Tagged: Griffey

Fear the D-backs

The D-backs are flying under the radar in the up-for-grabs NL West, but this is a team for the others to fear.

In winning the division in ’07, the D-backs were considered precocious, with such “kids” as Mark Reynolds, Chris Young, Stephen Drew and Justin Upton playing major roles.
Well, the kids have grown up and form the nucleus of an impressive lineup.
The back of the bullpen is a major concern, but precedent fuels optimism regarding anointed closer Chad Qualls, who has a total of 15 saves in five seasons: the D-backs gambled in 2007 with Jose Valverde, and he covered the bets with 47 saves.
Furthermore, any rotation headed by Brandon Webb and Dan Haren has to be respected. Then there’s high-potential Max Scherzer, a chief reason Arizona signed free-agent innings-eater Jon Garland.
D-backs manager Bob Melvin said he intends to keep Scherzer’s workload in the 170 innings range, and having Garland in the rotation ahead of him should have a fresh bullpen available for Schrerzer’s turns: Garland has averaged 200-plus innings for the last seven seasons, never working fewer than 191 2/3. …
KEN GRIFFEY: Best part of having him back in Seattle? The Mariners clubhouse will finally have someone to cut Ichiro Suzuki down to size. Ichiro has dominated that room for eight years and, judging by the shots leveled by people who have left the organization, his non-team oriented approach has worn thin. Having The Kid as the new go-to guy in the locker room should humble Ichiro. …
BERNIE WILLIAMS: The accomplished guitarist will debut his second CD on April 14. It is titled “Moving Forward.” Perhaps it should instead be called “Moving Backward,” given Bernie’s hope that his play for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic might lead to a Major League comeback.
Williams, who has begun to write and arrange his own stuff, is totally committed to the music career. But he entertains the baseball whimsy with perfect logic.

“It has taken me a while to realize I share a love for both, but in music I’m going to have an opportunity to play for a lot of years,” he said. “I can play until I’m 80. In baseball, I know my days are numbered.”

An ironic admission: “Days Are Numbered” was a hit for the Alan Parsons Project on its “Vulture Culture” album.

Williams has sat out two full seasons since his fallout with the Yankees. But he is just one of many players who have heard MLB’s siren song and are working this Spring Training to resume careers after long absences.
There is Corey Koskie, the third baseman who has been missing since suffering a severe concussion on July 5,2006. Canadian Koskie, like Williams, hopes his upcoming WBC play might entice a team into giving him a comeback shot.
And Lance Niekro, who last appeared in the Majors as a first baseman on May 2, 2007 with the Giants and is attempting a comeback as a pitcher featuring the knuckleball – an homage to his late father, Joe Niekro. And Jose Valentin, hoping to hook on with the Mets a year-and-a-half after his last at-bat for them.
Topping the dreamers: Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, trying to come back from an 18-year layoff. Hey, he’s well-rested. …

Father and Son: A Griffey special

I’m not a collector. Have spent most of my adult life around baseball cards come to life, so never had a desire to gather the bubble-gum smeared cards in shoeboxes.

However, one time I couldn’t resist morphing from professional sportswriter to fawning little kid — and Ken Griffey Jr.’s return to Seattle brings it all back.
In 1990, he literally was The Kid, a 20-year-old playing through his second season with the Mariners. Pop was nearing the end of his 18th season, sitting on the Reds bench that may as well have come equipped with rockers.
Ken Griffey Sr. saw the sands of time trickling out of his career and was overtaken by a desire to connect with his Kid in a very real sense. He convinced the Reds to release him on Aug. 24, and five days later was signed by the Mariners.
On Aug. 31, the M’s unveiled their cross-generational lineup: Senior playing left and batting second, Junior batting third and playing center.


They both hit the cover off the ball for two weeks. Then the Mariners pulled into Anaheim for a series against the Angels. Two teams going nowhere, playing out the string, just trying to stay ahead of the chill of the offseason.
Then, on Sept. 14, in the second game of the four-game series, some of the magic dust from nearby Disneyland descended over Anaheim Stadium.
In the first inning, Senior swung at a choice 0-and-2 pitch from right-hander Kirk McCaskill and sent it on a line over the left-center fence for a home run. He circled the bases and was welcomed home by a warm hug from the on-deck batter, Junior.
Then The Kid stepped into the box. The count reached 3-and-0; green-lighted Junior cut at McCaskill’s low-and-outside heater and lined it over the left-center fence for his home run.
Father and son, back-to-back. Never happened before, likely to never happen again.
I worked the Seattle clubhouse after the game, as usual my scorebook tucked under my notepad for reference. As I approached the Griffeys, side-by-side also in the locker room, the singularity of their achievement struck me.
I asked both to sign my scoresheet, and they happily obliged. One below the other, adjacent to their “home run” notations.
It’s the only piece of memorabilia I have, framed on the wall of my office.
So, welcome back to the site of the miracle, Junior.

Return of the Holdout

Here’s what I love about the Manny Ramirez situation: It’s a good old-fashioned holdout, that long-lost tradition which used to spice Spring Trainings.

With the Dodgers his lone overt suitor, this isn’t about maximizing free agency, but about holding out until El Lay sweetens the deal.
This bit of flashback couldn’t be better placed. The Dodgers have a rich lore of holdout episodes, most starring that late agitator of a GM, Buzzie Bavasi.
Two of his favorites:
Don Drysdale-Sandy Koufax, 1966 — The mound’s dynamic duo became a demonic duo for Bavasi, negotiating in tandem for a shared $1 million across three years (or $167,000 annually apiece at a time Willie Mays’ $125,000 topped baseball’s books). Don and Sandy did the Ed Sullivan Show in New York while the Dodgers were training in Vero Beach. The 32-day stalemate ended on March 31, with Koufax ($125,000) and Drysdale ($110,000) each signing one-year deals.
Maury Wills, 1963 — The year after he stole 104 bases and the NL’s MVP Trophy, Wills held out for a $5,000 raise and finally took a meeting with Bavasi. It did not go well, Wills recalls.“I thought I was going to get a big raise, but after 10 minutes in Buzzie’s office, I was still happy I was on the team.”

SPEAKING OF flashbacks: So many free agents signing Minor League contracts that come with Spring Training invitations (a remarkable 38 at last count) means camp competition for jobs — virtually killed off in the modern era by guaranteed contracts — will again be fierce. …

JAKE PEAVY: Good as gone. When the Padres screened a video retrospective of highlights of their first 40 seasons at their awards banquet last week, two significant contributors to that history were omitted. Trevor Hoffman, who has already left. And, yes, Peavy, who must be packing his long johns for those cold April nights in Wrigley Field. …

KEN GRIFFEY, JR.: Even though he remains unsigned, he already is one of the best-paid free agents coming out of this winter. Reason: The deferred portion of the contract he signed with the Reds kicks in this year at $5 million, continuing until 2025. …

GOING DEEP: But you won’t go far. The ultimate condemnation of this home-run era, and the undeserved fascination with the long ball, is that now half of the top dozen on the all-time list have never played on a World Series winner. They include Barry Bonds,Griffey, Sammy Sosa, Harmon Killebrew, Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez. …

JOE TORRE: Fans don’t share the frothing New York media’s verdict that “The Yankee Years” soiled his Bronx heritage. In an ongoing New York Daily News poll, their sentiment is 69-to-31 for retiring his No. 6 over dismissing him for having tarnished his legacy.

Insomniac’s Ball

As a kid, I’d often leap out of bed in the morning, excited by the dawning day’s possibilities. Now that same anticipation at times keeps me from even sleeping.

In any case, the sheep have left the barn. So … 
SAY it ain’t so, Jack: Addressing the other day the likelihood of bringing back Ken Griffey Jr. so he could close the circle and end his career in Seattle, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said, “I don’t want to make any move based on sentiment.”

Wow. Sentiment has always been as big a part of baseball as red stitching. It brought Hank Aaron back to Milwaukee, Don Sutton to the Dodgers, Pete Rose to the Reds,  Eddie Murray to the O’s and on and on.

Without sentiment, it’s just tiddlywinks on the lawn. … 

NEVER mind Jose Canseco vs. Danny Bonaduce (Freak Show vs. Game Show; Bonaduce briefly was a host on GSN ). Give me Jeff Kent vs. Barry Bonds in the ring. There’s a pay-per-view I’d spring for. …

ROGER Clemens: Such a poignant, precipitous fall from grace. I’d love to be a fly on his wall to get the real read on how he feels about the whole spiral. Then again, maybe not — I’d hate to be taken out by such a ridiculous weapon as a flyswatter. … 

THE NATS will be really catching some ZZs if, as GM Jim Bowden suggested the other day, 22-year-old righty Jordan Zimmermann is ready for The Show. Zimmerman (Ryan) and Zimmermann? Maybe they could also hire Don Zimmer.

Bowden could be right:  In two seasons as a pro, Zimmermann has gradually climbed the ladder with a record of 15-5 and the icing of a 1.14 ERA.

GENERAL manager: Got to be the easiest job in the world, with so many people offering their help. How did GMs get along before blogs, anyway?

BILL JAMES: The “Nutrition Facts” requirement on the box of baseball. I just want to enjoy my cereal, don’t need to know the atomic composition of those Cheerios. … 

GIVE me an outfield of Garret Anderson, Bobby  Abreu and Manny Ramirez — all still hawking on the free-agent market — and I’d take my chances in any division. … 

AND NOW for something completely different, check out this page, Tracy Ringolsby’s favorite. Just don’t hold it against me. I was young and living in Hollywood, where I thought you couldn’t even get a driver’s license without making at least one movie.

Hey, maybe that’s what keeps me awake?!…

IN TRUTH, I did try for two. Wrote a baseball screenplay which went nowhere, perhaps because the best thing about it was the title: Diamonds — A Love Affair with Balls. …