Has Griffey Played his Last Game as a Mariner?

SportsContractsBaseballRon WashingtonChicago CubsKen Griffey Sr.Texas Rangers

Ken Griffey Jr. thrilled his fans one last time,taking a curtain call after singling in his final at-bat. He wipedaway tears that fell from behind sunglasses he had put on in afutile attempt to hide his emotions.

He looked like a bellhop, tipping his cap so many times to somany people during this joyous season finale. More than 32,000Seattleites kept chanting "One more year!"

Then four of his teammates carried Griffey on their shouldersfrom left field to the first-base side. Griffey beamed and wavedhis cap some more, looking like a 39-year-old king being paraded ina makeshift chariot.

What a way to go out. That is, if baseball's active home runking is indeed going out for good.

Felix Hernandez finished tied for the major league lead with 19wins and the Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 on Sunday, adaylong tribute to Seattle's beloved Junior.

The Northwest icon finished his one-year contract with theMariners by going 1 for 4 and getting a standing ovation duringeach at-bat. Griffey admitted the day was unlike any other in his21-year career.

"Probably the most nervous and emotional roller coaster I'veever been through," he said, his eyes red while standing in frontof his locker. "You never know. If this is going to be the lastone, it's tough."

Friday, general manager Jack Zduriencik ducked a question onwhether Griffey is in Seattle's plans for 2010, saying assessmentswill begin Monday. Griffey has said he would be interested inplaying another season if the team wants him.

"I don't know if I've been, in all my years in this game, asemotional as I was when Griffey came out," said Seattle managerDon Wakamatsu, who has been in professional baseball since 1985.

Playing as a designated hitter on a surgically repaired kneethat was drained this season, Griffey hit three home runs in hisfinal five games. He finished with 19 home runs this season and 630in his career. Asked why he might not return, he smiled and thoughtof home in Orlando, Fla.

"I've got a 15-, 13- and 7-year old," he said. "Other thanthat, I have no reason not to."

Ian Kinsler doubled and scored two runs for Texas, whichfinished 8-15 after reaching a season-high 19 games over .500. Asurprising run for the AL West title ended with elimination Mondayat the division-champion Los Angeles Angels - months after mostthought it would. It was Texas' latest elimination from postseasoncontention since 2004, its last winning season.

The Rangers (87-75) finished with the fourth-best record in theAL. This is the first time they have finished second or better inconsecutive seasons since they won the division in 1998 and '99.

"We certainly put our name out there," manager Ron Washingtonsaid. "We proved we can pitch in Texas. ... Now, we just have toget more consistent."

Vendors outside the park yelled they had special commemorativeGriffey game programs for sale before the game. A fan behind theMariners' dugout held a sign that said "Come back JR." Griffeyposed for pictures on the field just before the first pitch withnostalgic teammates and with longtime team trainer Rick Griffin,who was with the Mariners in 1989 when Griffey debuted as agrinning, gifted teenager.

His single in the eighth was his 2,763rd hit, in his 2,637thgame. That's the most among active players, 16 ahead of DerekJeter.

After his liner into center field off C.J. Wilson, Griffey wasreplaced by pinch-runner Michael Saunders. He tipped his battinghelmet, waved it around the park and flashed a hand salute, drawingmore roars.

The fans didn't stop until after Griffey emerged from thedugout. The slugger was biting his lower lip as he tipped hishelmet one more time.

Hernandez (19-5) struck out six and walked one. He left with twoouts in the seventh, after consecutive RBI groundouts by ChrisDavis and Taylor Teagarden.

He finished with a 2.49 ERA, second in the AL to the 2.16 ofKansas City's Zack Greinke, among his competitors in the Cy YoungAward race. Hernandez's .792 winning percentage was the AL's best,ahead of Josh Beckett's .739 (17-6).

Hernandez went 15-2 with a 1.98 ERA after Wakamatsu called himout for not stepping up during a sloppy loss to the Angels on May19.

Franklin Gutierrez doubled home Josh Wilson for the second timein as many at bats off Scott Feldman (17-7) to put Seattle up 2-1in the fifth. Jose Lopez then doubled home Suzuki and Gutierrez tomake it 4-1.

Ichiro Suzuki finished with a .352 batting average, second inthe AL behind Minnesota's Joe Mauer. With 225 hits, Suzuki led theAL for the fourth straight time and sixth overall.

Suzuki, who came out of his clubhouse shell with Griffey'sunending pranks, thinks Junior is coming back.

"To play together with that hero of mine, in the same uniformand on top of that in Seattle? That time we got, even now, seemslike a dream," Suzuki said through an interpreter.

"I believe that time with him will continue."

NOTE: Seattle became the 13th team since 1901 to finish with awinning record the season after losing 100 games. Of those otherdozen turnaround teams, only the 1989 Baltimore Orioles and the1967 Chicago Cubs had more than Seattle's 85 victories this season.Those Orioles and Cubs had 87 wins.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading