Let's do this.
Ken Griffey Jr. is a good player.
- Demonstrably untrue. According to Fangraphs' data, since 2002, Griffey has averaged 0.75 WAR per season, and since 2006 has been a replacement-level player. Whatever pluses he's had at the plate have been completely and utterly undone by his ineptitude in the field. Ken Griffey Jr., as of the present day, is an absolutely awful all-around Major League baseball player.
Ken Griffey Jr. is a good hitter.
- Now you're doing a little better, but still, not really. Using Fangraphs again, you're looking at an average of +10 runs/season since 2002 and +6 runs/season since 2006. He's been all right, but he turned 39 in November, and is coming off arguably the worst offensive season of his 20 year career. Griffey, at this point, could be somewhere around average, and maybe even a little better, yet no matter how you slice it, he's no star, and he's not particularly close.
Ken Griffey Jr. would be best put to use as part of a platoon.
- Almost certainly yes. While the guy could hit southpaws at his peak, over the past five years (in hitter-friendly environments) he's hit .291/.380/.536 against righties and .227/.304/.428 against lefties. With his abilities eroding, it's gotten to the point at which, when facing a lefty, Griffey turns into a pretty easy out. There's no reason for anyone to promise him a full-time role.
Ken Griffey Jr.'s 2008 season was destroyed by a knee injury.
- It's possible, of course - there's no way for us to prove anything either way - but it's worth pointing out that Griffey hit just .248/.342/.416 in April, before he got hurt, and .249/.356/.427 the rest of the way with a comparable home run rate. There's no evidence that the bad knee was responsible for his bad season aside from the agent claiming it was, and what else would an agent say? Besides, injuries aren't much of an excuse anyway, since injuries are an unavoidable part of the picture once a player gets to be Griffey's age. Even if a bad knee was to blame for his weak numbers last year, you can't just look around that, because the fact of the matter is that his body is far more likely to break down than most anybody else's. He's not exactly the most durable guy in the world. Injuries have to be considered, not ignored.
Ken Griffey Jr. would be rejuvenated by a return to Seattle.
- Griffey hit .260/.347/.405 after getting traded from a shitty team to a playoff contender. To claim that a return to Seattle would cause him to elevate his game would imply a whole lot of unfalsifiable things, not the least of which being that Seattle is somehow more worthy of his top performance than Cincinnati or Chicago. Coming back to a bunch of standing ovations would probably make Griffey feel good, but there's a lot more to hitting a baseball than being in your happy place. I'm not buying it.
Ken Griffey Jr. would be a big draw.
- Griffey brought nearly 140,000 people out to Safeco for a three-game series in 2007. Humans tend to suck when it comes to getting over lost love, and I don't think there's any questioning the assertion that signing Griffey would cause a jump in attendance. Probably not so much in the middle months, but for the first and last few weeks of the season, you'd probably see the stadium pretty full. Just because Griffey didn't mean that much to me as a kid isn't to say that he didn't mean the world to most of the city, and you better believe they'd want to come out and support their old hero. Griffey, if nothing else, would stir a little enthusiasm among the parts of the fan base who haven't been impressed by Zduriencik's franchise navigation.
Nostalgia is good.
- I guess this one pretty much depends on what you think it means to be a fan. Some people want to win, and other people just want to feel happy and entertained, no matter the reasons why. Neither one is better than the other. The former group would presumably be less than enthused by a Griffey acquisition. The latter group, meanwhile, would wet its collective trousers.
Ken Griffey Jr. would be cheap to bring in.
- With the vastly superior Burrell signing for $16m/2yr and the even more vastly superior Bradley for $30m/3yr, I can't imagine that Griffey's going to get much of anything. At the end of the day he'd probably be willing to settle for a few million dollars to ride off into the sunset, money that we have available to spend. Probably the most difficult thing would be trying to figure out how to deal with him in the event that he totally sucks, since the Mariners wouldn't exactly be able to bench Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr. would take up playing time that would otherwise go to a young player who could be part of the future.
- This much is true - if he DH'd, he'd take some time away from Jeff Clement, and if for some unholy reason he were to play LF, he'd take some time away from Wlad Balentien. But with the Mariners in the market for a bat, it seems like one of these things is going to happen anyway, so the issue isn't unique to Griffey. Griffey, Abreu, Dunn, somebody else, it doesn't matter who - if the Mariners bring in another bat, he's going to take playing time away from somebody else. It's on them to deal with the consequences.
We might as well just sign Griffey since we're not going to go anywhere this year.
- The Mariners, as currently constructed, are pretty close to being a .500 true talent ballclub, with upside at an awful lot of positions. The A's, Angels, and Rangers are all decent to good teams, but not one of them stands out as being very strong, and the opportunity exists for the M's to contend, especially if they add another multiwin bat. Bringing in Griffey neither improves the team nor grants development time to players who may help in the future. When that's the case for a team in our position, you're dealing with a move that isn't worth making.
I'm out of ideas so, Overall
- I understand why so many people want to see Griffey retire in a Mariner uniform. I really do. When I watch the Ottawa Senators, I can't even imagine how awful it would feel to see Daniel Alfredsson retire anywhere else, and while Alfredsson never stabbed his city in the back by demanding a trade, handcuffing the organization, and talking about death threats, the impact he's had on Ottawa is comparable to the impact Griffey had on Seattle, and that means something. To a lot of people, Griffey should retire a Mariner because he has to retire a Mariner, and there's no other choice. It's just the way the story's written.
But at the same time, I just can't get on board, because what this team needs is to look forward, not backward. This team should be focused on putting a successful product on the field, because that's more important for the franchise than short-term entertainment value, and Griffey just doesn't represent any part of the bigger picture. He certainly can't help us down the road, and even in 2009, he wouldn't represent an asset. At his age, with his track record, you're talking about an absolute max of maybe 1.5 WAR, with all kinds of room for collapse. Marcel projects him to be a 0.2 WAR DH, and PECOTA projected something in the neighborhood of 0.8 WAR for 2009 before he even had his lousy 2008. Statistically, the odds just aren't good that Griffey would be able to help us. Even if you were to platoon him very carefully and moderate his exposure against tough opponents, you're talking about an incredibly limited impact, and a performance that you could approximate, if not exceed by bringing in a AAAA lefty slugger (or simply sticking with Clement). It's just not worth it.
There is no convincing statistical case to be made that Ken Griffey Jr. would be of significant service to a 2009 Mariners squad that's closer to contention than many ever thought possible. As such, all of these sorts of arguments are coming from other places - sentimental places - and while I respect what those people are going for, this organization can't get caught up in that kind of stuff. It's not about collecting old heroes. It's about building a winner and bringing us new ones. As painful as it may be for some people to swallow, it would be in everyone's best interests for Seattle to remember Griffey not for what he is, but for what he was. Short of a late-summer acquisition by a Mariner team going nowhere, this is a retirement story that I feel is better left untold.