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.

 

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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.

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Mariners: It’s Time For Ichiro to GO.

English: Ichiro Suzuki on June 10, 2009.

Seattle Mariner iconic right-fielder and lead-off hitter Ichiro Suzuki, who is more commonly known only by his first name much like Madonna and Cher, has given Northwest baseball fans eleven years of exciting baseball. He’s won awards, broke records, and solidified a spot for himself in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame following his retirement. But his play this and last season show that he’s done. He’s fallen and given his age of 38 it’s safe to say he won’t get up.

It’s early June and the Mariners are seven games below .500. Not all that bad given they’ve had to endure the worst schedule in MLB, playing more road games than any other team…including a trip to Japan. Ichiro started the year as the team’s number 3 hitter; a spot usually reserved for the teams best batsman. At the start of the year it seemed like a worthy experiment. But after two months Ichiro’s diminished batting average and total lack of power necessitated his move last week back to his familiar lead-off position in the batting order.

The problem is Ichiro is not the familiar player who slapped singles and occasionally doubles and triples all around the ballpark, and beat out infield hits, and stole bases on a regular basis. Last year’s drop in average to .271 was dramatic for a lifetime .300+ hitter. And wishful fans AND Mariner management hoped it was a one season anomaly created largely by the inept hitting around the great Japanese ball player. Despite two hits in last night’s win over the LA Angels Ichiro’s .259 average and .290 on-base percentage show that it wasn’t an anomaly, but a trend. Hitting .259 with an OBP of only .290 would make Ichiro one of the worst lead-off hitters in baseball. Such averages are more deserving of a spot 7th, 8th or 9th in the line-up.

Ichiro is making $18-million dollars this year. But his contract is up at the end of the season. Knowing the Mariner’s history they’ll want to re-sign him and let him retire having only played for Seattle in his MLB career. I’d be all for it if not for the team’s reluctance to do anything that might upset their ego-maniacal star. And if Manager Eric Wedge can’t bring himself to put the team first and lower Ichiro’s position in the batting order NOW when several acceptable alternatives are available for the team’s lead-off spot, what makes you think he will do the right thing next year. Do you really want another Ken Griffey Jr. situation?

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Junior was brought back to the team in 2009 to end his career with the city and team that launched his Hall of Fame career. In spite of hitting a paltry .214 with little power, the nostalgia loving Mariner management team brought him back for the 2010 season. It was a disaster. Griffey was old. His interest level in playing was clearly diminished. He couldn’t bring his average above the proverbial Mendoza Line (.200) and he had even less power than in 2009. After being benched in mid-May Griffey left the team in a huff, announcing his retirement in a letter to management and leaving town without another word to anybody. The team suffered with and without him and proceeded through one of the worst seasons in team history, losing over 100 games.

The same ugly fate awaits Ichiro if Mariner management can’t do the right thing. He must be shown respect. And he must be shown the door. If they can get anything for him (and by anything I mean a bag of baseballs would suffice, given his age, his stats, and his contract) they should trade him to a contender by the July 31 trade deadline so Ichiro has a chance to end his career with a winner. Or, they should let him play out this season honorably. Then profusely thank him for his service and say goodbye. Then plan on a new right-fielder in 2013. Then, and only then can this young and improving Mariner’s team have a chance at contention.

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1980 meets 2010

This post was written and posted on my Facebook Notes in February 2010. – M Schuett

My H.S. Senior Class Portrait

M Schuett at 17

Long lazy weekends like this tend to lead me to daydreaming. Such was the case yesterday.

I was in the shower enjoying the warmth of the water spraying down. After spending an hour reading and relaxing in the hot tub my Saturday morning showers serve as a great opportunity for thinking about what there is to do for the remaining two days of my weekend. My mind was drifting into the chores that lay in front of me when I heard the bathroom door slide open. Hearing no one and deciding I’d soaked myself sufficiently for one day I shut off the water and opened my opaque glass sliding door and reached around for my towel. Finding that I was not alone wasn’t surprising. But finding who was standing there in my bathroom was a surprise.

As our eyes met I wasn’t the least bit embarrassed, though I stood in front of him dripping wet, with nothing but a towel between what God gave me and my visitors emotionless gaze. Though I’d not seen him in 30 years I knew him immediately by the pimpled face, the slender build, and the casual jeans and t-shirt. He was me. He was 16. And he somehow seemed perfectly just and proper being here in this place, at this time.

He said, “Hey”, as a sort of friendly but not too friendly greeting. I said, “Hey” back at him, not wanting to seem uncomfortable. His blank expression turned nervous as I stepped toward him out of the shower. And he looked like he wanted to say something. Towelling off is never a long process for me as the water seems to evaporate off me as it does when a wet skillet is placed on a hot flame. So I hung my towel, squeezed my naked body by him in the doorway and proceeded across my room and got dressed. While I did so he kept glancing at me with an increasingly uncomfortable appearance.

I asked, “What? What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing.”, he lied.
“What?”
“Don’t worry about it”, he said in the typical annoyed voice of a teenager.
As I looked at ME I remained comfortable with the oddity of the situation. And feeling comfortable stated what I was thinking, “Man, I forgot how bad your acne was. It’s a shame Dad never took you to a doctor.”
Obviously hurt and defensive he finally revealed what had clearly been on his mind, “Ya…well I can’t believe how FAT you got!”
Even at a young age I’d mastered the over-the-top biting insult when I felt slighted. Some day I’ll write a manual on the fine art of killing a house fly with a sledgehammer. When it comes to intra-personal relations it’s a skill I’ve sadly perfected since the time in my life when I finally grew out of being a naïve child. At this time I was just staring at that age.
“Woe.” I said, “Take it easy. Being me I thought we could express ourselves openly. I didn’t mean to insult you.”
“Ok, but since you are me perhaps you can be a little more sensitive and remember how embarrassed I am by my pimples?”
He was right. I was insensitive. Trying to lighten the mood I tried to be jovial about his comment and only came out sounding defensive. “OK. Sorry. Ya know at my age I’m really not that fat. You have nothing to worry about. Women love this manly body.”
He hesitated then said, “How can you let yourself get this way? I swore I never want to look like Dad.” He spoke in the present tense, oblivious to the fact that our father had long ago passed away.
I could tell he was uncomfortable with what might be laying ahead of him in the next thirty years. If he hadn’t seen me getting out of the shower maybe he would be more at ease.
I led him out of my bedroom and led him into my office at the bottom of our stairs. My family was gone running errands. So I was alone with myself. In my office he observed my Mariner’s bobble heads, my collection of baseball cards, my miniature Seahawks

Wage the Seahawks Fan

helmet and my cougar painting all decorating my bookshelf.

“What’s wrong with you?” he demanded, “No Sonics’ stuff?”
“I packed it all away when they left town.”
“They left town? Come on?”
In 1980 when this person, ME, was sixteen the  Seattle Supersonics were the defending NBA champs

The final logo of the SuperSonics

The final logo of the SuperSonics

and more important in my life than girls, school, Friday night, or absolutely anything else. It would have to be nearly impossible to grasp that the team he’d dreamed of playing for and later shifted his dream to being the team’s play by-play announcer; was now the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“You know the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl”, changing the subject while I settled into my desk chair.
Wanting to demonstrate his sports acumen he confidently retorted, “I imagine with that Kingdome crowd cheering them on they went to the Super Bowl a few times.” He was smiling now and had moved past the discomfort of the earlier acne comment upstairs. I didn’t want to bring him down again by mentioning that the Kingdome’s demolition was now more than ten years in the past.
The sixteen year old me asked why I had so many Mariner collectibles. “They suck”, he opined. I told him he was right. Then I told him how Dave Neihaus on the radio had been my only friend through lonely summers nights away from home, by myself, in small towns trying to build a radio career. I tried to explain in terms he could understand that former Yankee Lou Pinella came to town in the 90s and turned one of the all time sorriest sports franchises into a winner. I told him of perhaps the greatest player of a generation having created his stardom in Seattle.
“Ken Griffey is the greatest player of a generation? How old is he? He plays for the Reds. He played for the Big Red Machine.”, he was excited and confused.
OK, I’d missed a spot. “Wait a minute, wait a minute.”, I said,

Ken Griffey Jr. (1997)

Ken Griffey Jr. (1997) (Photo credit: iccsports)

Ken Griffey JUNIOR, JUNIOR. He’s the son.”
With that thought followed the realization of how little this kid knew. For instance he didn’t know that he was a kid. At the age of sixteen he knew as much as any adult, or so he thought. As he fiddled with my bobble head collection and quizzically viewed my collection of business and self-help books he tried to hide all the contempt that was welling up inside him. Without saying it I knew he couldn’t understand why I had embraced the more-or-less typical middle class upwardly mobile life that best described the house that the sixteen year old me had just walked through and the room he was now observing. For him at that age my life as he had preliminarily seen in these first few minutes was far from the various dreams he was envisioning for himself in what was his sophomore year in high school at Bellevue’s Sammamish High School. He was still dreaming of being an architect, like Frank Lloyd Wright. He had only recently understood his athletic limitations and realized he would not play in the NBA or even the NFL.
Mini-me interrupted my thoughts pointed to the LCD computer monitor on my desk and asked “What’s that?”
Of course he wouldn’t know. “It’s a computer monitor”, pointing to the PC under my desk.
“Woooooe! You have your own computer?”
Gesturing to the chair across from my desk, “Sit down”, I said, ”I have a lot of ‘splaynan to do”
Obediently he sat and looked at me as I began to explain my life; the stops and starts the failures and what I considered the successes.
“You dropped out of college? Why’d you do that?”
“You were a radio DJ?” With this I seemed to impress him.
“What do you mean country music?” He was no longer impressed.
“Married? Twenty three years? Is she a fox?”
“Wait a minute…I’m married when I’m 23 years old? Do I know this girl?”
Just then the phone rang; my cell phone. My ring tone song filled the room and the young me jumped out of his seat in a startled reaction. I held up my hand and instructed him to sit back down. After quickly dispatching the friendly caller I explained to ME what a cell phone was and that it went with me wherever I went. I then retreated to his computer question and explained that almost everyone had at least one computer in their home. He then asked, “Why?” He caught me by surprise with this one. I couldn’t adequately answer this inquiry.
I decided to leap outside the small world of my existence and tell him what else had changed.
“I married a black woman only you don’t call her black. You call her African-American
“The richest man in the world lives in a house on Lake Washington.”
Ronald Reagan became President and amongst many other things is credited with ushering out the existence of the Soviet Union.”
“We impeached a President in the 90s.”
“Homosexuals want to get married, legally. And in some places already have. And, oh by the way, two of your cousins are gay.”
“No nuclear weapons have been used on anyone, anywhere at any time.” This stymied him. At his age at his time in 1980 thirty years passing without anyone using a nuclear bomb on someone else must have seemed highly unlikely.
“Iran was still an enemy; though we did get the hostages out.”
“Terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center and crashed them to rubble on the ground.” “You mean those two tall buildings in the King Kong movie?” “Ya, those buildings.”
Michael Jackson of the Jackson Five was perhaps the biggest entertainer of the previous 30 years. And he recently died.”
Then I said something that really surprised him, “We have a black President. And his name is what?”
He asked about his friends from that time; Bennett Barrick, Lee Gilbert, Jeff Christianson. He was dismayed that I’d not seen Lee or Jeff since graduation night in June 1982, and that I’d not seen Bennett since our 1987 wedding day.
His queries were what you would expect under the farcical situation taking place; and he didn’t seem too uncomfortable. The more we talked the more I realized the truly surprising aspect of now versus then. His worries and want of friends, his insecurities, his enthusiasms and his dreams were the same. They were mine, still. His explosive excitement and displays of annoyance even anger were familiar but largely replaced by a more restrained demeanor in today’s me. The worldly differences, and the technological trickery that we call advancements were momentarily interesting then lost in the fascination of the more personal changes in me and my friends. In summation he was much like my son. He was innocent. But largely the same person. This thought brought a smile to my face. And then he asked the big question.
“So what have we learned? What can you tell me?”
“You want to know what I’d do differently?” I asked.
“No.” he said. “I figure what you’ve learned will answer that question. I just want to know what you’ve learned; how you’ve grown.”
First I said I’ve learned to happily accept friendship wherever it’s offered and never worry too much if the person offering the friendship is the coolest, or the best looking, or even the most fun. Friendship is a treasure under any circumstance.
He asked, “Are you saying I’m a bad guy?”
“No. But you are unfulfilled.” I answered. “Friendships color your world, your life. And you can have more of them.”
Secondly I said I’ve learned to move past disappointments. I’ve learned they are inevitable and that if you embrace them too hard they become part of you. If you let them go they’re only part of the past.
“Anything else?” he asked.
I told him I’ve learned to do what makes me happy. I said, ”Time between where you are in 1980 and where I am in 2010 has been a short period of time. And now I know that the time between now and the day I die, whenever that may be, will be even shorter. The time we have is fleeting and valuable. Spending it being angry, worrying about money, or stagnant with immobilization is a waste of time and a detriment to your happiness.”
“All that seems so simple.” he said.
I closed our encounter by telling the sixteen year old me, “It is simple. And it’s hard.”

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