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The Griffey Thing Friday, November 20, 2009

Posted by mrgenre in Mariners.
Tags: , , , , ,

Photo courtesy of AP/Lenny Ignelzi

I’m a Griffey fan.  I’ll admit that.  So feel free to take bias against this post on that point.  But I’m not an idiot.  I get what folks are saying about re-signing him in 2010.  And while I won’t deny that those comments have merit, I do have to defend the decision for a few different reasons.

The $$$ Factor:

Griffey’s 2010 contract may not have the same attendance-laden incentives of last year’s, but you can’t deny it’s a factor.  For the same reason our team will never let Ichiro go, we’ve re-signed Griffey.  He puts butts in the seats, so to speak.  He gets people talking about Seattle.  As much as I used to convince myself that Seattle had a real sports scene when compared to the rest of the country, my adolescence is now at an end.  The NBA abandoned us for just that reason.  We’re not LA.  We’re not NY.  We’re not anywhere in between.  So any story that keeps us on the front page of ESPN.com is a good story.  Controversy keeps us alive.  A couple stars on a team of AAA-level offensive statistics managed to keep us afloat.

So for those of you who deny that money was a factor here, you’re either wrong or naive.  I’m certain that Ichiro’s Japanese concern nets Nintendo his 18 million annually, and I’m even more certain that a first-round hall of fame player in Griffey can net a measly 3 here in the states.  Money talks.

The “Clubhouse” Factor:

This is the argument you’re hearing from all the local rags.  This is the argument you’re hearing from our coach and our GM.  This is the “you can’t measure everything in baseball with box scores” piece that really ticks off all the national writers.  Does it have merit?  Maybe.

Let’s face it.  We don’t know all that Griffey did last year.  Certainly we can take a look at statistics.  And those should account for a good majority of what matters in baseball.  Stats count.  But that doesn’t mean that nothing else does.  I’m not buying into this argument completely, because most of those writers are right.  It’s a stupid point.  But to dismiss it entirely is just as stupid.  If you don’t think that certain clubs do research beyond statistics, you aren’t paying attention.

Granted, paying 3 million dollars to a player who is literally a designated tickler is a bit much.  But there is no doubt in my mind that he played a big part in bringing and keeping this squad together all season long.  Wakamatsu’s success is because Griffey and Sweeney bought into what he was doing from the beginning.  And leadership by example wasn’t enough.  Ibanez and Ichiro led by example in 2008, and what good did that do us?  Griffey took the clubhouse by storm.  But is even that enough of a reason to keep him around?  Probably not.  Is that enough of a reason to fill a roster spot where a young player could be learning the game from the bench?  Probably not.  But there was an even better reason to keep Griffey than just to see Ichiro smile more…

The “Thrill of the Grass” Factor:

The Yankees recently won the World Series.  It was a fantastic run.  They were a dominant team that made very few mistakes and capitalized on almost all of their opponents’.  I am not even remotely a Yankees fan, but I have to respect how disciplined they were in the playoffs.  They were one of the most professional squads in baseball history.

But, in my opinion, they weren’t a lot of fun.  I have to admit that I saw A-Rod smiling more this season (and especially this post-season), and there was definitely some team chemistry that hasn’t existed on the island in at least a decade.  In fact, this was probably the most happy-go-lucky Yankees club I’ve ever seen.  But they were so dominant all season long, that I missed some of that underdog excitement that I enjoy when watching a baseball team.  Now, don’t get me wrong here.  I understand how vastly different it is to root for a team like the Yankees.  They are held to a higher standard than most sports teams on this entire planet, and their tradition of winning spurs expectations that we in Seattle have never had to deal with.

But I’ll tell you something: I didn’t see anyone get tickled till they almost peed their pants.  I didn’t see walk-off celebrations that had players chasing eachother through the outfield.  I didn’t see any players drenched in ice cream as they gave a post-game interview.  I didn’t see the most reserved athlete in the sport raise his hands in exuberance after a minor victory during a playoff run that was mathematically out of reach.  I didn’t see a future hall-of-famer lifted on to other players’ shoulders and paraded triumphantly around a field after a third place finish in what many feel is a washed up division.  I didn’t see a team that enjoyed every chance just to be out on the field together as a team.  I didn’t see the dugout rails lined up with players when a loss was assured, just to root on a younger player in a meaningless at bat.  I didn’t see passion and frustration by an ace for every pitch that wasn’t perfect.  I didn’t see a nobody win a ballgame with a homerun in the bottom of the last inning.  I didn’t see a team where every rookie was as important as every veteran.  And I didn’t see a team that was so grateful just to be on the field that they enjoyed every single moment the thrill of that grass gave them.

I’ll tell you one other thing, too.  2009 was a team effort every second.  Griffey didn’t do it on his own.  But re-signing him in 2010 is a commitment to something bigger than statistics and wins.  It’s a commitment to the game the way it was meant to be played.  And anyone who says that Griffey doesn’t make the grass greener at Safeco is full of it.