For the record, this isn’t about giving speeches to minor leaguers – though I’m sure if that’s something he wants to do, it’s something that won’t hurt. This also isn’t about schmoozing with corporate sponsors – though I’m sure he’s more of a help to the organization than a detriment. This isn’t even about public relations or making things right with the fans of the Seattle Mariners – though I’m sure when they first heard about it, they appreciated the gesture right before they proceeded to go on about their day.
Having Ken Griffey Jr. in the fold is more important than all of that. It’s about history – specifically Mariners history – and building something out of nothing.
Look at all the successful ballclubs throughout the game – Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers, Twins, Reds – and look at what they have: a long and rich tradition. Lots of winning ballclubs comprised of quality players their fans can look upon with pride.
Those teams have a lot that we do not. They’ve been around longer than we have. They’ve won what we haven’t. They already have Hall of Famers outside the broadcast wing.
We have Ken Griffey Jr. He never won us a World Series, he’s not in the Hall of Fame yet, but he’s a start.
Some of those other teams could field an entire roster with players who are either in the HOF or are damn close to being worthy. All of our greats are pretty much from one underachieving era between 1995 and 2001. Some of those other clubs have such eras every decade.
Why do baseball players like playing for the Yankees? After the money they earn by playing for the most indulgent owner in all of sports, you’ll get to the reason I’m trying to articulate here today: because they’re winners. A winning tradition begets continued winning. Future hall of famers want to play where past hall of famers made their marks. “Making It” in New York means you can easily make it anywhere. Being among the best in Yankees history is just another challenge the true greats aspire to conquer. It’s much more difficult than being among the best in Mariners history.
But, you know what? The Seattle Mariners had one of the greatest center fielders of all time. That’s one notch on the belt right there. And most importantly, he’s still with us. Even though he left for a spell, he’s back and he’ll always be a Mariner.
We also had probably the greatest designated hitter of all time too, but Edgar isn’t NEARLY as important as Griffey. Junior has name recognition throughout the country and the world. Edgar has name recognition in the Pacific Northwest and among baseball junkies. Unlike Edgar, Junior’s popularity managed to surpass his overall talent (which is no small feat, because that talent was considerable). Having a true face of the franchise (like Gehrig with the Yankees, Williams with the Red Sox, Mays with the Giants) is more important than any actual “consulting” work Griffey will do.