Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Prodigal Son Returns

I was not a Mariners fan when the Kingdome was still around. In fact there is probably a good chance I had no idea who the Seattle Mariners were. Funny how things change. Some great Mariners players played in that building...

Randy Johnson- a for sure Hall of Famer who has expressed his wishes to wear a Mariner cap when he is inducted. Randy Johnson is the only Mariners pitcher to ever win the Cy Young award. Boy I hope that changes some year soon.

Edgar Martinez- who doesn't love Edgar? Will he get into the Hall of Fame? Most people say he should be a first ballot nomination. I say if you have a MLB award named after the guy he absolutely deserves it. He is eligible next year and if he makes it Chris and I will surely be going.

Alex Rodriguez- love him or hate him, I chose the latter but A-Rod is one of the best hitters this game has ever seen. He is weird and conceited and greedy and I am glad he is not on my team. BUT he is still one of the greatest players to wear a major league uniform. If only he didn't let the money go to his head and had stayed in Seattle all those years ago.

Jay Buhner- "Bone" as most people like to call him was one of the most popular players in Mariners history. Bone retired in 2001 and the Mariners have not issued his #19 to any player since.
Oh yeah and a kid name Griffey made his MLB debut in that building on April 3rd 1999. That "kid" went on to become one of the best and most exciting baseball players in the 1990's. 10 years into his career he had 1,752 hits, 398 home runs and 1,152 RBIs. Griffey's career in Seattle set him well on his way to what will surely be a first ballot hall of fame nomination. Ken Griffey Jr WAS the Seattle Mariners. He was everything baseball was supposed to be. How fitting a new stadium was built right across the street with Griffey in mind. And why wouldn't they? Griffey had pretty much carried baseball in Seattle on his back and was a key factor in keeping baseball in Seattle.

Goodbye Kingdome...
Hello Safeco Field...
THE HOUSE THAT GRIFFEY BUILT!! Funny it would be referred to as that considering the season it opened Griffey asked to be traded after only playing at Safeco for 4 months. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds so he could be closer to home and his family. I was not around when this happened but I can only imagine the devastation and shock that went through the city of Seattle. Just like that every ones hero, every kids idol is gone. You don't expect the ones like Griffey to leave. Just like the Oilers fans thought Wayne Gretzky would be an Oiler his entire career. It just doesn't always work out that way.
Griffey's career was never the same in Cincinnati. He was often injured and never seemed to be able to play to the level he always had in Seattle. On June 22 nd 2007 Ken Griffey Jr finally made a return to Seattle with the Cincinnati Reds. I don't think he expected the warm welcome he received. Before the game the Mariners did a presentation that included a highlight reel of his Mariner days. He was presented a "House That Griffey Built" memorial by former teammates Buhner and Martinez followed by a rousing and long standing ovation by the faithful at Safeco Field. Signs filled the building saying things like "The House that Griffey Built." The 3rd game of the series Jr hit 2 HR's and received a thunderous applause and cheer each time. While in Seattle Jr sat down for an interview with FSN's Angie Mentink and when asked if he would come back to Seattle to play he answered...

"Would I do it? Yeah. I think for the simple reason that this is the place where I grew up and I owe it to the people of Seattle and to myself to retire as a Mariner."

Jr stayed true to his word and signed a 1 year contract with the Mariners this off season bringing a magnificent career full circle. Seattle is the place he had all his success. Seattle is the place he became a star so it is only fitting he returns at this time in his career. Is he the Jr of old? Not even close. He is not "the kid" everyone remembers. He is older, his body is older, his abilities are not what they once were. Signing Jr was not done because they think he will save this team and hit 40 home runs. Seattle management owed this to Seattle and to Jr to allow him to return to the place where even after all these years he is loved beyond measure. Could a return home to Seattle fuel a resurrection in Jr? Of course it could. Whether it does or not remains to be seen. All I know is that I am excited to watch one of the greatest players of all time wear a Mariners uniform once again and continue to chase his place in history.

Jr's stats speak for themselves--

611 HR's
1772 RBI's
Career BA of .288
10 Gold Gloves
7 Silver Sluggers
10 All Star appearances
1997 AL MVP
Led the AL in HR's 94,97,98,99

Regardless of what he does in Seattle this year he is a Hall of Famer who deserves a hero's welcome when he is announced in the starting lineup for Seattle's home opener. He chose Seattle over the Braves. He chose to come "home" instead of going to the Braves who actually have a chance at competing this year. Whatever you call him--Jr, the Kid, the Natural--we should all feel honored to get to watch him play once again for the Seattle Mariners. I can't wait for the season to start.

1 comment:

Linda MacTravel said...

WOW that is an awesome job, Evey! What a great overview you have given us!! You do a great job of writing, kiddo! I LOVE IT!!! (as Lyle says, "turn that into cash!") Thanks - I can't wait to see Griffey back in Seattle in a Mariner uniform, either!! It will be worth the wait :-))) Yippee!!