MLB: Mariners need Griffey to give them 40 homers, not 40 winks
By MIKE LOPRESTI
So this is the image we now have of Ken Griffey Jr.; dozing in the clubhouse while his Seattle team falls again. Not the right way for a future Hall of Famer to leave the stage, but we'll get to that in a minute.
First, imagine you're a Mariners fan.
By now you must be wondering who has the voodoo doll.
Your team traded for Cliff Lee, hoping he would be the same pitching machine as in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
He began the season hurt, then started one game, then his agent was quoted as speculating his client would probably be moving somewhere else next season. Do you start saying goodbye before you've hardly said hello? Going into Tuesday night, Lee was still looking for his first victory.
Your team signed second baseman Chone Figgins from the Angels, to help boost the lineup.
He's hitting .185.
Your team signed Milton Bradley and did not charge extra for his baggage.
He blew another piston with his temper, and asked the team for help with his behavioral issues.
Your team signed outfielder Eric Byrnes, figuring maybe his bat might be of use.
In the bizarre moment of the season so far, he pulled back from a suicide squeeze with the game on the line, as if his brain was remote controlled by the Texas Rangers. Then — in a scene you don't see every day in the major leagues — he raced from the clubhouse on his bicycle, blowing past the general manager.
He was released soon after, hitting .094 when he left.
Your last place team, through Monday, had had a batting average of .229, with only 12 home runs. The Toronto Blue Jays, in contrast, had 51.
And now, your team is home to the sleeping superstar.
The aging of Griffey has officially become painful to watch.
One day, he'll stand at the doors of Cooperstown and this unbecoming season won't matter. People will speak of his 600-whatever home runs, his spotless record in the steroid age, his remarkable early years in Seattle, before he moved to Cincinnati and his body began to break down.
He will never play in a World Series. He will never know the indescribable feeling of a champagne shower in late October. But he has been a marvelous presence on the field and in the clubhouse for a long time, and never once had to dance through denials before Congress at a hearing.
Given his era, that's more than enough to be truly great.
Too bad, though, about this exit strategy.
The 40 winks in the clubhouse the other night, while the Mariners searched for a pinch hitter — at least if the media reports are accurate — are too good of a punch line for the public to miss. He has thrown the comics a hanging curve.
But that's just a quirky story and will easily pass. More significant is what it might represent — a fading interest by a 40-year-old player who is hitting .208 with no home runs. He seems a shadow of himself, looking more and more like yet another icon who waited a little too long to understand his work was done.
Now your team has a problem, as if the product on the field hasn't been discouraging enough. If Griffey can't hit anymore — and can't stay awake for all nine innings — it becomes impossible to think of him as picture of revival, and revival is what the Mariners urgently need.
Do they just call in Ken Griffey Jr., hand him a severance package and show him the door? Quickie divorces are not very pleasant when legends are involved.
The Mariners must be hoping this ends with the least collateral damage possible. Perhaps a joint agreement and communique that it is time for Griffey to start working on his Hall of Fame induction speech.
Your team doesn't need any more messes. It is already starting to resemble a landfill. Better that this end honorably and soon. For a team that needs to move on, for the star who deserves a more dignified final bow.