Seattle Mariners postsSunday July 24, 2016
Junior in the Hall
“Here's Junior to third! They're going to wave him in! The throw to the plate will be ... LATE, the Mariners are going to enshrine a player in the Baseball Hall of Fame! I don't believe it!”
Yes, it's finally happened. Today, in Cooperstown, NY, the Seattle Mariners joined 25 other teams/franchises with an actual player in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Missing teams: Angels, Rockies, Marlins, Rays.) The M's will have a few more in a few more. Ichiro will go in as a Mariner. Maybe Felix, if he pulls out of this slump. Maybe Edgar—he hit a career high 43% of the HOF votes this year. But today was Junior's day. He went in with the highest vote total ever: 99.3%. He's the only 99-percenter.
Thoughts on the plaque?
- They never get those face etchings right, do they? Junior was way more handsome than this.
- I almost want the cap on backwards. But I want to see that Mariners logo, too.
- “Ken”? That's a nickname? What about “The Natural”?
- I don't think you need “...particularly in the Pacific Northwest.” Junior was one of those players beloved in almost every city he played in. Mr. B can attest. He'll tell you his “visiting Wrigley Field in '94” story, if you want to hear it. Or even if you don't.
- “Easy-Going Nature”? Yeah, but he was also work.
- Maybe add “5 HRs in a five-game playoff series”? That was a record once.
- How about “Greatest player never to play in a World Series game”? That's the true sadness.
- Junior's full HOF speech. A lot of tears. A few laughs. My favorite are the Jay Buhner recollections.
- Art Thiel talks up Junior and Senior. That's also one of the best quotes in Junior's speech: “He made a decision to play baseball to provide his family, because that's what men do.”
- Junior on the dash home on Edgar's double. Pretty funny stuff. Piazza's his hallelujah chorus.
- David Schoenfield's Top 10 Junior memories. I'd put more catches in there. I'd put the Opening Day HRs. I'd put in this general memory of heading out for the night and then saying, “Wait, just this Griffey at-bat.” And invariably something beautiful would happen.
Ken Griffey Jr. Elected to the Hall of Fame with Highest Percentage Ever
The swing. Oh, the swing.
After nearly 40 years of existence, the Seattle Mariners have a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. And what a member.
Ken Griffey, Jr. was elected to the Hall of Fame today with 99.3% of the vote. That's the highest percentage ever for entry into the Hall of Fame. Ever. Here's the top 15:
|1||Ken Griffey Jr.||2015||99.3%|
And here's a Ken Griffey Jr. story, one of many. Maybe I've already told it to you. It was a game in '93/'94, and I was at the Kingdome with my friend Mike. I had to go to the bathroom, then realized, after leaving my seat, that Junior was up, so I stood in the entryway during his at-bat. It went to 3-0. “Do you greenlight him?” I yelled to Mike, who was close by over the railing. Mike looked down at his scorecard, looked back up, shook his head. “I would!” I shouted. And he was. And the next pitch? Gone. I smiled at Mike, who shook his head.
But that was the typical kind of thing we would see back then. I remember a game against the Blue Jays at the Skydome with Roger Clemens on the mound. First time up, Junior hit a homerun. Second time up, first pitch, Clemens threw at Junior's head. Second pitch? Gone.
So many times. “Wait, let me just watch Griffey's at bat.” Gone.
By my ticket-stub history count? I saw him hit 45 homers in person. Actually, 46, since I saw him hit one in 2009 when he came back. There may have been more. How lucky have I been? I may not have seen the Mariners in the World Series but I got to see Ken Griffey Jr. play on a regular basis.
Some extra reading on Junior:
- A TV news report from back in 1987 on 17-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. playing for the Bellingham Mariners.
- My man Jim Caple counts down the Griffey feats: 24 from No. 24.
- C. Trent Rosencrans has a great story about the time he told Junior about his mother's cancer diagnosis. It's an ongoing story.
- Rosencrans' story makes sense to me since I already knew about Junior's work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
- I wrote this post the day Ken Griffey Jr. retired in 2010.
- A few days ago, David Schoenfield wondered whether Junior would be the first unanimous selection. I assumed not. Nice thought, though.
- MLB has put some of the classic Griffey moments (first at-bat, first Kingdome at-bat, a few great catches) on YouTube.
Quick question: Who was the last man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame whose representative team hadn't retired his number yet? C'mon, Mariners, let's get on that.
“...the Seattle Mariners now possess the longest playoff drought in Major League Baseball. They haven’t seen October since their historic, 116-win campaign back in 2001. ...
”Perhaps the saddest note of this whole affair, is that this isn't even the longest drought in the franchise's history.... the team began its life with 18 straight postseason-less years, and a .432 team winning percentage. What this means is that 1995 to 2001 is their only productive period in franchise history, in which they made the playoffs four out of seven seasons, with a .552 winning percentage. Even their period of dominance wasn't all that dominant, especially when you remember that 116 of those wins came in a single season.“
-- J.J. Keller, ”The Seattle Mariners: A History of Mediocrity," on baseballmagazine.net.
Most of Keller's post isn't exactly news. I knew the M's have the longest current playoff drought, and I knew the M's began as one of the most woebegone franchises in baseball history. (Unmentioned by Keller: It took 15 years before they even had a winning season, let alone a playoff berth.) I just didn't connect the dots as he does in the graf above. It was just '95-'01. Since '77, it was just those seven years. And not really '98 or '99, either. So five years out of 38. Ouch.
In some ways, it's actually worse than Keller makes it out to be. The amount of talent on the '90s Mariners squads should've been enough to take us to the moon, let alone the World Series, but the front office kept making the wrong play at the wrong time (Omar for Felix and moola; Tino and Nellie for Sterling and Russ), and eventually the shot we had, which was about the easiest shot any franchise ever had (Griffey, Randy, A-Rod, Edgar, Buhner), went away. Specifically, it went to the Bronx.
Those ... were ... the days, my friend.
Last week, after Joe Posnanski wrote THE BEST ARTICLE EVER about a baseball inning, he added a pretty good follow-up, “Everything's Coming Up Royals,” in which he talks about how snake-bitten the Kansas City team was in the years between George Brett and Lorenzo Cain.
But his opening graf might as well describe the current Seattle Mariners:
There is something about being a terrible team that goes beyond wins and losses and boos and jokes and all the other obvious stuff. It's hard to explain precisely, but every fan of terrible teams intuitively understands. When a team is terrible, everything goes wrong. It's like reverse mojo — let's call it “ojom.” Seemingly sound draft picks bust. Logical free-agent acquisitions turn into disasters. Promising young players get hurt. Sensible coaches and managers lose their marbles and start doing self-destructive things. Owners panic and overreact.
Change “overreact” to “underreact” and you've basically got the M's from the end of the Edgar Martinez era to now.
My friend Jim and I talked about the M's bad luck this summer. How we couldn't catch a break. How everything we touched seemed to turn to shit. Among others:
- We pick highly touted prospect Dustin Ackley with the 2nd overall pick of the 2009 draft (Mike Trout went 25th), and watch him flail for the next six years before trading him to New York.
- We trade a great rookie pitcher to New York for highly touted prospect Jesus Montero, whom everyone agrees is the real deal, and watch him flail for the next four years.
- Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak? Thank you kindly.
- We sign Chone Figgins, 32, who is a lifetime .291 hitter with a .363 OBP, and is coming off a career year. Over the next three seasons, he hits .227 and puts up a .302 OBP. His OPS goes from .751 with the Angels to .585 with us.
- We finally catch a break with Franklin Gutierrez, who seems like the real deal. Consequently he pulls hamstrings, then gets irritable bowel syndrome, then develops ankylosing spondylitis.
- We sign superstar Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract, and in the first half of his second year he puts up some of the worst numbers in baseball; then he announces he's suffering from acid reflux.
And on and on. A lot of it is bad management but not all of it.
M's fans, what would you add?
Edgar Dreams of Hitting
David Laurila at FanGraphs recently posted an interview with Mariners batting coach Edgar Martinez, one of baseball's purest hitters, and some of his lines reminded me of what Jiro Ono, the great Japanese sushi chef, says in the 2012 documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”
A food critic in the doc, for example, sums up Jiro's philosophy thus: “Ultimate simplicity leads to purity.”
And here's Edgar Martinez on hitting:
We sometimes make it complicated, but the simpler it is—the simpler the mechanics—the better your chance of hitting a fastball. Sometimes we think too much about the mechanics. If we go to the plate thinking about our legs or our hands, we're not focusing on what we need to focus on, which is hitting the pitch.
You hear that lesson a lot: in writing, design, art, food. Now hitting. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
"Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success.” --Jiro Ono.