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June 22, 2007 at 8:31 AM

Griffey mania

Good morning “MJ”, “Merrill”, and company. I see that “Sammy” has been spreading the good word about this blog in other places. Thank you for that. Hello to “Anna” and all of our other fans in Serbia. Hope it’s a warm and sunny afternoon there. You may not have heard, being into soccer and all, but Ken Griffey Jr. returns to Seattle tonight for the first time since 1999. Hopefully, he’s been back as a tourist because this city is a great place. I know I used to come here just for fun in past years. But anyway, back to Griffey, here’s what some of the Ohio papers are writing about his return. Harold Reynolds, now working for MLB.com, wonders in this piece how Griffey will be received by fans. Personally, I have little doubt it will be a warm reception, based on the fans I’ve spoken to. This is not the same as with A-Rod. Griffey, for whatever reason, has managed to smooth over his image here since he left town. Any thoughts as to why that is? I have my own ideas, but I’d be curious to hear your take.
I liked this piece, not just because it quotes Times columnist Jerry Brewer, but also because it mentions “Jared” Weaver winning for the M’s two nights ago. If only that were true, huh? If so, this night might not be the biggest one for Mariners fans that we’re likely to see all season.
By the way, this story, by Baseball Hall of Fame writer Hal McCoy of the Dayton News, answers my question above about Griffey the tourist. You need to register for it, but I thought I’d link because McCoy is one of the best baseball beat writers of the past quarter century. Sat next to him in the pressbox last night, giving him Larry Stone’s seat as Stoney was off. I really hope Griffey is just downplaying his return here to hide his anxiousness about the night — as friends like Reynolds have said.
“I haven’t been back, not once,” Griffey tells McCoy. “No desire. And why does everybody want me to talk about Seattle? What’s the big deal?”
Yeah, why come to Seattle, when you can live in that mecca of culture known as Orlando? Great place, that is. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a place where — with just a 15-minute drive in any direction — you can stumble into a trailer park where the locals keep alligators chained to their gas barbecues like pets? I’m sure Griffey is just, as I said, downplaying stuff. But to be honest, I find it hard to take athletes who hide their true feelings to this degree. If fans of a city are going to worship you unconditionally, despite the circumstances surrounding how you left their favorite team, why not just throw them a bone? How tough is it?
Modesty I really like. False modesty bordering on insulting? No time for it. But he was a great ballplayer in his prime. We might not be worrying about Barry Bonds and his assault on the home run record and what’s left of baseball’s dignity had Junior remained healthy the past eight seasons. Just think about that. He’s almost at 600 homers. How many would he have hit by now if not sidelined for all of those years?
Many of you ask whether the M’s would ever bring Griffey back here. I doubt it. As we mentioned during yesterday’s discussion, there is no real room in this outfield. As a designated hitter? Perhaps, but again, this team has too many DH types already. I think nights like this one are perfect where Griffey is concerned. You bring him back, serenade him with applause, everybody gets all teary-eyed and then you move on. One day, once everybody — him included — has a full handle on the perspective of it all, you retire his number and everyone feels good for one last time. Bringing him back now, at his age and with his health history, does no good as far as advancing this team forward. This isn’t 1995 anymore. Yes, he did plenty to help “save” baseball in Seattle with his on-field performance. And yes, he was the franchise’s first true homegrown superstar. Every franchise has one of those, though Griffey took things a step beyond most. His accomplishments in baseball will resonate long after he retires.
But the one thing that was true when he was here is still the case in Seattle today where baseball is concerned. Griffey never earned a championship ring with this club. The Mariners are still seeking that elusive title, six years after a 116-win season that seemed to forecast so many positive years still to come. Those years never happened. If the M’s are to taste the playoffs again and reach that higher level, they have to — in my opinion — treat nights like this for what they are and not go that next step.
As much as many would love to see Junior rejoin the M’s for one last hurrah, I don’t see it all winding up in as big a celebration as some would think. Sometimes, it’s better to recapture the memories in a single night than to try to do it over 162 of them. And hey, if Griffey really does feel a tremendous sense of nostalgia after tonight’s events, he can always pack up the family and bring them to Pike’s Place Market, Mount Rainier, or the Seattle Aquarium instead of to Disney World next October.

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