It’s Not The Fact That He Was Asleep
Interesting day, especially for those with deep interests in the sleep patterns of sports stars. I can’t wait until someone declares it the “Nap Heard Round The World”. In a lot of ways, this whole story is funny. In other ways, it reveals what everyone knows deep down inside.
It’s not the fact that Junior was asleep on Saturday night that matters. If he was hitting .380, it would be the source of good natured jokes, and people would marvel at the greatness of a guy who could hit well while also apparently lacking the energy to watch his teammates play. If the team was winning, it would be written off as a non-story. In fact, I’d guess that if the team was winning, the two players who talked to LaRue never mention the incident, and it never sees the light of day. This is only a story because Griffey is not hitting and the team is not winning.
But he’s not hitting, and they’re not winning, and the fact that two teammates would talk to a reporter about Junior being asleep during a game is perhaps the more telling aspect of this story. If Griffey really commanded the respect of the entire clubhouse, and they loved having him around, no one talks about this to a member of the media. But they did, and that they were willing to bring this up to someone who they had to suspect would write about it suggests that perhaps Griffey’s influence in the clubhouse either isn’t as great as some would suggest, or perhaps more likely, that it only matters while a player is producing.
We’ve all played with that guy who tries really hard to be a leader because he likes to hear himself talk, but he doesn’t have the skills to back it up. In basketball, this guy always tries to run the offense and tell you where to go, but he ends up just jacking up an off-balance 18 foot fade away that barely catches rim. You know that guy – he’s at every gym, annoying the hell out of everyone. People hate that guy, because he doesn’t realize that he’s the reason the team is losing, even as he orders everyone else around. Everyone wants that guy to either show enough self-awareness to realize that he’s terrible or shut up.
That guy can’t be a leader, because he’s just not good enough, and no one respects anything he says because he can’t play. Junior is now that guy. While they may laugh at the pranks and the tickling, the other 24 guys on this roster are all extremely competitive players who badly want to win, and they’ve had a front row seat for the “Griffey Is Done 2010 Tour”. And when he’s constantly grounding out to second base or waving badly at change-ups in the dirt, he loses the credibility to tell anyone else what they’re doing wrong. His ability to lead the team is compromised by the fact that these guys realize he probably shouldn’t be on it. And that’s my guess for why a couple of guys were willing to talk to LaRue about the fact that he was sleeping during a game.
I don’t think the nap really matters. I don’t think the guys on the team are all that upset that he wasn’t available to pinch hit the other night. My guess is that most of them probably didn’t want him hitting in that situation anyway, so maybe deep down, they feel like he did them a favor. But I think there’s a reason that this became a story in the first place – it’s that everyone involved with this tragic experiment realizes it’s not working and it’s not going to work. The Mariners brought Griffey in to be an influence in the clubhouse, but you can only lead as long as you can back up your words on the field and play at a minimum level to where you’re not actively hurting the team.
Griffey can’t do that anymore. He’s a drain on the team’s chances of winning, and the guys on the team know it. They might like his personality, but I think that, deep down, they don’t really want him as their teammate. Not anymore. They might enjoy playing cards with him, but at the end of the day, they want a DH who can hit.
This story doesn’t get written about a clubhouse leader who really commands respect. That this story got written suggests to me that Junior is not that guy, and if that’s true, he has nothing left to offer this organization. It’s time. Hang them up, Junior.