Scripting Griffey's final chapter
Mariners' dilemma is figuring out the right thing to do with the aging, unproductive icon
His average hovers around the Mendoza Line (.200). His slugging percentage (.225) looks way too much like his area code (206).He's been outhomered by Yovani Gallardo (1-0). He has a lower OPS (.486) than Lou Marson (.497). If the man compiling these gruesome numbers was almost anyone else besides a fellow named George Kenneth Griffey Jr., we know what would happen. Don't we?
|Back in his heyday, Ken Griffey Jr. had three straight 140-RBI seasons. Can you name the only two other active players who have had three 140-RBI seasons at any point in their careers? (Answer later.)|
“Again, though, whether it happened or didn't happen, how much does that even matter? In some ways, it's more interesting that the story got out, that it got leaked, than whether it's accurate in every minute detail. The reporter who wrote it -- Larry LaRue, of the Tacoma News Tribune -- is a longtime beat man, and a total pro. So the question shouldn't be, "Is it true?" The question should be, "Why did somebody want it to get out there at all?" But that's a question for another time. The biggest question, for this time, is whether there's any reason to think Griffey can still play. And if that answer turns out to be "no," then the Mariners are stuck with a dilemma with no simple solutions: What's the best way for everybody concerned to find a dignified end to a beautiful story? "I want him to go out on his own terms," Dunn said. "Maybe hit a home run, round the bases and say, 'That's enough,' so people remember who he is and what he did -- not just for Seattle but for the game. That's what I'd do. The last thing you'd want is for them to run him out. That would be a shame." Asked if Griffey recognizes that The End is at least approaching, Dunn said: "Obviously. I think he realizes he's been playing for like 30 years or whatever. So he knows you can't play forever. But he also knows he's still having fun." So while The End might be showing up on Griffey's viewfinder, there's no reason to think he's in any hurry to close this book. But meanwhile, on the other end of this scale, there's no reason to think the Mariners are in any hurry to force the issue, either. They have five Griffey promotional extravaganzas scheduled just in the first half alone. And team president/CEO Chuck Armstrong is as close to Griffey as anyone in baseball. So clearly, they are going to tiptoe delicately down this path for as long as they can. But they also have big dreams, and an offense that's on pace to score 400 fewer runs than the Yankees. So they're not willing to promise it will be possible to tiptoe forever. "Ken started here," Zduriencik said. "He's an icon player here. He's loved in this community, and he plays a tremendous role in this community and on this ballclub. He's with us now, and he's part of our club, and you just move forward. Ken wanted to be here to do what he could to turn this around. He's making the best contribution he can. And we'll see. We'll see what happens." Yes, we will. Won't we? And we can promise you this: When, or if, anything ever does "happen," nobody in baseball will be sleeping through it when it does.
Ken started [in Seattle]. He's an icon player here. He's loved in this community, and he plays a tremendous role in this community and on this ball club. ... Ken wanted to be here to do what he could to turn this around. He's making the best contribution he can. And we'll see. We'll see what happens.” -- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik
Ready to rumble• Thumpless in Seattle: You know all that talk that the Mariners are actively trying to deal for Jose Guillen or some other bat who can add some thunder to the most power-challenged lineup in baseball? "Overblown," says Zduriencik. "We're not in any kind of panic mode," the GM said. "We've underperformed, and we need to get people to start performing. I'm always going to keep my ears open. I'm always going to be making phone calls. But we're a year and a half into this process of restocking this organization, and we're not giving up the farm. We're not going to do anything we don't think is in our best long-term interests. Yeah, we want to win right now. But we're never going to walk away from the big picture. "People outside our club might not realize this, but outside of Cliff [Lee], pretty much every guy on this club is back next year. Now the way we're playing, you might say that's not too good. But if it turns out it's just a down month and a half by these guys and most of them bounce back, then that's a good thing. So our feeling is, let's be as competitive as we can and let's do everything we can to win this year But we'll never walk away from the long-term plan." • Cliff hanger: OK, one more Seattle angle, and we'll move on. When the Mariners traded for Cliff Lee in December, they knew precisely what they were getting into.
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, TO SUNDAY, JUNE 27
|CURRENT SCHEDULE||PROPOSED CHANGE|
|Philadelphia at Toronto||Toronto at Cleveland|
|Cincinnati at Cleveland||Philadelphia at Cincinnati|
MONDAY, JUNE 28, TO WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30
|CURRENT SCHEDULE||PROPOSED CHANGE|
|Toronto at Cleveland||Philadelphia at Toronto|
|Philadelphia at Cincinnati||Cincinnati at Cleveland|
|Manny Ramirez and Ryan Howard|
• Capital developments: Is it officially time to fear the Nationals yet? They're now 18-12 since their 1-3 start. They've allowed two runs or fewer 12 times in those 30 games (more than any NL team but the Padres and Giants). And, of course, they have some kid named Strasburg on the way."We played just as hard last year as we're playing this year," Dunn said. "Just people didn't notice because we were losing 100 games. There's a different vibe this year. But the main thing is, the games we're winning this year, we would have lost last year, because we were waiting for something [bad] to happen -- and it happened." Now, though, a lot of good things are happening. And don't think these guys haven't contemplated the kind of season-changing figure Strasburg can be when he shows up. "Oh, I don't know," Dunn chuckled. "If you like 97 [miles an hour] with sink, and a hammer [curveball], and a change that looks like a splitter -- if you're into that, if you like that kind of stuff, you might like this guy a little. Me personally? I'm a fan of that." Of course, if it were up to the Nationals' players, Strasburg (and closer-of-the-future Drew Storen) would have made this team out of spring training. But since they didn't get a vote, they can only watch Strasburg's unhittability from afar and laugh. "You know, sometimes," Dunn said, "I sit there and see he pitched another minor league game and the other team got two hits. And I wonder: 'Those guys who got those two hits -- why aren't they in the big leagues?'"
The Rumblings Scouting BureauOnce again this week, we check in with some of America's greatest scouting minds:
Quotes of the Week• From Phillies pitcher Chad Durbin, after watching his 47-year-old teammate, Jamie Moyer, become the oldest pitcher in history to pitch a shutout: "We always joke in the bullpen that when we're retired, we've got to take our kids to a game and watch Jamie pitch." • From Twins manager/quipster Ron Gardenhire, on whether he'd ever had a player fall asleep during a game: "I've had a player take a nap during the game, when he was in the game. At least I thought so a couple times." • From Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, uttering the only words many sports fans will ever remember he's delivered: "Boston has an amazing set of remarkable athletes whose actions in the moment have become ionic in sports. Havlicek stole the ball. Fisk waved the ball fair. Flutie launched the Hail Mary pass. Varitek split the uprights." From Varitek (to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo): "Guys whose name begins with 'V' can really kick, huh?"
Late Nighter of the WeekFrom the "Top 10 Thoughts That Went Through Dallas Braden's Mind While He Threw His Perfect Game" -- as recited by (who else?) Dallas Braden:
Headliner of the WeekThis Ryan Howard contract bulletin just in, from our tongue-in-cheek friends at Phillygameday.com: HOWARD PLANS TO KEEP JOB,
USE MOST OF $125 MILLION ON BILLS
Tweet of the WeekFrom the first inductee in our sports-tweet Hall of Fame, "Late Show" genius Eric Stangel (@EricStangel): "BREAKING MLB NEWS: More Griffey controversy. Unconfirmed reports say Ken Griffey Sr. just fell asleep in a Denny's " Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.
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