Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Vol. XV: Ken Griffey Jr’s. Coming Out Party vs. Don Mattingly’s Swan Song

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April 10, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Baseball is an incredibly superstitious sport; from players such as Wade Boggs and Justin Verlander, and instances like a black cat walking across Ron Santo in the one deck circle, it’s a sport that is steeped in superstition as much as it is rooted in tradition.  The reason for such is that much the same way that the course of the NBA is dictated by David Stern, the MLB is governed by the baseball gods.  They are the committee that controls the flow of the game and the outcome of events.  Like the gods of ancient mythology however, they are not infallible and from time to time have been stymied by the actions of a certain player or team.  As such, there comes a price for crossing the gods and their plans for baseball.

Pissing Off the Baseball Gods: is a 30 part anthology wherein I will go through each of the 30 franchises in the MLB and give an example of how they crossed the baseball gods, and give the ensuing penalty that arose from their transgression.  Essentially, a gigantic dose of karma, each team has had to pay for a victory they shouldn’t have had, or having unfavorable players on their team.  Most of the examples provided may seem disassociated and incongruent, but given the superstitious nature of baseball, chances are it’s just the price to pay for pissing off the baseball gods.

 

Seattle has always been mislabeled as not being a very pro-sports city (being the Grunge capital of the world will do this), but the truth is they love their football, they love their basketball, despite being robbed of the Supersonics, and believe it or not, they at one point loved their baseball.  For a good six year period from 1995-2001, not only did baseball matter in Seattle, but more importantly, Seattle mattered to baseball.  They boasted the next big superstar in Ken Griffey Jr., a talented pitching rotation led by Randy Johnson, one of the deepest offensives in the games, and a rising prospect in one Alex Rodriguez.

In 1995, the Seattle Mariners made it to the postseason for the very first time in their franchise history.  They even did so in captivating fashion, winning the division in a one-game playoff elimination game (exactly like the so-called “Wild Card” round of the modern postseason format).  Now even the most dedicated Mariner fan knew that nobody in the American League was going to beat the Cleveland Indians, but they could at least make things interesting by sustaining a deep playoff push, which is exactly what they did, only they did it against Don Mattingly in his only playoff appearance.  Every instance of bad luck or misfortune that has fallen upon the Mariners can be traced back to eliminating the Yankees, more specifically, Don Mattingly in the 1995 ALDS.

Don Mattingly is the Moses of the Yankee franchise.  He is the one who shepherded us through the dark years and brought us to the cusp of the promise land, only to be denied entry at the very last minute.  It wasn’t God who denied Don Mattingly, but Ken Griffey Jr.; for that the gods had to make Seattle pay for this intrusion on their plans.

The Yankees were up in the series 2-0 games and only one game away from losing to the Indians in the ALCS.  But that didn’t matter because New York wasn’t better than the Indians, but they were better than the Mariners, and there was Mattingly in his last year, who for his entire career was denied a trip to the postseason.  Being only a shell of the sure-shot hall of famer he once was, Mattingly did everything humanely possible to propel the Yankees into the next round.  He batted .417 with a home run, four doubles, and six RBIs in 5 games.  But it wasn’t enough to win the series as the Yankees lost their lead and the Mariners forced a winner-take-all fifth game.

Poor managerial decisions, along with Yankee pariah, Jack McDowell blew the game for the Yankees, which was stolen in the bottom of the 11th when on an Edgar Martinez double, Ken Griffey Jr. scored the series winning run to eliminate the Yankees, and keep baseball in Seattle (for all the fucking good that did).  The Mariners went on to lose to the Indians in the ALCS in six games, while Mattingly retired about 3 hours after the game ended, only to see his former team win the World Series that was long denied to him, the very next year.

Seattle won that battle, but their war with the Yankees, and mediocrity had only begun.  The Mariners have never advanced to the World Series, and were eliminated by the Yankees in 2000 and in 2001, the latter in which they broke the Yankees record by winning 116 regular season games.  As a franchise, the Mariners haven’t played a single meaningful game since 2002.  As for Ken Griffey Jr., he decided to sacrifice winning for not being homesick, and joined the Cincinnati Reds where he spent, literally, years on the DL, and never impacted the game the same way he did in Seattle.

The last hurrah of a hero who had, for too long, been denied a playoff berth was quashed by a group of streaky upstarts who, as a team, amounted to absolutely nothing.  The Mariners would have other chances (1997, 2000, 2001, 2002); Mattingly would not.  His one and only chance was stolen by these underappreciated renegades.[1]  In 1995, the Yankees, with Mattingly leading the charge, deserved to advance more than the Mariners did, and the gods knew that.  It just goes to show what happens to the best laid plans of gods and men.

 

[1] There is no doubt in my mind that Don Mattingly means more to the Yankees than Ken Griffey Jr. does to the Mariners.

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One thought on “Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Vol. XV: Ken Griffey Jr’s. Coming Out Party vs. Don Mattingly’s Swan Song

  1. David says:

    Great series. Now you need to do the National League Pissing off the Baseball Gods.

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