Dear Seattle: It’s time for Griffey to sit

Jun 18, 2009, 6:58 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:51 pm

Dear Seattle:

I’m perplexed.

Early this week, we debated whether it was more important to win games or to win championships. I wondered whether fans would prefer to cheer for a team like the Indians who have had lots of winning seasons in the past 15 years but haven’t won championships versus the Marlins who have won two World Series but have suffered through mostly losing seasons in between.

I think it’s a fun argument. But it makes one assumption:

Winning is important to you.

And it never dawned on me that for many people, that’s not the case. It turns out that plenty of Seattle sports fans don’t consider winning to be as important as I imagined they would. Not just casual sports fans either. Sports fans that are passionate enough to not only listen to sports radio, but to call/email/text as well.

How else do you explain this?

On Wednesday, I laid out an argument that the Mariners would be best served moving Ken Griffey Junior from his regular DH role to being mostly a bench player. I looked at his numbers: the .208 batting average, the 6 home runs, and the 18 RBI. I looked at some more in depth stats (courtesy of USS Mariner) that showed Junior has been thrown more fastballs than anyone on the team (other than light-hitting Ronny Cedeno) and that he he swings at by far the fewest pitches outside the zone. And that when you look at those stats together, you can determine that he is simply not able to hit fastballs thrown for strikes at an acceptable rate. That’s a problem for a major league DH and seems to make sense for a player that is now 39 years old.

I further opined that this is not only the best short term option, but the best long term option as well. This is supposed to be a time for GM Jack Zduriencik to evaluate his organization. In order to best do that, I believe he needs to see former #3 overall pick Jeff Clement hit big league pitching. And because Clement currently can’t play behind the plate and first base is being blocked by Russell Branyan, the best way to get him up would be to move Junior to the bench.

Finally, I made it clear that I’m not talking about “benching” Ken Griffey Junior. Just changing his role from a starter to a reserve. To “bench” a player implies something punitive. That’s what happened to Yuniesky Bettancourt. This isn’t the same. This is just a matter of helping the team win.

And your reaction was split down the middle.

Some of you agreed with me. You said it was time for Griffey to step aside. You even thanked me for saying so on the air. You were clear that you loved Junior, respected him, and were eternally grateful for the way he saved baseball in this city and turned around the clubhouse this year. You were just of the opinion that the team would have the best chance of winning with him on the bench.

But others went the other way.

You called me names. You called me an outsider. You swore at me (in often creative ways). You told me that you cried when Junior returned to Seattle and that he is the only reason you attend games.

And then you told me that you would rather see Junior strike out than see someone else win a game for the M’s in his place. You would rather see the guy you loved in the 1990’s lose rather than see another player win. Sentimentality is worth more to you than winning.

And that’s fine…I guess.

We all like to watch John McEnroe battle Jimmy Connors and reminisce about how things used to be. But we don’t seed them at the top of the Wimbledon draw! That’s because we draw a line between reminiscing and winning. And as sports fans, we usually expect our teams to want to win as much as we do. Isn’t that what you told me just a few days ago when you said how desperate you were to see a title come to this city after a three decade drought?

So what am I supposed to think now?

Very few people made an argument that the team would win the most games with Junior in the lineup. No one offered any statistical evidence that he would turn it around. Instead, you said he has “earned the right” to play whenever he feels like it. Why? Because you love him?

That’s not good enough.

In the past few days, Junior has come up with a couple of hits and driven in some runs. He may break out of this slump and prove me wrong. And I hope he does. The man is a legend and he has a beautiful swing. It would be unbelievable to watch him tear up Safeco Field while the fans go crazy.

But until that happens, I’ll remain surprised at your anger when I suggested sitting Junior. I’ll remain surprised that reminiscing about the “good old days” is more important to you than winning.


Mike Salk

Brock and Salk podcast

Brock and Salk

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Dear Seattle: It’s time for Griffey to sit