This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Rejuvenated Mariners are surprising everybody
Ken Griffey Jr.’s return and an emphasis on the little things has the team sitting pretty in the American League.
Wait ’til next year" is the forlorn cry of disappointed fans at the end of another dismal season.
Well, next year is here and, inexplicably, the Seattle Mariners are doing well. More than well, actually. Superbly. As of this writing, before the Mariners’ Thursday game, the team was sitting comfortably atop its division and had the best record in the American League.
Yes, the season is young and much can go wrong on the long slog to October. But there’s no escaping the sense of excitement Northwest fans are feeling for this rejuvenated team.
The reason for that can largely be summed up in three words: Ken Griffey Jr. The naysayers who objected to bringing the Kid back to his major league roots are eating a little crow along with their Mariner Dogs and beer. Although his batting average isn’t where he’d like it to be, Griffey has helped build team morale, has been an inspiration to younger players and, oh yeah, has hit a couple of home runs – including his 400th for the team on Wednesday.
If Griffey’s return to Seattle weren’t enough, Ichiro Suzuki is also back – and apparently in fine form, hitting a grand slam Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.
New manager Don Wakamatsu has impressed on his players the need to put the team first and do the little things that advance base runners: a sacrifice fly here, a bunt there. So far his strategy is working. The challenge will be for it to work for six more months.
The region needs a winner. The Mariners had a horrible 2008 season, losing 101 games. The Seahawks went 4-12. Seattle lost its pro basketball team to Oklahoma – Oklahoma! – and the University of Washington and Washington State University ended their 2008 season at the bottom of the Pac-10.
Seattle is a strong contender for the most miserable sports city in America. A good season from the M’s could go a long way toward dispelling that misery.