Somewhere in the late 80s I took a liking to the Seattle Mariners. I know what you’re thinking…. Oh, I bet it was 1989 when Ken Griffey Jr. joined the team. Not so fast, though, random forgotten baseball fan. My Mariners fandom came to be somewhere around 1987 or 1988. But I’m a lifelong A’s fan, how could I root for a division rival? Well, it’s simple see… I’m a fan of underdogs. In those rare cases where my team is actually good, (see 1988-1990 A’s, 1994 49ers, and 2000-2002 Kings) I’ll sometimes start rooting for a less competitive team. I won’t stop rooting for my own team, it’s just something else to root for to stay grounded, if you will. Well, the 1987-1988 Mariners were that team for me in those days. I believe it started with my admiration for Harold Reynolds, who could’ve had a solid career as an RFP if it weren’t for his later endeavor into the TV world at ESPN. Nonetheless, he was one of the best “average” second basemen of the times, and being a middle infielder myself, those were the players I looked up to. Naturally, I rooted for Reynolds’ double play partner as well. That guy was none other than Rey Quiñones.
Quiñones was acquired by the Mariners from the Red Sox for Dave Henderson, among others, and was really only the starting SS for those two seasons in Seattle. His power numbers were basically identical (12 HRs and 56 and 52 RBI, respectively), but his average dipped from .276 to .248 in ’88. After playing just 7 games and going 2 for 19, the Mariners traded him to Pittsburgh, where he would finish his last season in the major leagues with a lowly .209 batting average.
Quiñones compiled a lifetime average of .243 with 29 HR and 159 RBI in 1,668 plate appearances over his 4 year career.
If this ends up being the final season for the Kid, it will be the same way many stars end their careers, on the down slide. Junior returned to Seattle in hopes of regaining that effortless swing that bashed back to back 56 home run seasons in 97 and 98, and consistently played gold glove defense robbing homers regularly, but that wasn’t meant to be in this chapter of his career. Junior is hitting .221 with 14 homers and 43 RBI’s in his return season to the great northwest. His smile is still the same, and his body looks relatively the same, except maybe a extra spare tire around his gut that he didn’t have in his first tour with Seattle. He was my favorite non-A’s player growing up, and you couldn’t ask for a better role model. He showed us how dominating a game can be made to look easy from defense to that perfectly smooth swing.
If this is in fact his final season, why isn’t there more chatter about him? I find it odder than Rafael Nadal’s freakishly smaller right arm that Griffey, one of baseball’s golden boys in the steroid era, isn’t being paraded around like a hero during his last tour of duty. He is Pujols clean from a PED standpoint, so shouldn’t the MLB be kicking up a mini campaign to celebrate his career as it comes to a close. It’s not like he’s going to be like Barry Bonds, and be able to play three more seasons averaging 45 home runs a season. Which is a shame since we all were so sure he’d be past the all time and season home run records by now. I wouldn’t blame him if he wanted to continue to play as all stars like to hang on, unless you’re weird like Barry Sanders. His return to Seattle mirrored many stars that are past their prime trying to hang on. It may not have looked good numbers wise for The Kid this year, but Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times really believes his time there this year has been worthwhile. It’s good to see a player end their career where it started, even if he never had the chance to play in a world series. He’s going out like Hank Aaron going back to Milwakee and Willie Mays going back to New York. He is undeniably a first ballot hall of famer with his 625 home runs (and counting). It’s a shame, that not even The Kid can fight off the old age…