The Definitive Mount Rushmore For Seattle Sports

That’s a bold proclamation, but I’m a bold individual.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers
Thursday:  Mariners, Supersonics, & Seahawks (past & present)

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of 80’s Heavy Metal Bands?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue, and come at me bro if you think I’m wrong because I’ll fight this whole fucking town!

Today, it’s all on my shoulders to select the Mount Rushmore for Seattle sports.  It’s a daunting task, to say the least.  Am I man enough for it?  I dunno, probably not, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

So, I suppose to do this right, there have to be some parameters.  Obviously, they have to be great at their sport; Hall of Fame level.  There’s an element beyond that, though; one that transcends their own personal greatness.  Popularity is certainly a part of it, not just in Seattle, but across America and around the world, but I’d be remiss if I put too much emphasis on their notoriety.  I think it matters not just that they were great on their respective teams, but great when compared to others in the history of the game and position they played.

For instance, Steve Largent is my favorite football player of all time, and at the time of his retirement he was the best the game had ever seen.  But, now?  Largent is 18th in the NFL in total yards, surpassed by the likes of Henry Ellard (played 2 more seasons, is not in the HOF), Andre Johnson (who is good, but does he strike you as transcendant?), and Reggie Wayne (who had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning throwing to him; of COURSE he has more yards!).  I’m just saying that the greatness of the wide receiver position has been deminished in the wake of the NFL turning into a passing league.  I mean, Terrell Owens has the second-most receiving yards of all time (behind the great Jerry Rice) and he’s still struggling to make it into the HOF!  I don’t care about his reputation or his attitude or whatever; 20 years ago, if he’d retired with the most yards in NFL history, he would’ve been a first ballot enshrinee.

Also, look at someone like Felix Hernandez; my favorite player of all time.  Yeah, he’s great, and he’s in my Mariners Mount Rushmore, but compared to some of the greatest pitchers of all time, Felix is just another guy.  Maybe in another era, with the stuff he has, he would’ve put up numbers commensurate to some of the all timers, but he’s in the era he’s in, and it knocks him back accordingly.  You have to go above and beyond in these situations if you want to make my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

In an effort to make this easier on myself, let’s knock out a couple of really obvious ones.

At the top, in the pole position of my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Ken Griffey Jr.

Absolute no-brainer.  22 years in Major League Baseball, 13 years in Seattle, at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #1 overall draft pick by the Mariners in 1987, in his first 11 years with the organization he made the All Star team 10 times.  10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, and was the American League MVP in 1997.  He hit 417 of his 630 home runs with the Mariners.  He took the team to its first two playoff appearances in the history of the franchise.  He led the A.L. in homers 4 times and in RBI once.  He’s in the Mariners’ Hall of Fame, is the only actual Mariner to have his number retired, was a member of the MLB All-Century Team, and was the highest vote-getter in MLB Hall of Fame history in his first year of eligibility.  HE WAS THE MOST POPULAR ATHLETE ON THE PLANET!  He’s 6th on the all time home run list, and if you discount the cheaters that are Bonds and A-Rod, he’s truly in rare company (Aaron, Ruth, and Mays, are you KIDDING me?).

That’s what I mean.  Ken Griffey Jr. is the definition of a Mount Rushmore-type player.  He’s the greatest athlete the city of Seattle has ever seen and might be the greatest we will EVER see.  Anyone alive who got to see him play in his prime should thank their lucky stars.

At my #2 spot in my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Gary Payton.

Again, I think this one is a no-brainer.  18 seasons in the NBA, 13 seasons in Seattle, again at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #2 overall draft pick by the Supersonics in 1990, in his Seattle years he made the All Star team 9 times.  2 All-NBA first teams, 5 second teams, and 2 third teams.  He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, as well as the steals leader the same year.  He is 4th all time in NBA history in steals with 2,445 (behind Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, and a million miles behind John Stockton).  He’s also 8th all time in NBA history in assists with 8,966 (among the likes of Stockton, Kidd, Nash, Mark Jackson, Magic, Oscar, and Isiah).  When you’re talking true point guards, you’re talking the best of the best, and GP is right there.  He was always a defensive force, but his offense didn’t really start to take off until his fifth season in the league; yet he still managed to score 21,813 points, which is good for 31st all time, just ahead of Larry Bird, and just behind Clyde Drexler.

Again, we’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever put on a jersey and play the game of basketball!  I don’t know if people necessarily think of GP the way they think of Griffey, because Griffey might be the best or second-best centerfielder of all time; whereas there are a bunch of great point guards who are as good or even better.  But, I’m here to tell you that there really aren’t that many.

Guys like Stockton and Kidd played great defense and dished it out like no one else, but their offensive games were largely lacking.  They couldn’t take over a game and back down an opposing guard like GP could.  Nash and Iverson were awesome scorers, but they weren’t as suffocating on defense as GP would be.  Honestly, I think the only people in Gary’s league are Magic, Isiah, and maybe Oscar (but, I’ll be honest here, all three of those guys were either a little or a lot before my time, and I didn’t get to see them play in their primes).  Anyway, I’m talking about COMPLETE point guards, guys who played on both sides of the ball and did it damn well on both ends.  Not to mention from 1995 through 2003, Gary averaged over 38 minutes per game.

The only shame of it all is that he played in the opposite conference from Michael Jordan, and only got to face off against MJ the one time in the NBA Finals.  I think if those guys were in the same division and had to go against one another 4 times a year plus every year in the playoffs, it would’ve been one of the truly great rivalries in NBA history.  As it stands, Gary really didn’t have anyone who was his direct rival.  He was already established when Kobe was a young pup.  Kidd and Stockton were never much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball, so they never really challenged him at that end.  All the best scoring guards during Gary’s prime were in the East, or they were past their primes when Gary was in his.  That Finals series in 1996 was one for the ages, though.  It’s just too bad it was the first for that group in Seattle; I think the severity of the situation got to them mentally.  For the Bulls, it was old hat; just another business trip.  I think if the Sonics had gotten theirs in 1994 (like they SHOULD have), by 1996 it would’ve been like two equally fierce titans going against one another.  What could have been.

***

With the easy half of our Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore out of the way, now we get to the more difficult decisions.

For starters, where are the Seahawks?  I’m pretty sure you can’t have one of these without throwing a Seahawk on there, so let’s get cracking.

As I wrote about yesterday, there are currently 4 Seahawks in the NFL Hall of Fame (with this year’s induction of Kenny Easley).  So, yeah, a lot to choose from here.  At the top, I talked about Steve Largent a little bit, and I still stand behind that.  I think his candidacy for this list is pretty lacking, when you consider his current place in NFL history, which I very much believe applies here.

When you look at the rest of the Hall of Famers, I think one name clearly stands out, and that name is Walter Jones, my third choice for the Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

There aren’t really a ton of stats I can sit here and pull up to show Big Walt’s greatness; it’s not like the NFL keeps track of “pancakes” as an official stat (BTW tho, they absolutely SHOULD).  Jones made 9 Pro Bowls, was First Team All Pro 4 times, and Second Team twice.  He was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.  He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and has had his #71 retired by the Seahawks.

If you want to get a little deeper, in trying to compare him to the other greats in NFL history, that’s a little trickier.  Pro Football Reference has their “Approximate Value” stat that tries to equalize things across all positions, and gives your career a numerical value accordingly.  Across all positions, in the entirety of NFL history, Jones is currently tied for 150th, which – when you think about how many players there have been – is pretty astounding.  I did the research, and there are only 26 offensive linemen ahead of him on that list, but the vast majority of them are either guards or centers.  Among just the left tackles, there are only 6 ahead of Walter Jones:  Anthony Munoz, Lomas Brown, Willie Roaf, Mike Kenn, Gary Zimmerman, and Orlando Pace.  Four of those guys are Hall of Famers, and the other two (Brown and Kenn) just played forever.  So, yeah, I’d say that’s pretty good company.

Anecdotally, Walter Jones IS one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history.  The combination of speed, size, technique, power, durability, raw talent; it’s something we probably will never see around here ever again.  It’s ultimately the durability issue that cost him the end of his career, as injuries and surgeries became too much and cut it short, but he’s also a guy who was able to play through a lot of pain and injuries and keep up his high level of play.  He may not be the force of nature, popularity-wise, that Griffey or even Payton were, but his talent and standing among the greats at his position relative to the history of the game more than makes up for it.  As such, Big Walt is my #3.

***

Which leads us to our Abraham Lincoln spot on the mountain.  Who is my #4?

The fact that this is far and away the most difficult choice for me ultimately leads me to believe that whoever I choose is not long for this spot.  I’m a firm believer in the Smell Test, or the Eyeball Test, or whatever you want to call it.  Is a guy a Hall of Famer?  That should be obvious; it shouldn’t take much more than 10 seconds to decide.  Either he is or he isn’t.  Obviously, there are people on the bubble who need arguments in their favor (*cough* EDGAR *cough*), but for me it’s a lot more simple.  Yes, Edgar is a Hall of Famer; NEXT!

But, I don’t really have a solid #4, which means my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is sitting atop a pretty shaky foundation.  There are certainly guys in the running.  Edgar Martinez, for instance, would be a fine choice; but can I include a guy who’s not even in the MLB Hall of Fame (yet)?  Same goes for someone like Jack Sikma (who absolutely should be a basketball hall of famer).  There are plenty of former Sonics and Seahawks who ARE in their respective halls of fame, so it doesn’t seem totally fair.  On top of that, can you rank any of these other guys as among the greatest at their positions all time?

My actual belief is that the #4 player on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is currently playing for the Seattle Seahawks.  But, since his career hasn’t ended yet, is it really appropriate to put him on there now?  Frankly, I think we’re another 7 years of quality play out of Earl Thomas from him being the guy.  If he can keep it up, and manage to stay healthy, he will go down as one of the most talented and important free safeties in the history of the NFL, with this Seahawks defense going down as one of the elite defenses in the history of the NFL.  As I wrote about yesterday, he’s the straw that stirs the drink; others may come and go, play or be injured, but the constant is Earl Thomas.  And, most importantly, we got a clear and obvious look at what this defense is without him, in the final 5 regular season games and 2 playoff games last year:  it’s not pretty.

So, I WANT to put Earl in here, but I just can’t.  What if injuries plague him from here on out and cut his career short?  Well, that opens the door for Richard Sherman, who is already the greatest cornerback in franchise history and already has made a name for himself among the greatest to ever play the game.  He needs some longevity to go with that to be Mount Rushmore-worthy, and the biggest question here is:  will he play out the duration of his career in Seattle?  There are obvious, serious doubts there too.

Which takes me to Russell Wilson.  What if he plays another 15 years for Seattle, and leads us to another 2-3 Super Bowls?  Doesn’t he HAVE to be the #4 on my Mount Rushmore, simply for the fact that he’s the most popular, recognizable figure on this team, at its most important position?

So, you see the bind I’m in.  All three of those guys are worthy, but all three of them need to put on some more years before they can be taken seriously among the top three on this list.

Where do I go from here?  While I acknowledge all of the above is true, I refuse to put “Placeholder” as my #4, so I’ve gotta make a choice.  To me, I think it has to come down to a couple of names:  Cortez Kennedy and Ichiro.

The Tez falls a few points below Big Walt on the ol’ Approximate Value scale, but I’m not going to go through and count the number of defensive tackles ahead of him.  Here’s what I’ve got:  11 year career, all with Seattle.  First round draft pick, #3 overall.  8 Pro Bowls, 3 First Team All-Pros, 2 Second Teams.  NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.  NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.  His number 96 is retired, and he’s in the NFL Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, he got saddled on a lot of bad and mediocre teams, so the 2-time College Football National Champion only made one NFL playoff appearance (losing in the Wild Card round).  In my estimation, Tez ranks among the best all time at what he did, which was an all-around defensive tackle who could both rush the passer and defend against the run.  His sack numbers are impressive – particularly when you consider the number of double-teams he had to face – but his total tackle numbers are even MORE impressive.  I mean, he had 3 seasons where he averaged over 70 tackles per year!  As a DT!  Those are linebacker and safety numbers!

Then, there’s Ichiro.  He’s not in the MLB Hall of Fame, but that’s only because he’s STILL playing, at the age of 43.  Here’s a guy who spent 9 years in Japan before coming over to Seattle.  From age 18-26 (where, for a lot of people, he’d be working his way through the minors and getting into his prime at the Major League level), his numbers are essentially rendered irrelevant by a lot of baseball fans.  He nevertheless, as a pro starting at the age of 27, has managed to get over 3,000 hits, 2,533 of which were in a Mariners uniform.

Let’s get into it:  he was with the Mariners for 12 seasons.  An All Star his first 10 years (including All Star Game MVP in 2007).  A Gold Glover his first 10 years.  A Silver Slugger 3 times.  A Fielding Bible Award winner 3 times.  American League batting champion twice.  In 2001, he was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the A.L.  He also led the league in stolen bases that year.  He also had over 200 hits in his first 10 years, and set the single-season record for hits with 262 in 2004.  Like Tez, Ichiro was saddled with some pretty bad Mariners teams after the 2003 season.  Yet, he stuck around and remained true to the organization long after he could’ve gone to any number of teams to play for a contender.

If you want to talk about popularity – particularly on a global scale – Ichiro sits up there with Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.  Even across America, he was the face of the Seattle Mariners for a decade!  He was a dominant force at the top of the lineup, and he was equally as great at his defense in right field.  He stole bases, he kept the opposing team’s running game in check, and if he were in a better-run organization, he could’ve done even MORE with his offensive numbers.

Is he among the greatest outfielders of all time?  That’s a little tougher to nail down.  He wasn’t like a Griffey or a Mays; Ichiro’s game is speed and singles (among other things).  I think he ranks up there among the greats at his defense, and among the greatest all time leadoff hitters.  I think he’s the greatest Japanese-born baseball player of all time, which is not an insignificant feat.  And, I think when you tack on the fact that some of his prime years were spent in the inferior Japanese leagues, you have to wonder what could’ve been had he gotten to America sooner.

All of that considered, that’s why I’m making Ichiro my #4 on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

So, what do you think?  Griffey, Payton, Jones, Ichiro.  With a very strong likelihood that my future #4 will be someone on this current Seahawks team.  Maybe in another decade I’ll come back and write a new one of these for shits and giggles.

James Paxton Is The Greatest Pitcher Alive

8 innings of 2-hit, 1-walk shutout ball to throw on the pile.  21 innings of 8-hit, 4-walk shutout ball to start the season.  9 more strikeouts to give him 22 on the season.

As Childish Gambino said, “Don’t be mad because I’m doing me better than you’re doing you.”

This was quite the enjoyable game.  Paxton was dealing, but really there was good pitching on both sides, outside of one half inning, where the Mariners scored all five of their runs in winning this thing 5-0.

One out into the bottom of the sixth, Mitch Haniger got it going with a single to left.  He’s got that batting average WAY up, check the slash line:  .292/.393/.542.  Cano got on via an error by the short stop, and Cruz walked to load ’em up.  That brought up Seager, whose power numbers are still lacking, but everything else is starting to climb up to respectability.  He mashed a single into right to score two runs, which knocked out the Rangers’ starter.  Taylor Motter stepped to the plate, flowing mane of hair rustling ever so gently under his batting helmet.  Earlier this week, he had that 3-double game against the Astros and followed it up the very next night with another double and a homer.  Well, he wasn’t able to get any extra-base hits off of Texas on Friday (just a run of the mill single, frowny-face), but I’ll be damned if he didn’t get right back on the horse with a 3-run homer to put the nail in the coffin!

Taylor Motter is hitting .333.  He’s getting on base at a near-.400 clip.  But, his slugging is – get this – .810!  I didn’t realize, when we acquired this utility infielder from the Rays, that we’d be getting the second coming of Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds, but when you’re talking about an .810 slugging percentage, those are the two guys who have ever done that over a full season!  Now listen, obviously I have no delusions of this guy slugging .810 for us all year, that would be clinically insane.  But, what this blog post presupposes is … maybe he will?

The rest of the Mariners didn’t do much of anything else last night, but I don’t care about that.  All I want is all of Haniger’s and Motter’s at bats run on a loop, forever and ever.

I will say that we got a good 9th inning out of Nick Vincent.  Credit where it’s due, he shut the Rangers down before they could even THINK of mounting a comeback.

On the flipside, the M’s went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.  I’m starting to keep a log of everyone’s totals in this category because this team is driving me fucking crazy, and I’ve got some hard data for you.  The Mariners as a team are hitting .157 on the year with RISP.  If you figure league average is somewhere around .250, obviously the Mariners have a ways to go just to get back up to average.  Given the track record of the players we know about, and given how special guys like Haniger and Motter have been in the early going, you’d expect our average with RISP will go up in a hurry, and good times will be right around the corner.

Well, we’ll see.  It’s interesting that the M’s are struggling with RISP even in their wins.  In the 4 wins, the Mariners are hitting 9 for 44 with RISP (.205), which means in the losses, you can really point to a lack of clutch hitting, as their average with RISP falls to .125, with the majority of our losses coming to the Astros, ergo the Astros are skewing our numbers in a big way.

You won’t be surprised at who is sucking our collective wills to live the most in this category.  Valencia is 1 for 10, Martin is 0 for 11, and Zunino is a whopping 1 for 15!  It might shock you that Cruz is also up there, at 2 for 13, which is unacceptable for a cleanup hitter.  But, truth be told, no one is great.  Cano has had the most opportunities and he’s only hitting .250, so pretty much everyone can get a lot more clutch for this team, if it expects to go to the playoffs.

Winning a series is nice.  First series win of the season is under our belt, just 12 games into the season.  But, this feels like it needs to be a sweep, so go out there this afternoon and get the job done!

Ichiro Is The Hit King America Deserves

I should start out by acknowledging that this comes from a place of total and complete bias.  I’m a huge Ichiro fan; I bought in from Day 1.  I know, I’m from the Seattle area, and you’d think it could be taken for granted that I’d be a huge Ichiro fan, but as many of you well know, there are PLENTY of local haters in the area.  Mariners fans who don’t understand Ichiro, who like him well enough but like to mock him just as often, or who simply dislike Ichiro and everything he stands for.  You’ll find plenty of Mariners fans who think Ichiro is a me-first prima donna – and maybe he was!  I have no idea.  All I know is that Ichiro is the greatest right fielder the Mariners have ever had – which is saying something, considering I was also a pretty huge Buhner fan.  Ichiro was a 10-time All Star in his first 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, a 10-time Gold Glover in the same period, a 3-time Silver Slugger, and an American League MVP and Rookie of the Year in the SAME SEASON.  If you took just his 11.5 seasons with the Mariners, right there you’ve got a Hall of Famer, discounting all that came before and all that’s come since.  How you couldn’t at least appreciate him for what he was, I’ll never understand.

He wasn’t Griffey.  He wasn’t some middle-of-the-order power hitter.  And, as a leadoff man, he didn’t even walk all that much.  But, he was (and, apparently still IS) a hitting machine, a guy who could steal you an elite number of bases (anywhere from 26-56 in his first 12 seasons), a guy who played flawless outfield defense, and oh yeah, a guy who also had a rocket arm.  The sheer number of runs he saved this team, by either chasing down balls, throwing runners out, or more importantly, preventing runners from advancing an extra base, has to be staggering.

Ichiro was the whole package, minus the power.  And, in an era where MLB contracts just started to get into the ridiculously staggering levels they are today, Ichiro never really felt like a burden financially.  He had 4 years with the Mariners where he averaged $17-18 million per season.  Over his entire Mariners career, he averaged approximately $12 million per season, which feels about right.  Hell, for a Hall of Famer, it feels like a BARGAIN!

On the All Time Mariners list, here are some of his ranks:

  • WAR – 3rd, behind Griffey & Edgar
  • Batting Average – 1st, at .322
  • OBP – 9th, at .366
  • Games Played – 2nd, at 1,844 (behind Edgar)
  • Runs Scored – 2nd, at 1,176 (behind Edgar)
  • Hits – 1st, at 2,533
  • Doubles – 3rd, at 295 (behind Edgar & Griffey)
  • Triples – 1st, at 79 (next highest has 48)
  • Stolen Bases – 1st, with 438 (next highest has 290)

I don’t care what anyone says, Ichiro in his prime was undeniably great.  And, now he’s back in the news.

Yesterday, he passed Pete Rose for most hits as a professional, with 4,257 and counting.  Pete Rose, famously, was known as the Hit King, with his 4,256 hits in the MLB.  Of course, to get Ichiro to his number, you have to include the 1,278 hits he accumulated in the Japanese professional league, which many like to denigrate as inferior.  I dunno.  Do they get paid to play the game of baseball?  Is that what they do for a living?

If we’re going to reduce the impact of hits in the Japanese league – likening it to hitting in AAA – then do we get to do the same to the era in which Pete Rose played?  I mean, come on!  Are you trying to tell me the pitchers and level of athlete in the 60s, 70s, and 80s were just as good as they are in the new Willennium millennium?  I’m afraid not, mon frere!  If I had to find an apt comparison for those bygone athletes who chain-smoked, drank religiously, hardly ever worked out, and couldn’t tell you what a “carb” was if their lives depended on it, I MIGHT be so bold and so insensitive as to compare their level of talent and athleticism to those playing in the Japanese league when Ichiro was over there getting his 1,278 hits (but, to be honest, that would be unfair to our overseas friends).

Look, I know these are meaningless numbers.  All of them.  Who cares who has the most professional hits?  If you care, then you’re doing it wrong.  The whole numbers thing with baseball is so pointless, I don’t even know why anyone talks about it anymore.  Didn’t Sosa and McGwire, and then Bonds and A-Rod already make a mockery of the whole thing with their steroids-fuelled abominations?  If you care enough to continue calling Pete Rose the Hit King, then you’re admitting that you condone Barry Bonds as the Home Run King and all that his numbers stand for.

If you’re going to get your panties in a bunch, then I’m afraid we’re just going to have to stop comparing different eras of baseball, because it’s really too much.  If you got in a time machine, pulled Pete Rose out of the 1960s, and had him start his playing career in Japan in the early 1990s, then had him follow a similar career trajectory as Ichiro, would he have become the animal he was in the 70s and 80s?  Or, would this generation’s level of talent and athleticism have overwhelmed him to the point where we’d never know the name Pete Rose?

Sorry ol’ Petey Pants, but I’m not buying it, and I’m not buying you as the Hit King anymore.  Ichiro’s my man!  Ichiro, the erstwhile 27 year old MLB rookie, who later this year is going to get his 3,000th MLB hit (21 away, as of this post), is the single greatest hit machine the sport of baseball has ever seen.  Granted, they may mostly be singles, and he may have a ton of the infield variety padding those stats, but no one said Ichiro is the greatest hitter.  Just like no one said Pete Rose was the game’s best hitter.  If that’s who you’re looking for, then you should probably go grab Ted Williams.  But, the Hit King is a different beast.  And today, that beast goes by the name Ichiro.

Look, America is swell, and it has a lot going for it.  But, America doesn’t need to be the best at EVERYTHING.  We don’t need to make every facet of our lives about who has the biggest cock, okay?  On this one, Japan gets to hold the record.  It’ll be all right!  America will still be good at other things!  Like mass gun murders!  And electing worthless, pieces of shit to be our political leaders!  And obesity, probably!

America:  All These Things & More! (just not the Hit King).

Ken Griffey Jr., Hall of Famer

I’ve made no secret about it:  I’m one of those insufferable assholes who originally jumped on the Seattle Mariners’ bandwagon during the closing few weeks of the 1995 season.  I would have been 14 years old at the time, which quite honestly is pretty late in the game, as far as getting into a new sport is concerned.  You normally develop those lifelong attachments to your sports teams in your childhood, in the 8-10 years old range.

Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw ...

Ken Griffey’s grotesquely swollen jaw …

At some point in the mid-to-late 80s (I want to say the 1987 range), I started getting into the Seahawks.  By 1988, I was on a 3 packs a week habit (football cards, Topps).  By 1989 and 1990, it was probably closer to 6 packs (Pro Set).  I joined my dad’s work’s NFL Pick ‘Em pool against all the adults and even won some weeks (at $5 per entry per week, that was a solid chunk of change for a kid under 10 years of age).  I was a football lifer, no doubt about it.

In 1993, I started getting heavily into the NBA and the Sonics.  So, maybe they were my gateway drug into other sports.  Regardless, baseball has always been my third sports love, and that’s probably the way it’s always going to be (even though I mostly ignore the NBA now and will continue to do so until Seattle gets a team again).

I was always aware of the Mariners existing, as a kid.  They were consistently losing, so I didn’t really see the point in paying attention.  I didn’t have a parent or other type of older person I looked up to who were baseball fans.  I come from a family of football fans, period.  Any other sports would have to be pursued on my own.

But, in 1995, the Mariners were surging in the standings, and drawing attention all across the nation.  FINALLY, Seattle had winning baseball, and the sports bandwagoners ate it up.

I was also generally aware of Ken Griffey Jr., but I don’t know if I could say he was a hero of mine or anything.  My first sports idol was Steve Largent.  My second and third were, in some order, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton.  By the time I started getting into the Mariners, Griffey was more national icon than simply a local superstar.  And, when I was that age, contrarian that I was in my know-it-all teens, I didn’t want to be some mope who went along with the crowd (even though that’s exactly who I was, jumping on the bandwagon when I did).  I was more of a Randy Johnson man, or a Jay Buhner man.

But, that’s not to say I disliked Griffey.  Indeed, I revered him as much as anyone in sports.  He was truly one of the best baseball players alive, and to have him on the Mariners was some sort of good fortune I just took for granted at the time.  With all the stars on the Sonics, and an all-time legend in Largent on the Seahawks, I just figured every team in every sport had at least one superstar and they always would.

Looking back on it now, I sort of wish I’d been a fan from the very beginning of his career.  It’s hard to appreciate the whole arc of his story, when I started somewhere in the middle.  By the time I was paying attention to Griffey, he was the best player on the planet.  So, all I’ve known of him has been the mythology, and the slow fall from grace.

I had about 4.25 good years as a fan of Ken Griffey Jr. before he forced his way out.  Obviously, there was the 1995 miracle finish that came JUST short of a World Series appearance.  At that point, we figured the sky was the limit for the Seattle Mariners, and there would be many MANY consecutive years of playoff appearances.  In 1996, we were cut down by Randy Johnson’s injury, and a pisspoor bullpen.  In 1997, we made it back to the playoffs, but we sold our soul to do it (the Lowe/Varitek trade & the Cruz trade).  And even then, we lost in the first round.  1998 & 1999 were essentially lost seasons, and the beginning of the end of those Mariners teams (it really started with the Tino Martinez trade, but continued with the Randy Johnson trade, and climaxed with the Griffey trade).

So much of being a Mariners fan is being jerked around by ownership and then hoping for the best.  It’s been that way since the very beginning.  In my formative years as a Mariners fan, it was endless penny-pinching by ownership.  We made all those trades in the mid-to-late 90s, one by one stripping this team of all its quality players and superstars, and yet there really wasn’t a noticeable penalty.  By 2000 and 2001, the Mariners were magically one of the best teams in baseball, and you can look at the guys we got in return from some of those trades (Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Mike Cameron) as real building blocks in our rise to prominence.  Those teams didn’t have the flash that the mid-90s teams had, but they were solid, and they got the job done in the regular season.

Yet, you can point to losing Randy Johnson (who would go on to win multiple Cy Young Awards), Tino Martinez & Jeff Nelson (who would go on to win multiple World Series titles with the Yankees), Ken Griffey Jr. (who went on to have moderate, injury-plagued success with the Reds), and later Alex Rodriguez (who took the biggest contract offer he could get, which obviously would never come from this Mariners organization), as the reason why this team never achieved any playoff success whatsoever.

If we focused on building around our stars, instead of shipping them off for adequate role players, maybe we wouldn’t have had some of the regular season successes we had in the early 2000’s, but a team with Randy, Tino, Nelson, Griffey, and A-Rod is sure as shit built for post-season glory.  It’s easy to look back on it now and say, “It’s so simple!”  But, at the time, with the Mariners rocking and rolling for the most part, it was understandable to think the good times would only continue.

When news hit of Griffey demanding a trade, I honestly don’t remember how I felt.  Disappointment, mostly.  I don’t think I really understood what was happening or why it was happening.  We were fed the line of Griffey wanting to be closer to home, closer to family, but I don’t think I entirely bought it then, and I still don’t think I entirely buy it now.  This Mariners organization has always been kind of a mess.  The product on the field always should have had better results.  But, the people in charge of personnel kept screwing things up at every possible turn, and the owners didn’t have the fortitude or the mental capacity to reward their very best players with contracts commensurate to their value on the open market.  On the one hand, you can laud the organization for getting SOMETHING in return for some of these players they shipped off; but on the other hand, God dammit!

My disappointment with the Griffey situation soured a bit when it became public knowledge that he ONLY wanted to be traded to the Reds, which severely limited our ability to negotiate the best possible deal.  Then again, knowing this organization’s track record in major trades, it’s highly probable that whoever they would have traded Griffey to would have seen a return on par with the bust of the century.  I think I let that rage subside when the Mariners managed to improve (helped in large part by Mike Cameron being a fan favorite), while the Reds never really did much.  In the end, I would come to feel sorry for Griffey, as it seemed he could never stay on the field for any prolonged stretch.  He had one quality year on par with his Mariners numbers, in his very first season with the Reds.  After 2000, you’ll see large gaps in his playing time due to injury.  By the time he managed to stay healthy for a full year again, it was 2007, his last All Star season.  In 2008, he was traded to the White Sox for their playoff run (losing in the ALDS), only his third appearance in the post-season (the other two, obviously, being with the Mariners).

In 2009, Jackie Z brought Griffey back on as our primary DH.  It was a way to see if he could prolong his career, while at the same time a nice gesture for the fans.  No one really expected much out of him or the team, but the Mariners managed a winning record against all odds, and Griffey himself had a decent campaign (19 homers in 117 games).  It would be the perfect end to a Hall of Fame career … until everyone got cute and tried to capture lightning in a bottle twice.  2010 was a definite black mark for everyone involved.  On the last day of May, Griffey had one hitless pinch hit at-bat in the 9th inning of a 5-4 loss to the Twins in Safeco Field.  This came after sitting on the bench for a full week, which was probably a sign of things to come.  Instead of milking out the last sour drops of his career, Griffey chose to retire on the spot, driving home to Florida and letting the team know via a phone call on the road.

Being a fan of Griffey was never dull, I’ll say that.  As a Mariner, he was the face of Major League Baseball for a decade; that was pretty cool.  He put up some crazy, insane, cartoon numbers as a hitter; he made some crazy, insane, cartoon plays in the outfield.  He was, without question, the greatest baseball player I’ve ever seen, and probably will ever see.  He has my utmost respect as an athlete, and I’ll always look back fondly on his Mariners career.

One of the great things you can point to with Griffey is that he did it the right way.  Meaning, he didn’t cheat.  He didn’t prolong his career and boost his numbers by ingesting illegal or immoral pharmaceuticals.  Of course, we don’t know that for sure, but I’m not going to sit here and try to make the argument that he might have.  What we know is that his name has never come up in any implications on the topic.  He’s never had the aura of suspicion like Bonds, Clemons, and Sosa.  He’s also never outright admitted it, like McGwire, A-Rod, Palmeiro and the like.  We do know that he saw most of the latter half of his career on the DL, as opposed to someone like Bonds, who not only saw most of the latter half of his career in perfect health, but putting up bonkers numbers he never even approached in the first half of his career.  If Bonds had chosen to stay clean, he most likey wouldn’t have broken the home run record, and he most likely wouldn’t have stayed as healthy as he did.  But, he would have been a Hall of Famer, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer at that.  Instead, he cheated, and he’s likely never getting in.

With Griffey, you can simply give him the ol’ eye test.  Knowing what we know – that he was never implicated, that he never admitted to doing anything illicit, that he found himself on the DL more often than not in the second decade of his career – you can watch him age through the years and put a pretty firm assumption down that he wasn’t doing anything wrong.  Griffey aged like a baseball player of his calibre SHOULD age.  He didn’t suddenly put on 40 pounds of muscle and start hitting 50-70 homers a year in his late 30s.  He put on however many pounds of fat, and was left to his natural born gifts to push him through to his 23 years in the Major Leagues.  That’s what it means by doing it the “right way”.  That’s why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and why he received the highest percentage of votes for a first year nominee in the history of the Hall of Fame (all but 3 voters selecting Griffey).  In an era where the cheaters outnumbered the clean, Griffey stayed clean and STILL crushed everything in his path.

I don’t have a particular Griffey-centric moment that stands out above all others, except obviously I do, and it’s of him scoring the go-ahead run from first base against the New York Yankees in the fifth game of the ALDS in 1995.  It’s that, and obviously, it’s that iconic picture of him underneath Bob Wolcott and all the other Mariners mobbing him at home plate.  I don’t totally think it’s fair, though, because they call that moment “The Double” because that’s really Edgar’s moment more than it is Griffey’s or anyone else’s.  If I had to pick a moment that was just Griffey’s, I don’t think I could.  Because my memory has gone to shit, and because – again – I wasn’t a fan until that stretch run in 1995.  I didn’t see him play with his dad and hit back-to-back homers with Ken Griffey Sr.  I didn’t see him blossom into the superstar he would become.  Hell, I didn’t even see him break his hand while making that catch against the wall that kept him out of the majority of the 1995 season!

You know what weirdly stands out?  It’s not even a particular moment, per se.  But, in 1996, the Mariners were playing out a string of meaningless games, with no chance of making the playoffs.  There was a series in Cleveland, and one of the games was rained out (another had to be pushed back to a Day/Night Doubleheader).  In one of the rainout games, Griffey hit a homer, but since it was rained out and never finished (and since it didn’t go past the 5th inning), the game never counted.  The game was never made up, because it wouldn’t have made a difference for either team’s placement in the standings (the Mariners were out of it, and the Indians were so far ahead in their division that it didn’t matter).  So, essentially, the Mariners only played 161 games in 1996.  And, as a result of that game being rained out, taking away one of his home runs, Ken Griffey Jr. finished the season one homer shy of his first 50-homer season.  I remember thinking how much that SUCKED, as reaching that 50-homer plateau was truly meaningful to me back then.  Obviously, Griffey would go on to have back-to-back 56-homer seasons the next two years, but how cool would it have been to see him with three straight 50-homer seasons?

Ehh, maybe less cool, knowing what we know about that era and all the insane homer totals that were inflated by a bunch of cheating tools.  Nevertheless, Ken Griffey Jr. is our shining beacon of hope in an otherwise dark period for Major League Baseball.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

Normally, I’m of the opinion that winning is the only thing that matters to me as a fan.  I don’t necessarily care what type of person you are off the field, what your beliefs are, what you do in your free time, whatever.  I’m not a fan of Local Sports Athlete, The Person.  I’m just a fan of Local Sports Athlete, The Member of Local Sports Team.  And when you leave the Local Sports Team, I tend to immediately lose interest in you.  Even the all-time greats!  I rarely took the time to see what Ken Griffey Jr. or Gary Payton did after they left Seattle.  Unless they were involved in a playoff run, in which case I would root from afar, but not too hard, because it’s impossible to root hard for a team that’s not your own.

Tangents aside, in getting back to my original point:  NORMALLY, I could care less about who these athletes are.  If you’re kind of a creep, I’m probably going to put up with your antics, because as the axiom goes:  You would absolutely LOVE everything Richard Sherman says and does if he was on YOUR team.

I’m sure Richard Sherman has his fair share of fans who aren’t necessarily Seahawks fans.  It is possible to overlap in this Venn diagram.  For instance, I always liked whenever Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens or Randy Moss made waves with whatever controversial things they said or did.  Even the Sharpie Incident, which happened during a game against my beloved Seahawks; I LOVE that shit!  I think it’s hilarious.  Now, in the heat of the moment, I was most likely enraged, but taken objectively, I think there IS a place in the game for these types of characters, and I wish we had more of them.

Nevertheless, Richard Sherman has an inordinate amount of haters because of who he is and what he says.  Golden Tate, too, has an inordinate amount of haters, because of the Fail Mary, and more recently the taunting spectacle in the Monday Night Rams game.  And, I guess because he went to Notre Dame and it’s always popular to hate on the Fighting Irish.

I contend that I would be fans of these guys even if they’d never once worn a Seahawks uniform, because they’re entertaining.  They’re not boxed into some white-bread formula for what a professional football player is supposed to be.  I don’t need a league full of cookie-cutter athletes.  I think Mark Schlereth is the most boring analyst on television and I’d rather there be MORE players who ruffle his feathers.  I don’t subscribe to the Mike Golic way of thinking, and I’m better for it.

That having been said, there’s another type of professional athlete who I can’t stand.  And I want to believe I’d hate this type of player even if he donned the Seahawks’ unis.  This player is no better exemplified than by one Richie Incognito.

This guy is a fucking asshole of the highest order.  What’s worse, the bulk of his value isn’t derived from his skill at the offensive guard position, but rather in how dirty he is as a player.

There have been dirty players I’ve enjoyed and rooted for in my lifetime.  Dennis Rodman was always pretty dirty; but he also rebounded the ball like a madman and was ultimately an asset on the floor until his personality got in the way and the team soured on his antics.  There have been any number of cheaters in baseball who I’ve rooted for at one time or another.  I even have a generally postive opinion of Barry Bonds; but don’t get me started on that dickhead Roger Clemens.  Even Brandon Browner is more imposing enforcer than NFL cornerback; but he still has a skillset and for the most part plays within the rules.

Richie Incognito, on the other hand, is damn near a psychopath.  How he has never played for the Oakland Raiders is anybody’s guess.  Being billed the Dirtiest Player In The NFL isn’t something to be proud of!  What’s more, if he wasn’t so dirty, he wouldn’t even be in the league!  The guy is a mediocre lineman at best, and that’s while using every dirty trick in the book.  He’s often one of the most-penalized players in the NFL.  And now, we’ve got this hazing incident.

If the Seahawks went out and signed him to the minimum for next year as some added depth, there is no way I’d root for the man.  I’d actively criticize this front office every chance I got.  Hell, if the Seahawks would’ve signed him in his supposed-prime, I still would have criticized the move!  He’s a terrible football player, a wretch of a human being, and I hope he has played his last down in the NFL.  And, if he gets another chance to play again, I hope he tears both ACLs in his first practice.  Incognito is scum; that is all.

On to the rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (7-1) – WOW, look at this schedule the next four games:  @SD, KC, @NE, @KC.  There’s your gauntlet, my friends.  This is also the stretch that likely decides the AFC West and the AFC top 2 seeds.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (8-1) – The best team in football doesn’t let a team like Tampa put up a 21-point lead; I don’t care if we came back in the second half.

The Rest:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) – They’re just steady, what can you say?
  2. Indianapolis Colts (6-2) – Boy, that Andrew Luck is simply a baller.  It’s going to hurt him not having Reggie Wayne around, though.  They’re going to need to find a #2 receiver in a bad way.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (6-2) – You chickenfuckers thought you were going to get one on us!  Not sorry to let you down, assholes!
  4. New England Patriots (7-2) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Pittsburgh Steelers, BFD.
  5. New Orleans Saints (6-2) – They’ll still end up with a good record, but I just can’t see the Saints as a Top 2 team in the NFC.  I still think Green Bay steals that #2 seed in the end.
  6. Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Like so many teams, the Packers are one injured quarterback away from being totally worthless.
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) – And, Andy Dalton follows up his best game ever with three interceptions and a safety to end the game in overtime.  This is why we can’t have nice things!
  8. Detroit Lions (5-3) – So, have you seen Detroit’s second-half schedule?  Look at these cupcakes:  @Chi, @Pit, TB, GB, @Phi, Bal, Giants, @Min.  This team could EASILY be 12-4 at season’s end!
  9. Carolina Panthers (5-3) – Panthers are riding a 4-game winning streak and absolutely had to win that game against the Falcons.  Their upcoming schedule is pretty rough, with the next three:  @SF, NE, @Mia.  If they figure out a way to go 2-1 in that stretch, I would legitimately be afraid of this team.  Also, not for nothing, but they still play the Saints twice.
  10. Chicago Bears (5-3) – Matt Forte is a national treasure.  This year of fantasy dominance totally redeems him for his last two years of utter sucktitude.
  11. New York Jets (5-4) – J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!  They beat the Saints for us and we ALMOST blew it.  Either way, way to go!  You’re earning more points in my book every week!
  12. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) – Wow, Tony Romo in the clutch … what is the world coming to?
  13. Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – This team could finish 10-6 or 6-10 and it wouldn’t totally shock me.  Home games against Texans, Indy, Rams, and 49ers.  Road games against Jax, Phi, Ten, and Sea.  I could see 6 wins in that slate, and also 6 losses; guess it just depends on whether or not Palmer has enough in the tank.
  14. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – Like the Dolphins, we’re not talking about a good team.  One of these two teams (Chargers or Dolphins) will take that 6th spot in the AFC playoffs, but they will lose in that first playoff game, without question.
  15. Miami Dolphins (4-4) – They beat an inconsistent Bengals team.  Who cares?  They’re still not very good.
  16. Houston Texans (2-6) – Boy, I tell you, that Case Keenum fella is going to be fun to watch for the next 5-6 years.  Houston kinda lucked out this year.  If they can finish with a crappy-enough record, maybe they get a high draft pick and immediately reload for next year.
  17. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) – Matt Ryan is KILLING me right now.  You can’t be throwing all these interceptions!  Well, except for next week, when Seattle comes to town.  but, after that, NO MORE!
  18. Cleveland Browns (4-5) – Oh those resilient Browns!  I never had a doubt that they’d beat the Ravens.
  19. Buffalo Bills (3-6) – Tuel looked kinda okay against the undefeated Chiefs.  In the end, he cost them the game, and he’s clearly the third-best quarterback on that team, but still.  He should hold his head reasonably high.
  20. Baltimore Ravens (3-5) – There is something seriously wrong with Ray Rice.  Well, there are five things seriously wrong with Ray Rice, and that would be his offensive linemen.
  21. Tennessee Titans (4-4) – Didn’t have Locker’s best game, but still went in and put a pounding on a decent Rams team (on the road, no less).
  22. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) – Nick Foles, you have single-handedly won me my fantasy game on an otherwise down week!  I love you!  You may have also saved my season and pushed me through into the playoffs!  I want to have your babies!
  23. Oakland Raiders (3-5) – Pretty stinky performance, Raiders.  My fantasy team thanks you for that.
  24. Washington Redskins (3-5) – That goalline stand against the Chargers was bigtime to force the field goal that forced overtime.  I’m pretty skeptical that the Redskins are going to turn it around two seasons in a row after starting off ultra-shitty, but this might be the spark they need.
  25. New York Giants (2-6) – Everyone in the crappy NFC East won on Sunday.  And yet the Giants are still in this thing at 2-6.  Ye gods.
  26. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6) – Maybe the only offensive line worse than the Seahawks’.
  27. St. Louis Rams (3-6) – They looked decent, but you’re still talking about a team headed by Kellen Clemens.  No thanks.
  28. Minnesota Vikings (1-7) – I had to play Nick Foles in my fantasy league this week (2-QB league) and I ALMOST swapped him out when I saw Christian Ponder on the waiver wire.  In the end, I stuck with Foles, believing that while Ponder was probably the safer play, Foles had the higher upside.  Had I gone with the swap, you’d be looking at a dead man right now, because I would have jumped out of a 10-story building before the end of the afternoon games on Sunday.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) – Still a bad team.  They just caught the Seahawks at the right time.  Maybe if they had the same dedication to the run, they’d start winning some games.  Ya think?
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Should The Mariners Sign Prince Fielder?

Because I’m a dirty, dirty whore for page clicks …

The quick and easy answer is:  of course not!  I don’t care if Boston, the Yankees, the Phillies, or the Dodgers are taking themselves out of the running; there will still be enough teams out there willing to out-spend one another to make this signing prohibitive.

We think your son is neat!

The key to this whole thing is:  he already turned down a 5-year, $100 million deal to re-sign with the Brewers.  If he wasn’t willing to give a hometown discount to the team that drafted him and nurtured him up until this point, then it’s beyond clear no other team is going to get off so easy.  ESPECIALLY the Mariners, because let’s face it, if you’re going to give a team a discount, it’s going to be because you want to win a World Series.  As the Mariners aren’t a Prince Fielder away from even contending for an AL West title, I rest my case on that end.

(Of course, if we COULD get him for $20 million per year, then yes, I would probably sign him in a heartbeat).

Everyone seems to be talking about $25 million as the figure.  But, I’m willing to bet even THAT is a lowball offer.  I don’t think $30 million is out of the question, especially if some team gets REALLY desperate.  You know what $30 million is?  It’s a third of the Mariners’ budget last season (a budget that surely doesn’t look like it’s going any higher).

So, no, Prince Fielder for $25 OR $30 million just won’t do.  Hell, I’m not even sure $20 million would work, but at least it’s getting warmer.

Of course, the budget thing has been played to death.  There’s no way this team is increasing payroll, and as it stands we’ve already got Ichiro making $18 million and Figgins making $9 million.  With Felix justifiably starting to make money in the $20 million range, you’d have four guys (if you included Fielder) making north of $70 million.  Meaning you’d have to cram 21 other guys into less than $20 million worth of payroll.  Yeah, you’re right, that’s insane!  Especially when you figure $27 million of our overall payroll (Ichiro & Figgins) won’t be producing anywhere NEAR what their contracts would dictate (and also when you take into account I don’t think any hitter is worth $25 million by himself, unless he’s giving you Barry Bonds at his height of steroids-induced dominance).

And, of course, let us not forget the last time the Mariners made a huge free agent splash to boost production at the plate.  It resulted in $114 million being spent on the likes of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre.  I know we all like Beltre, but there’s no way in hell he was worth $64 million; and Sexson was an abomination that cost us the other $50 mil.  So, it’s hard not to be a little gun-shy about making a big free agent leap of faith when we’ve been burned so badly in the past.  This, in conjunction with the fact that fans will riot if the Mariners DON’T make a huge free agent splash to bolster our hitting, and you’ve got a real nasty Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t thing going.  Essentially, what this offseason amounts to is:  Damned If Every Move Is Not Fucking Perfect.

And in the short-term, it’s hard to believe that signing Prince Fielder wouldn’t, in fact, BE perfect.  You’re looking at a guy who has been a home run machine since he started playing everyday.  He’s got six years under his belt of being one of the most dominant mashers in the Major Leagues.  He’s 27 years old, so you have to figure – even at his weight – he’s PROBABLY got three good seasons in him before you have to worry about the inevitable decline.  Of course, that’s “three good seasons” in some other city; in Seattle Years, Prince Fielder probably has one and a half good seasons.

Which means, in the long term, Prince Fielder would be just another albatross.  Again, this is SEATTLE.  We don’t sign guys to long-term deals and have unbridled success with them (unless they were guys we drafted originally and somehow nurtured into greatness).  Seattle and Bringing-In-Free-Agents-From-Other-Teams are like oil and water.  Except they’re more like Blood and Cancer Cells.  It almost never works out.

But, that doesn’t mean Jackie Z shouldn’t try.  After all, he’s got a job to try to preserve.  He NEEDS to make a big move this offseason or he’s very much in jeopardy.  The fans are already all the way off of this Mariners bandwagon; if he tries to come back with a bunch of lackluster names – no matter how prudent they may be for the long term health of this organization – he’s going to be run out of town before the All Star Break.  No way he banks his career on the batch of crap we’ve already got on staff plus a few projects and money-savers from the free agent cesspool.

Prince Fielder might not make the Mariners all that much better in 2012 or in any of the other seven seasons we’d likely have to pony up for … but Prince Fielder could very well buy Jackie Z a few more years of gainful employment.  And just imagine all those dingers he’d hit in his good 1.5 seasons at Safeco …

That having ALL been said, if I put it out of my mind, I can’t help but have a very small part of me that would be giddy if we did sign Fielder.  A left handed beast, batting fourth in our lineup … it’s been SO LONG since we’ve had something that choice in our lineup!  LOOK AT IT:

  1. Ichiro
  2. Ackley
  3. Carp
  4. Fielder
  5. Smoak
  6. Olivo
  7. Guti
  8. Third Base
  9. Ryan

That gives me a big ol’ boner just thinking about it!

But, look, I’m not going to force myself into having a huge opinion on this thing.  I think speculating on guys who MAY or MAY NOT come here is pretty fucking pointless.  I like to reserve my opinions for after a guy has been signed (or, at least, when rumors are at a fever pitch just before signing).

To Fielder or Not To Fielder … I won’t be giving a shit until he makes up his fucking mind.

Roger Clemens Is A Big Fat Asshole

Allegedly.  I’m pretty sure I heard someone say that somewhere.  If pressed to come in and speak under oath, I could probably come up with one or two witnesses to back me up.

I don’t like Roger Clemens.  I think he’s kind of a dick and a dirty fucking cheater.  Not really something I have the time or capability to try and back up with fact-finding; that’s just my opinion.  Which is fine and obviously I’m entitled to it.  Roger Clemens doesn’t care if I think he’s a dick OR a dirty fucking cheater.

Of course, the problem lies in that a LOT of other people out there – fans of the game and whatnot – they ALSO think he’s a dirty fucking cheater (saying nothing of his possible dick-like qualities).  When it goes from one man’s cuckoo theory to widespread belief, then it hardly even matters if you did the things we think you did or not.  Get the government involved, and the justice system, and you’ve got the stink of Guilty all over you before anyone’s even given his opening statement.

As a Mariners fan, I think I’ve gotten past most of the aggravation of the Steroids Era.  I could sit here and say, “Well, if so-and-so had never taken steroids, then so-and-so probably wouldn’t have 1-hit us in the pivotal Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS, because he would’ve been such a broken-down shell of a human being that he would’ve been forced into retirement years before,” I COULD sit here and say that, but where would it get me?  Let’s face it, at this point I’m ready to believe every baseball player known to man was taking SOMETHING to enhance his performance.  Levelling the playing field in that regard, it’s still going to come down to the actual performance on the field, we still got beat, and that’s the end of it.

Regardless, I still hope Clemens goes to jail.  If for nothing else than his last couple of years where he’d waltz into the clubhouse in mid-May and command some rediculous amount of money to play for just a couple of months.  Like I said, I think he’s a dick!  Yes they deserve to die and I hope they burn in hell!

You brought this all on yourself Clemens.  In some bizarre quest to “Clear Your Name”.  I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me!  Just go away quietly, stay away from the press, and in a few years we’ll let you be a coach or something like Mark McGwire is in St. Louis.  Does taking steroids shrink your brain like it does your testes?  It’s not that complicated:  you’ve been implicated in one of the biggest disgraces in sports history … that’s not just going to go away because you’ve imagined some rationalization about ears growing out of your forehead!  You’re going to need evidence that you’ve NEVER taken them. 

Oh sure, legally speaking the onus might be on the government to have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that you DID take steroids or HGH or whatever, but winning that case just keeps you from prison.  It won’t prove – in that almighty Court Of Public Opinion – that you’re totally and 100% innocent.  The people will still believe you did it.  We know it was you, Fredo.  And we’re never going to let you forget we know.

Now go.  Go rot in Baseball Purgatory with Pete Rose and Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 54

Another heartbreaker last night … had a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning, lost the game 4-3. The blown saves by David Aardsma are coming fast and furious this year! Actually, that’s probably not entirely fair. I mean, let’s face it, there were a LOT more save opportunities last year because the team was winning. This year, shit, the man’s out of practice! A win is so infrequent now, it’s almost a shock to the system to look up at the scoreboard and see the Mariners with anything but 0’s across the board, let alone to have an actual lead late in the game. All I really have to say about this game is: WALK ADRIAN GONZALEZ! ! ! He’s easily, I would say, one of the three best hitters in the game. One of those feared hitters who hit for average AND power. Who can “change the game with one swing of the bat.” Like Pujols, he can hit it anywhere in the park, on a line, and cause some real damage. There’s a reason every Mariners fan under the sun wanted them to trade for him in the offseason when there was still hope for 2010. And I don’t care that there were runners on 1st and 2nd, you WALK ADRIAN GONZALEZ! He’s essentially Barry Bonds without the steroids. Allegedly. No, his at-bat didn’t single-handedly win them the game, but his double did tie it and put the winning run at 3rd base with 1 out; so essentially he DID win them the game. Bad Wak, Bad Aard.

Kid Griffey: Welcome To Your Destiny

I’m a baseball fan who’s mostly favored the pitching side of things. But, if I had to pick a favorite player, I’d probably be an Edgar or a Bone man.

But, favorites have nothing to do with this. Because we’re talking about the Greatest Mariner of All Time (and yeah, one of my favorite players too), Ken Griffey Jr.

There’s not a lot of ways to go with this story that hasn’t already been done. Greatest Mariner, Most Popular Seattle Athlete (possibly even Best Seattle Athlete, but I might be reserving that one for Walter Jones), Best Baseball Player of the 1990s, Greatest Swing of All Time … and a seemingly infinite list of “One of’s”. As in: One of the Best Baseball Players of All Time, One of the Best Centerfielders of All Time, One of the Greatest Home Run Hitters of All Time.

That’s all great, and you can read about it HERE among other places, but there’s one thing no one else in Major League Baseball can take from him. He’s the Greatest Player in the Steroids Era.

Where others had to cheat to get an edge, Griffey was a natural. One might argue that Bonds was a natural too, but he just (definitely allegedly) cheated because he’s an egomaniac. As a fan, that’s something we’ll always hold as a badge of honor: we got to root for a player with integrity. He may have fallen short in Home Runs, total hits, and RBI, but I’d rather root for the 5th Best Home Run Hitter who was honest than the Best Home Run Hitter who juiced (knowingly or unknowingly, it’s still cheating; admit it you scumbag!).

And you know, while I’m at it, I know a lot of old timers like to say those All Time Greats like Ruth and Aaron and Mays had it tougher because they played in fewer games and in bigger stadia … but I would argue that the players of today (and especially in the era of Griffey’s prime, when testes were shrivelled and bacne was rampant) are facing a quality of pitcher that’s MUCH better than those of the 20s, 50s, and 70s. I mean, say what you will about expansion, but today’s athletes are unquestionably more athletic than those of yester-century.

Here, take a quick look at the All Time Stats of an All Time Great:

630 Home Runs
2781 Hits
1836 RBI
524 Doubles
1662 Runs
1312 Walks (vs. 1779 Strike Outs)
.284 Batting Average (in 9801 At Bats)
.370 On-Base Percentage
.538 Slugging Percentage
.908 On-Base + Slugging Percentage
2671 Games (over 22 Seasons)

The one major regret of any champion is that he was never ACTUALLY a champion. He deserved better. 1996 will go down as one of the all time Lost Seasons of any major league baseball team (well, except for 1994’s strike-shortened season when the Mariners were rolling). ’96, if you’ll recall, was a few months removed from one of the best Mariners seasons of all time. The Season That Saved Baseball In Seattle. Refuse To Lose and all that, with the Yankees series won in unbelievably exciting fashion in 5 games (also known as The Double). The Mariners were on a roll, even though they lost out in the ALCS to Cleveland, 1996 was the year we were going to step out into the forefront as contenders. Then, our ace, Randy Johnson, had his back go out on him and we lost him for the majority of the year. Players like Bob Wells came in and filled in admirably, but that team couldn’t crack the playoffs, and we never really came all that close to the World Series again. Yeah, we hit the playoffs in 1997, but we lost in the ALDS to the fucking Orioles and that was it for Kid Griffey, the Mariners, and the Post Season.

To think of all that offense we had in the mid to late 90s, and we couldn’t put together a decent fucking pitching staff to make ONE World Series run? We couldn’t have just drop-kicked the farm to put a bullpen in place that might not entirely melt down in the face of no pressure?

It’s sickening, but it’s certainly not Griffey’s fault. He did absolutely everything he could; and if he REALLY wanted to, he could’ve attached himself to a more natural contender. But, that wasn’t Griffey’s style. Besides, he hated the fucking Yankees, which might be the most endearing quality about him, even more loveable than that million dollar smile. He played a bunch of years for the team that drafted him and he played a bunch of years for the hometown team he grew up rooting for.

To Griffey, the joy of baseball was in the experience. It wasn’t necessarily the records or the pennants. It was the experience, the lifestyle, the camaraderie, the fans, and the fun.

To Mariner fans, the joy of baseball was Kid Griffey. We’re all better for having witnessed the greatest baseball player of the last quarter century.