Things have been a little less rosy since the season started, however. And everything came to a head over the weekend when Ken Griffey, Jr., the face of the franchise who is posting a .200/.264/.225 so far this year, reportedly fell asleep and missed a pinch-hitting opportunity.
Griffey denies he was asleep, but this is the opening many have taken to suggest it's time Seattle and its erstwhile star parted ways. U.S.S. Mariner's Dave Cameron writes that Junior "can't be a leader, because he's just not good enough"; Joe Posnanski demonstrates that Griffey has been below average for about five years; Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley opines that "Griffey has become the elephant in the clubhouse." Something is wrong in Seattle: the man who once thrilled Kingdome crowds with homers produced by absurd bat speed and catches that captured the imagination is now reduced to reportedly crying at team meetings.
How did it come to this?
No one blamed the Mariners for bringing in Griffey in for the 2009 season. That made sense. He was a draw like few baseball players could be, and for a team that had much climbing before it to get out of the AL West cellar, a ticket draw made sense. But with a trade for Cliff Lee and the signing of Chone Figgins, the 2010 Mariners were made to compete, and keeping a miserable hitter like Griffey (or Mike Sweeney) around was a bad move.
Wasting four at-bats a day on that player just doesn't make sense, and it's a significant part of the reason the M's are 13-19, last in their division and fourth from the bottom in the American League. Something has to give: either Griffey is allowed a victory lap that drags down the team he once carried, or he's cut loose as the Mariners try to stage a rally.
Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman says a Griffey release isn't looming, for what it's worth, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Tacoma News-Tribune's Larry LaRue's "the end is near" report -- the original "he was sleeping" account, and one that got the M's to close ranks when it comes to his paper -- comes true. (The famous A League of Their Own line comes to mind, even if it only tangentially applies.)
But if the sad saga of Ken Griffey, Jr.'s 2010 has taught us anything, it is that baseball, our most sentimental of sports, requires cold business decisions like any other.â†µ
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