Man. Today has been really rough. I’m still not sure I can put into words how I feel, but I’m going to give it a shot…
I never saw “The Kid”. I moved to Seattle in 2001, and Griffey was already gone. I didn’t live through 1995, have only witnessed “The Slide” through replay, never saw him play the field, haven’t seen the countless diving catches that are echoed in the moves of Franklin Gutierrez today. I know SafeCo Field as SafeCo Field, not the “House that Griffey Built”. All I know of Griffey is the here and now. But do I know what he meant to Seattle and to Seattle baseball, and I know that there might not be Seattle baseball if it were not for the man that everyone simply calls “Junior”. So in that way, I and many people like me, people whose fanship is still young, are forever indebted to KGJ for his role in the future of the Seattle Mariners.
Yes, I was unhappy about his return for a lot of the same reasons that a lot of other people were – we expected graceful retirement at the end of 2009 and didn’t get it. What we wound up with was 2 months of unsatisfying plate appearances, slow swings, and a lot of misguided fans who would cheer when he came to the plate, then somehow be surprised when he struck out, or flew up, or grounded out. But my anger was only because I cared about the future of this team this year, and I’ve been watching our season slowly go down the drain because of the players that had been chosen out of Spring Training, Griffey included. The fact that this magnificent baseball player, this icon, could finally recognize that it was time to hang it up and did just that…he has my undying respect.
Perhaps now the organization can move onward and upward, out from under the shadow of the past two months.
The number 24 was drawn into the dirt behind second base today for the last day of a great, great player’s career. Having retired around 4.30, however, and with Mike Sweeney at DH against Kevin Slowey, Griffey was not available for what might have been his last game otherwise. FSN aired a pre-game tribute montage that just about made me tear up. Through various Twitter accounts, I know it actually made quite a few people cry. I am currently staying with some friends, so I could not watch the first part of tonight’s Cliff Lee start, as they are hockey fans, and the Stanley Cup playoffs are still in full effect. But I was able to join the game in progress in the top of the 6th inning after the Philadelphia Flyers won their game on the ice this evening. The Mariners were up by one run.
The lead didn’t last long, however – Michael Cuddyer took Cliff Lee over the back wall in right center for a solo (thankfully) home run, the first one Lee has allowed this season. Tied the score 1-1 in the top of the 7th inning. In the bottom of that inning, Milton Bradley obtained a single off Kevin Slowey, as did Jose Lopez. But Casey Kotchman wiped away any major threat we might have had by grounding into a double play. Rob Johnson took care of the entire thing by popping out to first.
Cliff Lee stayed into the 8th inning, because he’s a machine and that’s just what he does. I’ve been very happy about both his and Doug Fister’s abilities to stay in late in the game. I love when Felix Hernandez does it, too, but Felix has been having a hard time of it lately. We haven’t had that kind of pitching around for quite some time. Jesse Crain showed up to relieve Slowey in the bottom of the 8th, and had to deal to Josh Wilson, Ichiro, and Chone Figgins. Wilson was taken out easily at first, and Crain sent 11 pitches to Ichiro before finally striking him out swinging. Figgins drove out to short to end the 8th. Cliff Lee went 8 innings. He had thrown 112 pitches, and struck out 8.
David Aardmsa came into the game at the top of the 9th, despite the fact that Garrett Olson had been warming up in the bullpen earlier. Good Aardsma or Bad Aardsma? As he walked Joe Mauer, I figured it was Bad Aardsma. Rob Johnson was not helpful, passing his 7th ball of the game and letting Mauer take second. Justin Morneau grounded out to second to move Mauer to third. Michael Cuddyer lined out to Josh Wilson at short, and Jason Kubel flew out to Milton Bradley, who backed up nearly to the warning track to make an easy catch. So, kind of so-so Aardsma.
I was thinking that a win on Griffey retirement day might be nice, but the Twins Matt Guerrier wanted to delay that for us. Franklin Gutierrez was easily out at first. Mike Sweeney popped up to short, and Milton Bradley swung on a pitch low in the strike zone for the final out. On to extra innings.
Brandon League had a relatively easy time of it in the top of the 10th, taking out the Twins order quickly. Casey Kotchman took a single from Guerrier. Josh Wilson swung hard into left field for a single after Eliezer Alfonso grounded out, and at that point, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to remove Guerrier from the hill. Snoqualmie Casino gave me yet another reason to never patronize them, and when the broadcast came back, Jose Mijares was on the bump, dealing to Ichiro. Ichiro struck out three times in tonight’s game, and grounded out once. I figured he was about due for a hit, and right when we needed it most. On the 11th pitch Mijares threw, Ichiro put it up the middle of the diamond, and Ryan Langerhans, running for Kotchman, bailed around third and to home, beating the play at the plate. He was interviewed, breathless, by Jen Mueller after the game, looking a little shellshocked, but happy. Mueller would interview an obviously emotional Milton Bradley about Ken Griffey Jr’s departure, and later in the post game, Mike Sweeney. Sweeney looked sad and a little ill as he talked about his affection for a man who has done so much for the game.
And with that, I need to go to bed. I have a very long day ahead of me tomorrow, and rest is needed. May tomorrow and the days to come bring good things for this club.