Sleepgate is a talker, but Ken Griffey Jr. should stay
Until the Mariners have a player worthy of taking his roster spot, there's no reason for Griffey to go.
Seattle Times staff columnist
I don't want to see Ken Griffey Jr. go out like this.
Don't want to see a superstar who radiates joy depart wrapped in woe. Don't want to see a player who loves the clubhouse environment exit after some clubhouse members betrayed him. Don't want to see the game he once mastered turn around and pound him until his goodbye feels more like a banishment.
Don't want to see The Kid undid.
Admittedly, these are emotions, not facts to support a well-reasoned argument. It's an undeniable truth that Griffey doesn't have it anymore, that he's done being a productive everyday player and that, if he wanted to leave with his ego intact, he should've said adios a long time ago.
There's no sane case to be made in rebuttal. It's clear. It's painfully obvious. Therefore, any defense of Griffey, the 40-year-old fading legend, must start with the admission that feelings are overwhelming logic.
But that doesn't mean the Griffey admirers are mere windbags in this debate. In fact, ever since the Sleepgate story broke on Monday, most all of the reactions, on either side, have turned into a flood of emotions. The truth is lost in there somewhere. No one is seeking it anymore. We're all taking sides or making silly rationalizations or YELLING AND SCREAMING or using this issue to foist our personal beliefs on how a hero should retire.
It's all about emotions now, feelings, and so in this state, there's nothing wrong with believing that Junior deserves a better ending and hoping he can stick around long enough to get it.
Yes, it defies logic that the Mariners should allow a .200 hitter who can't play the field to remain on the roster.
At the same time, it's just as illogical to believe a franchise should dump its greatest player before identifying a player worthy of shoving a future Hall of Famer out the door.
Yes, it defies logic that an athlete getting paid $2.35 million to work 162 games would be accused of napping during the only three-hour period of his workday that really matters. At the same time, it's just as illogical to turn a humiliating, isolated incident into a full-fledged indictment and claim that Griffey doesn't care about the game anymore.
Yes, it defies logic that Griffey would want to keep playing a game that no longer rewards him as it once did. At the same time, it's just as illogical to think it's easy, or even right, to walk away from your passion — at age 40 — just because you're not a star talent anymore.
When Griffey decided to return for another season last November, he did so only with the promise that he'd be one of the 25 players on the roster. When he agreed to play under those conditions, I wrote that it proved he loves the game more than he loves his reputation.
I've never seen a star of his caliber with such diminished skills be willing to play for so little. From the minute he signed that contract, it was a high-risk, no-reward proposition.
But that's Griffey.
Junior is different from other superstars because he's, well, a junior. He grew up in a clubhouse during Ken Sr.'s playing days. Aside from family, baseball is his life. He was probably teethed on rawhide.
So if we're talking about emotion over logic, his decision to stay too long is the most emotional one of all. And this week, his reward for loving the game too much has been national embarrassment.
I don't want to see him go out like this.
Until the Mariners have a player worthy of taking his roster spot, there's no reason for Griffey to go. Right now, he's merely a .200 hitter on a team full of .200 hitters. It appears a time will come this season when general manager Jack Zduriencik acquires a better left-handed hitting option — Hank Blalock, anyone? — at DH, and that's when Griffey could be in the way. As of today, he's just one cold bat in a freezer stuffed with them.
It means there's still a chance Griffey can do something at the plate to minimize the damage of Sleepgate.
It means there's still a chance for this final chapter to be a little more positive.
At the very least, considering the way the Mariners are wrongfully raging against News Tribune reporter Larry LaRue for simply doing his job and reporting what two players told him anonymously, it seems like something good has come from this: A team on the verge of infighting has now found reason to fight together.
A galvanizing nap? This crazy story might become a turning point for the Mariners.
If it does, if the Mariners play their way back to stability because of this, then it could buy Griffey time to muster up enough juice to have a proper farewell season. Or at least a more appropriate goodbye moment.
There's little evidence to suggest he can do it. But why do you watch sports?
To be surprised. To be thrilled. To be moved by an unexpected moment that shuns the odds and sends you into an emotional frenzy.
Don't go, Junior. Not yet.
Be stubborn. Leave on your terms, if possible.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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