Ken Griffey Jr.: The Failed Experiment

Tom GlassmanContributor IMay 11, 2009

SEATTLE - APRIL 19:  Ken Griffey Jr. #24 of the Seattle Mariners bats against the Detroit Tigers during the game on April 19, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Let me start the typical “shock value” article the typical way, I love Ken Griffey, Jr.  When I was a kid, I measured how tall I was getting on a Ken Griffey Jr. height chart, before running out to play with my black outfielders glove with his golden signature in my palm.  

Now, unfortunately, I have outgrown Griffey, and the glove that I retired so many years ago is getting just as much work as Juniors glove does now. 

May 29, 1989

Mike Schmidt, after a rotator cuff injury the year before, which caused him to miss the final third of the season, decides to call it quits rather than continue to hurt the team with sub par play and Schmidt, whose retirement is remembered more for the weeping than the significant date and circumstance. 

The man who some have called the greatest third basemen of all time decided to hang them up after a little more than a month into the season, but (for you trivia nerds) would become the only player ever elected to an All-Star game after retiring. 

February 21, 2009

After weeks of speculation, the Mariners announce Ken Griffey Jr., the man who some have called the greatest center fielder of all time, is coming back to Seattle.  It is unlike the litany of moves that new GM Jack Zduriencik had made up until this point, making an obvious push towards the future. 

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Most Mariner fans, at this point, had already written off the coming season, but now everything was different.  Hope had sprung, as it so often does in the form of a new acquisition. 

This was not the same Griffey who most Mariner fans remembered.  This was the senior circuit Griffey.  This new 230 pound Griffey (pure muscle I’m sure) is listed as a DH on  This is a Griffey who can only tarnish his once great name in Seattle. 

And the fans ate it up. 

The most obvious attempt at attendance building in the history of Seattle’s relatively young franchise had been grandly completed with the expertise of a seasoned salesman shilling some remake of an old product. 

It is so much more than honoring our best player’s memory in the eyes of the fans who have loved him.  It is so much more than the brutal statistics that he brought to Seattle.  It is so much more than journalist after journalist trying to make it sound like his is “pleasure in the clubhouse.”

It’s about Jeff Clement. 

If not Jeff, than someone like him.  A player who is meant to be the future of the franchise that was disappointingly relegated to hitting Triple-A pitching yet again. 

It is true that Clement did not have the best season in his first season, with significant at-bats, but great players—Clement hit more home runs in high school than any player in the history of American baseball and is second only to Mark McGwire on USC’s home run list, which he probably would have broken if he had stayed for his senior year—sometimes need time to develop. 

And a power hitting catcher is worth our time and money to develop. 

Clement hit .227, .295, and .360 last season in just over 200 at-bats.  Griffey, right now, (when batting third, when he plays) is hitting .217, .344, and .385.

May 29, 2009

Seeing the writing on the wall, hopefully this will be the date that Griffey packs up his Lay-Z-Boy and “retires.” 

Jack Z is a baseball guy, not a Seattle guy, and as much as the upper UPPER management loves Junior, Mr. Zduriencik realizes this has gone on long enough. 

If Griffey retires, the M’s can throw him a sending off party fit for a king, retire his jersey, and send him out on top. 

He will have left on his own terms. 

But if Griffey forces the Mariners to cut him, he will be ruining his return to the emerald city and tarnishing the reputation he works so hard to keep.  Then, finally, the failed Griffey experiment that never should have happened in the first place will be over. 

It would take everyone being disappointed in him for the Mariners to cut him.  No one will be disappointed if he retires, as he should, a Mariner.