AL West Division Debate: Old Is the New New?

Aaron MeyerCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2009

This offseason the Seattle Mariners signed an old favorite, Ken Griffey, Jr., while the Athletics signed an ex-MVP in Jason Giambi.

The question is, will either make a difference for their respective clubs?

Obviously neither is a spring chicken, both are approaching 40, with their most productive years behind them.

Both have had injury issues the past few years, to go along with their declining production.

But I think that each will contribute in their own way this season.

Griffey hasn't played more than 144 games the past few years, but when he's on the field (or at DH, as he should be this year) he gets on base and slugs around .450, which instantly makes him an upgrade over every outfielder and DH save Ichiro.

Giambi still slugs close to .500 and has 30 home run potential, which is miles better than Frank Thomas, the other old DH to join the Athletics in recent memory. The question is whether those numbers, which were earned in Old Yankee Stadium, will translate to spacious McAfee Colisseum.

But the answer to the value question will not lie in what each does for his team on the field, but what they will do for his team's bank book. The signing of Griffey gives every Mariners fan a reason to go to the ballpark, a last chance to see the greatest Mariner to ever play one more time. Jersey and ticket sales alone will help keep Safeco full while the team tries out some young legs.

Giambi is not the popular figure that Griffey is in Seattle; the vitriol produced when he bolted to the Yankees after his MVP season still lingers, and no matter who plays for the A's they never seem to fill their seats.

So, while I think Giambi may be a better DH and clean-up hitter for the A's, the Mariners will benefit from Griffey's experience and presence, allowing some of the younger players to develop and grow without the intense scrutiny that some Mariners have had in years past.

In the end, neither team will take a division title, as the Angels are still the cream of the crop, but the Mariners will be better in the long run for re-signing their greatest player.