There are a lot of ways to retire. Ken Griffey Jr. seems to have found a new one. A mobile retirement.
According to Seattle Mariner President Chuck Armstrong, talking on Seattle sports radio station KJR, Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, called Armstrong Wednesday afternoon with some news. Junior was retiring, effective immediately.
A few minutes later, according to Armstrong, Griffey himself called to confirm it.
You imagine it went something like this:
'So would you like to do a press conference Junior?'
'Well, I can't, exactly.'
'I'm driving to Orlando.'
This was about four hours before game time Wednesday night. The Mariners were home for game three of a four game set with Minnesota.
Griffey, apparently, told no one. Not a teammate. Not his manager Don Wakamatsu. Not even the sleep coordinator in the Mariner's clubhouse.
Just got in his car and started to drive.
'Man, I just don't feel like going to work today. Think I'll go for a little drive. De-stress in the car. Turn on some music. Relax. Where should I go?'
For Griffey, apparently the answer was Orlando.
At some point in the drive he realized he might be missed at work. So he gave his agent a call. Instead of calling in sick, Junior decided to call in sick of it all.
Of course, I'm picking on one of the classiest guys to ever don a baseball uniform, so for that I apologize. But the way this whole retirement went down was just a little un-Junior-like.
Of course, the last year-and-a-third of his career has been very un-Junior-like. His return to Seattle has been one filled with few home runs, a low batting average, and tons of runners left on base. He has, in all fairness, smiled through it all. But something has been missing.
The retirement came, in the end, about eight months late. He should have hung it up after the disappointing season of 2009.
An unnamed source quoted in the Seattle Times on Friday said Griffey had been upset recently with the lack of playing time that he had been getting lately. Manager Wakamatsu confirmed in the paper that he had had discussions recently with Junior about his decreased playing time.
On KJR Armstrong said that he and Griffey had had talks in the offseason about a reduced role this season, and Junior was OK with that. Armstong said Griffey would do whatever they needed him to, even if that was just pinch hit.
Somewhere along the line Griffey changed his tune and became unhappy with the reduced role. So much so apparently that he got into his car and never turned back.
The Mariners complained that the hasty retirement decision didn't even allow them to call someone up from the minors in time for the game that night. Kind of reminds one of a few weeks back when someone was sleeping in the clubhouse and left the team hanging when they needed a pinch hitter.
Again, I don't mean to come down too harshly on a baseball great and a legend, but, something about the way this was handled by Junior was somewhat classless and a little childish.
The Mariner fans wanted a press conference. No such luck. They wanted to say goodbye and thanks at the game that night. No such luck.
Will Griffey be back this year to Safeco Field for a proper sendoff? His longtime agent Brian Goldberg, in a separate interview on KJR on Friday, said he wasn't certain Griffey would be back this year for a tribute, but he hoped so.
Part of me can see Griffey's side to this too. Maybe he isn't a big one for goodbyes. Maybe he didn't know he was quitting until he got in the car that day. Maybe he would have been too broken up at a news conference.
Or, maybe he was just really enjoying the drive.
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