Bye, Junior? The end of Ken Griffey's career might be near

It's looking more and more like Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) should have allowed the storybook image of him being carried off Safeco Field by teammates last fall to serve as our last memory of him as a player.

The 2010 season probably won't end nearly as well for Junior and, according to Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune, it's quite possible that either his retirement or release from the Seattle Mariners could happen before the calendar turns to June.

Writes LaRue:

"He could lose his job as the left-handed DH within the week. He might lose his position on the 25-man roster nearly as soon. If you want to see Griffey in a Seattle uniform again, watch him on television this week.

"It could be your last chance."

That the rocking chair days are creeping near for Griffey doesn't come as much of a surprise. He's hitting .208/.265/.234 with no home runs and only two doubles in 83 plate appearances this season. He has struggled to recover from the left-knee surgery he had in the offseason and that he's 40 years old is evident to anybody who looks at him.

But what is surprising is that it's being reported that Griffey hasn't exactly been the teammate he has continually been touted to be. LaRue writes that there "have been times during games when [Griffey has] retired to the clubhouse, texted friends [and] watched the TV broadcast." Two players also told LaRue that Griffey wasn't available for a pinch-hit opportunity last week because he was asleep in the Mariners clubhouse. Yikes.

With Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik on the warpath after the team's atrocious start at the plate, it's probably not a bad time to start working on all the deserved tributes — cue up The Simpsons references! — for Griffey's career. It's rare that our greatest and most admired athletes know when to say when on a legendary career and it unfortunately looks like Griffey will be the latest to fall victim to that addiction to the spotlight.