That Reminds Me of a Story…

The Mariners are up in arms about a report by Tacoma News-Tribune reporter Larry LaRue that Ken Griffey Jr. was unavailable to pinch hit in a recent game because he had fallen asleep in the clubhouse. As I have picked up little pieces of the controversy over the past week, I am reminded of a Jim Souhan column from a few years ago in which he leveled the charge that Joe Mauer had invented a leg injury.

What is intriguing about the two columns is how different the Mariners’ and the Twins’ players reaction to the charges were.

Mariners players have been very publicly shutting LaRue out, to the point where Cliff Lee would not speak at a press conference until the reporter left the room. This was on the heels of a team meeting in which Mike Sweeney reportedly offered to fight the two anonymous players quoted in the original report. Unsurprisingly, nobody took Sweeney up on his offer, leaving the team to conclude that LaRue had simply made the story up. For its part, the Mariners organization has stayed out of the fray, issuing a statement essentially hoping for an “organic” end to the dispute.

In September of 2007, Jim Souhan penned a column in which he expressed the opinion that it was time to move Joe Mauer to third base. Tucked in that column was the somehow related nugget:

In 2007, Mauer – like the Twins – revisited 2005. In spring training he caused a scare with what was termed a “stress reaction.” I’ve spoken with trainers in other sports who have told me there is no such thing.

Souhan flat out said the team’s young superstar and future franchise player had concocted an injury out of thin air. Unlike LaRue, he did not cite team sources, he instead talked to a few of his trainer friends who said there was no such injury (never mind that a Google search at the time turned up several hits on “stress reaction”).

I don’t recall any team push back on Souhan. I don’t recall it even being an issue outside of the Twins’ blogosphere at the time.

It’s not that I am particularly impressed with the Mariners players. The “reveal yourself so I can beat you up” is probably not an effective way to start a team dialogue, and not speaking to the reporter, who simply did his job, comes across as childish. Still, it’s a team sticking up for a teammate.

Perhaps the Twins handled the allegations the right way in 2007 – it is possible that a player or group of players privately communicated disgust with Souhan. Smart money says they didn’t. The 2007 Twins clubhouse was dominated by Torii Hunter, who had questioned Mauer’s toughness in the past. It is likely that team leadership agreed with Souhan’s sentiment, or perhaps had even planted the seed of doubt. In any case, I wonder if, given the new makeup of this team, there would be a different reaction in 2010.

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