Monday, December 8, 2008

Griffey Doesn't Define Strategy, But Don't Forget History

The Hot Stove League is buzzing with speculation about Ken Griffey Jr. reuniting with the Mariners. Many discussion focus around building for the future or putting fans in the stand with Griffey in 2009. That would be a tough decision for a team with budding young stars who are ready to prove themselves at the big league level. Unfortuantely, the Mariners don't have to worry about that.

While Griffey is not the long-term solution at designated hitter or outfield, he may actually be an improvement over the Mariner alternatives. For a team with a $100+ million payroll, with no real offense to speak of, paying $15 million over 2 years for a veteran power bat can not sink your team. (However, paying $100 million for a trio of pitchers (Silva, Washburn & Batista) who shouldn't even be in the rotation will get you fired.)

If there are better alternatives than Griffey, then by all means the Mariners shoudd go that route. Considering Griffey will put fans in the seats, a better alternative is not pocketing the $5-$8 million a year it should take to sign him. If Griffey doesn't work out, the Mariners are no worse off.

With that said, it is curious that Griffey is so beloved by Mariner fans while the standing of our other two future hall-of-famers is cloudy.

The M's didn't make a real effort to resign ARod. Fans justify booing with the fact that he said he wanted to play for a winner, and then promptly left for a last-place Rangers team. In the middle of those boo's it is easy to forget that any team willing to fork over a $250 million contract to a superstar is committed to winning. Maybe they aren't smart and won't find a way to turn things around, but they want to win. There is no reason to think at that moment that Texas wouldn't have as bright of a near-term future than the Mariners. ARod gave his all for the Mariners and left Seattle the same way every free agent leaves a team he likes: He was offered way more money and his old team didn't care to make a compelling offer.

Randy Johnson catches heat from Mariner fans who say he didn't try in his last season in Seattle. Johnson is the only person who really knows the truth. I suspect Johnson is not capable of doing things at less than 100% intensity. Players play for pride and money (and hopefully to win). Why would he risk his huge free agent payday to try and punish the Mariners for not giving him a big contract extension? Doesn't make sense.

That brings us back around to Griffey, who lived up to his reputation as an immature, spoiled brat in his exit from Seattle. No player in Mariner history has treated the team more rudely than Jr. in his departure. In fact, it isn't even close. Griffey and his father colluded with Cinncinati management to ensure not only that Griffey would be a Red, but that the Red's would pay the lowest price possible for him in order to contend right away. How else can you explain Griffey announcing that he must be traded, and that there is only one team that he will play for? Let's take a trip back in time for a minute, back 9 years ago when the Mariners were trying to unload their franchise player and get young talent in return:

From the Chicago Sun Times, December 1999: CINCINNATI Ken Griffey Sr. agrees with the Cincinnati Reds' decision not to give up Pokey Reese and pull out of trade talks for Ken Griffey Jr.

Reds general manager Jim Bowden abandoned talks with the Mariners last weekend. The Mariners wanted Reese, the Reds' Gold Glove second baseman, in any deal with Cincinnati.

"I totally understand where Jim Bowden is coming from because if I was making the decision, there's no way I'd give up Pokey Reese," Griffey Sr. was quoted as saying in today's editions of the Cincinnati Post.

Really? No way you'd give up Pokey Reese for your own son who was in the prime of his career and on his way to the hall of fame? This was one of the biggest con jobs in Seattle sports history. Much like the David Stern/Clay Bennett thuggary, it was executed in plain sight. Everyone knew what was going on, but nobody could stop it. The commissioner's office refused to do anything about it. So Bowdin and the Griffeys tied Seattle's hands and made the Mariners take the Reds' package for Griffey. In hindsight that wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it happened. Don't forget when it is time to welcome Griffey back to Safeco Field in a Mariner uniform.

Thought I would share one more blast from the past. From the Associated Press, 2/21/02:

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) _ Infielder Pokey Reese thinks the special treatment that Ken Griffey Jr. gets from the Cincinnati Reds' front office hurts the chemistry in the clubhouse.

Reese, now playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, said clubhouse spirit and discipline declined after the Reds lost Greg Vaughn to free agency and traded for Griffey in 2000.

"Junior's going to be Junior," Reese was quoted as saying in Thursday' s editions of The Cincinnati Enquirer. "He's going to do his thing, and they are not going to say anything. But it's 25 of us, not one ... I know he's Ken Griffey Jr., but..."

So even the guy hand-picked by the Griffey's and Bowdin as Griffey's key partner to make the Reds contenders was sick of Griffey's antics shortly after his arrival.

The Mariners should sign Griffey if they can't find better value for those dollars. It may be a smart business and baseball decision. But never forget the way Griffey left Seattle. He is not an old friend returning after years away. Griffey plays for Griffey, nobody else.

No comments: