|Tuesday, July 22
Updated: July 27, 9:37 AM ET
Playing it Safeco could save Griffey's career
By Jim Caple
With last week's season-ending injury, it became official -- Ken Griffey Jr.'s career in Cincinnati is the "Ishtar" of baseball.
The Reds were 96-67 the season before Junior arrived, losing a playoff game for the wild-card spot to the Mets. They haven't come close to the postseason since. They are 38 games under .500 and a combined 65½ games out of first place since Griffey arrived.
The Cincinnati return has been worse for Griffey. He was considered the game's greatest player at the time of the trade (it became evident we seriously underrated Barry Bonds) but he has hit .271 with 83 home runs in four seasons with the Reds. He's gone on the disabled list five times and will have missed 270 games by the end of this season. He's played fewer games every year than the previous one.
He is so unpopular that some Cincinnati fans actually booed him when he limped off the field last week with his latest season-ending injury. Think about that. They booed an injured player. This wasn't Philadelphia, where the fans would boo Jesus for dropping the cross. This was Cincinnati where they love baseball so much that they hold a parade every Opening Day and name streets after former players. And still, they booed a native son, a child of the Big Red Machine and one of the greatest players in history when he was hobbling off the field in pain.
How unpopular is he in Cincinnati? The souvenir stands are giving away Junior baseball caps with every $5 purchase because no one will buy them.
Clearly, Reds fans don't want him playing in Cincinnati anymore. And I can't imagine he wants to play there, either.
That's why Junior must leave Cincinnati and go home this winter. To Seattle.
I never thought I would say that because I never thought it would make sense. But it does now.
Griffey needs to get back to the American League where he can occasionally DH. Given his injuries, that's the only way he'll be able to stay healthy and be fully productive. He'll only be 34 next season but he's endured the sort of leg injuries that will likely prevent him from being a full-time outfielder. For the sake of his career, he needs to play in the American League so he can play in the field part of the time when he's feeling strong and sit in the dugout and DH when he isn't.
There are three prerequisites for any trade.
First, the Reds -- who tried to trade him last winter -- would have to eat about half the contract. That's a lot of money to swallow but it makes sense. Cincinnati already has enough outfielders; it doesn't need Junior. Better to pay $30 million and get a needed player or two in return than to be on the hook for $60 million for a player who gets hurt all the time.
Second, Seattle has to want him, and by that, I mean the Mariners and their fans. The last thing Junior needs is to go from one uncomfortable situation to another. At the right price, Griffey makes sense for the Mariners on the field. Edgar Martinez is probably retiring after the season. Mike Cameron could leave as well as a free agent. And the Mariners desperately need another power hitter in the lineup, preferably left-handed.
The area also is ready to welcome him back. Sure, most everyone here took pleasure in Griffey's early struggles in Cincinnati but we're over that. People don't resent Junior for leaving any longer, they just feel sorry about his injuries. And remember, unlike A-Rod, Griffey has never played here since his departure so he's never heard boos in Seattle.
All he has to do to be welcomed back is say, "I went to Cincinnati because I thought it would make me happier, but I wasn't. Now, I would like to return to my baseball home. Will you have me?" Seattle fans, who have watched Randy Johnson, Junior, A-Rod, Piniella and Boeing leave over the past couple years, would eat it up.
The biggest prerequisite is Griffey himself. No team anywhere wants him if he's just going to pout about where he is. So the question is, does he want to come back? Even he might not know the answer right now. For the moment, he's probably too upset and focused on his injury to think clearly about his career. But give him a couple of months and the prospect might appeal to him. Junior loves the melodramatic, and what could be more overwrought with emotion and inflated drama than his return to the city where he became a baseball icon?
Junior was one of the greatest, most exciting players we've ever seen. He could be again.
And there is no better place to resurrect his career next season than where it began. Seattle.
Boxscore line of the week
And the San Diego lefty relief specialist's appearance Saturday against Arizona was emblematic of his career.
Orosco entered the game to face left-handed hitting Steve Finley with two outs in the eighth, a runner on first base and the Padres leading 2-0. He retired Finley on one pitch -- a flyout to right center -- and hit the showers. His line:
1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, one pitch
Of course, Orosco had a tougher workload the next day when he came in to face Finley with two outs in the eighth, runners at the corners and the Padres clinging to a 3-2 lead. This time it took him two pitches to retire Finley.
Lies, damn lies and statistics
From left field
The 15 relievers in the 100/100 club, including the pitchers whose save totals were figured after the save became an official statistic in 1969:
Pitcher Wins Saves Dennis Eckersley 197 390 Roy Face 104 193 Rollie Fingers 114 341 Dave Giusti 100 145 Tom Gordon 110 102 Goose Gossage 124 310 Ellis Kinder 102 102 Ron Kline 114 108 Firpo Marberry 147 101 Lindy McDaniel 141 172 Stu Miller 105 154 Hoyt Wilhelm 143 227 Ron Reed 146 103 John Smoltz 163 101 Bob Stanley 115 132
Win Blake Stein's money
QUESTION: Who did the Tigers trade Smoltz for in 1987?
ANSWER: Detroit traded Smoltz to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander in mid-August of 1987, which seemed like a steal when Alexander went 9-0 the rest of the season to lead the Tigers past Toronto and into the playoffs. It seemed like less of a bargain when Minnesota whipped the Tigers in the playoffs that fall. And it seems like a very bad trade now, considering that Alexander was out of baseball by 1990 and the Tigers haven't contended since. Meanwhile, Smoltz has won 163 games and saved 101 others for Atlanta, which is headed for its 12th postseason since 1991.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.