I've been in Arizona over most of the past month, recuperating from some unexpected surgery and, in between, catching some Mariners spring training. I've also had the benefit of distance in keeping up with both national and Seattle events. A quick roundup of impressions:
Griffey will be fine: Ken Griffey is coming back slowly from his knee surgery at the end of last season. But his timing is just a bit off at the plate and, in workouts, he is moving well in the outfield. In his first at-bat in an exhibition game last Monday, he sliced a drive to left field that was inches shy of a home run. (Handslaps followed in the Mariners dugout). Unless he incurs another injury, Griffey will get productive at-bats, at designated hitter, and play a number of games in left field as well. He also has given a morale lift to the team. Overall, the Mariners appear headed to a .500 season, a big improvement over 2008, with at least three or four slots still undecided on an eventual 11- or 12-man pitching staff.
Sound Transit: Readers know I regard Sound Transit as a rogue agency which has foisted a cost-inefficient regional light rail system on three-county voters who do not fully understand its future tax and transporation implications. The news that inferior steel had been used in the initial stages of light rail construction is deplorable but not a surprise. Nor is the recently projected Sound Transit financial shortfall a surprise. The 2008-approved regional light rail system was estimated, then, to cost about $23 billion — some $5 billion more than the final cost of the Boston Big Dig. The relevant ballot measure also left open Sound Transit's future taxing authority, if financial shortfalls developed. It is never too late to correct a mistake. State and local officials should be looking for a way to do so.
Financial/economic crisis: The so-called "retention bonuses" paid to AIG executives who had lost billions, and placed the company and taxayers in jeopardy, were deplorable. However, they are not an isolated phenomenon and, in fact, were mandated by the recent economic-stimulus package, at the request of the Obama Treasury. Day by day, investigative reporters, Congressional investigators, and financial analysts will keep coming up with similar outrages. Rep. John Lewis, for instance, last week announced that several major financial institutions had received federal bailout money after first certifying that their federal taxes had been paid — although they had not been paid. We will have to hold our noses and get past these disclosures. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has been waging what until now has been a too lonely effort to keep the financial system viable. Sometime within the next week Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House economic czar Larry Summers should come up with their own comprehensive statement regarding bailout policy. It will be needed to maintain financial-market and public confidence over the weeks ahead.
The new P-I: A first impression is that the new online-only SeattlePI.com is pretty thin as compared to both the former Seattle Post-Intelligencer print and online editions. But the venture is barely underway and deserves some time to develop. I have little doubt that, a few months from now, it will find a formula for longer-term viability. The only question surrounds Hearst's willingness to give it time to develop that formula. Hearst, as others in its industry, is cutting back losers so as to save its winners. Let us hope it will be patient with this new Seattle venture. May it live long and prosper.