When Ken Griffey Jr. retired last year, he did so pretty quietly. Yes, there was a bit of rancor around the time it happened, but there wasn’t much to the actual announcement. An announcement which almost got lost in the shuffle because it happened on the same night as the Armando Galarraga Jim Joyce game. He spoke with the media about it yesterday, however, and said it would be the last time he does:
“Last year I felt that it was much better for me to remove myself from the team. I told [Chuck Armstrong] and [Howard Lincoln] if I felt I was going to become a distraction, then I [would] retire. One thing I didn’t want to become is a distraction to the organization … There was no fault. Things happen. I’m not upset. People thought I was upset about certain things. That wasn’t the case. I just felt it was more important to retire instead of becoming a distraction. It no longer became the Seattle Mariners. It became, ‘When is Ken doing this? When is Ken doing that?’ I didn’t want people who I truly care about have to answer those questions day in and day out.”
Most folks believe that Griffey and manager Don Wakamatsu were at odds, which was probably a safe assumption. It’s also clear, though, that Griffey had nothing left as a player, so the rancor and the distraction were likely only part of the equation.
And, actually, Griffey’s diminished-to-the-point-of-disappearing skills are probably what made the relationship between Wakamatsu and Griffey so tough to begin with. Piecing together the various things we’ve heard in the past year, the manager understandably felt that he had to win games, and he couldn’t do it with Griffey. He needed to limit Griffey’s contribution, but didn’t have any support from the front office in how to do that. This, in turn, led to the rest of the team turning on Wakamatsu when he limited Griffey’s role and it turned ugly from there. And while in my view it was the front office that should have driven that train and smoothed things out with respect to Griffey being benched, it’s also quite possible that Wakamatsu didn’t distinguish himself in the interpersonal relations department himself.
Ultimately this is a minor footnote to a Hall of Fame career, but it’s interesting all the same.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.