The alleged misdeeds perpetrated by Ken Griffey Jr. in "Sleepgate" are far less nefarious than the crime that first spawned the suffix. But the clueless reactions of the player, his team and now his agent have proven that the same trope that was true during the time of Nixon's "plumbers" is true today: it's not the crime, it's the cover-up.
When it comes to Sleepgate, Griffey hasn't made solid contact yet.
To recap: a Mariners player told Tacoma News-Tribune beat writer Larry LaRue that the 41-year-old designated hitter had fallen asleep in the locker room during the seventh inning of a game. Larue got another player to confirm, then published what he had.
Assuming the two players were speaking the truth, the story could have ended there. Griffey, ever the charmer, could have copped to the cat-nap with a grin and a "what do you want from me, I'm old" attitude. Not only would it have done nothing to tarnish his legacy as the greatest Mariner of all time, it would have added to his reputation as the consummate clubhouse guy who can both tell, and be the butt of, a joke.
Unfortunately Griffey decided to lay off that fat pitch. Instead, he and the team's P.R. apparatus took a few awkward hacks on balls in the dirt that only gave life to the story.First Griffey refused to answer direct questions. Then Mike Sweeney offered to fight the pair who squealed during a closed-door players-only meeting.
Manager Don Wakamatsu came to his player's aid by flatly denying that Griffey had ever fallen asleep. And several Mariners told LaRue he'd better give up his sources or risk not getting his questions answered for a few days, as if they were punishing a high school gossip rather than a man trying to do his job.
Apparently feeling left out of the party, today Griffey's agent Brian Goldberg came galloping to his client's side, telling KIRO that LaRue asked his bosses at the News-Tribune to spike the story because it had hurt Griffey's feelings. Goldberg says the paper refused. The paper says he's full of crap.
Not lost in all of this is the fact that the Mariners remain a pretty mediocre team. And the us-versus-them angle some fans probably hoped might serve as motivation hasn't, so far, been enough to overcome some seriously crappy play.
What's worse: this all could have been avoided if Griffey, a guy no one has to try too hard to like, had just told the truth from the beginning. Better yet, his teammates could have given him a good shake. It's what he need then and what the whole team needs now.