1. MARINERS END PLAYOFF DROUGHT
September 30th. It's over! WIth a mighty swing from Cal Raleigh's bat, the catcher applied the death blow to American professional sports' longest active playoff drought. A 20-year monster has been chased from the village, and may the likes of it never be heard from again.
2. RUSSELL WILSON TRADE
March 8th. It was a "you'll remember where you were when it happened" moment. For me, pulling into my garage after having finished a four-hour radio show without an inkling that John Schneider was going to pull off the biggest trade in franchise history, and perhaps Seattle sports history. 9-time Pro Bowler, and the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl in Seahawks history, Russell Wilson to Denver for Drew Lock, Shelby Harris, Noah Fant, two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a fifth.
3. JULIO RODRIGUEZ: A STAR IS BORN
April 8th. Batting seventh in the Opening Day lineup in Minnesota, a star was born into the Seattle sports family. The long-awaited debut of mega-prospect Julio Rodriguez finished with an 0-for-4 day at the plate, but it wouldn't take long for the 21-year old to endear himself to Mariners fans, both with his play and his personality. By the end of the season, Julio Mania had sunk its teeth into the PNW. He was named an All-Star, he put on a show at the Home Run Derby, he was named American League Rookie of the Year & he was the best player on a team that ended the franchise's 20-year playoff drought. And he's just getting started.
4. SUE BIRD FAREWELL TOUR
September 7th. Sue Bird said goodbye to her career, to the only professional franchise she ever played for, to her fans throughout the world and to the game of basketball. 4 WNBA titles, 5 Olympic gold medals, 13 all-star game appearances, and someday 1 statue to live forever outside Climate Pledge Arena. With the exception of losing her final game as a member of the Seattle Storm, even her year-long Farewell Tour was handled with near perfection.
5. KALEN DEBOER TURNS HUSKIES PROGRAM AROUND
September 3rd. Kalen DeBoer makes his debut as Washington's brand new head football coach with a 45-20 win over Kent State. But it wasn't the "W" that had fans buzzing, there was something noticeably different about DeBoer's Huskies. Following a disastrous 4-8 2021 season, DeBoer turned the Huskies completely around in just a few short months. The Dawgs went a staggering 10-2 this season, which included road wins over rivals Oregon and Washington State.
6. GENO SMITH: RAGS TO RICHES
April 19th. The Seahawks re-signed Geno Smith to a modest one-year, 3-million deal. We assumed Smith was being brought back to continue his backup role to Russell Wilson. Instead, the 9-year veteran became so much more. The trade of Russell Wilson opened a door for Smith to compete for the starting QB job, but there remained the matter of beating out the incoming Drew Lock. The competition's underdog, Smith outplayed Lock in the preseason, and still he didn't win the job outright until Lock couldn't make a preseason start due to Covid. Geno never looked back. Smith not only held onto the job, he beat Wilson on Opening Day, outplayed the former Seahawks QB all season, and thrust himself into league-MVP discussions. Smith will ultimately settle for his first Pro Bowl selection and a monster contract offer that no one saw coming... until we saw it.
7. MICHAEL PENIX JR: TRANSFER PORTAL GOLD
August 23rd, the worst kept secret in Seattle sports was revealed. Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. had won Washington's quarterback competition over Sam Huard and Dylan Morris. Reuniting with Kalen DeBoer, Penix leaned on his familiarity with the system to dominate from the start. He threw for 345 yards in his debut and went on to lead the nation in passing yards. Penix finished 8th in Heisman voting (and that was a slap in the face), and has since announced his return for another season.
8. MARINERS OVER BLUE JAYS (THE COMEBACK)
October 8th. Up a game in their first playoff series in 20 years, the Mariners didn't need to win game two of the series. Down seven runs, it would have been easy to play out the string and return ready for a decisive game three. But then, Carlos Santana almost single-handedly lifted the M's back into the game, a well-placed JP Crawford bloop led to a game-tying collision, and Adam Frazier RBI double finished off the scoring for a highly improbable come-from-behind 10-9 victory and series win. MLB Network named it the 2022 Game of the Year.
9. SEAHAWKS DRAFT CLASS
April 28th. It had been years since John Schneider had pulled off the ol' draft magic that made his team a Super Bowl Champ in 2012. After trading Russell Wilson, and building up his draft collateral, Schneider struck gold with his 2022 draft class, then he struck it again, and again, and again, and again. Five rookie starters helped the Seahawks become the surprise team of the first half of the NFL season, making them a playoff contender during a year that most of us believed would mark the start of a rebuild. And of all the standout rookies, the one that stood out most was Schneider's (you guessed it) 5th round pick. Tariq Woolen was named a Pro Bowler as a rookie and seems destined to follow former Seahawks 5th rounder Richard Sherman to cornerback greatness.
10. RUSSELL'S STRUGGLES IN DENVER/DRAFT PICK WATCH
September 18th. It was one thing to get booed in his return to Seattle after spending the offseason glorifying his leaving the city that for a decade loved him, but Russell Wilson was booed during his first HOME game with the Broncos, a 16-9 VICTORY over Houston. Wilson's play has earned jeers--if not by week two, certainly later in the season, as the Broncos offense has yet to click since #3 moved to Mile High. The unexpected results have led to the unexpected pleasure of Seahawks fans charting how high the Denver draft pick owed to Seattle for Wilson was climbing with every week he struggled. As of this moment (as I'm typing this between week 15 & 16), the Seahawks have the 3rd overall pick in the draft!
11. SOUNDERS WIN CONCACAF
May 4th. The Seattle Sounders did not qualify for the 2022 MLS Playoffs, something they've never failed to achieve until this season. And yet, somehow, the organization finished the year over-the-moon about their 2022 campaign. How is that possible? Because the game of soccer works in mysterious ways. No MLS franchise had ever won the CONCACAF League Championship, that is until the 2022 Sounders made history with a 3-0 title game win over Pumas UNAM before a record-setting crowd of nearly 69,000 fans jammed into Lumen Field. What does that get the local soccer club? An unprecedented berth into the FIFA Club World Cup--whenever that is to be played?
12. MARINERS MAKE BIG SPLASH AT DEADLINE
July 30th. A 14-game July win streak turned the slow-starting Mariners' season completely around. They jumped from "total disaster" to "playoff contender" in two short weeks, and the timing couldn't have been better. Motivated to add, Jerry Dipoto pulled a monster deal before the 2022 Trade Deadline, landing the best starting pitcher on the market. Luis Castillo didn't have the mass appeal of San Diego's splash move for Juan Soto, but the ace right-hander proved to be the perfect ingredient for the stretch drive. His unnaturally nasty movement on full display, Castillo started 11 games for the M's, posting a 3.17 ERA (if not for his weird struggles against the A's, the #'s would have been far better). He was even better in the playoffs, pitching the M's to their first playoff win in 20 years & then outpitching Justin Verlander before his bullpen blew Game 1 of the ALDS in Houston. Dipoto traded away an attractive package of prospects to land Castillo from Cincinnati, but a contract extension is going to keep the ace in Mariner blue for years to come.
13. SEATTLE TURNS ON RUSS
March 16th. It was on this day that Russell Wilson held his introductory press conference as a member of the Denver Broncos. It marked the beginning of the end of his relationship with the 12's. Still in shock from the blockbuster trade of Wilson, the majority of Seahawk fans didn't begin to turn on Russ until the press conference that revealed his enthusiasm for leaving Seattle, complete with his new "let's ride" exit from interviews. After that, the relationship between Wilson and nearly all his Seattle faithful dissolved like snowflakes on the sun. By the time Russ showed up in Seattle for his Broncos debut, Seahawk fans booed their former quarterback unmercifully. Wilson claimed he wasn't bothered by the response, but his play (all season long) suggested otherwise.
14. KRAKEN'S HOT START
December 27th. The Kraken's first season in existence didn't go as well as hoped, but perhaps it went just as well as what should have been expected. An expansion franchise finished 27-49-6 during its opening year, but in the offseason the team added assets, and in year two the product has excelled. As of this moment (12/27), the Kraken are 18-10-4 as a sophomore franchise, good for the 5-seed in the playoffs, if the season ended today. There's a long way to go, but the additions of Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand, plus the rapid development of youngsters Matty Beniers and Morgan Geekie have the young franchise moving quickly in the right direction.
15. MARINERS BLOW IT IN HOUSTON
October 11th. No one said all 22 of these stories had to be uplifting. Often, the painful memories are the most impactful for sports fans. On October 11th, the Seattle Mariners were appearing in their first postseason in two decades and coming off a series sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. Hopes were high despite their round two opponent. The eventual champion Houston Astros were the favorites to defeat Seattle, but great pitching always gives you a chance. On this day, Luis Castillo out-pitched Justin Verlander and left the game with a 7-3 lead. The Astros eventually won the game, 8-7, on a walk-off HR from Yordan Alvarez. The managerial decision to use Robbie Ray out of the pen to face Alvarez will unfortunately be debated for years to come. But a win that day in Houston? And who knows how that crazy series (which included an 18-inning nearly scoreless war) would have turned out?
16. JULIO'S CONTRACT
August 26th. The Mariners had seen enough. So, before he could finish his first season, before he could be handed the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Award, before he could help end the M's 20-year playoff drought, Julio Rodriguez was handed potentially the largest contract in baseball history. $210 million guaranteed. Incentives reached & the value climbs to $470 million. For a franchise long-considered among the cheapest in the sport, the contract represents a major financial leap to keep baseball's next superstar rich and happy and perhaps forever a Mariner.
17. THE PASSING OF MIKE LEACH
December 12th. It shocked the football world, the sudden passing of The Pirate, Mike Leach. The man certainly left an impact. In eulogizing Leach, football experts from across the country named him one of the great offensive innovators of his time, but most of the conversation that sad December week was spent remembering the truly unique qualities of the man. We learned he had time for everyone, that he was interested in anyone and their story, and that his dry sense of humor was a hallmark to his sometimes polarizing personality. For Cougs fans, they lost one of the great coaches in school history. According to KJR's own (Coug) Jason Puckett, the most important coaching hire in the history of Washington State Athletics.
18. BONNEY LAKE TO LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES
August 12th. Let's hear it for the boys. Bonney Lake/Sumner qualified for the famed Little League World Series in 2022. Even Little League these days can't happen without controversy, and the Washington team defeated Oregon on a controversial call to secure a 3-2 win and a trip to Iowa. An early dismissal awaited the local squad in the Heartland (that Hawaii team was ridiculous), but for 14 boys from Pierce County, the summer of 2022 was a magical one.
19. DK'S CONTRACT
July 30th. There was a great amount of uncertainty heading into Seahawks Training Camp in 2022. Who would start at quarterback? What's life going to be like without Russell and Bobby? Are the Hawks rebuilding or not? The only thing everyone seemed to agree upon was that star Wide Receiver DK Metcalf needed to get paid. The muscle-bound 25-year old was coming off an underwhelming 75-catch, 967-yard season, but there were reasons beyond what DK could control and, more importantly, the talent of the man is so supremely evident that Pete & John had no choice but to extend his deal. On a Friday in late July, Metcalf inked a 3-year, $72 million extension. He responded by surpassing the 1000-yard receiving mark with 2 games to spare. He'll be a free agent again at 28. So, when will DK desire his next extension?
20. GENO VS. RUSS
September 12th. It wasn't fate that had Russell Wilson make his Denver Broncos debut at his former home in Seattle on Opening Day of 2022, it was the NFL. They never miss a trick. Wilson's return to Lumen Field was accompanied by a chorus of hate. Boos reigned down on the former Seahawk star, and he did nothing that night to silence their taunts. Geno Smith performed just well enough to earn a slim 17-16 win, but the story of that night was the way the Broncos lost. Bizarre decisions on the final drive of the game culminated with Denver K Brandon McManus attempting a 63-yard FG for the win. He missed. The Seahawk win sparked a run at the playoffs for Seattle. The Denver loss was the beginning of a truly nightmare season in Bronco Country. Let's ride.
21. GABBY PLAIN CALLS IT A CAREER
May 24th. It takes a special player to enter the conversation of "best softball pitcher in Washington history." After all, this is the school that Danielle Lawrie attended. And even though Gabby Plain didn't quite match the legacy left behind by a National Champ & National Player of the Year, Plain finished her career a four-time All-American. Clearly, it can be done better (Lawrie), but not much better.
22. PAOLO BANCHERO GOES #1 IN THE NBA DRAFT
July 15th. Draft coverage is so intense these days, it's really really difficult for an organization with the top pick to keep their intention secret. The Orlando Magic pulled it off, when they named Duke's Paolo Banchero their selection. And no one looked more surprised than Banchero himself. It was a special night for the NBA, for the Magic, for Duke, and certainly for Banchero. But it was also a special night for Seattle prep sports. Seattle has a proud basketball community, and for one of its own, a star from O'Dea, to be recognized as the top pro prospect in America, well, it was a night of celebration and pride for Seattle, too.