He's Mr. Mariner. You could argue that Edgar Martinez or Jay Buhner is more beloved in Seattle, or that Randy Johnson or Alex Rodriguez have had better careers. But no Mariner is considered "The" Mariner more than Ken Griffey Junior.
He had the perfect sendoff in last year's season finale. Teammates carried him around for one final victory lap at Safeco. Turns out, his teammates are still carrying him. Junior has barely been north of the Mendoza Line (.208 batting average as of Monday night). The man with 630 lifetime homeruns -- more than anyone not named Barry, Babe, Hank, or Willie -- hasn't hit a homerun in what seems like a lifetime (October 3rd, 2009 to be exact).
The worst thing that could've happened to the Mariners was that Safeco sendoff. It conjured images of Cal Ripken's iconic lap around Camden after breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record. The thought of fans lining up to see The Kid for 81 more home games made the Mariners drool. Griffey couldn't resist the temptation of passing centerfielder Willie Mays for 4th on baseball's all-time homerun list. The fans cried for one more season of Junior. Well, they're still crying.
The Mariners have been a rudderless ship this season. An 8-game losing skid was punctuated by two shutout losses. Their one bona fide slugger, Milton Bradley, is on sabbatical from baseball dealing with personal issues. Now they have a slugger dealing with sleep issues. When manager Don Wakamatsu called for a left-handed pinch-hitter late in a game last week during that losing skid, their future Hall of Fame outfielder was off catching Z's in the clubhouse. Better than K's, I suppose. But how on earth do you have a player on your roster who's more concerned with REM cycles than hitting for the cycle?
Now the Mariners are in the unwinnable position of having to cut the face of their franchise. But they were in a no-win situation for eight games the last two weeks. The losses are piling up, and if someone doesn't step up and right the ship, the Mariners are going to lost at sea, and last in a very winnable division.
But this isn't a call the Mariners should be making. It's up to their leader. It's time for The Kid to act like The Man and retire. His teammates deserve better. And so do their fans. Then he'll have all the time in the world to take a nap.