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June 24, 2007 at 4:59 PM

Griffey show leaves town

Sorry for the late post, but I was busy breaking up a no-hitter in Toronto. Well, OK, not exactly, but it’s about as close as I’m going to get to doing that. Anyway, a thriller at Safeco Field this afternoon, won 3-2 by the Mariners, which is exactly what they had to do. Didn’t look good with the game still at 2-0, but Miguel Batista held the fort down in that sixth despite the Alex Gonzalez at-bat that went on for about 10 minutes. Those will kill a pitcher and for me, him getting out of that inning was the key to Seattle winning today.
If the game goes 3-0, or 4-0 at that point, there’s no suicide squeeze by Willie Bloomquist later on. That seventh inning was something to see and it was all set up by the hustle of Yuniesky Betancourt on the double. Mike Hargrove has talked since spring training about wanting to see Betancourt surprise folks with his speed and that was one instance where he did just that.
The Angels blew a lead in the ninth, but still won anyway. Oakland got trounced again, meaning the Mariners are once again alone in second place. They are also now three behind Cleveland in the wild-card race, which is better than four or five. Still not optimal. There are two weeks to go until the all-star break and we could have that whole buyer-seller quandry figured out by then. The Mariners play the Red Sox, Blue Jays and — after a three-game visit to the Royals — head to Oakland for four. Unless the M’s are at the top of their game these next two weeks, that wild-card gap could easily be doubled and we’ll have a much better idea of what has to be done next.
This was a very tough weekend for the Mariners. The return of Ken Griffey Jr. proved a monumental distraction even before the two solo homers clubbed today off Batista. I can understand the cheering for Griffey as he rounded the bases, much more so than I did the booing ofr Ryan Feierabend in the first inning on Friday night. But this series was a distraction. It caused the M’s to drop another game to the Angels in the standings and Seattle was fortunate to emerge with a series victory over a team that just may be the worst in the majors.
So, it’s put-up or shut-up time these next few weeks. Seattle goes through interleague with a .500 record at 9-9. Not quite what the Mariners had hoped for given the quality of opponents faced. Seattle didn’t exactly have to play the New York Mets at Shea Stadium the way Oakland just did, though I suppose the Padres in San Diego cancels that out a bit.
But that’s done. It’s all AL teams now and, from this vantage point, the Mariners need to step their game up a notch to still be legitimately in the wild-card hunt by mid-July.
As for Griffey, it’s good riddance in the short term, as far as the M’s are concerned. But how about the long-term? We all saw — most of us — that pre-game FSN interview with Angie Mentink in which Griffey suggested he would be open to finishing his career as a Mariner.
“I love the game of baseball, and whatever happens, happens,” Griffey said. “Would I do it? Yeah. I would do it for the simple reasons that, this is the place where I grew up. And I think I owe it to the people of Seattle and myself, to retire as a Mariner.”
My take? Go ahead and do it, but only if you make the team better in the process. Make the moves you need to make first, clearing out the right bodies from the roster, then add Griffey as a DH. But don’t skimp on the mound. Don’t use the price of a Griffey acquisition as an excuse for not making the needed pitching moves you need to do before bringing him here.
Mark Buehrle would help this team a whole lot more than Griffey right now, next year and the year after that. So would Carlos Zambrano for that matter. Get a deal done, add Feierabend and perhaps Brandon Morrow to the rotation next season, then give me a call and we’ll talk about Griffey.
This isn’t to downgrade the genuine emotion fans displayed this weekend and the fact Griffey finally seems to be showing some back to the Pacific Northwest faithful. But if this is about winning a division, a wild-card, and eventually a World Series, the M’s have other moves they have to make first.
To start with, they can make a move by beating some .500 or better AL teams beginning this week.

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