Seattle sports: Week ends with surprises

The Hawks take a lineman, Tennessee takes Jake, the M's take a series, and the stolen NBA team takes a playoff round.

The Hawks take a lineman, Tennessee takes Jake, the M's take a series, and the stolen NBA team takes a playoff round.

The April National Football League draft traditionally blows away for a day or two the cloudy reality that the Seattle Mariners are weathering another non-playoff-bound season.

Thursday (April 28), however, the breeze seemed to blow in a different direction.

While the Seahawks were un-whelming the fan base by picking an offensive lineman with the draft’s 25th selection, the M’s were leaving Detroit with their first road sweep in two years. Moreover, a baseball team that had seemed moribund as recently as last weekend beat the Tigers by a football-like combined 24-6, meaning the three components of the game (pitching, defense, and, especially, offense) were even more impressive than they’d seemed in April of 2009, when Seattle swept the A’s in Oakland by a three-game total of 14-9.

Then there was James Carpenter.

Steve Niehaus, you say? No, that name belongs to the Hawks’ first-ever pick, in 1976. He was an impressive rookie defensive lineman whose career was limited by injuries.

Carpenter, a University of Alabama offensive-line mainstay, is the Seahawks’ latest first-round pick.  He’d seem to meet the Niehaus minimum standard as a glamour selection. He may even prove useful on an offensive front that has largely lacked usefulness since the Hawks’ Super Bowl year.

Seattle mentor Pete Carroll made a statement after the surprise Carpenter “get.” His statement was that taking Carpenter is itself a statement. This may seem strange to certain fans who had anticipated what could have been a more stentorian “statement”: getting a quarterback (though no sure-thing QBs seemed available at pick 25, where Seattle had landed in drafting order) or a cornerback, running-back, or something-back in the way of glamour.

Then there are those of us who meekly believe good football actually starts on an offensive line and any effort to improve the Seahawks’ up-front capability is a draft-pick well spent.

The Hawks aside, much attention was placed on the widely unexpected early exit of Jake Locker from draft availability.

The Husky star was snagged eighth, by a Tennessee team in transition after firing 16-year head coach Jeff Fisher in January. The Seahawks don’t play the Titans during the regular season . . .

Assuming, amid the league’s ongoing labor-management strife there is a 2011 regular season, but that’s another matter.

The matter at hand for the Mariners, as the NFL draft proceeds Friday, is a three-game set against the Red Sox. Boston, touted by many as the 2011 American League World Series fave, is 7-3 recently after an eminently un-Red Sox-like early-season stumble.

Obviously of greater interest to Northwest fans is a Seattle club that may soon be able to claim a starting line-up with every player hitting .200 or better. For Friday’s game only Chone Figgins (.191) is below the Mendoza Line, though Milton Bradley, tame at the plate of late, may soon sink into sub-.200 territory.

Cause for hope among the remaining M’s faithful has been personified by Michael Pineda and Justin Smoak. Pineda, who fanned the first four Tiger batters, has the team record for rookie wins in April, posting a 4-1 mark after Seattle’s 7-2 win Thursday. Smoak (.303, four home runs, 15 runs batted in) is beginning to look like the legit switch-hitting five-hole guy club officials thought they got from Texas last year.

In any case, some local sports omnivores also may be poised to take pride in yet another Seattle-related developing story. Unfortunately it’s developing in Oklahoma City, where the Sonic-, er, Thunder has advanced to the second round of the pro-basketball playoffs.

Even a Mariners three-game sweep in Boston and a Seahawks swap for Jake Locker probably wouldn’t be nearly enough to mollify many who long for the return of the Zombie Sonics.


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