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Seattle's $5 Million Marketing Plan: Ken Griffey

If you believe any of what's being written in the Seattle press, slugging outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. is on his way back to the Mariners, where he got his big league career started. There's no contract in place yet, but all indications are that Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, are zeroing in on a one-year deal that might pay Junior Griffey as much as $5 million.

That's right, the Mariners may pay nearly as much for 39-year-old Ken Griffey Jr.'s .260 batting average as the Angels just did for 34-year-old Bobby Abreu's .296. If that seems crazy, it's probably because, at least in a baseball sense, it is. Yet in the end it may not be crazy at all, because the Mariners are not about to sign Griffey for baseball reasons; they're bringing him back to Seattle to sell tickets.

Let's face it, the 2008 Mariners were abysmally bad. Since the end of the season they've traded away their occasionally-injured closer (J.J. Putz) who, nonetheless, was one of the franchise's most exciting players. They've sent two of the organizations long-prized outfield prospects away in the past 13 months: Adam Jones to Baltimore last winter, Jeremy Reed to the Mets this winter. Put it all together, and Seattle has little to look forward to and a whole lot of rebuilding to watch over if the Mariners are ever going to win again.

That's where Griffey comes in. It's not easy to sell tickets to watch a bad baseball team in the midst of a brutally bad economy. That being said, it's a lot easier to sell tickets to watch a bad baseball team play during a horrendous economic climate if said bad baseball team includes a living legend who is a shoo-in first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Think about it: If you're trying to decide whether or not to take your family to a baseball game, Seattle's probably not the first place on the map. But if you're going to be near Seattle and it offers one of your last chances to see Ken Griffey Jr.'s sweet swing one last time, well, you might just buy those tickets.

Naturally, this isn't the first time a team has made a move to try and sell tickets rather than improve its product on the field, and it won't be the last, either. Still, it just proves that even in the midst of a recession, a team will spend a whole lot of money if it thinks there's a chance it can help make them a winner on the balance books, even if it doesn't necessarily make their product a winner on the field.

By Cameron Smith  |  February 14, 2009; 1:00 AM ET
Categories:  Mariners  
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Comments

It's a good idea from management's perspective -- he may not help the team that much, but he's certainly not going to hurt it, and Griffey is the only real symbol the Mariners ever had.

From Griffey's standpoint: how's the saying go? You can't go home again?

Posted by: Samson151 | February 14, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I hope if Griffey goes back to Seattle, he is personable with his fans there. Go to the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and ask the townsfolk there how Griffey acted towards the Cincinnati fans, and you'll soon discover why he left much less popular than he was when he arrived.

Posted by: raymitten | February 14, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Sounds exactly like the Nats signing of Dunn. No chance to compete, looking to draw people.

Posted by: sprintspeed5 | February 14, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

the view from Seattle is that with his 2008 surgery on his knee, he is testing out ok and has some gas left in the tank.

If he gets back to his 2007 numbers of .277, 30HR, 93 RBI, he will be Seattle's biggest bat in this year's line up.

Silva has come to camp over 30 lbs lighter, Bedard got surgery in the off season on his elbow and says he is fine (who knows?) and new GM Jack Z (who built up Milwaukee) has already turned a third of the roster that Bavasi left him.

Yes, Griffey is there for his history as the guy who saved Baseball in Seattle. The new management will give him a chance and hope 2007 returns.

A very low cost gamble, they will keep him as long as the bat can still deliver something.

Nobody in Seattle is expecting the pre-injured Griffey, but in 2007 when the Reds came to Safeco, it was the hottest ticket at Safeco that year.

Posted by: bigdogg997 | February 14, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Sprintspeed5-

That's not really fair. Griffey is fairly washed up at this point, while Dunn was a bargain, a top-10 free agent for the year who did not cost the team any draft picks.

Why is it so hard for so many to appreciate the Dunn signing? It cost the team nothing but money, and little of that by normal standards. The team will be better, and if they make a decent jump this year with luck, maturity and fewer injuries, perhaps another solid free agent will be willing to sign to play during Dunn's second year in Washington.

+1/2St

Posted by: kevincostello | February 14, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

@+1/2St:

Come back over to NJ - You'll see a fair amount of love for Dunn, to go along with the usual squabbling/bashing over players like Kearns/Belliard/Willingham et al.

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Whatever you say about Griffey now, the guy has only posted an OPS+ below average one time, when he put up a 99 in 2006.

Is he the player he used to be? Of course not. Was he bitter in Cincinnati, why wouldn't he have been? The guy got booed mercilessly after he got hurt a few times. It has to create bitterness when you're trying to play through pain and you get ridiculed and told you're a pansy.

In my opinion, which I've heard echoed by others, the guy just wore his body out with Seattle. He played the game the "right" way and ended up wearing out his body, which finally gave way to the wear and tear starting in 2001.

All of his injuries seemed to be hard luck injuries. The sight of him rounding third and tearing his hamstring when hitting the brakes about 10 feet past the bag is etched in my mind, it was awful to watch and I remember feeling such pity for the man who was one of the two or three best players who I've seen play.

So while I agree this is a (pretty blatant) PR move, Griffey is also their best DH option they have and it will help prolong his career, so I'm all for it.

Posted by: adampschroeder | February 14, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I really can't see the guy as a Brave. I can relate to his desire to play for a contender, considering he doesn't have a ring to show for his long career, but for pure nostalgia, I would like to see him finish his career in Seattle, where it all started. I think it is a shame that he left Seattle to begin with. He put that team on the map and saved the organization and paved the way for their new stadium out there. It would be nice to see him return home. Plus, he would be much more productive as a DH in this stage of his career. He still has a pretty swing and can hit for power. He doesn't have the range he used to in the OF and not having to play the field will keep him in the line-up more often. He belongs in the AL and back in Seattle.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | February 15, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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