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MLB: Sleeping on the Job    Share

12 May 2010

A big story over this past weekend was that Ken Griffey Junior, an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, was allegedly sleeping in the clubhouse when he was called upon to pinch hit in a game last Saturday night.  The report came from the Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune who quoted an anonymous teammate of Griffey’s who said:  "He was asleep in the clubhouse…he'd gone back about the fifth inning to get a jacket and didn't come back. I went back in about the seventh inning -- and he was in his chair, sound asleep."  Allegedly another player confirmed that Griffey was sleeping during the game as well.
The drama has spilled into this week as the Mariners held a closed door team meeting to support Griffey who claims that he was not asleep and was available to pinch hit.  Seattle’s manager, Don Wakamatsu, supported Griffey’s side of the story, saying that Griffey was awake and that he just chose not to use him.   Griffey allegedly cried at the team meeting.  One can only speculate if that was because he was embarrassed about the sleeping incident or at his performance this year—he has played sparingly and is hitting right at the Mendoza Line with a .200 average.
Griffey was a superstar as a young player.  He started in Seattle and then went to the Cincinnati Reds where his performance slowed down markedly, mainly because of injuries.   He signed to come back with his original team, the Seattle Mariners, in 2009 after briefly playing for the Chicago White Sox.  Griffey is fifth on baseball’s all time home run list, quite an accomplishment since there has never been a suspicion of steroid use by Griffey despite him playing during baseball’s “steroid era” of the past few years.

One liners:  “I wish I could get paid $2 million a year to sleep in the clubhouse.” 

“If Griffey would have taken a trip to BALCO, I bet he would be hitting a little better than .200 right now.” (This is in reference to the medical clinic—BALCO—that Barry Bonds, baseball’s home run king, acquired steroids from during his late 30s/early 40s.  He hit .276 with 28 home runs at the age of 42.  Griffey is hitting .200 with no home runs so far this year at the age of 40).

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The Basics

Baseball Regular Season:
Major League Baseball (MLB) is divided into two leagues, the American League (AL) and the National League (NL).  Each league is further divided into three divisions, west, central, and east.  The regular season lasts from early April through early October.  While NL teams mostly play other NL teams and vice versa with the AL, there are occasional times in the regular season that NL teams will play AL teams.  During the regular season, each team plays 162 games.   These games determine who will go to the playoffs—each division winner and one “wild card” team from each league.   
Baseball is a statistics crazy game—true fans will quote batting averages, fielding percentages, slugging percentages, and just about any stat that you could think of for their favorite teams or players.  We’ll explain the ones that you need to know throughout the season. 


Pinch Hit:  when a player that did not start the game comes in to bat for a player that did start the game. 

Batting Average:   How often a player gets a hit.  Batting average is calculated by dividing the number of hits by total chances to hit.   If a player walks or is hit by a pitch, such actions are not counted as a chance to hit in calculating the batting average.  A .300 batting average (getting a hit 30% of the time) is considered to be above average for a MLB player.

Mendoza Line:  A euphemism for a .200 batting average.  The term came from a reference to Mario Mendoza, a light hitting infielder in the 1970s that usually batted around .200.  A player that is hitting around the Mendoza Line is lucky to still have a job in the Major Leagues.

Clubhouse:  the locker room in a baseball stadium where players dress and relax before and after games.