What do I think about the latest news that the Atlanta Braves have made a last-minute push to land Ken Griffey Jr.? I think you should all settle down and take a tranquilizer or two. I also think it’s time to play you the conversation I had with CEO Howard Lincoln, in the photo above talking to Brandon Morrow this morning. Lincoln talks a lot about the global economic downturn and why the Mariners are sticking more tightly to their 2009 budget (which will obviously be lower than last year’s $120 million at season’s end) than they did a year ago when Erik Bedard was added at the final minute.
The Griffey deal had the potential to be a good one as long as the Mariners were the only bidders. With another team now entering the fray, it could get complicated. Especially since the Braves truly would have to be prepared to let Griffey play the outfield. I don’t think the Mariners should try to match an offer like that. I wouldn’t like to see Griffey play in left field at Safeco. As a DH against righties? Sure. But only if the cost is reasonable. Now that two teams are involved, the price could climb. We’ll see.
But today’s developments make hearing what Lincoln has to say important.
Lincoln talked about the economic crisis, which hit just two months after team president Chuck Armstrong nixed a deal that would have shipped Jarrod Washburn and his reamining millions in salary to Minnesota. Instead, Washburn is now owed $10.3 million by the M’s this season and they’re nearly out of budget room.
Listen to Lincoln’s words right here by clicking the link.
“I don’t think anybody expected what was going to happen,” Lincoln said. “I think…no one expected we were going to have an economic crisis. So that when decisions were made in terms of the trading deadline or just right after the trading deadline, things have completely changed.
“For example, how many people would have told you that, say, in September or October, some of these veteran free-agents would be going for what they’re agreed to accept? That is what this economic crisis has done. So, it’s really impacted everyone.”
And Lincoln’s team can’t go after some of those bargain free-agents, like Bobby Abreu, because they are out of budget room. So, in other words, if he had to do it all over again, Lincoln surely would have dumped the salary.
“I wish we could predict the future,” he said. “No one could predict this. That’s reality.”
But that’s also why gambling unnecessarily at times can come back to bite you. When the entire baseball world was screaming at the Mariners to make the Washburn deal, the Mariners gambled they could play their hand out a bit longer. They’ve since been brought down to earth and are now living with the consequences.
Lincoln did talk about how budgets are based on ticket projections and things can change. That leaves more room to sign Griffey, if the team anticipates ticket sales going up significantly. After all, 200,000 more tickets at $30 a pop would be another $6 million in revenue.
But there’s a limit to how much flexibility the team would have with that, No one knows for sure how big a ticket spike would result from signing Griffey. So, a second team entering the bidding and driving up costs would present a problem.
“Everybody always wants more money, that’s reality,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s the baseball business or any other business. But you’ve got to go with what you’ve got.”
As for Griffey, we’ll see how deep his “love” for Seattle truly is, or whether it’s more about money and playing time at this stage. I won’t begrudge him if he does take more money and playing time and head off to Atlanta. That’s his right. It’s also why I tend to not jump in with both feet when I hear about tales of undying love between fans and players. Baseball is a business. First and foremost.
If the Mariners bring Griffey back, you’d better believe that business will play into it. The business Lincoln talked about today.
And if Griffey balks for business reasons of his own, you move on and let memories of the past stay exactly that. Memories. We’re a long way from 1998, folks. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
So, for the reader who asked if I’m “still solid” with information the Mariners and Griffey were nearing a deal? As solid as I ever am before a deal is signed. Teams step in at the last minute and sign guys away all the time. It happened this off-season when the Dodgers re-signed Rafael Furcal after the Braves thought they had a deal on the table.
This Griffey thing wasn’t nearly as close as that Furcal-Braves situation was before it changed.
Some of you will like it, some won’t. Some of you think I can’t wait to see the Griffey talks collapse, while some of you…think like this dude here.
Just as I suspected. When emotions and memories are involved, somebody always gets ticked off in the end.
February 14, 2009 at 5:22 PM