use the bathroom, he need not look any further than his pants.

People often ask, “How has Stern kept that pep in his step for over two decades?” The answer has been a secret until now. The David Stern line of adult diapers comes with an inherent cooling system designed by NASA that turns human waste into minty fresh relief. Why the crazy Stern mood swings? One minute constipation, the next minute flatulation, then perspiration, and finally celebration. Amazing!

3. Oklahoma City Thunder trash can. Okay, full disclosure, there are only two things on this entire list that are actual attainable items. The ’09 Sonics calendar, believe it or not, is one, and this wonderful item is the other. What better place to put your trash than in the Oklahoma City Thunder garbage can?

I suggest you save this can for only the worst messes made around your home. Let’s say the dog craps on the rug and you need to clean it up. No better place for the waste than your OKC can. Maybe your newborn goes through fifteen diapers a day. Feel free to use your Thunder can as the designated diaper zone. No matter the waste you have to toss, the Thunder trash can can handle it all.

2. Warren Moonshine. “Hall of Famer Warren Moon here for Warren Moonshine, a homemade liquor by me, Hall of Famer Warren Moon. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, hey Warren, now why would I want some fly-by-night alcohol when I could go down to the liquor store and pick up some of that name-brand stuff right now? Well friends, I don’t think I need to tell you again but I’m going to anyways….I’m Hall of Famer Warren Moon, and this is some Hall of Fame caliber moonshine we’re talking about here! Sure, I brew this in the back of my SUV, while driving, but don’t be fooled: this is some high-quality fire water. How do you think I won Rose Bowl MVP, Grey Cup MVP, and Pro Bowl MVP before getting to the Hall of Fame? That’s right, Warren Moonshine, by me, Hall of Famer Warren Moon.”

Notes: Mora to UW dead, M’s sign Branyan, Mike Leach in Seattle

Mora to UW dead: Dave “Softy” Mahler, of 950 KJR AM fame, went on-air at 10:00 AM this morning with breaking news, stating that the possibility of Jim Mora, Jr. (that’s Jim as a Husky assistant to the left) coaching the UW football team next year is 100% dead. We’ve already been through one of these announcements before, so I’m not too worried. Plus, these absolute statements have always come via “Senior Jim Mora Correspondent and Football Expert” Hugh Millen and not Mora himself. Until I hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, I’m not buying. When Jim Mora can emerge from his cocoon and say “I will not be the next head coach at the University of Washington” with lips moving, sound matching up (no dubbed foreign filmwork here), a live press conference, at least three witnesses, a scribe, ID showing, and a retinal scan to prove he is who he says he is, then I’ll believe it. But not before that.

M’s sign Russell Branyan: Eh. He’s 32 years old, a switch hitter, former top prospect of the Indians back in the late ’90’s, hasn’t ever found a home or panned out, can hit the ball far, strikes out a lot, plays the corner positions but isn’t too handy with the glove, a prototypical NL bat off the bench, a six- or seven-hitter in the lineup, nothing special overall. Remember pinch-hitting guru Dave Hansen? He’s like that but a little better.

Also, the Mariners will be Branyan’s (pictured right) ninth team in the past seven years. So he’s essentially the Travis Henry of Major League Baseball.

Confirmed: Mike Leach talks to UW: The only thing that really excites me about Mike Leach (pictured left) is the prospect of watching him and defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill (a slimmer McNeill pictured lower right) roaming the sidelines together. Leach is a big dude, but Ruffin McNeill could eat him for breakfast. I don’t know where the Tech coaching staff spends their lunch breaks, but I guarantee you it’s not at a salad bar. McNeill resembles a grizzly bear preparing for winter hibernation. He seemingly stores all his nutrients in a pouch around the lower abdomen area. When clothed, he divides his pouch into two pouches, an upper and a lower pouch, using his belt. I don’t want to think about how this plays out unclothed. Suffice it say, Ruffin McNeill is a huge man.

Anyways, yesterday the Times’ Bob Condotta reported that an observant local sports fan spotted Mike Leach on a plane coming to Seattle, presumably to interview with the UW athletic department. As it turns out, the fan’s and Condotta’s instincts were spot-on, since Texas Tech today confirmed Leach’s undercover rendezvous in the Great Northwest. I guess that’s cool. Leach is probably the biggest name left on the coaching front for a desperate Husky Nation. He just isn’t that appealing to me. He’s not young. He runs a gimmicky offense. He has a divisive personality (from what I’ve heard in the media). He’s been compared side-by-side to country singer Vince Gill (but personally, I think he looks like he could be Softy Mahler’s dad). He’s not the sexy choice at this point. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

The Top 11: Seattle draft busts of the past 25 years, # 6-2

The first five Seattle draft busts can be found here and they are: 11, Robert Swift/Johan Petro/Mouhamed Sene; 10, Ryan Christianson; 9, Sherell Ford; 8, Rick Mirer; 7, Patrick Lennon. Now, numbers 6-2. Enjoy.

6. Roger Salkeld. Roger Salkeld was the third overall pick of the 1989 Major League Baseball June amateur draft and chances are you don’t know his name. Which is just wrong, because when you’re the third overall pick of any draft, everyone should know your name. Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Roger Salkeld. What do they have in common? All third overall picks.

Salkeld was the prototype when it came to pitchers. He stood 6’5″, weighed 215 pounds, and could throw the ball fast. Mid-90’s fast, which is just good enough for any front office staff to overlook your flaws. Like the fact that Salkeld was coming straight out high school, a major red flag with any pitcher, no matter how talented. Statistics will tell you that a high percentage of high school pitchers who go straight to the pros eventually burn out due to arm injuries. Unfortunately for the Mariners, Salkeld was no exception.

Salkeld spent three full seasons in the minors before making his Major League Debut for the M’s in 1993, at the age of 22. He appeared in just three games that season, but showed promise by posting a 2.51 ERA in 14 innings pitched. In an injury-plagued ’94 season, Salkeld would appear in his last game as a Mariner. With a deteriorating throwing arm to blame, Salkeld compiled a ghastly 7.17 ERA in 13 starts.
A year later, in May of 1995, Salkeld was shipped to Cincinnati in exchange for veteran pitcher Tim Belcher. Salkeld’s only full season in the big leagues was 1996, with the Reds, and by 2000, at the age of 29, he was forced to quit baseball due to a repeated string of injuries.

5. Scottie Pippen. Pippen wasn’t a bust in the true sense of the word, but from a Seattle perspective, he might very well have been the biggest bust of all-time. The Sonics selected Pippen with the fifth pick in a loaded 1987 NBA draft that produced seven All-Stars (Pippen, David Robinson, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, and the late Reggie Lewis). They then immediately sent him to Chicago, committing one of the worst draft-day trades in history.

Pippen was obtained for a mere pittance by the Bulls, who sent the eighth overall pick in the form of center Olden Polynice to the Sonics. From ’87 to 1991, Polynice manned the middle for Seattle. In 1999, perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to justify trading Pippen in the first place, the Sonics brought back Olden for a second go-round and only further exemplified why the Pippen trade was flat-out horrible. Needless to say, Olden Polynice was ok, but definitely not anywhere near the list of the Top 50 NBA players of all time.

Pippen, of course, would become of the Top 50 NBA greats and put together a Hall of Fame career living in the shadow of the greatest player to ever take the court, Michael Jordan. Who knows how he would have panned out if he had remained a Sonic, but a trio of Kemp, Payton, and Pippen doesn’t sound too bad at all.

4. Rich King. If it hasn’t already become apparent, the Sonics and big white guys go together like Lindsay Lohan and dudes. Think of Jack Sikma as Wilmer Valderrama. It was a one-time fling that worked out for a little bit, but in the end the true nature of the beast was revealed. We’ve already mentioned Robert Swift in this list of busts. Then there was the Jim McIlvaine debacle from our list of the “Top 11 Seattle sports villains.” And then of course there’s Rich King.

King was drafted 14th overall by the Sonics in the 1991 NBA Draft. A 7’2″ center from Nebraska, King possessed the size and finesse to be a force in the league. The only problem was he couldn’t stay healthy. He played a career-high 40 games in his rookie season, but most of those minutes were logged in garbage time. An amazing stat from that year: In 213 minutes played over those 40 games, King recorded 42 personal fouls. Unbelievable. He’s like an octopus.

By the 1994-1995 season, King could barely take the court after suffering knee, thumb, back, and foot injuries. He played in two games that season and after his rookie contract expired in the Summer of 1995, King rode off into the sunset having played in just 72 professional games.

King currently lives in Bellevue and was profiled in a “Where Are They Now?” article by the Seattle P-I’s Dan Raley last March.

3. Brian Bosworth. The Boz, in his day, was a lot like actress Keira Knightley. Keira is one of those celebs that for some reason people think is really hot. A Keira Knightley movie comes out and people get excited because, you know, Keira Knightley is in it. But then you see the movie, and it’s not that good. It gets Oscar buzz, but for what reason no one really knows. Keira just bugs you the whole time you’re watching the film because she isn’t what anyone would call a sensational actress. She learns her lines, regurgitates them, collects a paycheck, goes home. And to top it off, she’s also not nearly as attractive as one would think. Someone started spreading the rumor that Keira Knightley is sexy, but that’s not true at all. She’s a stick with a torso and that just shouldn’t do it for anyone.

The Seahawks went after the Keira Knightley of the 1987 supplemental draft, selecting Brian Bosworth out of the University of Oklahoma. The former Sooner linebacker was a good college player, but became larger than life with a constant media circus surrounding him. “The Boz” was an outspoken critic of the NCAA and had been thrown off the OU football team for using steroids and wearing a t-shirt on the sidelines in-game that crossed an ethical line. Despite his trangressions, the Hawks took a chance on Bosworth and quickly watched their investment backfire.

Boz actually had a decent rookie season, making the NFL All-Rookie Team and recording the only four sacks of his career. But by the end of his three-year rookie contract, Bosworth was done with football and had taken his celebrity status to the big screen, starring in a number of “B” action movies. His most notable NFL moment: being embarrassingly run over by a young Bo Jackson on his way to the end zone.

2. Ryan Anderson. They called him the “Little Unit” as soon as he was drafted. Ryan Anderson stood 6’11” and would eventually become the tallest Major League Baseball player in history. It was a foregone conclusion. He paralleled his idol, Randy Johnson, to the utmost degree. Tall, lefthanded, 95-MPH fastball, erratic control. Anderson was raw, but it didn’t matter. As far as the Mariners concerned, he was the next big thing.

Let’s work backwards. Ryan Anderson is currently an aspiring chef in Arizona. How did he get to this point, you ask. The short story: injuries. But the long story is slightly more complicated. Basically, Anderson wasn’t ready for professional baseball, in any way, shape, or form.

Anderson did have the same physical makeup as The Big Unit, but mentally, he was nowhere near Johnson’s level of drive and determination. Johnson, for one, came to the pros via USC. Anderson came straight out of high school. Johnson was surly, but had an unquestioned ability to focus on his job, pitching. Anderson could neither focus nor put on a happy face, and teammates, coaches, and media alike all grew tired of his childish act. Arguably, Anderson’s lack of mental preparation led to his physical deterioration, and after three shoulder surgeries, the Little Unit was forced to retire in 2003, six years after becoming the Mariners 1997 first-round draft pick.

The Top 11: Seattle draft busts of the past 25 years, #11-7

There have been plenty of draft busts in Seattle sports history, which is why we had to limit our findings to the past 25 years. Whether it was the Sonics, Seahawks, or Mariners making the selection, our local scouting departments seemingly had a knack for unearthing untalented players. By the way, do you know how hard it was to find images of some of these players? Especially live-action images, near impossible. Anyways, here’s our list of the Top 11 people you can’t help but shake your head at. Enjoy.

11. The Trifecta (Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene). Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, I must be the Sonics front office staff on draft night. 2004: Robert Swift. 2005: Johan Petro. 2006: Mouhamed Sene. What do these three names have in common? Let’s see:

  • All three are former Seattle Sonics first-round draft picks.
  • All three are centers.
  • All three are over 7′ tall.
  • All three spend more time on the bench than they do playing.
  • All three are now Oklahoma City’s curse of a problem, and yet we’d take them back in a heartbeat.

Let’s start at the beginning with Robert Swift, class of 2004. Right away there were problems with Swift. I remember watching the ’04 Draft and hearing Swift’s name announced by David Stern, then immediately thinking, Who? Swift wasn’t present at the venue, so there was no visual of the guy the Sonics had selected. Quick cut to the studio analysis. Usually you have the consensus “great pick/really fills a need” garbage from the overpaid talking heads, but this one was a stretch even for the eternal optimists. I remember someone labeling him a “project,” which in draft-speak is a nice way of saying “you’re doomed.” And they were right, Swifty was one hell of a project.

To top it off, Swift is a non-European white guy, which is a horrible, horrible sign. Try to think of five really good non-European white guys in the NBA right now……’s difficult, I know, but keep trying………Steve Nash, yes……Brad Miller, but that’s a stretch………Mike Dunleavy, Jr., also a stretch……..ok, so the consensus is you can’t fill out an All-Star roster with non-European white guys, which basically begs the question why draft one in the first place unless he’s the next Larry Bird? Oh wait, hold on a second. Apparently the next Larry Bird was already drafted, and has yet to pan out so far in his third season. Goes by the name of Adam Morrison. Whoops, never mind then, I guess even the next Larry Bird isn’t a draftable non-European white guy. Moving on.

So here comes the 2005 draft and the prospect of improving from a year ago. Stuck with the 27th overall pick after the Sonics’ one playoff season in the past decade, the team drafts French center Johan Petro. There are about a million things wrong with drafting French center Johan Petro, but why go into it? Let’s just move on to 2006 (although it should be noted that of the three big men, Petro has shown the most promise thus far).

Mouhamed Saer Sene. If you are (or were, I guess, at this point) a Sonics fan and hear this name, chances are you cringe. Sene was the epitome of a mistake the moment he was selected and everyone knew it. At least you could pin the “project” label on Swift and Petro. Sene wasn’t a “project,” he was “raw.” “Raw” is the draft equivalent of “this guy isn’t American, isn’t European, and isn’t Yao Ming, so what the hell is he?” “Raw” means that you, the player, aren’t even on anyone’s draft board. The Sonics made this raw pick because, in layman’s terms, another team baited them into it. They claimed they “had to” pick Sene because they couldn’t afford to let him drop to an opponent lower in the draft, who supposedly would have selected Sene and used him against the Sonics in some way…I guess.

So here we were with the 7-footer from Senegal, a young Dikembe Mutombo, soon-to-be-fired experts said. Sene’s biggest claim to fame was a 7’8″ wingspan which allowed him to touch the rim standing flat-footed. Interestingly enough, he carried that flat-footed approach into games which made him quite useless on either end of the floor. Naturally, he blocked a few shots here and there, but so did Shawn Bradley and Georghe Muresan back in the day. Long story short, in his two years on the job in Seattle, Sene just didn’t play, and when he did it was for the minor league Idaho Stampede of the NBDL and not the Sonics.

Time for a side note. When Sene was selected, did anyone else immediately think of the movie “The Air Up There?” Because I did, and I could picture Kevin Bacon going to Africa to find Sene and bring him to America to play for a team here, just like in the movie. And not only that, but dominating alongside Sene on a dirt basketball court after having his lower abdomen sliced open in a tribal ritual to indoctrinate him into the group. Maybe it’s just me.

Of course, we don’t have to worry about The Trifecta anymore. Now they languish on the bench of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

10. Ryan Christianson. Realizing the clock was ticking on catcher Dan Wilson, the Mariners used their 1999 first-round draft pick on a high school catcher by the name of Ryan Christianson. The #11 overall pick in a draft that produced the likes of Josh Beckett and Josh Hamilton, among many others, Christianson was labeled the catcher of the future for the big club and set on the fast track to the Major Leagues. Unfortunately, Christianson’s fast track wasn’t very fast at all, and he derailed almost immediately, spending three years in Single-A ball at the outset of his career.

By 2005, Christianson was in his second stint with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, on the cusp of making the big show, when he tested positive for steroids. That effectively ended his Mariners career and Christianson was released prior to the end of the season.

Christianson was last spotted as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate in 2007.

9. Sherell Ford. Where the heck is Sherell Ford? Honestly. Does anyone know? If you know, please tell me, because I’ve been Googling Ford for an hour and he’s disappeared off the face of the earth. I can at least break down what we do know about Sherell Ford, international man of mystery.

Ford, out of the University of Illinois-Chicago, was the 26th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. At that point in the draft, there aren’t hugely outrageous expectations placed on players. You just kind of hope for the best and assume you’ll get a two- or three-year rookie contract out of whomever you select. In Ford’s case, 28 games was all the Sonics got, good for 90 total points, most coming in garbage time.

A 6’7″ swingman expected to fill a void at the shooting guard/small forward positions, Ford essentially just filled a void on the payroll. He didn’t even last on the bench after a season, and beyond that rookie year, Ford never played in the NBA again.

According to his Wikipedia page, Ford was last spotted in 2006 when a Chicago ABA franchise invited him to take part in a tryout for their expansion team. The franchise has since folded. No word on whether Ford made the team or not.

8. Rick Mirer. You would think Mirer would be higher up on this list, but he’s here at #8 for two reasons: 1) the Seahawks actually managed to get four semi-productive seasons out of him and 2) when they finally gave up on Mirer, they managed to get a first-round pick in return for him, which is pretty amazing in and of itself. Mirer did try his hardest to become the very best bust he could be though, there’s no denying that.

The second overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, right after Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Mirer was supposed to be a franchise savior for whichever team ended up with his services. Hyped as the next Joe Montana, Mirer more closely resembled Hannah Montana during his tenure with the club. The only thing he possessed similar to that of Joe Montana’s was a strong arm…which he used to deposit balls into the hands of cornerbacks and safeties. In his four years in Seattle, Mirer amassed 56 interceptions to just 41 touchdown passes.

Luckily for the Hawks, the 1997 Chicago Bears were a passer-desperate team willing to do anything for a starting quarterback, which Mirer technically was. Packaged with a fourth-round pick, Mirer was on his way to Chicago with a first-rounder coming West to Seattle. With their two 1997 first-round picks, the Hawks selected cornerback Shawn Springs and left tackle Walter Jones, making Mirer a pretty valuable bargaining chip.

Mirer remained on NFL rosters until 2005, when he unofficially retired. He hasn’t played since.

7. Patrick Lennon. In evaluating Major League draft prospects, scouts will always tell you to avoid guys who have “slow” skills. Slow skills are those which don’t lend themselves to athleticism, per se, but are rather baseball-specific skills that tend to decline rapidly once a player ages or makes the leap to the next level of competition. Examples of slow skills are proficient power but low contact ability; lack of speed on the basepaths; and the inability to play the middle positions on the field (shortstop, second base, center field). Patrick Lennon was a slow-skilled player. And yet somehow, the Mariners found it in their hearts to draft him eighth overall in the 1986 June amateur draft.

It should be noted that Lennon didn’t appear in a Major League uniform until 1991, five years after he was drafted. That he even appeared in a big-league clubhouse is pretty remarkable considering the fact that he just wasn’t any good at baseball. In the nine games Lennon was a part of in ’91, five came as the DH, which is a ridiculously bad omen for a young player. He recorded one hit, a double, in eight at-bats that season, posting a .125 batting average.

In 1992, Lennon spent the majority of the year in Triple-A before earning another late-season call-up. He appeared in one game, recording two at-bats and going hitless. Unfortunately for trickLe (I like to call him trickLe, it’s a hybrid of Patrick and Lennon, it’s like A-Rod, and is used to exemplify how out of control the hybrid nickname has become), that was the last time he’d ever appear in uniform as a Seattle Mariner. As soon as the season was over the M’s released their one-time first-round selection and he was quickly signed by the expansion Colorado Rockies. Interestingly enough, Lennon was released by the Rockies before the team ever played a game and he wouldn’t appear in the Majors again until 1996 with Kansas City.

Lennon managed to appear in 81 more big-league games in his post-Mariner career before hanging it up at the age of 31 following the 1999 season.