BALTIMORE – The nap that launched a thousand Internet comments – including those who wondered whether Ken Griffey Jr. ever slept in the Seattle Mariners’ clubhouse at all – continued as an issue Tuesday.
There was a players-only meeting, partially in hopes of stopping what many considered inappropriate anonymous-source interviews. There was Junior, saying he wished whatever teammate had talked to The News Tribune for its Monday story about his sleeping in the clubhouse would be “man enough” to come to him directly.
And there was this from manager Don Wakamatsu about whether Griffey was available to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of a home game Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels:
“What I know is that he was not sleeping when that situation came up, and I know that for a fact,” Wakamatsu said. “He was close to me in the dugout and Griff is trying to pull up evidence now in the TV footage.
“He was available to hit. No, he was not sleeping and I know that for a fact.”
Griffey insisted he was never unavailable to his team or manager, saying, “I’m available all the time.”
What neither would discuss was whether Griffey had been asleep in the Safeco Field clubhouse during the game – or in the seventh inning, when an anonymous teammate said he’d found Griffey asleep at his locker.
Was he asleep in the seventh inning?
“I don’t know that,” Wakamatsu said.
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.
Either way, Wakamatsu insisted he’d decided not to pinch-hit for Rob Johnson that night.
The story took on a life of its own on the Internet, sports talk radio and in newspapers.
When the clubhouse opened Tuesday in Baltimore, there were 22 members of the media waiting to enter – although nine of them were Japanese reporters on hand to cover Ichiro Suzuki, not Griffey.
Two were national writers who live in Baltimore, and both were interested in what Griffey and Wakamatsu had to say.
Griffey said it had been a disappointing season for Seattle thus far, but not just for him.
“All the guys have been busting their butts, and it’s been a disappointment for all of us so far, not just me,” he said. “There’s a lot of baseball left.”
Someone asked if, as The News Tribune’s Monday story had suggested, his tenure as a player was nearing an end?
“I’ll know when I get to that point,” Griffey said.
Was he asleep during the game?
“I can’t win this, and I’m not trying to,” Griffey replied. “I don’t have a blog. I’m just hoping that whoever said it is man enough to come to me and talk about it. It’s my word against two unnamed sources. It is what it is and I will just let it go.
“It’s best for me to let it go and try to be as professional as I can be.”
Wakamatsu defended his player.
“Distractions come up during the course of a season,” Wakamatsu said. “We deal with them and move on. Junior was available.”
A number of players, including Mike Sweeney, asked for the names of the anonymous players, and Sweeney went out of his way to explain that some players might be uncooperative with The News Tribune, for at least the near future.
The story, Sweeney said, bothered Griffey and his teammates, opening him up to ridicule.
“These guys love Junior for his heart,” Sweeney said. “There’s a lot of anger and a lot of hurt over this story.”