Ken Griffey Jr. didn’t beat the Seattle Mariners this weekend, although he depressed a few of their fans.
What Junior did for three days was remind everyone of what it was like to have a Hall of Fame personality around, never mind a Hall of Fame player. When Griffey was here, he reigned over a golden era of loons – Jay Buhner, Norm Charlton, Randy Johnson, Lou Piniella …
No one ever had to wonder if there was a team identity then. There was.
Junior was the ring leader, Buhner the clown, Johnson the crazed loner, Charlton the man who got your respect or hit you in the neck with a fastball.
Few teams have colorful personalities now, and the Mariners haven’t had one since Bret Boone departed. And that’s a shame.
Part of it is the language barrier. With the media, Ichiro Suzuki, Kenji Johjima and Yuniesky Betancourt – three marvelous players – don’t speak English. A fourth, Adrian Beltre, does but often won’t.
Richie Sexson dislikes the media and Raul Ibanez may be the nicest fellow in the game, but he’d rather workout than talk about himself.
Junior was in a class of his own in the ’90s, a star player with presence on and off the field, who would crack jokes in the clubhouse, pull pranks on writers or his manager with equal pleasure.
The Mariners never really made it to their glory days on the field in those years, but no one around the club ever doubted how much fun the game was when Junior was involved in it.