Blown call fitting, Valencia up, Griffey owned Twins
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On a day where one of the greatest players in baseball history announced his retirement, and umpire Jim Joyce prevented baseball history with a blown call in Detroit, the contest between Seattle and Minnesota on Wednesday night was nothing but a footnote -- especially since Ken Griffey, Jr. didn't even step foot inside the ballpark.
Of course, under the circumstances, it's only fitting Seattle would "win one for the Gimper," 2-1, on a blown call at second base.
For those who didn't stay up late enough, here's the synopsis: Game tied 1-1, Ichiro batting against Jose Mijares in the 10th inning with runners on first and second and two outs. Ichiro slaps a groundball up the middle, Matt Tolbert makes a diving, backhanded stop and flips to J.J. Hardy a half-second before Josh Wilson slides into the bag. Second base umpire Dale Scott incorrectly calls Wilson safe, and in the meantime, Ryan Langerhans came flying in from second to score the game-winning run.
A tough one to swallow, especially after Kevin Slowey battled Cliff Lee inning-for-inning. Slowey allowed only one earned run and six base runners over seven innings, while striking out three. Lee allowed one earned run and six base runners over eight innings, while striking out eight.
Valencia called up, what will his role be?
The Twins announced during the fifth inning that 3B Danny Valencia will be called up from Class-AAA Rochester to make his Major League debut, taking the place of OF Michael Cuddyer, who was placed on the bereavement list after the game.
Valencia, a 19th-round draft pick in 2006, was hitting .298/.350/.381 with no home runs and 15 doubles in 197 plate appearances at Rochester prior to Wednesday night. For his entire minor league career, Valencia is hitting .299/.354/.470.
The Twins have expressed concerns about his defense in the past, and his lack of power this season is certainly troublesome, but Valencia has shown the ability to hit well at every level, and his promotion is deserved.
Depending on Orlando Hudson's status, Valencia could start at third base over the next few days, with Nick Punto shifting to second base. If the Twins need a backup outfielder with Cuddyer out, Tolbert played seven games in centerfield for Rochester earlier this season.
Much like with Trevor Plouffe a couple weeks ago, Valencia's time with the Twins is likely to be short-lived, unless he comes up and tears the cover off the ball. The Twins, however, would have an easier time letting Valencia play every day at third base, if he's hot, and shifting Punto to a utility role, than they would have if Plouffe found a way to "Wally Pipp" Hardy in May.
Griffey owned the Twins
The 2010 version of Ken Griffey, Jr. was difficult to watch, especially for anyone who idolized him when he was busy belting 40+ bombs every season throughout the 1990's.
Griffey finished an abbreviated 2010 season hitting .184/.250/.204 with zero home runs and just two doubles in 108 plate appearances. The last at bat of his career came against Jon Rauch in the ninth inning on Tuesday night -- a slow roller to second baseman Punto that resulted in a fielder's choice.
When Griffey came to the plate, the Mariners trailed by just one run, and once upon a time, right-handed pitchers would tremble with fear at the sight of Griffey strolling to the batters box as the potential game-winning run.
When Rauch, of all pitchers, can breath a sigh of relief, you know it's probably time to re-analyze things.
"This is a sad day for the Mariners," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a statement. "It is rare in this game when you get an opportunity to reunite a player and a team.
"We feel honored that Ken was able to end his career where it began, here in Seattle."
Griffey said he's been contemplating retirement "a lot lately," also saying, "I feel that without enough occasional starts to be sharper coming off the bench, my continued presence as a player would be an unfair distraction to my teammates, and their success as team is what the ultimate goal should be."
It's impossible not to wonder "what if" when looking at a guy who hit 630 career home runs, despite missing large chunks of six-straight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds from 2001-2006. It's safe to say he may have left at least 100 home runs on the table, but we'll never know.
Griffey certainly didn't leave anything on the table against the Twins in his career, however. In 595 career plate appearances -- not quite the equivalent of a full season -- Griffey hit .286/.358/.581 with 42 home runs and 116 RBI. The 42 home runs are the most Griffey has hit against any team, and 26 of those home runs came inside the Metrodome -- his most in any road stadium.