There was not much to celebrate in the baseball element of Ken Griffey Jr.’s 40th year in life – and 22nd in the Major Leagues – as his .184 batting average, zero homeruns and spotty/erratic playing time have left The Kid with time to snooze and reflect on his Hall of Fame career.
Far superior career eulogies will be written than what you’ll read in the space/time allotted here, so permit YKI to reflect fondly on the impending finality of the chapter entitled My Generation’s Baseball Heroes. Along with Frank Thomas, the sport has lost perhaps the only two offensive juggernauts of the 90’s who escaped the stigma of The Steroid Era.
Griffey’s career spanned four decades, providing copious highlights, gems, lasers and bombs to fans throughout the world, who marveled at the growth & maturation of June-Bug. A list of Griffey’s greatest moments as a Mariner is presented here, apt insomuch as despite productive stops in Cincinnati & (south side) Chicago, Jr. will always be remembered as a Mariner. The back-to-back homeruns with his father, the dash home versus the Yankees, his countless Gold Glove catches. . .defined baseball to a generation further sidetracked by the more action-laden basketball & football, always reminding us that the Summer belonged to the Kids.
And without further adieu, YKI’s rememberences of Griffey Jr:
Anaheim Angels: Arte Moreno is the best owner in baseball. Ever since he came into town and lowered beer prices, he’s stolen the a major piece heart of a city away from a fiercely loyal Dodger fan base. He stole the Los Angeles city name, he infiltrated traditional media as far North as The Valley and as far East as Rancho Cucamonga with diabolic red Angels billboards and bus stop posters. . .and he kept winning. He built a west-coast empire out of pretentious, vapid Suburbopolis. They’ve won five of the last division titles with nary an iota of nostalgia – John Lackey, Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus? Gone. Adam Kennedy, Vlad Guererro, Darrin Erstad? See ya. Jarrod Washburn? Troy Percival? Buh-bye.
Guess what, though? They keep right on winning. That’s what they do, and that’s Mike Scioscia. Mike Napoli behind the plate, Brandon Wood at 3B, Erick Aybar at SS? That’s fine with Mike, we’ll just keep steamrollering teams, thank you very much. Howie Kendrick and Kendry Morales are both All-Stars, and Torii Hunter & Bobby Abreu provide the same cachet in the outfield. With a full season, Juan Rivera will hit 30 bombs and the fans in Orange County can continue going home happy with just another Halo Victory. The dynamite rotation begins with Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders, and goes through Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro, both of whom appear poised for improved years under the tutelage of underrated pitching coach Mike Butcher. Brian Fuentes is a huge question mark in the bullpen, but Scot Shields, Kevin Jepsen, Rafael Rodriguez and power arm Fransisco Rodney can hold that down for Manager Mike, at least until playoffs. . .
Prediction: 96 wins, 66 losses.
Seattle Mariners: The Mariners intrigued me in the offseason with a litany of shrewd acquisitions. This, in turn, led to many media outlets predicting big things for the team from the Northwest. While I do agree that Cliff Lee (assuming he gets healthy, and soon), Chone Figgins (a bit overrated but still a fun, scrappy player that helps the club win) and Milton Bradley (can he ever go a season just playing ball? He’s so dang talented, and his heart is in the right place) were deft pickups, the Mariners have the unfortunate role of being in the same division as a MIke Scioscia-led ballclub. As much as Don Wakamatsu was a good choice as manager for the M’s, the rotation after Lee and King Felix Hernandez is a bit short, and Jack Wilson and Javy Lopez scare nobody on the left side of the infield. Uberballplayer Ichiro is back in right, yet with declining speed numbers, essentially rendering him a faster Tony Gwynn (though still the most exciting and unique player in the game). David Aardsma starts the season as flocser, which means they don’t have a closer, and in the American League that spells doom. I do love the fact that Griffey is back and in fact with Griffey, Ichiro and King Felix they might have the three most recognizable names in the sport. Too bad that’s not enough for a division title.
Prediction: 88 wins, 74 losses.
Texas Rangers: Not buying the rotation. The hot Arlington summers are going to be hell on these fellas come August. Galloway & Company are going to be chicken frying these guys giving up gopher ball after gopher ball, making Vicente Padilla look dry in comparison. Scott Feldman can pitch, so can Rich Harden. . .and aww,, hell – so can Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson. But alas, there’s only so much workload Neftali Perez, Darren Oliver and finally Frank Francisco can handle, and they’ll be wilting out there at that beautiful Ballpark as well. Offensively, some people are expecting big things, but as much as I love Nolan Ryan – and I do love me some Nolan – the offense just isn’t enough to bail out that pitching, no matter how many pitches they throw (and believe me, I love limitless pitch counts – the oxymoronic belief that somehow ‘protecting’ the investment of a young fireballer that’s thrown countless innings and pitches from little league through high school through American Legion and cutting his workload down to the 60-80 pitch range is beneficial is amazing to me. Think about it – you don’t workout with less weight to get stronger – cmon). As I was saying, Ian Kinsler & Michael Young are outstanding bats, Elvis Andrus is a bit overrated, Vlad Guererro is a nice pickup but old (keep swingin’ Vladi – you still can’t walk off the island), Jared Saltalamacchia’s swing is longer than his name, and Josh Hamilton must be the most fragile conqueror I’ve ever seen. Nelson Cruz is good and Chris Davis may break out, but this team is destined to mire through the sweltering heat.
Prediction: 81 wins, 81 losses
Oakland A’s: To be Lew Wolff, on the precipice of bringing a forlorn franchise back to respectability, yet so far from acceptable on the field. Actually, though Moneyball’s charm has worn off long ago, the A’s remain a franchise in a ‘small market’ that still competes and puts a good product on the field. Becoming maestro’s of scrapping, KEvin Kouzmanoff, Kurt Suzuki, Jack Cust, Mark Ellis, Coco Crisp and Ben Sheets are all byproducts of somebody’s waste. Accordingly and defying other, more resource-laden franchises, the A’s consistently find these guys while they can still play. Point is, the A’s are going to turn some heads. Rajai Davis isn’t an All-Star, but he complements Coco Crisp and the young, talented Ryan Sweeney in a solid outfield. Andrew Bailey, the smartest man in baseball Craig Breslow and freewheeling Brad Ziegler join the castaways to form a reliable bullpen. That said, there just really isn’t enough op here to support the pitching. They’ll be respectable, but in a competitive division they will be the odd team out.
Prediction: 76 wins, 86 losses
Seattle Times’s Jerry Brewer has a gratifying take on Ken Griffey Jr. returning for another season in Seattle
The Kid has been a personal favorite of mine – and just about everybody in my generation – for two decades (though officially the 2010 season will mark his fourth in the big leagues), and proves that a natural career progression (think Mantle, Mays) entails an older guy. . .getting older. Numbers aren’t what they once were, but that swing. . .Wow.
And that 1989 Upper Deck rookie. . .the card that literally transformed card collecting.