This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
The furor over what some are calling “Napgate” will run its course, as these things do. What won’t change, however, is the humanity at the heart of the issue.
Seattle Mariners players – and many fans – are upset with News Tribune sportswriter Larry LaRue. He quoted a player anonymously as saying that the team’s designated hitter, first-ballot Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., was napping late in Saturday’s game and that might have been why he wasn’t asked to pinch-hit. LaRue wrote that another unnamed player confirmed that Griffey was snoozing in the locker room.
No one with the Mariners – not even Griffey – is actually denying it happened. They’re just mad it was reported, opening the team up to criticism when it’s already feeling frustrated and catching heat for its lackluster performance this season.
It’s human nature for a group to rally around one of its own. Even those players who might have an issue with Griffey will defend him in public – kind of like the brother who picks on a sibling but will fight anyone outside the family who tries to do the same thing.
As kids playing the game, many of the Mariners probably idolized Griffey. Now they see him in decline, his batting average a dismal .200. The players may catch a glimpse of their own possible future in Griffey – a star hanging on just a little past the time he should have retired.
That’s human nature, too. Who wouldn’t want to hang on to something they love doing, especially something that provides identity, wealth, adulation? It’s why politicians keep running for office in their 80s; why aging, thick-in-the-middle boxers risk brain damage for one more championship belt; and why actors accept leading-man roles they’re about 20 years too old to play credibly.
Griffey’s place in baseball history is assured. This coda being played out in the twilight of his career is a little sad for many fans to watch, but that’s human nature, too. We don’t enjoy seeing our heroes get old, knowing that even the most celebrated boys of summer become the geezers of winter.
To his devoted fans, Griffey will always be “the Kid.” And like a kid, he may just need a little nap every now and then.