Not a Fan of Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

 

The Seattle Mariners will honor their best player of all-time tonight when they induct Ken Griffey Jr. in to the Mariner’s Hall of Fame. A precursor, no doubt, of Griffey’s ultimate first-ballot election into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when he becomes eligible in 2016. Only a fool would argue that Griffey doesn’t belong in either Hall. And I certainly won’t be doing that. But at a time when the city of Seattle will once again bathe this man in all its love, all the love its ever felt for any personality, it’s important for me to express my dissatisfaction with Griffey, the man. I am not a fan.

 

Being a big-time sports fan I am certainly a fan of all that Griffey did on the field. His array of acrobatic outfield dives, slides, fence climbing catches could get him a Hall nomination alone. He was the best defensive outfielder in baseball through the 90s. His glorious swing made for 630 home runs, sixth on the Major League Baseball all-time list. Fourth All-time if you eliminate the cheaters…which we should. To me even more impressive is the fact that only 5 players (clean players) have hit as many as 600 career home runs and absolutely nobody is on the horizon to do it again. Sadly Griffey’s career included only three playoff appearances for his teams. And he never played in the World Series, surpassing Ernie Banks of Chicago Cub fame as the best player to never make it to the baseball players ultimate competition.

 

Yes, Griffey was an incredible talent. And he was also an incredible jerk. I’ve always been amazed how lovingly Seattle continues to embrace a man who twice gave the city his backside and his middle finger as he headed out of town. By contrast Alex Rodriguez was vilified the moment he signed the richest contract in baseball history to go to a team that had been to the playoffs two of the previous three years. A-Rod was booed lustily when he returned to Safeco Field as a Texas Ranger in 2001 (All this long preceding the revelation or even suspicion that A-Rod was a multiple time cheat and liar). But Griffey was practically given the keys to the city when he returned as a Cincinnati Red player for the first time in 2007. How quickly we forget that he forced his way out of Seattle demanding to be traded prior to the 2000 season; and then hamstringing the Mariner’s ability to trade for value by limiting what team he would accept being traded to only his hometown Cincinnati Reds.

 

Ken Griffey ---- This image was moved from Fil...

 

Griffey’s narcissism and ingratitude was demonstrated one final time with perhaps the most classless retirement of any Superstar athlete ever. Disgusted at having been benched in 2010 because of his pathetic .184 batting average with zero home runs and only 7 RBI, Griffey left town without a word. Not a goodbye to his teammates, a fair well to fans, a closing interview, nothing but his proverbial “bird”, and a curt statement sent to his longtime friend and boss Mariner President Chuck Armstrong.

 

Griffey’s narcissism was evident early on. As a lonely 19-year-old playing for the Bellingham Mariners he attempted suicide; a gesture mostly, but one in which the individual is demanding attention. As if the number one draft pick in the entire MLB Draft the previous June wasn’t getting enough attention. I am genuinely sorry he was sad and suicidal; knowing him as I do I never took it seriously.

 

Know him? Why yes, I do. As much as a local small-time reporter from over 20-years ago can know him. Which isn’t much. He wouldn’t allow it. In the 3 years I covered Griffey and the Mariners as a reporter for a radio station and for my own syndicated daily radio interview show he never once made himself available to my microphone. But that wasn’t unusual. Griffey almost never made himself available to any local reporter, only national reporters. I’m sympathetic to those who would claim support of Griffey’s stance of not talking to reporters and remaining “private” if it were true. But it’s not. He would talk to reporters. Just not local reporters. We were too little for him in his eyes. For the record I found his father to be a prick too. But that’s another story.

 

Griffey has friends who will tell you he was kind to children, and teammates and that he was fun-loving and a practical joker. I’m sure he was all of those things. But a Hall of Fame Person is someone kind to most-everyone not just the chosen few who adore you. Junior will go into the team Hall of Fame tonight and the bigger Hall in 3 years and he earned it. He just doesn’t get into my Hall.

 

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

 

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Leave Safeco Fence Alone- Close the Roof

Safeco Field in Seattle.

Safeco Field in Seattle.

With continued offensive struggles from the Seattle Mariner‘s bats when playing at Seattle’s magnificent home ballpark, Safeco Field, talks have begun again about the wisdom of moving in the fields fences in order to make hitting home runs easier. But moving in the fences is not the answer. But an answer is available.

This topic gained lots of momentum when big Justin Smoak,

Justin Smoak

Justin Smoak

the Mariner’s leading home run hitter, connected on two blasts in one game one week ago. Both shots were run-down and caught by the outfielders on the warning track in right and left-center field. After the game Smoak said he hit those balls as best he could. His exact quote was “That’s all I got”.

Also, last week Baltimore Oriole’s All Star Adam Jones appeared on CNN as part of a story discussing the 20th Anniversary of the opening of Camden Yards. The CNN anchor asked the former Mariner if the Oriole’s home ballpark was the most beautiful stadium in the Major Leagues. Jones said yes, but that he also really liked Safeco Field “Except it’s just a grave yard there. It’s just a grave yard”. Shaking his head he must have repeated that the Mariner’s home field was a grave yard 3-4 times.

The fact that the Mariner’s returned from their last road trip having averaged over 7 runs per game, while scoring barely 2 runs per game at The Safe adds to the fire.

And this debate has been raging since the Mariner’s left the Kingdome in July 1999. Safeco is hugely responsible for driving away Seattle’s two biggest Stars of the 90s. Ken Griffey Jr.

English: Ken Griffey in June 2009.

Ken Griffey in June 2009.

played half-of-a-season at Safeco in 1999 and hated it.  Alex Rodriguez was equally miffed at the difficulty in hitting home runs in Seattle. Griffey demanded and was granted a trade to Cincinnati following the ’99 season. A-Rod left in free agency after 2000. Neither giving the stadium much of a chance.

What’s misunderstood about Safeco is that it’s outfield walls are not that deep compared to other Major League fields. In left field is 331-feet, Center field is only 405 feet from home plate, and right field is just 327. By comparison Detroit’s Comerica Park is 345 down the left field line, 330 down right, and 420 to center field. Clearly the fences aren’t the issue.

Any meteorologist could tell you what the problem is. It’s Seattle’s thick wet air. When it’s cold and wet in the Northwest, as it is from the time the season starts until early July a hit baseball just doesn’t carry as far as in places where people don’t have webbed feet and rust under their arms. And last I checked early July is halfway through a Major League baseball season.

Safeco Field

I have two arguments against moving in the fences. First- when Seattle teams were good it was far less of an issue. Brett Boone, A-Rod, Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner hit plenty of bombs in The Safe. And the opponents have to hit in the same field dimensions. So Seattle is not at a competitive disadvantage.

Second, a big part of the solution to the heavy air and the lack of home runs already exists and could be put in place tomorrow. Close the Safeco Roof. Griffey was known to scream furiously for the roof to be closed in his short time here (Yes…he was THAT spoiled). Mariner TV commentator Bill Krueger offered this idea during a radio interview last week. He pointed out that other moveable-roof domed stadiums keep their roofs closed a majority of the time for this very reason.  And since the roof is so high and since the left-field open air view of the Seattle skyline still exists patrons are not losing much. Let’s face it, we’d all rather be a little warmer on a cold damp Seattle Spring night watching a more offensively exciting baseball team with the roof “extended”, than shivering in 40 and 50-degree weather with night-time stars covered by clouds and a team that averages only 2 runs per game.

This needs to happen immediately. Mariner management needs to make a command decision. New rules for the Safeco roof go into effect immediately. Except on days when it’s over 60 degrees, and only on clear nights the roof goes over the playing field. That way we all get more home runs, and happier young ball players.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.