Mariners Insider Blog

The game needs Junior - and probably Manny, too

The unemployment line in major league baseball today may be as stunning as any of those huge contracts passed out just two months ago.

And they say baseball doesn't mirror real life.

Hard to believe this week that former Mariners like Brad Wilkerson, Jolbert Cabrera, John Parrish and Eddie Guardado have contracts and stars like Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez do not.

Of course, not many others on the unemployment list would turn down a one-year, $25 million contract, either. Manny did, but only after considering it for about 30 minutes. Who knew that Manny being Manny extended to the world of high finance?

Still, it's a strange off-season when Willie Bloomquist signs a two-year contract and Ken Griffey Jr. still hasn't gotten an offer of even one year. Junior's not alone. There are more than 80 free agents still without deals, from reliever Eric Gagne to outfielders Bobby Abreu and Garret Anderson.

The game goes on, but is it better off? No.

Baseball has always needed players like Griffey, perhaps especially in their twilight years. Finding a better ambassador of the game is impossible – Junior's play on the field and his love of baseball should be taught, not pushed aside.

Just as the game has always needed character like Griffey's, it's needed characters like Manny's. A marvelous if one-dimensional player – Ramirez is as dangerous a hitter as there is – Manny is a moment-to-moment adventure on the base paths or in the outfield.

And he's not above, say, charging the occasional teammate or manager in the dugout.

For some players, like Martinez or Frank Thomas, this off-season may be baseball's way of saying 'It's over.' For others, it's been a large dose of humility.

Not having Ken Griffey Jr. on a big-league roster opening day, however, seems like a loss to the game.

Manny and his oily agent, Scott Boras, may still be negotiating with secret teams and trying to con the Dodgers. If so, there will be a sense that Boras has finally had his bluff called – and Ramirez was his victim.

That would almost be worth not having Manny in someone's outfield come April.