On Sunday, we had the induction ceremony for Ken Griffey Jr. Probably the greatest and certainly the most popular athlete in Seattle sports history has gone into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum AS a Mariner, with the highest voting percentage in history, cementing one of the greatest baseball careers of my generation.
I only very recently started to get excited about all of this. Part of me is still a little subdued about the whole thing, and I’m trying to figure out what it’s all about.
As I’ve stated many times over (I’m absolutely not ashamed about it), I first became a Mariners fan like most bandwagoners, in the 1995 race to their first divisional title. So, while I’ve been there for every bit of Mariners success with that iconic group through the 2001 season (and NO MORE SUCCESS FOR US AFTER THAT I GUESS!), and I became an immediate die-hard, watching most every game in that span, I don’t really feel the same connection to Griffey (or the rest of those guys) that I did as a teenager.
Which is stupid, because if anything, I should have THE BIGGEST connection with the players on the teams I grew up with, in my formative baseball years. I certainly shouldn’t connect better with players now, on teams that haven’t done jack shit! But, I’ll tell you, while I could have gone to see Griffey get inducted in person, if I REALLY wanted to blow it out and spend thousands of dollars, I opted to stay here and watch his speech on the Internet instead (because apparently ESPN doesn’t cover the ceremony anymore for some reason?). BUT, if Felix Hernandez should ever make it into the Hall, you bet your sweet, sweet ass I’ll be there, with my giant Felix-head t-shirt on!
So, what gives?
Well, for starters, I think my lack of enthusiasm has everything to do with how the Mariners have performed from 2004 onward. You know what you get sick and tired of hearing about, when you root for the baseball team with the longest active post-season drought? The Good Ol’ Days. You know what’s particularly obnoxious about this franchise, with regards to said Good Ol’ Days? They were so few. So very, very few.
Yes, my friends, I – like many of you – have 1995 Fatigue. And I REALLY have 2001 Fatigue. And I have fatigue of every year in between (and a different sort of fatigue from 2002 onward, but fatigue nonetheless). The History of the Mariners is 4 years of making the post-season and that’s it. It’s about the most pathetic history you could possibly imagine. And yet, those teams are constantly brought up because – what choice does the organization have? Where else can you look to and say, “Hey, weren’t those some fun times?” You mean those Mariners teams of the 70s and 80s, when we were laughingstocks? You mean those Hargrove months, where he opted to quit when he was skipper of a winning team, rather than finish the season under such onerous management?
And so on and so forth.
The Griffey years feel like a lifetime ago! He was traded after the 1999 season. That’s, what, 17 years ago? Do you know how much my life has changed in 17 years? Shit, 17 years ago, I was 18 years old! I’ve almost doubled my life span in the time since Griffey’s first run of games in a Mariners uniform ended! And, since my brain has been ravaged by years of alcohol abuse, caffeine addiction, loud music, and a tremendous slate of television shows in these Golden and Platinum Ages of TV, my memory isn’t what it once was (if it EVER was, but that’s neither here nor there).
I’ll go back to the well again: those aren’t my Mariners. Not anymore. MY Mariners are on an endless loop of eternal sucking. MY Mariners don’t know how to win consistently, compete for divisional championships, and get oh so close to the World Series. MY Mariners haven’t been complete (or near-complete) squads like those teams from 1995-2001. Those are somebody else’s Mariners teams. In the before time, the long, long ago.
It’s tragic, really. It’s like the end of The Notebook, over here! I can’t remember what those good Mariners teams were like! Ken Griffey Jr. played here? I don’t recall that! I mean, I sort of remember him here at the tail-end of his career, but isn’t he that guy from the Reds who was injured all the time? SOMEBODY PULL THE PLUG ON ME!!!
I have to remind myself constantly: Seattle had one of the very best baseball players of all time, in his formative and his prime years. And, he wasn’t just the face of the franchise, but he was the face of ALL of Major League Baseball! He was known all over the world! He was like baseball’s version of Michael Jackson, without all the child abuse. He was one of the most naturally-gifted players I’ll ever see, with hands down the most beautiful swing that’s ever existed. On top of that, he was one of the most dynamic centerfielders in the history of the game, who could WOW you in just about every aspect of the game.
And now he’s where he belongs: in the Hall of Fame, with all the other Greats. Congratulations, Junior! I’ll see you in Safeco in a couple weeks!