A Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune story about baseball icon Ken Griffey Jr. falling asleep in the clubhouse and missing a chance to pinch-hit continues to cause a commotion.
According to reporter Larry LaRue, two anonymous Mariners sources said Griffey fell asleep during the seventh inning of the May 8 game against the Angels and was unable to pinch-hit.
"He was asleep in the clubhouse," one of the young players told the News Tribune. "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."
LaRue noted that manager Don Wakamatsu was vague about why he did not pinch-hit Griffey after the game, although the manager later changed his tune.
After the story broke, the Mariners — except for Griffey — categorically denied the accusations, and veteran Mike Sweeney called a team-only meeting, FOXSports.com reports.
"He wasn't asleep. He was available to pinch-hit, and I chose not to use him as the manager," Wakamatsu said.
Sweeney followed up by indicating that he challenged the anonymous sources to a fight during the meeting.
"Nothing is going to divide this clubhouse, especially a makeshift article made up of lies," Sweeney adamantly said. "We don't think there are two players who said that. I challenged everyone in that room — if they said that to stand up and fight me. No one stood up,"
Griffey also reportedly cried briefly during the meeting.
While Sweeney's actions to keep clubhouse matters internal are admirable, it is difficult to imagine any player standing up in that meeting and admitting fault — then being willing to bare-knuckle fight Sweeney. Hardly grounds to accuse LaRue of being a liar.
In addition, Wakamatsu specified that Griffey was in the dugout in the eighth inning for the pinch-hit opportunity, but admitted he had no way of knowing if Griffey was in the clubhouse sleeping in the seventh inning, as LaRue notes.
"The timing is interesting because Griffey could have been asleep in the seventh — when the Mariners traditionally would have looked for a pinch hitter to prepare to bat in the eighth — and been awake in the dugout in the eighth inning," LaRue wrote.
The Associated Press went on to report that Griffey refused to deny the accusations. When specifically asked if he was asleep during the game, he refused to respond, saying, "Anything else you want to ask?"
"It's my word against two unnamed sources. It is what it is, and I will just let it go," the eventual Hall of Famer added, according to ESPN.com.
Hardly a stinging rebuke.
It's questionable if this should even be an issue in the first place. If, in fact, Griffey was sleeping, it's possible that he was too tired to participate in the game and was grabbing a nap so he could be rested if and when he was needed in the game.
As for LaRue and his newspaper, they find themselves frozen out of the Mariners' clubhouse. When Cliff Lee was giving his postgame address after defeating the Orioles on Monday, he refused to speak to reporters until the beat reporter for The News Tribune left.
LaRue wrote that players would not speak to him as well.
"Since it was my blog that sparked all this, players approached me after their meeting to ask if I’d identify the two guys I’d interviewed," he wrote. "I wouldn’t — if there’s heat from all this, it’s on me, not two guys who answered my questions.
"I was also told a number of players were angry and hurt by the blog, and that it would be best not trying to talk to them for a few days. Given my job, that’s not possible. I had to try and did, and many passed. That’s part of my job, and maybe part of theirs, too."
Griffey, who is a part-time designated hitter, is hitting just .200 in 87 at-bats and has begun fending off retirement talk. Seattle is one of the worst hitting teams in the majors, and may have to make a move shortly.
If and when that move happens, The Kid will have plenty of time to sleep — and prepare his Hall of Fame induction speech.