Is there a Dr. Jack Kevorkian for baseball?
Someone you go to if you want a career euthanized?
I have a candidate for Doctor Death. But bear with me first.
I’m getting flashbacks, and they aren’t good.
I’ve been remembering Willie Mays lately, but not in the way you’d think I would remember him.
The Mays memory that keeps coming to my mind these days is not the one of him running down Vic Wertz’s drive in the vastness of the Polo Grounds in the 1954 World Series—the one where he gets shot out of a cannon, catches Wertz’s rocket with his back to home plate and spins 360 degrees in throwing the ball back to the infield.
No, not that one.
I’m having flashbacks of Mays in the 1973 World Series—a 42-year-old has been who, if he was hellbent on showing up at the Fall Classic, should have done so as a paying customer.
Mays was with the New York Mets in ’73, some 22 years after debuting as a big leaguer with the New York Giants. He was brought back in a 1972 trade largely to sell tickets at Shea Stadium.
Mays couldn’t play anymore by the time he returned to New York. The Say Hey Kid was the Say What? Kid.
Never was that more apparent than in the ’73 World Series, in one of the games in Oakland. Mays was patrolling center field, his old haunts, when a routine fly ball was driven to his right.
Mays, far removed from his days as the best center field on Earth, played the ball like he was standing on a water bed.
It was sad, seeing Willie Mays stumble around center field—once his domain and his only—under the biggest spotlight of the year.
Fast forward 37 years almost, to 2010. More sadness.
Call Kevorkian. Strap Ken Griffey Jr.’s career to the machine and put it out of its misery.
Junior is a senior now. He’s 40 years old and is Ken Griffey Jr. in name only. If it wasn’t for a birth certificate, I wouldn’t believe it.
He’s fading fast, in this last go-round with the Seattle Mariners, the team he put on the map.
Griffey hasn’t been a force at the plate for several years. He still has the stance and the sweet upper-cut swing—except that the swing looks good but is late in arrival.
Junior is hitting .208 in 77 AB with the Mariners with no home runs and two doubles. And 14 strikeouts.
Now there are reports that Griffey wasn’t available for a recent pinch-hitting opportunity because he was napping in the clubhouse.
“He was sitting in his chair, fast asleep,” an anonymous player told the media about Griffey, who had retired to the clubhouse in the fifth inning to grab a jacket. Two innings later he was discovered in his chair, snoozing.
That ought to be the final straw. And by the looks of it, it will be.
Reports are surfacing that the Mariners are thisclose to cutting Griffey. It would be the highest-profile mercy killing since they shot Old Yeller.
Griffey can’t play. Just like Mays couldn’t play and had no business being in uniform during the 1973 World Series. The falling asleep thing is the exclamation point.
Griffey is coming off more off-season knee surgery and he was on the decline even before that.
It doesn’t look like he’ll retire, so the Mariners will have to retire him themselves.
Mike Schmidt did it right, though painfully for him.
Schmidt got off to a rotten start in 1989 with the Phillies, at age 39. By the end of May, Schmidt was hitting just .203 with six home runs.
A press conference was called, just like that.
Through tears, Mike Schmidt said he couldn’t do it anymore. His presence on the roster was doing more harm than good. He was quitting, just like that.
Schmidt is the exception; normally someone from the front office has to tap these guys on the shoulder, nod for them to come into the office, and the news is delivered.
“We’re going in a different direction.”
That, unfortunately, appears to be what the Mariners are preparing to do. The end of Junior’s career, they say, could come any day now.
Griffey was the modern day Mickey Mantle, who played much of his career on one good leg. If injuries hadn’t ravaged him, Griffey might have hit 800 home runs. No joke.
He’s got a bum leg again, but that’s not all that’s wrong with Ken Griffey Jr. He won’t, or can’t, pull the trigger on his own firing.
He can’t play anymore. Everyone seems to know that but him.
Ain’t that usually the way?