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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: For the first time in history, fantasy baseball is Griffeyless

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Considering how electric Ken Griffey's career generally was, you can't help but feel a little sad at the way the final act played out. But as the timeless philosopher Douglas Coughlin told us in Cocktail, "Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn't end."

Griffey announced his retirement out of the blue Wednesday, closing the book on a 630-homer career. Even though we're talking about a first-ballot Hall of Fame lock here, you can't help but wonder what might have been possible with Griffey's career had he not been hurt so often, especially in the 2000s. In an era that was tarnished by scientific cheats and imagined asterisks, Griffey's legacy passes the sniff test. This was an authentic superstar.

I'm feeling a little older and slower today, given that Griffey and I basically grew up together. We were both born in 1969: the son of a ballplayer and the son of a cost accountant. My roto debut came in 1988, his MLB debut came in 1989. It seemed like I seldom owned Griffey in the 1990s but that was just a testament to his popularity; while Griffey was one of my favorite players, it seemed like he was everyone else's favorite player.

You don't need to see a highlight reel with the best players – it's all in your head. Close your eyes and it's easy to remember Griffey's beautiful uppercut swing, or the ridiculous catch against the Kingdome wall that injured his wrist, or his mad dash to home plate that eliminated the Yankees in 1995, or the boyish smile in the batting cage. Griffey played softball on the Simpsons and his homer clips starred in an ESPN commercial alongside Kenny Mayne. So many good memories here. Heck, the fact that Seattle still has a baseball franchise today is in part a testament to The Kid, his personality and his talent.

Junior's final year-and-change in Seattle didn't look like much in the gross numbers, but I'll choose to remember the .268/.382/.548 line he posted at Safeco Field in 2009, along with 13 homers in 168 at-bats. You get the idea that the home fans put some extra bounce and adrenaline in Griffey's step, perhaps helped him to focus better than he was able to on the road. His last career homer came on Oct. 3, a solo blast in Seattle that helped the M's to a 2-1 victory over Texas. That's the final scene I'm going to choose to remember; as I get older, I'll try to forget 2010 happened.

All headgear goes on backwards today. Give it up for Junior Griffey.

John Axford(notes) picked up a working man's save in Florida, recording five outs in support of Yovani Gallardo's(notes) victory. Axford did allow two hits and a run in the ninth but it was no big deal – Milwaukee held a four-run edge by that point. Axford only had one strikeout but he was at least around the plate all night, throwing 19 of 25 pitches for strikes. With Josh Johnson(notes) up against Chris Capuano(notes) on Thursday night, the odds are against Milwaukee having a save chance in the series finale.

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Bobby Jenks(notes) (calf) got back on the field for the White Sox, working a scoreless ninth (1 H, 1 K) in a non-save situation against Texas. And it doesn't matter what's happened to this point in Chicago's season, Jenks has his closing job back according to skipper Ozzie Guillen.

"Bobby is our closer," Guillen confirmed Wednesday. "I don't care how well [Matt] Thornton is throwing the ball. The reason we used him [on May 28] was because Bobby was down. You look at Texas' team, they may have two lefties. I have to go with Bobby. If they go with lefties, I might take a chance with Thornton. Right now, the way we play, we have to do everything to win the game."

Sounds good to us, skip. And you know Herm Edwards would approve.

Jim Joyce's missed call in Detroit is the one we're going to remember from Wednesday night, but overall it was a messy night for the men in blue. Dale Scott botched a force play in the bottom of the 10th inning at Seattle, giving the Mariners a gift run and victory over the Twins. Had Scott called the play correctly, the inning ends and we move to the top of the 11th. Angel Hernandez had the other notable gaffe of the night, taking a Tampa Bay run off the board when he mistakenly ruled that Sean Rodriguez(notes) had failed to touch third base.

Speaking of Rodriguez, he's got some short-term value while Jason Bartlett(notes) gets healthy. You have to ignore Rodriguez's ugly BB: K rate if you pick him up (he's got four free passes against 35 whiffs), but at least he's making some connections these days. He's on a 7-for-16 stretch over the last five days, with three runs scored and four batted in.

Kevin Gregg(notes) owners got what they wanted Wednesday night – while Gregg was taking a much-needed night off, his teammates were making a mess of the ninth inning. Cito Gaston originally wanted Shaun Marcum(notes) to finish what he started; with Toronto holding a 2-1 lead into the ninth, the Toronto skipper allowed Marcum, still under 100 pitches, to stick in the game. Marcum quickly fell into a jam, however (three hits, plus a squeeze bunt that retired no one) and Jason Frasor(notes) (walk) and Scott Downs(notes) (homer, double) weren't able to put the fire out.

Technically no one got a blown save out of this since the Rays tied the game on Marcum's watch, but we have to note that Frasor and Downs failed to make up any closing ground here. It's a good thing the Jays are off on Thursday, we all need a break from this bullpen for the next 24 hours.

Wandy Rodriguez(notes) took a much-needed step forward back at home, working five effective innings against the Nats (5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 K). He wasn't perfect or overly efficient here – he ran up 116 pitches in the stint – but one step at a time. You probably don't want to use the lefty next week; he's starting at Coors Field and Yankee Stadium.

Chasing Saves: Billy Wagner(notes) retired three of four men against slumping Philadelphia, securing Derek Lowe's(notes) best start of the year. … Francisco Rodriguez had a long assignment at San Diego, blowing a save but hanging around to pitch 2.1 innings (3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K). The Padres ultimately won the game in the bottom of the 11th, after K-Rod was out of the game. Adrian Gonzalez's(notes) opposite-field grand slam did the trick. … Jonathan Papelbon(notes) allowed two hits, including a homer to Kevin Kouzmanoff(notes), but that's not a big deal when you're working with a three-run lead. Electric Daniel Bard(notes) (four outs, two strikeouts) picked up his 12th hold in front of Papelbon. … Ryan Franklin(notes) got a night off after Tuesday's two-inning stint, which allowed for Kyle McClellan(notes) to get a rogue save. … Brian Wilson(notes) was perfect against the Rockies, saving it for Matt Cain(notes) (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R).

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Kings of Pain: Vladimir Guerrero(notes) was a late scratch Wednesday after a foul ball caught him in the eye during batting practice. X-rays came back negative and Guerrero is day-to-day. … Mark Reynolds(notes) (quad) pinch hit at Los Angeles but that doesn't mean he'll be able to skip the DL. … Luis Castillo(notes) (foot/heel) isn't getting better and might land on the disabled list this weekend. … Josh Beckett(notes) (back) isn't going to do anything for the next 10 days, then the Red Sox will reevaluate things. Looks like Beckett will probably need another month to get back to action. … Orlando Hudson(notes) (wrist) is traveling with the Twins but it's not clear when he'll be able to play again, or if he'll be able to avoid the DL. … Mark Teixeira(notes) (foot) went hitless in Wednesday's victory but at least he was able to stick in the lineup. The Yanks also got Jorge Posada(notes) (foot) back Wednesday, though he was relegated to the DH slot. … Alexi Casilla(notes) needs an elbow scope and will miss 4-8 weeks. … Chipper Jones(notes) suffered a finger injury against the Phillies and couldn't finish the game. … Michael Gonzalez(notes) (shoulder) had a bullpen session Wednesday and will get another one on the weekend.

Speed Round: Edwin Jackson(notes) had to settle for a no-decision despite nine scoreless innings at Chavez Ravine. The Snakes haven't scored in 31 innings, and they've amazingly found a way to lose four walk-off games in a row. … Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) is making progress in the minors with his throwing problem and hopes to be back with the Rangers soon. The club hasn't committed to anything yet. … Edwin Encarnacion's(notes) five-homer binge is a faded memory now: he's fallen into a 2-for-28 slump, dropping his average to .203. … Cole Hamels(notes) will keep his normal slot in the Philadelphia rotation despite Tuesday night's rain-abbreviated turn. … Very quietly the Red Sox have a 27-14 record since April 20, the best in baseball over that span. The sky is not falling, Red Sox Nation. … Michael Cuddyer(notes) (bereavement leave) will be out through the weekend; his father in law has passed away. Our condolences to the Cuddyer family.

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