May 9, 2010
Share this story:

      Regular worshipers of this column (all ten of you) may recall that I penned a piece about the not-quite-late but also not-so-great Ken Griffey last October, urging him to retire.   If you missed it here it is:

.   Anyway, I need you to read it, and carefully, before I/you/we proceed further with today’s follow-up column.

Ken Griffey has yet to circle the bases this season.

Ken Griffey has yet to circle the bases this season.


      You all done?

      Cool, thanks.   Now here’s the thing.   I really didn’t expect to do a follow-up piece on Griffey.   For one thing I like the guy.   I really do.   So my preference for him to retire it isn’t personal.   But more importantly, I’m a Sports columnist.   Not a baseball columnist.   There are other things to write about.   What’s more, I placed the word “Philosopher” after “Sports” for a reason.   Specifically, the reason being that after I am done entertaining you (hopefully) with my wit and charm and lyrical bounce (do I bounce enough for you?) I seek a certain transcendence of message, i.e. to educate, enlighten, expand, and improve your life.   I don’t hold grudges, I don’t lead causes, I don’t grind axes or lead Crusades.   No.   I illuminate.   Or at least I try to.   Besides, like I said, I like the guy.

      However, things have gotten out of hand.

      As of last Saturday, Ken Griffey (I refuse to call a man in his 5th decade of life “Junior”) was batting .216 in his role as the Seattle Mariners’ Designated Hitter.    He had 16 hits in 74 sad at-bats.   He had scored all of 3 runs.   He’d driven in only 5 runs.   All year.   Pitchers had walked the once-feared Griffey only 5 times, none intentionally.   In those 74 at-bats he had managed only two extra-base hits, both doubles.   His slugging percentage (which means percentage of total bases accumulated per official at-bat; ‘bet some of you didn’t know that) was .243…..243!   For a hitter of his stature, anything under .500 is unacceptable, under .400 is just plain lousy.   And a slugging percentage of under .300 is downright embarrassing.   But under .250?   That’s as sad as a terminal disease, or a high school kid with purple pimples.   Especially for a Designated Hitter, which is all he is.   A hitter.   Not a player.   He can’t run, he can’t play the field.   He doesn’t even bat against left-handers anymore.   A left-handed batter, Griffey has trouble even putting his bat on the ball against a left-hand pitcher with a low-90s fastball, which isn’t even that fast.   Oh, and as of Saturday he also had accumulated no triples and no stolen bases.   He hasn’t had a triple or a stolen base in two years.

      Speaking of Saturday, Griffey didn’t play against the Angels that night.   This is significant because the key moment of the game occurred in the eighth inning, game tied, men on 2nd and 3rd for Seattle, with Rob Johnson—who hits ninth in the Mariners’ batting order—due up.   Johnson is hitting .140 this season, which explains why he hits ninth in the order (It doesn’t explain why he has a job, but at least it explains why he hits ninth.).   Anyway, this was a perfect situation for Griffey.   Johnson is a right-handed batter and there was a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the Angels, a perfect opportunity to substitute a left-handed pinch hitter; especially when that pinch hitter is on his way to the Hall of Fame.   A perfect opportunity for Griffey to break out of his slump, win a game, and justify the faith the Seattle organization and manager Don Wakamatsu have in him.   Except that Wakamatsu doesn’t have any faith in him.   Not anymore.   Wakamatsu let Johnson hit, Johnson struck out, and the Mariners wound up losing.   I repeat: The manager let a .140 hitter bat with the game on the line, from the wrong side of the plate against a right-hander, rather than call on a living legend who bats from the correct side to do the job.   That’s how bat it’s gotten.   That’s how bad a baseball player Ken Griffey has deteriorated into.

      And by the way, in 2010 Ken Griffey has hit no home runs.   0.

      For the record, Ken Griffey has hit an astonishing 630 home runs in is career.   Only Bonds, Aaron, Ruth, and Mays have hit more.   But this year?   Just pick your own z-word….zip, zilch, zygote (goose-egg metaphor alert!), zero.   No home runs in 2010.   That stat doesn’t make me sad.   It makes me mad.

      Ken Griffey is forty years old.   That stat by itself is not the point.   Being forty doesn’t guarantee mediocrity.   When Bonds was forty he was not only the best hitter in baseball, but that year he had arguably the best season any hitter ever had.   And just last week, Jamie Moyer of the Phillies became the oldest pitcher in baseball history to ever throw a complete-game shut-out.   He only allowed two hits!   Walked nobody!   He’s 47 freaking years old!   The oldest player in the majors.   Throwing a shut-out at 47 is an unbelievable accomplishment.   My hat is off to old Jamie.   Old guys rule.  

      But when you’re forty and no good AND still playing?   It means that something, somewhere, somewhere deep within the system itself, has broken down.

      Ken Griffey’s contract,  signed last fall right after he finished the 2009 season hitting an embarrassingly career-low .214 in 387 at-bats, is $2.3 million dollars.   Per year.   He can’t run or play the field or bat against left-handers, and his manager won’t even pinch-hit him against right-handers, he’s hitting .216 with no power and is arguably the least productive player in all of baseball….but he still out-earns you by about $2.3 million dollars.   How does that make you feel?

      At least in 2009 Griffey pounded out the occasional home run.   In those 387 at-bats he managed to squeeze out 19 home runs and 19 doubles.   That’s about one homer per 20 at-bats.   And one double per 20 at-bats.   But in 2010, in those 74 at-bats he has staggered through so far, two doubles means one every 37 at-bats.   And no home runs means one homer every….well, you figure it out.

      The problem is that Ken Griffey is beloved in Seattle, in all of baseball really.   His very existence makes us feel good about ourselves; a baseball icon who apparently didn’t gulp Steroids.   Accordingly, Seattle management’s argument for re-signing him is that Griffey’s heartwarming, inspiring leadership and mere clubhouse presence makes him worth the money, even though he’s past his prime.   Well, last time I checked, Seattle had a record of 11 wins and 19 losses.   Management also argued that Griffey’s mere presence would help bolster (code for inspire) their offensive production.   Well, last time I checked Seattle had scored 94 runs in those first 30 games of 2010, that’s barely three runs a game, with only 10 home runs.   Both figures are the worst in all of major league baseball.   But what do you expect when your Designated Hitter has no home runs and 5 RBIs???

      In other words, Ken Griffey’s being allowed to sit on the Seattle bench at $2.3 million dollars a year—taking up a roster spot that should go to a player who could actually help the Mariners win games— has become a metaphor for that organization’s willingness to settle for absolute mediocrity.  

      To their credit, Seattle residents have noticed.   Finally.   Good for them.   The other day only 14,589 folks showed up for a Mariners home game, the 2nd lowest attendance figure in Safeco Field’s 10-year history.   Griffey was booed that night.   Yes, they booed Ken Griffey.    (then he struck out)

      So, I guess the only question left is what can we do about it?   I say plenty.   The Griffey conundrum is merely a symbol, representative of a much larger problem in American life.   It’s called settling for less.   We should demand excellence in our lives.   We should at least demand excellence from those who entertain us, inform us, educate us, govern us.   Is that really too much to ask?

  Mediocrity is not only our national religion, it is our national disease.   The reason washed-up icons like Ken Griffey are allowed to clog up major league dugouts at $2.3 million a year is because by not expressing our outrage we let them.   The reason that “Romance novelists” sell so many “books” isn’t because the books are good, it’s simply because we buy them.   The reason so many brain-dead and amoral politicians flourish is because we elect them.   It’s our fault.   Or, to put it more accurately, your fault.   But I’m here to help you.   You need to listen to me.   There is but one remedy for the growth and spread of the disease of Mediocrity.



      How?   Well, it’s just not that complicated.   The next time a Sarah Palin or a George W. Bush or                a Bill Clinton or a Timothy Geithner or a John Edwards shows up on a ballot, don’t just not vote for them, make sure you complain and write letters and demonstrate until they drop out of the race.   Ladies, the next time you are in the supermarket or your local Barnes & Noble, waltzing airily through the Romance Novels section, keep on dancing.   Don’t give in to your lust.   Hell, if you’re that horny, head home and order up some decent soft-core porn on-line or on TV, just like any self-respecting man would.   And all you so-called baseball fans out there, specifically you Angel fans and lovers of American League Western Division baseball, the next time the Seattle Mariners come to town (and that would be later this very month, May 28th, 29th, and 30th to be exact) please, please, please, STAY THE HELL HOME!   It’s the only way your voice will ever sting, where it counts, the pocketbooks of the fat-cats.   Your attendance at any Mariners game means you think it’s okay that Ken Griffey is still playing major league baseball.   You need to tell Griffey, the Mariners, and baseball itself that the all-time greats, the superstars, cannot be allowed to hang on and embarrass themselves the way Griffey has embarrassed himself and the game for several years now.   The way Willie Mays, the greatest of them all, tripped and stumbled and wobbled pathetically all over center field in the 1973 World Series, leaving a bad taste in my mouth forever.   And now it’s Griffey, worse now than Mays ever was.   It’s unseemly.   So you need to stay home, baseball fans.   I don’t care if you’re a season-ticket holder or an early-bird buyer with tickets already in hand.   Stay home.   Don’t show up.   Send a message.   Just don’t go.   Just say no.     

      Your self-respect will soar.   And you’ll feel better, instantly, and for all the right reasons.   You will have demanded excellence, and you’ll feel better.   You’ll feel better.   And isn’t that what we all want out of life?

The Sports Philosopher

The Sports Philosopher


The Sports Philosopher!

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and protector of the sacred gonfalon of baseball— in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered within the links below:









Leave a Reply