Ken Griffey Jr.
When my husband was twenty-one, he showed up at Safeco field early to catch the Seattle Mariners’ batting practice prior to a game, in hopes that he would catch a ball. He sat in the left field area where the score board is. Sure enough, he wasn’t disappointed. His favorite player stepped up to the plate and swung. Ken Griffey Jr. hit a ball almost directly to him – the girl behind him wound up catching it and keeping it.
It’s no wonder that the Mariners would want to induct such a figure into their club’s Hall of Fame. After all, Griffey Jr. spent 22 years playing ball on the field – that’s a rather long run in the world of baseball. He started out as a young man of 20 in 1989 and continued to play his heart out for three teams over the course of his career: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and a short stint with the Chicago White Sox. Griffey Jr. was a thirteen-time All-Star, and he has the sixth largest record for career home runs (630 after
Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez – strikeouts reflect my personal qualms over giving records to players with suspected steroid use – sure they hit the balls out of the park a bunch, but would they have done so otherwise?). (more…)
I know that a lot … [visit site to read more]
Tags: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, All-Star game, Brandon League, Curt Schilling, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Greg Maddux, Hunter Pence, Ichiro, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, justin upton, Justin Verlander, Ken Griffey Jr., Mariano Rivera, Randy Johnson
The longer I watch, write about, and discuss baseball with my peers, the more confused I become by the knee-jerk reaction crowd. After last season, I heard countless callers, and saw many comments around the blogosphere where people were asking why Jack Zduriencik’s job was secure after such a terrible losing season with an absolutely abysmal offense and a clubhouse full of cliques. I’m going to sound like a jerk here, but all I could think was “What is wrong with all of you?!”
While the 2009 Mariners only overachieved by a few games, fans have yet to grasp the magnitude of just how much the 2010 Mariners underperformed. Sure, the acquisitions of Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins, and the re-signing of Ken Griffey, Jr. didn’t inspire visions of winning the world series, but trading three mediocre prospects for Cliff Lee certainly enthused the fan base. The Lee trade was essentially what launched “believe big” marketing campaign, and for good reason. Let’s take a look at the big acquisitions for 2010′s team, and compare their 2009 and 2010 WAR. 2009 WAR is first, with 2010 WAR in parenthesis.
Casey Kotchman: 1.0 (-1.1)
Chone Figgins: 6.1 (0.6)
Milton Bradley: 1.1 (-0.1) [Was worth 4.6 WAR in 2008]
Cliff Lee: 6.6 (7.1–traded mid-season)
Pretty atrocious. It’s hard to really criticize Zduriencik for not predicting that the position players he acquired would severely underperform relative even to just the season before. It would have been foolish to expect Kotchman to become better than in 2009, however, it is equally foolish to believe that he would become perhaps the MLB’s worst regular player just a year later. While Figgins was not going to produce 6 WAR again, it would have been ridiculous to expect him to fall that far off the cliff. Bradley’s 1.1 WAR in 2009 could partially be explained by injuries, and while durability is a skill, Bradley still was a decent hitter in 2009. To have expected him to be a negative value player in 2010 would have been absurd as well. Cliff Lee being traded was largely necessary because of the underperforamnce of those three players.
It’s not just the new acquisitions that underperformed, though. Let’s take a look at some returning players from 2009′s squad.
Ken Griffey, Jr.: 0.3 (-0.8)
Jose Lopez: 2.6 (0.7)
Franklin Gutierrez: 6.1 (2.3)
Jack Wilson: 2.0 (0.0)
Rob Johnson: 0.8 (0.4)
Again, it’s hard to imagine all of these players would have fallen this far off of the map. While it could have been seen that Junior may fall off a cliff due to his age, he wasn’t really being counted on to be a great hitter. Regardless, -0.8 WAR in just 33 games is worse than most would have expected. Lopez wasn’t going to hit 25 homers again, but losing almost 2 WAR in value while entering his physical prime could not have been predicted. Gutierrez’s fall, while disappointing, was a bit more predictable, but he was still a valuable player.
This group of players (not counting Lee, since he was traded, and I don’t have his Mariner-only WAR numbers) was worth 20 wins in 2009. These same players were worth 2 WAR in 2010. These players’ production fell 18 wins in just one season, with only one of them, Griffey, really being a candidate for precipitous decline. If anyone can rationally explain to me how a general manager could predict that, well, I’d love to hear it.
When looking at the current roster, rich in young developing talent, and the minor league system, which is far deeper than it ever was in the Bavasi era, it’s hard for me not to give Zduriencik a total free pass on 2010. With neutral luck, Zduriencik’s team should perform markedly better in 2011, and hopefully end speculation that his job is in danger.
Tags: Ken Griffey Jr.
Per Shannon Drayer’s twitter, the Mariners have added Ken Griffey, Jr. as a Special Consultant to the team. I have always loved Junior the player, though as I have gotten older I don’t know how much I like Junior the person. But the players seem to like him, and he shouldn’t be able to cause any problems in this sort of role. At least, let’s hope not.
I’m combining these two positions simply because there’s so much overlap. Seattle has gotten very little out of these positions over the last few years, even though both are traditionally the easiest to find offensive power bats for.
Justin Smoak: A lot is riding on Smoak to be the player the M’s thought they got when they traded Cliff Lee. 2010 wasn’t a complete disaster for him, but his .1 WAR and .300 wOBA in 397 major league plate appearances didn’t exactly impress. Smoak claims to have developed some bad habits trying to take advantage of the stadium he played in while with Texas, and that his time in Tacoma helped him correct that. His .433 wOBA after getting called up in September should give us hope, but it’s also a very small sample size. Either way, right now Smoak is considered the 1B of both the present and the future.
Mike Carp: There’s a lot of debate about weather or not Carp is actually still a prospect. I believe he is, though he’s held back by the fact that he’s not a good defender, there are multiple reports that he “runs like a DH,” and that he doesn’t have the traditional power of a 1B/DH. Still, Carp had a wOBA of .358 last year in AAA despite a BAPIP of just .259, so he actually hit well despite being quite unlucky. He also has 29 HR and an ISO of .259, and while that may not translate to the major league level, those were the best of his minor league career and it suggests that he’s starting to develop more power as he matures. He’s only 24 still, so there’s no reason to assume he’s done developing. Carp projected out to be a 1.8 WAR player in 2010 had he been allowed to play. Personally, I’d rather see Carp getting at bats over someone like Bradley or Kotchman.
Casey Kotchman: When putting this list together I actually forgot Kotchman was on the team. That’s how forgettable his season was. His wOBA was just .270 and his WAR came out to be -1.1. This means the M’s would have been better letting Carp have all his at bats last season. Kotchman was out righted to AAA recently and refused his assignment, thus becoming a free agent. He won’t be back.
Russell Branyan: Branyan played in just 106 games in 2010, but still managed 25 HR. If he can stay healthy (a big if) he can be a good addition to the lineup as a DH. The M’s declined his 2011 option that would have paid him $5 million, making him a free agent. It is still possible that he will return to the M’s for a smaller figure.
Milton Bradley: I’m lamenting the fact that I have to add Bradley to this list. If he starts the year as the team’s DH I’m personally going to be unhappy. His .289 wOBA in 2010 doesn’t belong in the DH spot. Still, he is owed $12 million for 2011, so I expect him to still be around on the team. Apparently he was hurt for much of last year (and not just his overinflated ego) so perhaps there’s hope he could rebound, but after 2 straight seasons of poor performances I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.
Ken Griffey Jr.: Griffey retired mid-season after another very poor offensive showing. He has nothing left in the tank, and his status as a local hero shouldn’t be able to get him another contract.
Mike Sweeney: Sweeney was traded to the Philadelphia after spending most of the season on the DL with back problems that apparently weren’t bad enough for him not to be playing. The M’s just didn’t feel he was worth a roster spot, which is odd since they could have used his bat. I don’t expect he’d return to Seattle even if the team asked him to.
Brad Nelson: With Tommy Everidge gone to Houston’s farm system (not that he was really a prospect anymore either), Brad Nelson is the last 1B on the Tacoma roster. At age 28 already, and only posting a .800 OPS in Tacoma, it is unlikely that Nelson will ever see a major league uniform.
Overall Analysis: I don’t think that anyone got less out of 1B/DH than the M’s did last season, so it’s probably good that there are only 2 players from the above list that are currently on the roster. Smoak has the potential to be very good at 1B, but the team desperately needs a DH.
Prediction Guaranteed to be Wrong: Smoak is a lock to be the everyday first baseman. As for the DH spot, my magical coin flip told me that Russell Branyan wont be back, and I doubt the team will go into 2011 with Carp as the everyday DH. So, your guess is as good as mine as to what’s going to happen there.
The Seattle Mariners turned their first triple-play since 1995 in the fourth inning of their 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics to welcome their new skipper Daren Brown tonight. For Daren Brown and the rest of Mariner Nation today has been another emotional rollercoaster in a season that has been anything but boring despite a horrible record. Doug Fister who has been a tough-luck pitcher tonight’s victory pitched well to earn his first win since May 11th.
The Mariners jumped on A’s starter Vin Mazzaro early picking-up a couple runs in the first on clutch two-out RBI singles by both Lopez and Gutierrez. Mazzaro is another of the young pitchers that have carried the A’s this far despite having an offense that like the Mariners lacks power-hitters, outside of perhaps Jack Cust. Even though my Grandfather Gordon Rhodes pitched for the Philadelphia A’s in 1936 (see above attachment *) I have always enjoyed beating the A’s, and tonight was especially sweet given the upstart A’s are still technically in the race.
Of course the big news of this game was the magical moment in the top of the 4th when none other than Jose Lopez started a third to second to first (5-4-3) triple play to end an A’s threat and give the loyal fans at the Safe something to remember. As goofy as Jose Lopez is, it was nice to see him smile in the dugout after starting this play. In fact it is nice to see anyone smiling in the dugout including the big tall Texan “Downtown Daren Brown” who has suddenly found himself in the trenches of a season that everyone would like to forget. Daren Brown looks like a guy who isn’t going to take any lip from the players, veterans or rookies and he deserves our support.
In an odd way I have sort of already let-go of the whole Don Wakamatsu era after tonight’s game and I wish him well. It is not a good thing when as a fan you are starting to feel sorry for a manager like Wakamatsu who was obviously in over his head and had that “Deer in the Headlights” look lately. The debate around his departure has been heated online and on the air today with lots of accusations flying around. One of the most irritating is the continuous blame of all things bad this year on Ken Griffey Jr. I have come to the conclusion that there is a certain segment of the local media and blogosphere who are too young to remember the golden years for the Mariners from say 93 -02, or are transplants and thus are bitter at Griffey as a reminder that they missed the boat so to speak. It is quite irritating for me as someone who sat through the terrible 80’s before having a good stretch, and then to be stuck in this morass of endless rebuilding, to continue to listen to the bashing of the future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey.
I think it may be time to let go of the references to 1995, the Griffey bashing, and now the whole Wakamatsu era so that we can rally around Daren Brown and our team the rest of the way. We have been through enough as a fan base this year and somehow we need to move on. Just a note I will be talking about the Mariners on my first live podcast of the year with another member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance at 8pm Tuesday night at: the link to the show page. Feel free to listen in if the game gets boring and call in if you like! http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: Daren Brown, Don Wakamatsu, Doug Fister, Jose Lopez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners triple-play
Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik announced today that manager Don Wakamatsu along with pitching coach Rick Adair and bench coach Ty Van Burkleo have all been fired. Zduriencik said: “I have concluded that these changes needed to be made now and that they are in the best interest of the Mariners as we move forward,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a press release. “Don, Ty and Rick are all good baseball men and they have done their very best. But we are where we are. I no longer have confidence that Don, Ty and Rick are the right long-term fit for our organization. New leadership is needed and it is needed now.”
Daren Brown manager with the Mariners AAA affiliate the Tacoma Rainiers will be brought-in as the interim manager, along with Carl Willis who will take over as the pitching coach for Rick Adair. Roger Hansen will be the new bench coach for the rest of the season.
While this move does not come as a major shock for most of us fans, it is a bit disturbing in that the Seattle Mariners have gone through 16 managers since the team’s inception in 1977. Only Lou Piniella has survived for more than three seasons out of the whole bunch, and it is no coincidence that the Mariners only real winning era was under Piniella.
It is no secret that Wakamatsu never really had control of the clubhouse especially after the whole Ken Griffey Jr. situation. Wakamatsu ended up being the fall-guy for upper-management to handle that tough scenario that appeared to be still lingering in the dugout when Chone Figgins exploded after being pulled from a game recently by Wakamatsu.
I liked Wakamatsu as an individual, but after seeing how the veterans disrespected him this year down at Peoria for spring training this year, I knew trouble was brewing. Wakamatsu made a lot of questionable moves this year with his odd lineups, difficulty in handling the bullpen, and just being generally indecisive. Of course last year Wakamatsu could do no wrong, but some of that was luck, and some can be attributed to the veterans Griffey and Mike Sweeney helping Wakamatsu out.
So now with roughly 2/3 of the season over we will trudge forward to another off-season of uncertainty where we will continue the never-ending rebuilding project that started in 2003 and has no end in sight. One common denominator through all the years of failure and heartache that we fans have endured here is two names: Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln. These two guys manage to keep their jobs no matter who comes or goes. This franchise has some serious problems like lack of goals, unaccountable front office personnel, and an absentee owner. These problems will not go away no matter who is managing this team and it is time for the fans to demand some real change at the top or we will continue to go through managers, GM’s, and players like a sailor blowing his cash after a long voyage. http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: Chone figgins, Chuck Armstrong, Daren Brown, Don Wakamatsu, Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Ken Griffey Jr., Rick Adair, seattle mariners
Having reached the nice round number of 100 complete games I figured it was time for me to write something about this season thus far. Initially I felt compelled to write this post today after reading several stories on various Blogs and newspapers about the season where people were still grasping at straws to be the cleverest in their analysis. I was also amazed to read more than one reference to Ken Griffey Jr. in an attempt to blame this whole mess on him still. I am not quite sure if these folks at unnamed sites are serious or not but I just wanted to remind them that Ken Griffey Jr. is gone and the Mariners have actually gotten worse since he left. So perhaps it may be time to take a look at the one last group that has not taken any responsibility or blame for this season…..
And yes it is the press and media myself included who might have to take a look at how the power of the internet, newspapers, twitter etc. may have a negative effect on a team specifically this year’s Mariners. I suppose that we will need some new statistical categories to attempt to quantify the abstract effect that negative press and know-it-all bloggers have on a team’s record. Let’s start with LLT for Larry Larue at the Tribune who broke the story on Ken Griffey Jr. supposedly sleeping in the dugout. I would say that the net result in games lost from LLT this year is 5.5. This 5.5 LLT takes into account the pressure on Don Wakamatsu to end up having to be the fall-guy and benching Griffey till he just quits. This has no-doubt left Wak at odds with several of the veteran players who in turn have proven to be unforgiving of the way Griffey was treated and thus have played less than stellar as they pouted. Most notably is Chone Figgins. The LLT has also apparently affected Wakamatsu and he has been gun-shy up until recently with benching players thus letting guys like Jose Lopez get away with murder on the field. Again I attribute this to LLT which was a result of not only Larry Larue and the Tribune but a host of others at various other media outlets and Blogs.
Another category that the media/blogosphere can accept the blame for a few losses is what I will call JZW or Jack Zduriencik Worship. Last winter with rare exception every move made by Jack Z. was greeted online and in the papers with endless praise and hero-worship, allowing Jack Z. to construct this disaster of a team with little or no public scrutiny leading to such phrases as “In Jack Z. we trust”. Like most of the abstract and random way that many of the new sabermetrics figures are derived and quantified JZW is only a new science that I developed 4 minutes ago. But I will give our team a net loss of 3 games to JZW this year and blame it squarely on the media.
Ok let’s see, to be fair goofy Rookie Bloggers like myself deserve some of the blame and thus the new category of RBBS for Rookie Bloggers Bull S…T which is now part of the blogosphere jargon and I will arbitrarily accept the blame for 1 loss on the season. I have made some silly mistakes on my blog this year in punctuation, grammar and just generally not Skookum posts.
Ok now let’s attempt to quantify the effect listening to Dave Sims all year has had on the Won-Loss record. In all fairness though he is a bit of a pompous dork, Dave Sims has probably only been accountable for 1-2 losses this year. Using the slightly modified acronym as I applied to myself, I will go with DSBS to account for the 1-2 losses he has caused with his rhetoric which demoralizes fans who in turn are forced to turn off the TV and thus withhold support from the team as they struggle.This results in less money for the Mariners to improve the team and aides the continuing downward cycle of this franchise.
The final category has to go to Blog readers who comment on things they know nothing about and yet still insist upon being right. Let’s call this new but soon to be important advanced analytics term BRCBS and say it accounts for 1 loss on the year. BRCBS is irritating and influences morale of the fan-base and the players who happen to read these goofy blogs as well.
So I believe with this post we have accounted for approximately 12 of the losses on the year and I personally accept responsibility for one loss, perhaps the 8-6 loss to the Red Sox last week (my favorite loss this year). Because if there is one thing this old sailor has learned in life it is that when you point your finger at someone else there are 4 pointing back at you….http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: goofy Rookie Bloggers, Jack Zduriencik, Ken Griffey Jr., know-it-all bloggers, Larry Larue, Mariners, negative press
Lou Piniella announced today that his voyage in the game of baseball will come to a conclusion at the end of the 2010 season. The announcement by Piniella comes on the heels of the passing of George Steinbrenner and the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. earlier this year. “Sweet Lou” has spent 40 years in baseball including 18 years as a player and 22 as a manager. It is hard to imagine him way back in 1969 when he was named Rookie of the Year playing with the Royals. Lou was a player that played hard and hated to lose. He went on to play with the Yankees from 73-84 and got a job managing there from George Steinbrenner in 86. His stay with the Yankees was tumultuous, and Lou ended up going to the Reds in 1990 where he managed his team to a World Series championship.
Lou is of course best remembered in the Seattle area for his years at the Conn of the Mariners from 1993 -2002. Lou came into town at the behest of GM Woody Woodward and proceeded to turn the Mariners into a force to be reckoned with in the American League West. I recall the 1994 strike shortened season quite well as Lou had his club motivated and on the move that year and was the team most feared at the time to go all the way, until the players went out on strike. In 1995 the fans around the country including here in Seattle were slow to return to fill the stadiums and were it not for the miraculous year the Mariners had under their fiery skipper in 95 we would not have baseball in Seattle today.
Outside of Don James the coach of the Huskies in their golden era, no one comes close in the minds of most Seattle sports fans as to who the all-time best coach or manager has been in our area other than Lou Piniella. Lou has a brilliant baseball mind and a personality and will to win that filled the old Kingdome and later Safeco field. Lou piloted the great 2000 and 2001 teams that he took to the ALCS show-downs only to lose to the same Yankees that his 1995. There are a lot of sports reels filled with Lou Piniella out on the field sticking-up for his team in the passionate style that is long gone from Safeco field. But Lou was more than a hot-tempered manager, he was also a fiercely loyal manager who commanded respect from his players and in return looked out for his guys.
I recall meeting Lou in person in the late 90’s down at the old J&M café and bar in Pioneer Square. I shook his hand and was shocked at how humble and friendly he was in real life. Lou was actually a gentle loving guy who just happened to hate losing. I didn’t stick around to bug him as I respected/feared the guy too much to get on his bad side! The other time I had contact with Lou was in the 2001 season when prior to a game I was down by the dugout as he came in off the field prior to a late season game. I remember yelling “Lou we need to crank it up a notch” he looked me right in the eye and gave me a quick nod again in a respectful manner. Lou was a great judge of character and if he liked you he let you know, however if you were a guy like Jeff Cirillo and weren’t hustling he could be a players nightmare.
There are plenty of myths and Sea-stories surrounding Lou Piniella and his final years here in Seattle. One that was floating around towards the end was that Lou had gone into see Howard Lincoln trying to get “Another Bat’’ so he could go all the way. Apparently Lincoln said no and Lou supposedly said that things were going to revert back to the old losing days of the Mariners if he left town. Well the rest is history, Lou didn’t get what he needed to win and he left town after the 2002 season and the Mariners have been in a perpetual rebuilding mode ever since.
It was a treat to see “Sweet Lou” when he was here with his latest club the Cubs a month or so ago. I managed to make it to the last game of the series and got one final chance to see the old firebrand storm out onto the field to argue a call at third. Lou did not put on a full performance that day but it was the first time during that series that both the Cubs and Mariners fans were cheering together……
Lou Piniella has done the right thing by announcing his retirement today effective at the end of the year. This allows the Cubs time to try to find a manager to fill Lou’s shoes….good luck on that. The Cubs are struggling and if you have seen any pictures of the skipper recently you can tell that at 67 he is just getting tired. Many people around baseball will miss Lou Piniella and hopefully he will enter the Hall of Fame someday, but for fans here in Seattle especially this year it is a particularly painful reminder of the past. Thank you for taking the helm of our ship Lou though the voyage was all to brief it was the best we ever had here….http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: Cubs, Howard Lincoln, Ken Griffey Jr., Lou Piniella, Mariners
David Ortiz won the home run derby down in Anaheim tonight beating out an impressive field of mashers including Hanley Ramirez also from the Dominican Republic who finished second. Ortiz otherwise known as “Big Papi” had a slow start this year and there was even talk in the media that he wouldn’t stay on the roster for the rest of the campaign. But unlike Ken Griffey Jr, Ortiz was given a chance to redeem himself which he has, and tonight he showed the whole world that he still has what it takes to carry a team on his broad shoulders. Ortiz is a gentle-giant type of guy with a warm smile and a huge heart to go along with his powerful swing. It is worth mentioning that Corey Hart from the Brewers hit 13 dingers in the first round of the competition before fading in the second round.
It was nice to see the players with their children out on the field tonight as they put on a show of raw power, timing, and graceful swings before the All-Star game on Tuesday. The All-Star game was first played in 1933 in Chicago and the National League holds a 40-38-2 lead overall despite the fact that the American League has won 12 of the last 13 games. The All-Star game brings all the best players together for one game in a celebration of our National pastime. It is also a time to reflect on the games past great players and take a break from the grind of a long season.
In light of the dismal season the Mariners are having in 2010 it was a bit painful to see Cliff Lee suited up along with Adrian Beltre who is having a great year for the Red Sox. Another former Mariner Arthur Rhodes now with the Reds is getting his first start in the mid-summer classic at the age of 40 which is a wonderful story. And just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself and our languishing Mariners, Bobby Valentine mentioned Ichiro and that he should be in the home run derby! Also right after the camera panned on the great HOFer Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan mentioned the possibility of Ken Griffey Jr. showing up and how past greats were voted on to the team in their last seasons. But alas Griffey is gone but not forgotten by those that follow this game from around the country, which made watching Lee and Beltre a little more palatable.
Ichiro will be our sole representative on the AL squad this year and will be batting in his familiar spot as lead-off hitter. Ichiro was named the MVP in a memorable All-Star game in 2007 when he hit the only inside the park home run in the history of the annual game. Ken Griffey Jr. was MVP himself way back in 1993, and Randy Johnson was the starting pitcher back in 1997 while he was in his prime pitching for the Mariners.
So this game which will decide the home-field advantage for this year World Series may not be all about our beautiful section of this country, but it will be a fun and great tribute to the game and its best players. Yes the Mariners are still in the cellar of the AL West, but for one night it is time to put all of our misery aside and enjoy this wonderful game, and try to remember it is indeed just a game. Http://jeffsmariners.com
Tagged: All-Star game, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Home Run derby, Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr.
Because you love Junior.
Filed under: Mariners
Forget Stephen Strasburg (and it pains me to say that, because I love the guy). There are players much more deserving of a trip to the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game than the Washington Nationals’ young ace. And even though the flame-throwing phenom might end up in Anaheim on July 13, my only hope is that these three guys will join him there.
R.A. Dickey, Starting Pitcher, New York Mets
As more or less a career minor leaguer, R. A. Dickey hasn’t even had the opportunity to fathom what playing in a big league All-Star game might be like. This year, the knuckleballer — along with his 6-1 record and 2.98 ERA — should at least be allowed to consider Disneyland as part of his travel plans over the break.
A former first-round draft pick by Texas in 1996, Dickey has quite the backstory leading up to what has arguably become his most productive major league season so far.
After being taken 18th overall by the Rangers in the ’96 June Amateur Draft, a team doctor saw a photo of Dickey on the cover of a magazine and noticed that the right-hander’s pitching arm looked a little funny. The organization put Dickey through medical testing prior to signing him and discovered that he lacked the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, also known as the ligament that requires repair when a pitcher undergoes Tommy John surgery.
Because of this revelation, Dickey was offered a $75,000 signing bonus, as opposed to the $810,000 bonus the team initially had on the table. The University of Tennessee product was forced to accept this reduced offer, and thus began an unpredictable journey through professional baseball.
Ultimately, it would be five years before Dickey reached the big leagues. His major league debut came with Texas in 2001, and from 2003 through 2006, the Nashville native enjoyed short stints with the club in Arlington.
By 2007, Dickey had been let go by the Rangers and was barnstorming through the minor leagues. The year prior he had made the full-time conversion to knuckleball pitcher, which meant relearning how to craft his mechanics at the age of 31.
In 2008, the Mariners saw potential in Dickey and selected him in the Rule V Draft from the Twins’ organization. The 33-year-old enjoyed a career renaissance, of sorts, and spent most of the year in the majors, albeit with a team that would lose 101 games.
On a personal side note, in April of ’08 The Seattle Times (my former employer, who I wasn’t working for at the time) held a writing contest in which they gave away buttons featuring the likenesses of every player on the Mariners’ roster. Whoever could craft the best story about why they deserved one of these buttons would receive their prize and have their story printed in the paper.
Realizing that almost no one would submit an essay about a journeyman knuckleballer, I sent in a few brief paragraphs about an R.A. Dickey rookie card that I had been holding onto since 1997. Within the hour, I had a response from then-sports editor Cathy Henkel, telling me I had won. My story was printed later in the week and I received the button in the mail a few days later.
Back to the topic at hand. After his resurgent 2008 campaign, Dickey spent a so-so 2009 season with the Minnesota Twins. He then left the Twinkies and signed a minor league deal with the Mets this past offseason. Like always, the crafty right-hander started the year in Triple-A before being promoted after the injury bug stung New York’s rotation. Since his call-up on May 19, however, the 35-year-old has been absolutely lights out.
If Dickey’s aforementioned record and ERA don’t sway you, the biography should. Few players would be a more compelling draw in an All-Star game than R.A. Dickey. Will he get there? It’s unlikely. Should he get there? Absolutely.
Arthur Rhodes, Relief Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds
Arthur Rhodes. The original bling-blinger. One of our most beloved ex-Mariners of all-time, and a damn good pitcher who has spent 20 big league seasons avoiding the All-Star game.
It’s almost unfathomable to think that someone could have as long a career as Arthur and not be selected to the All-Star team even once. But as one of the game’s premier setup men over the years, the hard-throwing lefty has managed to distance himself from the spotlight. Starters get the chicks, closers get the credit, Arthur does the grunt work. It hardly seems right.
Admittedly, I might have overlooked Arthur once again this season if it hadn’t been for this article in USA Today. I encourage you to give it a read. You’ll walk away loving Arthur more than you already do.
And personally, Arthur is one of my favorite baseball players of all-time. It all stems from one incident that came seven years ago.
Back in 2003, my family went down to Spring Training in Peoria to watch the Mariners prepare for the season. In between workouts one day, we happen to see Arthur walking past, so my 80-year-old grandma walks over to him and asks for an autograph.
*A brief side note. Both of my grandmas are bigger Mariners fans than myself. They call each other up to discuss the games and lament every loss like it’s the end-all. You wonder why I pick on a dude like Ryan Rowland-Smith for not caring enough? He’s just lucky he didn’t run into either of my grandmas. They would’ve kicked his ass. I just want this team to win a title that my grandmas can pay witness to. That would be nice.
Topic at hand. So my grandma confronts Arthur Rhodes, and not having anything else for him to sign, she hands him the visor she’s wearing and asks him to pen his name on the bill. Arthur obliges. But he does so with one condition. He gets to wear the visor for the rest of this signing session.
By this time, a large crowd has swarmed the southpaw and adults and kids alike are clamoring for Rhodes’ signature. In the midst of all the hubbub stands a visor-less five-foot tall Japanese lady alongside a burly, African-American dude wearing a cheap foam visor with animated baseballs painted on the brim.
Arthur spends five minutes signing in the visor, posing for pictures in the visor, clowning in the visor, and chatting in the visor while we wait for him to finish. The crowd disperses. He takes off the visor, hands it to my grandma, signs the bill, has a brief conversation with her, and goes back to work. We get a few pictures of him in the headgear before he leaves. It’s a great snapshot of who this guy really is. And how can you not appreciate a professional who will take time out to recognize your grandmother? It made me feel good to know that Arthur is a human being that cares, aside from the game.
But that little anecdote shouldn’t be what convinces you that this is the year for Mr. Rhodes to head to the Midsummer Classic. His 2010 numbers will tell the complete story: 3-2 win-loss record, 1.09 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 32/12 K/BB ratio, 8.73 strikeouts per nine innings, 14 holds. Sounds like an All-Star to me.
If Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn each received lifetime achievement nods in 2001, why can’t Junior be given the same tip of the cap this year?
Yeah, okay, so Ripken and Gwynn were still playing, trekking through the league on their respective farewell tours, but what does it say about Ken that he wouldn’t subject himself to a swan song when his performance was no longer up to par? If anything, we should be more apt to let Junior play in the All-Star game because he bowed out early, not in spite of it.
The fact that the game is in Anaheim, where Junior and his dad once hit back-to-back home runs, and where Seattle fans can easily make the trip to see their hero in action, only fuels the cause for getting Griffey in the jersey of the American League stars.
If Griffey swaggered onto that field for one last at-bat, you’d have a tough time keeping the tears out of my eyes as it went down. Even without any heroics, just seeing him in his element one final time would be truly special.
Come on, baseball. Let’s do the right thing.
Filed under: Mariners
Ken Griffey Jr. and Babe Ruth were different men from different era’s but share a few things,one of which is the date they chose to retire : June 2nd. Babe Ruth considered to be the greatest player of all-time retired on June 2,1935 and Ken Griffey Jr. The “Yankee Killer” retired on June 2nd 2010, 75 years apart. Babe Ruth is credited with saving the game of baseball after the “Black Sox scandal” and Griffey is credited with saving baseball in Seattle. Both men had a presence at the plate and in the eyes of the nation that cannot be measured in statistics alone, though with 714 and 630 home runs respectively the numbers were awesome. I never got to see Babe Ruth play but my Grandfather Gordon Dusty Rhodes played with Ruth from 1929-32 while he was with the Yankees which is how I obtained this original photo of the “Babe”
I did however get to see Ken Griffey Jr. in action many times both at the old Kingdome and at Safeco field. Both of these players were and will always remain bigger than life and represent the timeless game of baseball in the minds and hearts of fans across the nation and world. Griffey played the outfield with a lot more ability and daring than Ruth, but Ruth also was an excellent pitcher when he started out with the Boston Red Sox.
Both men are legends who specialized in a flair for the dramatic, First Ruth with his famous home run in the 1932 World Series against Chicago where he pointed to centerfield then hit a home run to the spot he pointed to. Griffey of course will be best known for the five home runs he hit against the same Yankees in the 1995 division play-offs, capped off by his mad dash from first to score the winning run in game five of that series.
While Griffey off the field is respected as a family man who never got involved in the steroids scandal, Ruth on the other hand was known as a party-animal and a bit of a ruffian. However both players had huge hearts and spent time visiting sick children and other social work that often time gets over-looked in an era where people seem to enjoy dirty-laundry and gossip.
True American heroes are rare and hard to come by these days, but Babe Ruth and Ken Griffey Jr. who as fate would have it retired on the same day are heroes in my book. We will never know if Ken Griffey Jr. would have broken the all-time home run record had he stayed healthy, or if Ruth would have been a great manager as he always dreamed of if given a chance, but we do know we will never forget them. http://jeffsmariners.com