The problem isn't that
After going 0 for 3 with a walk in Tuesday night's 5-1 win over the Orioles, Griffey is batting .200 with two doubles, no homers and seven bases on balls. His .489 OPS is fifth-worst among players with at least 75 plate appearances, and his .225 slugging average is second-lowest only to the .218 of Florida's Chris Coghlan. Griffey has not played an inning in the field this season, and played fewer than 100 innings with a glove in 2009. His role is to be productive at the plate, and when he's not doing so, he's a waste of a roster spot.
The Mariners brought Griffey, still a local hero a decade after he was traded away, back before the 2009 season for a farewell tour. The most apt comparison is to 1987, when the Oakland A's signed a 41-year-old
Each declined markedly during the season in which they returned home:
The difference between the two is that the A's went into 1988 no longer needing a distraction, fully focused on winning the AL West. Building around a tremendous core of power hitters and some retreaded starting pitchers, they didn't feel the need for a second victory lap with a player who could no longer help them win. Jackson retired after the 1987 season. Seattle, by contrast, looked at a 40-year-old on a three-season decline, who couldn't play the field any longer, who hadn't put up DH-worthy numbers since 2007...and locked him up again. It was an inexplicable decision, made worse by the context. Under general manager
There's no baseball defense for the decision. Ken Griffey Jr. did nothing in 2009 to warrant a job in 2010. There was a time, many years ago, when a team could use a roster spot on a player such as Griffey, a veteran who wouldn't play much but who would get a big cheer when he did, who might scare the occasional right-handed reliever, who might even come up with one big hit a month to win a game. That time ended with the advent of double-digit pitching staffs. No team carrying just 13 position players can afford to use one on a hitter who cannot hit, on an outfielder who cannot field. The Mariners needed to walk away from Griffey last winter as part of the transition from building to winning, just as the A's had done more than 20 years prior with Jackson. Seattle failed to do so, and now have an intractable problem: a living legend with a dead bat.
I don't care whether Griffey was asleep in the clubhouse or not. Living on the East Coast, I'm happy to use Mariners games as a sleep aid myself, counting 4-3s and F8s the way some people count sheep, so it's not hard for me to see where someone getting an up-close-and-personal look at their offense would end up unconscious. I will say that I see no reason to believe the story is untrue; the spirited denial by
There's no easy out here for the Mariners. The 1988 A's had about a half-dozen guys who could take Jackson's playing time away from him. The 2010 Mariners' problem is that they don't have even one. Sweeney has been even worse than Griffey, this year and over the last three;