Watching everyone mob Griffey got me thinking.
The whole nap story seems to have blown over, at last, after many words were shared. There were a lot of different opinions. Some of them, I agreed with. Some of them, I did not agree with. Some of them were just bizarre.
One of the angles I didn't agree with at the time, and that i don't agree with now, is the angle that this only became a story because Griffey had lost the respect of his teammates. That the two players told LaRue what they did because they didn't care about preserving Griffey's image or keeping the truth in the clubhouse. Griffey was a leader when he was good, but now, now that he's so clearly finished, some of his teammates were beginning to resent him and the fact that his feeble bat still finds its way into the middle of the lineup night after night.
I couldn't bring myself to buy it. I wanted to, but I couldn't, because from what I understand, it isn't true. Griffey still has the respect of his teammates. Griffey probably commands more respect than anybody else in the locker room. Even now that he's old and he's bad, he's still Ken Griffey Jr. He's Ken Griffey Jr., and his teammates are baseball players.
Baseball players don't think the way we think. I could write novels on the subject, but to keep things brief, let's just say that we think things they never think, and they think things we never think. The Venn diagram between fan opinions and player opinions has very little overlap. We care about performance and projection and statistics. They care about track record and identity and experience. You know how many Mariners still loved Jose Vidro in 2008? If you don't, you don't want to.
The point is, players see things differently. As well they should. They're actually involved. Everything looks different from the inside. We shouldn't expect them to approach things in the way that we do, because they're coming from completely different places.
There's no lack of respect for Griffey in that clubhouse. Yeah, we see a .191 batting average, zero home runs, and a fat butt. They see the work he puts in during batting practice, the leadership he provides off the field, and the #24 on his jersey, and a fat butt. We see Ken Griffey Jr.: faded superstar. They see Ken Griffey Jr.: superstar.
I mean, come on. He's Ken Griffey Jr. As iconic a baseball player as there ever was. Do you think players are more concerned with the fact that he's struggling, or with the fact that they're sharing a clubhouse with one of the greatest players in baseball history?
They don't have time to resent him. They have themselves and their own performances to worry about. And even though everyone's aware that he's in a rut, everyone's also aware that the entire lineup's in a rut. So Griffey isn't hitting. Neither is Figgins. Neither is Bradley. Neither is Kotchman. Neither are the Wilsons. Neither are the catchers. Neither is Lopez. And the bullpen has been a zoo all year long. We have a tendency to pick on players when they're not doing well, but the players themselves aren't the same way. Griffey doesn't walk into the clubhouse with a half dozen teammates pointing and yelling at him. Griffey walks into the clubhouse as one of many guys who's struggling, and also as the guy who's proven more in his career than anybody else on the team.
There's no lack of respect for Griffey in that clubhouse. Everybody loves him. Everybody loves him, because he's Ken Griffey Jr., and that means a hell of a lot more to them than it does to any of us. Yeah, okay, I'll grant that he's a bad baseball player who's cost this team a lot of runs. That much is plainly evident. He sucks. But watching everyone pour out of the dugout and surround Griffey with grins on their faces - you want to talk about disrespect? Griffey just gave this team a big lift, and I guarantee you that, to a man, every player would tell you that the right man delivered.
It's easy to bitch. It's easy to complain, and it's easy to be unhappy. This afternoon, though, for a handful of minutes, I was able to separate myself from the bitter and cynical fan identity I've developed and take pleasure watching Ken Griffey Jr. win us a game. It doesn't mean much. The team's still fucked. Griffey's still bad. But in a season like this, you have to enjoy what there is to enjoy, and there's nothing I enjoy more than seeing so many Mariners looking so damn happy.