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And the Scapegoat for the slow start is… Ken Griffey Jr! Thursday, May 20, 2010

Posted by jkcmason in Mariners.
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Last year the new look Mariners under Jack Zduriencik and Don Wakamatsu brought entertainment back to Seattle baseball.  The Mariners went from a team that was struggling in most aspects of the game to group of guys that won in an unconventional way.  Baseball was once again a hot topic in Seattle.  After an offseason that brought in key players like Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins this year the Mariners have gotten out to a slow start.  The team is underperforming and fans are starting to ask for change and point fingers at certain individuals within the team.  Sounds like a bad time to fall asleep in the clubhouse. 

The first person that fans are pointing their fingers at is Ken Griffey Jr.  Case and point for this track of thought is one of the more recent posts from Dave Cameron:

http://www.ussmariner.com/2010/05/19/respect/

Dave Cameron is a very smart baseball mind with great analytical skills, but I hate this post, and I disagree with anyone who thinks that the team should force him to retire.

I want to make it clear that this article is not a defense of Griffey’s abilities or numbers.  I do not expect Ken Griffey Jr. to blow up and come through for the Mariners.  The most I can hope for from a healthy Griffey this year is a .220 batting average, and 5 or 6 homeruns.  Ken Griffey Jr is a lefty bat off the bench that gives fans a reason to smile.

There are a couple questions that I want to ask every single person who is asking for Griffey to retire.

– Why is Griffey in this position?

Griffey is filling a hole in a lineup that was not filled during the offseason.  As I said earlier his position on this team should be an off the bench left handed bat who fills in occasionally at DH.  The Mariners sat back this offseason when players like Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui signed elsewhere.  Rather than being a little more aggressive and signing a true impact DH, the team waited for a bargain to fall through the cracks that they could sign at a discount.  When we got to the point in the offseason where bargains were available it seemed that the players were too old (Delgado & Thome), not built for Safeco Field (Glaus & Dye), or not as good as they appeared (Huff).  Everyone knew that Griffey wasn’t going to be a force to be reckoned with at the plate, but nobody else was a decent option.  When the Mariners didn’t act, Griffey was the player left to fill the spot.  The front office couldn’t have expected Griffey to hit well this year, based on his performance the past two years.

– If Griffey were to retire right now who would step into his roll and help this lineup?

The only players that come to mind are Milton Bradley, Mike Sweeney, and Mike Carp. 

Milton Bradley is the best hitter of this group, but you really aren’t replacing Griffey with Bradley in this scenario.  You are replacing Griffey with Saunders.  Milton Bradley was already our starting left fielder and the new addition to the lineup would be Michael Saunders.  I like Saunders a lot and he eventually has all of the tools to become an above average hitter, but he is still young and a below average bat.  There is a reason why the team bats him 8th or 9th

I can hear people saying it already “Mike Sweeney is a good hitter when he gets consistent playing time.  The guy was on a tear during that three game span.”  I hate to break your hearts, but Mike Sweeney is not going to be the type of bat that will suddenly turn this lineup around.  He does have a better bat than Junior, and I would encourage Wakamatsu to start him more than Griffey, but he will still be just another hitter in a weak lineup.

Mike Carp is the last of the in house options that I will cover and he did have an OPS of .878 at the end of last year.  Mike Carp does get on base, but he lacks the power.  Sweeney would be a better addition to the lineup than Carp.  The only real reason that Carp would be called up is as an injury replacement, or if the Mariners throw in the towel and look to give the young players some experience.

– Is Griffey really the main reason that this team is struggling?

The simple answer is no.  I agree that the DH position is currently a huge hole in the lineup, DH is the easiest position in the game to fill with an impact bat, and Griffey should not be a starting DH.  It is still only one spot in a lineup that consists of 9 players.  There are currently only two players that pitchers even recognize stepping up to the plate for the Mariners.  Let’s go player by player around the diamond:

DH – Ken Griffey Jr. – .183 Avg / .449 OPS

      Mike Sweeney – .220 Avg / .706 OPS

C – Rob Johnson – .180 Avg / .622 OPS

      Adam Moore – .193 Avg / .519 OPS

1B – Casey Kotchman – .197 Avg / .631 OPS

2B – Chone Figgins – .194 Avg / .573 OPS

SS – Jack Wilson – .253 Avg / .622 OPS

3B – Jose Lopez – .215 Avg / .511 OPS

LF – Milton Bradley – .230 Avg / .700 OPS

CF – Franklin Gutierrez – .294 Avg / .826 OPS

RF – Ichiro Suzuki – .349 Avg / .830 OPS

Thank god for Gutierrez and Ichiro, because aside from them nobody in this lineup is hitting well.

– How did you expect Griffey to hit this year?

Honestly, did you really think Griffey was going to suddenly revert back to his abilities from 5-10 years ago?  Be realistic.  We knew before the season started that he was going to be a bad hitter.  Even though the front office and everyone in Seattle knew Griffey was going to be a below average hitter, the front office sent him out there to fail and the city is now turning on him.  He is doing what everyone expected.  The only suprise is that the front office didn’t go out there and get someone better as a DH. 

Griffey is not to blame.  Personally, I believe Wak, GMZ and the rest of the front office should never have put him in this position.

I think that it might be time to switch things around a little bit.  My Suggestions:

  • Bat Figgins first and Ichiro second and at least see if that could snap Figgins out of his slump.
  • We need to look into getting a different catcher because neither of ours could even hit off of Bobby Ayala.  Chris Snyder and Bengie Molina could be available allowing for some salary relief.  It would be fun to see if Snyder would catch Cliff Lee.
  • Make a small move or two to bring in a player that might still have some potential at a lower cost. (cough cough Alex Gordon cough).
  • Please don’t sign Burrell.
  • Use Sweeney as the Primary DH and move Griffey to the roll he belongs in.

Why make Griffey retire when nobody on the team is hitting the ball.  Don’t run him out of Seattle, reduce his role to where it should be.  Getting rid of him will not make this team noticeably better.  We should be making some adjustments to wake up underperforming players like Figgins, Lopez, & Bradley.  Make a small move or two to bring in a player with upside at a low cost and go after a replacement DH when teams finally come down to earth on asking prices… if we are still in it at that point.

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Comments»

1. Jeff - Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hi, I agree that Griffey is being used as a scapegoat and there seems to be something deeper going on with these folks who constantly attack him and Sweeney. Either way he came through today for a nice clutch hit! Great blog by the way……Jeff

http://jeffsmariners.com

2. Everett - Friday, May 21, 2010

Nice post. I think you hit the nail on head about why this anti-griffey fervor is perplexing- that the whole team sucks at the moment and there’s nobody he is holding back from making a huge contribution. Griffey is just a player playing crappy on a team full of them, what’s the big deal.

Sometimes those USSM folks are just a bit too critical, like a terrible little league parent- if there’s no wins they have to fill some void inside them with relentless criticism…


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