Seattle Mariners postsWednesday January 06, 2016
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.
Why the Mariners Should Read 'The Grand Salami'
The view from Lookout Landing this afternoon.
Went to the M's game this afternoon not expecting much and it looked like I was going to get it. I'd barely settled in when Felix Hernandez, the King, with his sparse court wearing yellow in left field, threw the first pitch ... and Oakland A's centerfielder Billy Burns deposited into the stands. One pitch, 1-0, A's.
It might not have happened if Felix, or someone with the M's, read The Grand Salami, the alternative fan magazine. In the “snappy comments” section for the A's lineup in the August issue, it has this to say about Billy Burns:
M's pitchers would be wise to be careful throwing a first-pitch strike to Burns, who hit .475 and slugged .763 in the first half when putting the first pitch in play.
The next batter, Mark Canha, sent one to the warning track on an 0-2 pitch, and you had to wonder if something was wrong with Felix. Before the All-Star break, his ERA was 2.84. Since? 6.26. Did he injure himself? Is he tipping pitches? Both? I got ready for the worst.
It didn't come. Felix didn't give up another hit until Billy Butler (damned Billys) singled to lead off the 5th. Felix wound up going 8 innings, and gave up 2 runs on 3 hits. Meanwhile, the M's scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st and the A's never got close. We would've scored more but our backup catcher, Jesus Sucre, who recently attained half-Mendoza (hitting over. 100), kept coming up with runners in scoring position. Results:
- 1st inning: bases loaded, 1 out: popped to third.
- 3rd inning: first and second, 1 out: grounded into a double play to end inning.
- 5th inning: bases loaded, 2 out: grounded out to pitcher to end inning.
- 7th inning: first and third, 1 out: grounded out to shortstop—but a run scored!
Nine runners stranded in one game, and he never got the ball out of the infield. Poor bastard. Now he's down below .100 again. Heady times while it lasted.
Still, the M's won 8-2 on a warm, sunny afternoon in late August. Not many of those left.