I hit the search engines today to try to find a parallel to the weird Ken Griffey story (which gets weirder by the hour). Griffey and manager Don Wakamatsu deny the outfielder was asleep when a pinch-hitting opportunity occurred in last Saturday’s game with the Angels. Griffey did not answer when asked if he was asleep at any other point in the game.
Obviously, if the aspect of the Larry LaRue story that everyone in the world glommed onto (and with gleeful mirth, for the most part) — that Wakamatsu wanted Griffey to pinch-hit late in the game, but he was asleep — isn’t accurate, then the whole scenario loses much of its impact. LaRue is a quality person and reporter, and I feel badly for him right now. This is pretty much all of our worst nightmare. I felt all along that the more pertinent aspect of the LaRue story was his confident prediction of Griffey’s imminent departure from the team. It remains to be seen how that plays out.
Anyway, back to my search for another in-game napper. It turns out that in 2002, the Cubs were rocked — OK, gently rocked, by the tree top — by their own version of “Sleepgate.” It was August of what would be a miserable Cubs season. Manager Don Baylor had been fired in July, replaced on an interim basis by Bruce Kimm. The Cubs went on to lose 95 games that year and finish 30 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. By the time the 2003 season started, Kimm had been replaced by Dusty Baker.
Here’s part of the story that ran in the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 16, 2002:
A quick scan of the Cubs clubhouse Thursday revealed no pillows, earplugs or instructional videos on filing taxes.
Whoever dozed off during Tuesday’s game–an act that prompted manager Bruce Kimm to call a team meeting Wednesday–did not opt to make it easy on the amateur detectives.
The prime suspect remains a reliever, according to team sources.
And most fingers are pointed toward Kyle Farnsworth.
The following spring, Farnsworth finally admitted that he was the culprit. Here’s the story in the Chicago Sun-Times:
Farnsworth even admitted for the first time that he was the pitcher who was sleeping in the clubhouse late last season. But he defended that as a normal routine for a reliever preparing himself for the late innings, emphasized that he did the same through a successful 2001 season without being accused of callous indifference and blamed former interim manager Bruce Kimm for poor judgment in calling a team meeting partly to chastise him.
“I want to get something straight about that,” Farnsworth said. “I was in there sleeping, but it was also during a rain delay. It wasn’t even during the game. If anybody wants to talk [stuff] about that, they can say what they want. But [former Cubs closer] Lee Smith used to sleep until the seventh inning. Did they say anything about him?”
As for Kimm, Farnsworth is one of several players who chafed at his management style in a season that went from bad to worse after Don Baylor was fired in early July.
“I could understand if it had been during a game and he had said, Get Farnsworth warming up,’ and I had been inside sleeping,” Farnsworth said. “But nothing like that went on. It was a rain delay. I took a nap every now and then in 2001, and no one said anything.
“It was totally mishandled, and I confronted [Kimm] about it. I had words with him and told him that he did it wrong. You talk to me about it first.”
Farnsworth is now with the Kansas City Royals, and was recently the winner of an ESPN The Magazine poll of players on who they’d least like to fight in a bench-clearing brawl. He’s not a guy you want to mess with.
It’s instructive that he brought up Lee Smith, who was legendary for napping during games.
“It was like a pre-appearance ritual,” former Cubs PR director — and current Dodgers general manager — Ned Colletti once told the Sun-Times. “He’d go to sleep in the second inning, have pizza delivered in the fifth inning, and walk out to the bullpen in the seventh.”
“He used to sleep in the video room up by the manager’s office,” Ed Lynch, a former Cubs pitcher and GM, told the newspaper in a 2002 story, shortly after the Farnsworth incident. “You would go up there in the third inning, and there was Smitty, snoring. He would have his feet on a chair and his head on the floor, his eyes covered with a towel.”
The point is that sleeping during a game, for better or worse, is not totally unprecedented.
(Photo by Associated Press. That’s Farnsworth punching Reds pitcher Paul Wilson during a 2003 brawl).