Friday, June 4, 2010


By: Jacson Bevens

Big news the other day, did you hear? Yeah, the Swiss parliament is urging a referendum on a deal between the United States government and the banking giant UBS. I know, I couldn't believe it either!

Oh, and Ken Griffey Jr. retired.

To Continue...

I find myself in a weird position. I mean, I'm still new to this site and I've got to give my thoughts on the greatest sports icon in Seattle history hanging up his cleats -- and I've got to do it for an unfamiliar audience. On one hand, I want to wax poetic about my childhood hero but that will be done ad nauseum by better writers than myself. By the same token, I don't want to just blow over the fact that I got to spend my formative years as a baseball fan watching one of the greatest players of all time enter his prime.

So here I am, 26 years old and transitioning from the wide-eyed kid who thought Major League ballplayers were superheroes to an analytical fan who cheers for the Mariners while remaining ever aware of their strengths and weaknesses. I mean, I still love the Mariners -- to the point that I spent a good chunk of my Memorial Day watching them fall 12 games under .500 -- but I'm also not falling asleep underneath a Casey Kotchman poster like I used to with Alvin Davis.

It's a crossroads that, to some degree or another, most lifelong fans find themselves at eventually. For me, it's the intersection between what I've always known and what I'm learning now. I love watching Mariners baseball, and I enjoy a homerun as much as the next fan, but I also appreciate things like UZR, OPS+, Contact %, and xFIP as better ways to evaluate and understand the game. I still root as hard as I can but it's less of the yelling/chanting and more of the "I hope Wak goes to Kelley instead of White right now."

And, as I sit here, I realize that perhaps nobody represents the dichotomy between the fan I was and the fan I am more than Griffey. Let's face it, the Ken Griffey Jr that roamed center field in the 80's and 90's was a legendary combination of talent and charisma. He made catches that blew our minds and had a swing smoother than Marvin Gaye applying lotion to a dolphin's back. He wore his hat backwards during batting practice, so we did too. He made Seattle sports relevant on a national scale and damnit, the way he wiggled his bat in the batter's box as he awaited the pitch made it look like he could hit anything he saw into the right field bleachers. Hell, he even made those awful teal uniforms look cool.

Griffey was so cool that he got his own candy bar, video games, and role on Mr. Burns' softball team. I mean, watch a replay of a Griffey homerun (and you'll have plenty of chances in the next couple of days) and pay special attention to the first two steps he takes after he hits it. I mean, that is big league swagger. He had jheri curls, for goodness' sake! In the 90's, he was second only to Michael Jordan in the pantheon of sports stars. I've still got a whole wall in my bedroom filled with Griffey pictures, newspaper articles, autographs, and jerseys.

And yet, the Ken Griffey Jr. that announced his retirement via phone call is not that same guy, or at least, he is only a faint resemblance of that guy. And as a fan, both of Griffey and of the Mariners, I am left unsure what to think about it all. The idea of the Mariners without Ol' Number 24 isn't difficult to fathom, but the idea of Ken Griffey Jr the 40 year-old retiree is going to take some getting used to.

Even when Griffey re-signed with the M's a year and a half ago and sent the Pacific Northwest into a sentimental tizzy, I tried to see it for what it was, despite the fact that I had just purchased the "Welcome Back Junior!" t-shirt from

This is what I wrote then:

I dreamed that "The Kid" would end his career by hoisting up a World Series trophy. I hoped that he would end it with a homerun in his last at bat. I would've happily settled for it to end after the joyful ride on his teammates' shoulders after the last game of the '09 season. Instead, he's ending it by slipping quietly away from a team writhing at the bottom of a bad division in the middle of a bad season low-lighted by bad performances -- Junior's included.

I will miss Ken Griffey Jr, but strangely, less than I would have missed him if he had ended his career earlier. After all, these Seattle Mariners are not those Seattle Mariners -- you know, the ones who hit a million homeruns in the Kingdome and then hoped their terrible pitchers (Randy Johnson notwithstanding) wouldn't blow five runs leads and who spent the first two decades of their existence in complete irrelevance and who, despite the thrill ride of '95 still never made it to the World Series. Those were the childhood and adolescent years of the franchise -- fun and exciting and messy and awkward and special. But now Randy Johnson is gone. Lou Piniella is gone. Jay Buhner and Joey Cora and Alex Rodriguez and Omar Vizquel and Dan Wilson and Edgar Martinez are gone. The Kingdome is gone.

And now Ken Griffey Jr is gone, too and maybe this will allow us as fans to finally close the book on an era of Mariners history that we've been clinging to a little too tightly. If Seattle is going to become a big-time baseball city, if we are to be taken seriously on a national scale, we as fans need to understand that as great as Griffey was, he wasn't going to help this team win now. Even he realized that -- maybe too late, but he realized it.

If you're like me, you're a fan of the team first and the players second. That is not meant to diminish the love and admiration we have for individuals, but simply to say that we care more about the collective good. I mean, how many of us would even know about Joey Cora, or care if he cried in the dugout, if he was never a Mariner in the first place? I don't doubt that we would have liked Ken Griffey Jr if he had been, say, a Royal instead of a Mariner, but we probably would have liked/admired him in the way we do with Albert Pujols now, instead of the fervent, quasi-religious reverence many of us currently hold him in.

The days of Ken Griffey Jr: Seattle Mariner are over. Mourn the loss of an icon if you must, but try not to allow the subtraction of one player cloud the fact that his departure makes this team, the one that mobbed Ichiro after a game-winning hit the other night. With any luck, Griffey will remain a part of the organization. The fans love him, it seems as though his teammates love him, and he's good for Seattle.

However, I want the Seattle Mariners to claw back towards competitiveness and I want them to someday bring a World Series championship to the Emerald City. I would have loved it if they could have done it with Junior on the team, but I'm not going to go any less berserk when they win it without him. Someday this team will give us seasons that will make 1995 and 2001 seem dim in comparison. Now there is no reason to look back, only opportunities to move forward.

Reach Jacson Bevens at