Maybe you believe, but Griffey shows nobody else does

Forget for a moment that Ken Griffey, Jr. played 11 seasons with the Seattle Mariners and will go into the Hall of Fame as a Seattle Mariner and, oh, gosh, golly gee, wouldn’t it be so nice to finish his career as a Seattle Mariner.

Think of this: He is 39 years old. His legacy in baseball is secure. He has played the game with the joy of a little leaguer and never once has been accused of frequenting the same Dominican Republic CVS as Alex Rodriguez.

But what is the one thing missing in Griffey’s career? A World Series. What is the No. 1 goal of any great player who is at the end of his career and is without a championship? Winning that championship.

The story is not that Griffey didn’t sign with the Braves. The story is that he signed with another team that, sentimentality aside, actually lost 11 more games than the Braves. He didn’t base his decision on a phone call from Willie Mays or a newspaper story that may or may not have angered him. He based it on the fact that there was no overwhelming reason to come here.

This is spring. It’s the time of optimism. But if Griffey really believed that the Braves were as close to competing for a championship as maybe they do – or maybe you do – he would have signed with them.

That is his how most great athletes think, particularly ring-less ones. They are driven by statistics early and championships late.

You want this to be the 1990s again. It’s not. Few outside of Atlanta expect success. If the Braves win a division and reach the playoffs and do damage, it will register with most as a surprise. It’s just the reality of how the organization is perceived.

They are not the team of 14 consecutive postseasons. They are the team of three consecutive long winters.

They were full of optimism last spring (remember?). Then they imploded. They lost 90 games. Memories like that linger.

Otherwise, don’t you think Jake Peavy might have been a little more enthused about coming here (even if San Diego general manager Kevin Towers never seemed serious about trading him)?

Don’t you think A.J. Burnett would have signed here?

Don’t you think Rafael Furcal would have come back?

Why do you think the Braves had to give Derek Lowe four years and $60 million when the only other known offer was for three years and $36 million?

I know. Blame Frank Wren. It’s easy, right? We all want scapegoats, and the relatively new general manager is an easy one.

But don’t go there – at least not yet. Other than low-balling John Smoltz – the one player in the organization who never should have been low-balled – most of this offseason has not been Wren’s fault. Yes, he has been used and certainly hasn’t achieved all of his objectives this offseason.

But to compare Wren to John Schuerholz isn’t fair, unless you’re going back to pre-1991. The Braves had no resume then, either. They were viewed as losers. Schuerholz inherited a great young pitching staff. He didn’t blow away others GMs in that first year. Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream weren’t exactly the gold standard of free agents. (In his last three seasons in St. Louis, Pendleton hit .254, .264 and .230. Somehow, he morphed into a .319 hitter and an MVP in 1991). A week before the season, Schuerholz acquired Otis Nixon from Montreal – for Jimmy Kremers and a player to be named later.

It wasn’t until ensuing seasons – when the Braves were perceived as winners – that free agents flocked to Atlanta.

Maybe the Braves win this season. Maybe the Mariners lose 90 games and the Braves win 90. But that’s not the way Griffey is thinking right now. And who’s to say he’s wrong?

85 comments Add your comment

Tostido Bandit

February 19th, 2009
12:53 pm

Hey, I hope Dave “Head Cheerleader” O’Brien and the mindless lemmings on his blog don’t read a column that is based on facts and common sense.

I swear, the average IQ on that blog has to be in double digits.

Bluestreak

February 19th, 2009
1:01 pm

No, dude. Its because he used the Braves to get $4 million more out of Seattle, because it was a buyers market on Griffey (1 buyer). So he made some calls, got the Braves involved because they made the most sense to everyone due to the closeness to his home and family…and his love of Bobby Cox.

Griffey got $4 mil more from the Mariners and a ‘life after baseball’ contract to work with them after he hangs them up at the end of the year. He’ll be the Hank Aaron of the Mariners in that regard.

It has nothing to do with winning for Griffey. The Mariners could have finished 0-162 last year and been up for the same this year and Griffey would have signed with them.

It has everything to do with he was signing with the Mariners to go out with ‘his’ team, pretty much regardless of who else came calling. He just needed the Braves to squeeze some more money out of them.

Bluestreak

February 19th, 2009
1:04 pm

TB, that would be one more digit than the IQ displayed here, excluding myself of course. See, I’m one of those ‘DOB lemmings’…a.k.a: informed baseball fan.

brewdawg

February 19th, 2009
1:10 pm

While I’m 110 percent with you on the Smoltz thing… I’m confused. As little as people expect out of the Braves, those same folks expect less out of the Mariners. “Winning a championship” couldn’t have had less to do with it. I really can’t wrap my head around your logic here. Is it that the Braves are lousy, and being spurned by a 39 year old past his prime player who obviously wants to end his career with the team he started with proves it?

Jeff Schultz

February 19th, 2009
1:17 pm

Brewdawg: Nothing to be confused about. I believe the chance to win a Series would’ve overridden every other factor. Griffey didn’t perceive the Braves were a Series team so he, effectively, chose one mediocre team over another (in his mind) for sentimental reasons. That’s all.

Greg Weis

February 19th, 2009
1:18 pm

You are right on target. All things (objectively) considered, Griffey did the right thing in avoiding the Braves. The Braves make themselves a little stronger by signing Lowe, and everyone gets excited and starts talking play-offs. News Flash: ALL the teams in our division have made themselves better. Our outfield will be ok (not great, but better than last year), largely because Francoeur will be better. If they want to spend a couple mil, they should get more pitching.

orilly

February 19th, 2009
1:20 pm

Jan

February 19th, 2009
1:49 pm

Jeff—-You are right about this one. The Braves are no longer perceived the way they were during the championship run. To attract quality free agents now, they have to out-bid the other middling teams, and they have not shown a penchant for doing that. Otherwise, they would have gotten into the bidding for Sabathia and Burnett.

Mac

February 19th, 2009
2:09 pm

I hope this year proves to be something close to that ‘91 season. Except maybe this time the young talent that comes through will be a couple of pitchers and a couple of outfielders, with Lowe, Kawamaki and Vasquez filling the roles of Pendleton, Bream and Belliard.

Mac

February 19th, 2009
2:10 pm

We could really use some bikini shots today, Jeff. I’m voting for Julie Henderson.

doc

February 19th, 2009
2:19 pm

no i think it is because he doesnt think he can compete anymore and to come here means he has to at least pretend to do just that.

Herschel Talker

February 19th, 2009
2:20 pm

Well said, Jeff. DOB is a blind homer. Completely useless. Happy Purim!

James

February 19th, 2009
2:25 pm

Enjoyed the column.

T Bandit–following up on what you said, I keep wondering if any of the participants on O’Brien’s blog have jobs as every time I go over there, they’re *always* online!

Ted Gunn

February 19th, 2009
2:25 pm

You need to lose those glasses. They make you look like the guy on The Sarah Silverman Program-Brian Posehn. I know people have to have told you this before.

I’m not trying to sound like a jerk. Just trying to help you out bro. At the very least, get a new photo up there sans the goggles.

Jeff Schultz

February 19th, 2009
2:26 pm

Jan: You’re right about the lack of bidding (at least until Lowe). It’s also a statement on the fixed budget and these economic times. Then again, there’s really only two teams (Yankees and Red Sox, as usual) that are going bonkers in payroll. Almost everybody is holding the line now. … Mac: I’m so glad in these troubled times that we can get back to what’s really important — bikini shots. …. Doc: I guess there’s that possibility, too. But I’d hate to think Griffey, even at this stage of his career, lacks so much confidence in himself that he signed with Seattle because he figured he wouldn’t have to compete as much there.

Jeff Schultz

February 19th, 2009
2:28 pm

Ted: I’m hurt — deeply. Most people like my glasses (which I’ve actually had for a year now, but it’s new to column sig.). I haven’t seen the Sarah Silverman show but I’ll take your word for it.

Joey

February 19th, 2009
2:32 pm

Greg, exactly what kind of pitching can we get for a “couple mil”?

Ted Striker

February 19th, 2009
2:41 pm

JS — ‘Right’ on Griffey. ‘Right’ on the Braves chances of winning 90. (If they do, I’ll shoot the moon and bet on Stafford leading the Lions to victory in SuperBowl XLIV). Smoltz lowballed? ‘Wrong.’ The Braves need horses not pitchers 17 fastballs away from being medically certified as a source of glue.

Oddibe McDowell

February 19th, 2009
2:59 pm

Blustreak, reading DOB’s column yesterday didn’t exactly make you an informed baseball fan, now did it? I think it actually would be the opposite of informed. What’s the word? Oh yeah: MIS-informed. Just like on Jake Peavy, just like on Lowe (he constantly said the Braves have no interest), just like Furcal, and the list goes on for his “misses”. At least he knows about crappy bands he thinks no one has heard of but him (sadly, if you have read a Blender magazine in the last 5 years, you would already know about these bands ahead of time. Kind of like if you read a reputable news source for baseball news you’ll know some actual facts). I think you have a cliff to go jump off of…

SavannahBrave

February 19th, 2009
3:06 pm

Thanks for your thoughts Jeff. I think Griffey just wants to be remembered as a Mariner and to recoonect with their organization. He’s a great ball player and I was looking forward to seeing in Atlanta, but I’ll get over it. Others may not be expecting much from the Braves, but that is why they play the game. Another blogger mentioned the magic of 1991. We always have that season of improbable turnaround to remember and long for again.
I also wanted to thank you for not including the lyrics to a silly song at the end of your column. We read your column for your insight into a team we love, not what you’ve been listening to on the shuffle. I appreciate the omission.

Tech Fan

February 19th, 2009
3:07 pm

Last 3 years:

Griffey (age 39): 394 games, 75 hr, 235 rbi & .259
G.Anderson (age 36): 396 games, 48 hr, 249 rbi & .290

For the same money, you can get a younger (albeit lesser name) left fielder with a much higher average and more rbi’s using fewer homers to do it. Remember, Griffey played in the homer prone Great American ballpark and Anderson in the cavernous Anaheim stadium. Oh yea, Anderson has been on a World Championship team too!

Substance over name value Frank!!!!

Knuckle Sandwich

February 19th, 2009
3:12 pm

I always figured it was T. Moore who was the one that resorted to negativity and nay saying to get cheap reads on his blog. If you think that the Mariners are even close to the level of this year’s Braves, you are insane.

Jeff Schultz

February 19th, 2009
3:24 pm

Ted Striker: Said it before. I’ll say it for the last time: If Smoltz’s arm falls off Opening Day, he still deserved the $5 million as gold watch. I call him the exception to the rule. Just my opinion. ….. Savannah: I couldn’t think of a song about the Mariners. There was that Mrs. Robinson song that mentioned Joe Dimaggio. But he’s not in uniform this spring. …. Tech Fan: I agree — you can do worse than Garrett Anderson, and doing nothing would be worse. I’m still surprised the Braves didn’t to after Abreu or Dunn, but I guess we have to assume economics is dictating a lot of this.

Popeye

February 19th, 2009
3:26 pm

Schultz knows what about baseball?

kclubmember

February 19th, 2009
3:30 pm

The Atlanta Braves’organization is desperate for any box office draw because the braintrust knows the local fans won’t support this club.Pitcher John Smoltz is now in Beantown,so the fanbase won’t have a reason to come to Turner Field.

Friday The 13th Remake Was Okay

February 19th, 2009
3:33 pm

lol Jimmy Kremers I forgot about this guy…Sounds like a donut.

doc

February 19th, 2009
3:42 pm

jeff it is just there isnt as much at stake going there rather than here. he comes here to play there to be a figurehead. the latter sets him up for life. so he is ready to retire than to extend his legacy which is about non-existent for the post season. there was pressure to come out there and be the grand ole guy for the organization as well it seems. again, it was about getting ready for the next stage of his life not playing to help the braves get into the playoffs.

yup, you are right there is an outside chance if even if he comes the braves get there and it would take work on his part. look at the expectation level reasonable or unreasonable that the potential of his signing got here and it was about winning. he wont get that going to seattle. kind of like looking forward to seeing an old friend but knowing you arent going to go out and do the crazy stuff anymore. going to seattle takes the winning and competing as a team out of the equation. reasonable for him to do it. just dont think it is as much of a knock on this organization which is your point. oddly the braves were the only team that wanted him to put on the uniform and play. even if you dont want to think in those terms jeff, he is done.

rhynster

February 19th, 2009
3:51 pm

Schultz nailed this one pretty good.

Hadn’t even thought about that angle.

Of course, I also don’t think we’ll crack .500 this year.

Contrary to popular belief around here, the rotation is not very good.

DOB's journalism professor

February 19th, 2009
4:10 pm

Jeff – Am I understanding your logical reasoning: Griffey, because he is a veteran (and all veterans care more about rings than stats) made up his mind based on nostalgia? Moreover, are you also saying the Braves, who are not perceived by “outsiders” as potential winners, never had anything substantive to offer Griffey, the outsider? Even if I accept your premise, why in the heck did he initiate contact in the first place? The strong assumption here is that no one outside the Atlanta bubble thinks we have a chance of going to the post-season. Fine, but this doesn’t address why, like Chipper said: “… he came to us. I question why he came to us.” Why did he come to us? With your logic, at best, Griffey is an opportunist, and at worst he is flighty. Your argument would be stronger if you could prove that no other team with a better chance of going to the post-season than us would have offered him a contract. Also, not everyone sees our team as inept; Ken Rosenthal (outside the bubble) likes us. Lastly, it’s somewhat misleading to say “He didn’t base his decision on a phone call from Willie Mays or a newspaper story that may or may not have angered him.” I mean – how do you really know? Maybe Griffey talked with Rosenthal, liked his take on the Braves – and coupled it with his desire to play for Bobby! Maybe! I know that’s speculation (Griffey may not personally know K. Rosenthal) but it is no different than what the AJC has been doing this whole off-season. journalism

Jeff Schultz

February 19th, 2009
4:14 pm

Popeye: You’re right. How could I possibly try to match wits with somebody that goes by “Popeye.” … Friday The 13th: You got me curious. Here’s a link to Kremers’ bio on baseball-reference.com: http://www.baseball-reference.com/k/kremeji01.shtml … It’s like he fell off the face of the earth after that trade. …. Doc: I agree with almost everything you said. I still think that if the Braves were viewed as a championship-caliber team, he comes here. No question …… Rhynster: Thanks for the comments. Have you met “Popeye”?

Brendan

February 19th, 2009
4:18 pm

Ken Griffey signed where he wanted to be. And that’s it. Do I honestly think the Seattle Mariners will win a World Series? Ehhh, no. But neither will the Braves. So, like Jeff Schultz said, he chose between two “schedule fodder” teams and Atlanta lost out. It would have been nice to have Griffey. Bygones.

It won’t be the last player to use Atlanta to drive up the cost of a contract to go play someplace else. Never forget, in the end, unrestricted free agents where they WANT to play. And in the case of Atlanta, just throwing money at a player won’t land him, unless the player’s ego DEMANDS that he be the highest paid player at his position, etc.

Grahzny Bratchny

February 19th, 2009
4:23 pm

Griffey has never won it all or been in the World Series and he had a better shot in Atlanta. Unless the Mariners win their division they don’t make the playoffs in the AL. A ring must not be important, but why would a legacy that he could not possibly tarnish compel him to return to Seattle? There is no pressure in Atlanta or Seattle and his family is closer in Atlanta.

It is kind of like he gave up on the dream. Did May’s words carry more weight than Aaron’s? As far as being a quality person, Griffey is much closer to Aaron. I wish he was coming here…

Ted Striker

February 19th, 2009
4:25 pm

JS – That’s a nice watch. Hey, my birthday’s coming up. (Just a hint)

Jeff Schultz

February 19th, 2009
4:51 pm

Prof: First of all, if your “handle” is meant to be a slap at Dave, you’re way off base. I’ll defend him as a journalist, a baseball writer and a friend. I’ll let him speak for himself, which he did in his blog, but you have no idea what went into the that story. The headline (”Griffey will be a Brave”) also went farther than the story (friend says …). But it really does pay to get into that debate. Like I said, I’ll let Dave speak for himself. … As far as the nostalgia things goes, yes, Griffey basically did sign with Seattle for that reason. That’s what he has said. As to why he came to the Braves first, I dunno. Maybe he was trying to leverage for more money (and maybe he got it). Maybe he was trying to learn more about the team to see if he could be convinced that they were going to be contenders. My point is that if he came away convinced they were legit contenders, I don’t think he would’ve signed with Seattle because title-less veteran athletes don’t do that at the end of their career. …. Ted: Dream on.

Andy

February 19th, 2009
5:05 pm

I have a couple of problems with this column. First of all, for all the enthusiasm I have heard concerning this Braves team, it has been mainly about making the playoffs, not winning a world series. It would come as quite a shock for this group to win the title, but it shouldn’t be too surprising to see them make the playoffs or even win the division. But I disagree with your premise that Griffey’s decision tells us much about the Braves. It really tells us more about Griffey. See although the Braves aren’t viewed as Title contenders, they should be viewed as playoff contenders. The Mariners are 100-loss contenders. The fact that you choose a 100-loss team over a potential playoff team tells me that you basically have no competitive drive. Looking at Griffey’s playoff experience (or lack of it) just backs up my case.

DirtyDawg

February 19th, 2009
5:06 pm

I’ve asked this elsewhere but I’m still looking for a response…what about Kelly Johnson in left – platooning or otherwise? I mean we won’t be losing much, or more like anything, if he’s not at second (Intante and/or Prado can both do it better), and he’s got as sweet a swing from the left side as any you’ll ever see. I think he’s good for a couple of dozen HRs a season which ought to do the job.

Bluestreak

February 19th, 2009
5:17 pm

Oddibe…no cliff for me to jump off of, dude. And I’m not saying that DOB is the only source for info, but I guess if you are right about his “mis”-information, then the following baseball writers would be “mis”-informed too:
Ken Rosenthal, Mark Bowman, Geoff Baker (Seattle writer), SI.com (they had him going to Atlanta, too). I think ESPN even reported that too.

I guess most EVERYONE was misinformed on this one. Can you point to one that didn’t say he was coming here?

Braveheart

February 19th, 2009
5:30 pm

——– If you think that the Mariners are even close to the level of this year’s Braves, you are insane ——–

I don’t believe that’s what he was saying. He’s saying they’re both irrelevant teams. With neither having relevance, he chose the one most relevant to his own life story. Since neither team has a shot to win a ring to add to his legacy, it’s better to return to the team that is his legacy (he and Edgar and Randy did after all save baseball in Seatttle in 1995 – the Mariners would have relocated like the Sonics without him). The Braves would have been nothing more than somewhere close to home that would give him a few more checks.

Jeff Schultz

February 19th, 2009
5:41 pm

DirtyDawg: I’m not really feeling moving Kelly Johnson to left? Does it really make you better because it gets Infante or Prado in the lineup? To me it’s just moving around the deck chairs. … Braveheart: You wrote, “I don’t believe that’s what he was saying. He’s saying they’re both irrelevant teams. With neither having relevance, he chose the one most relevant to his own life story.” I really wish I had written that. Are you after my job?

doc

February 19th, 2009
5:50 pm

jeff if the braves were that much of a shoe in then they wouldnt have even returned griffey’s call. remember the kid contacted them so he must have had some desire even though it didnt last long.

braveheart griffey knows he is the most irrelevant.

reallly enjoy the countdown on tuesdays. look forward to it. nice look for a stately reporter/columnist.

JSS

February 19th, 2009
6:00 pm

Hey Benny the Beaver, Did ever learn how to do that played out “Souljah Boy” dance right yet?

I bet Dave O’Brien feels like “Brownie” did when Bush came to give that pat on the back and said: “You’re doing a great job!”

Simple fact…
The Braves have not been a player in the real baseball free market since 2002.
That point, like the effects of the economic downturn will never sink in to crazies that find you informative and “funny.”

It does not matter, Time-Warner, Liberty Media, etc… The Braves are back in the wilderness, just sit in the cheap seats and take it like Benny the Beaver… Go and buy razor…

Tech Fan

February 19th, 2009
6:00 pm

Since it’s being reported his deal with Seattle can net him up to $4.5 million – I think it’s pretty obvious he did to us what The Tuna did to the Falcons before heading to the Dolphins.

Bottom line: Nostalgia + $2+ million > Playing closer to your kids high school. Period.

JSS

February 19th, 2009
6:07 pm

Oh… Why did they crop your picture to hide that comb-over? Did the rat run away or something?

JSS

February 19th, 2009
6:39 pm

Oh the big-bad blog Gesthapo is out!!! Can’t take a little heat?

Poorbrave

February 19th, 2009
6:41 pm

I agree Jeff 100%. Man I’ll miss Smoltz the most and Wren should have signed him. Nobody wants to win more than Smoltz. Much rather have had Smoltz than Glavine.

Would have love to had Jr, but its no big deal. We need a power hitter in LF and not a has been or Diaz. Where are you going to get a free agent worth a damn for 2 million and that joke in RF just got 3.3 million for nothing. Please don’t give up 2 are 3 for the junk the Yankees are offering. Nady would be great if you could get Nady to sign a new contract for three or 4 years.

Good job Jeff.

What are you talking about Jeff Schultz?

February 19th, 2009
6:49 pm

“It wasn’t until ensuing seasons – when the Braves were perceived as winners – that free agents flocked to Atlanta.”

Jeff Schultz, the Braves have never been big players in the free-agent market – only 2 big names I can think of that were signed by the Braves were are Greg Maddux and Brian Jordan. So, the statement I quoted above from you is really a sad statement on your lack of education about the Braves organization.

BravesFan79

February 19th, 2009
7:21 pm

Wow this article is about as dumb as hearing T Moore defend the BCS
.
Griffey proved to everyone exactly what he is. NOT A WINNER! While i give him credit for trying to help turn around bad teams, and being loyal in doing so…. most “winners” would of wanted to be traded to a contender. Griffey never demanded this. And he once again proves me right by choosing the Mariners (a team with maybe a 5% chance of getting into the playoffs) over the Braves (a team with at least a 40% chance of making the playoffs).

rhynster

February 19th, 2009
8:15 pm

If Griffey plays in 100 games this year, I’ll buy everyone here a box of Junior Mints.

JSS

February 19th, 2009
8:22 pm

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3918723

It called R-E-P-O-R-T-I-N-G…

Benny the Beaver: Here’s something novel, try it sometime…

David Duncan

February 19th, 2009
8:40 pm

I agree with you Jeff. The Braves have been a regressing organization since 2005. I can’t see how the moves that they have made in the off season are going to make the Braves competitive with the Phillies and Mets. The Braves may get lucky and finish 3rd in the NL East. That is about all we Braves fans can expect in 2009.