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February 21, 2009 at 7:38 PM

Armstrong on Griffey, ticket sales

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Mariners president Chuck Armstrong (seen above, going on KIRO radio with producer/engineer Kevin Cremin), was a big star of today’s post press-conference media scrums, having gotten plenty of mention from Ken Griffey Jr. while the latter was on-stage.
Armstrong believes the two-horse race between the Mariners and Atlanta Braves, which only materialized at the last minute, likely helped his team in the long run.
“I think it’s good that he had the choice,” Armstrong said. “If we had signed him three weeks ago we might have heard ‘Well, he had no place else to go.’
“The fact that Ken had a choice and Seattle won…we’re isolated, there’s kind of an inferiority complex for some of the natives out there,” Armstrong said of the Emerald City. “So, Seattle won and this is good news. I honestly think that we would not have had the newspaper stories, the media excitement if we had signed him six weeks ago, as now, because Seattle won.”
Interesting take on that subject. Hear it at the end of this audio clip where I start off by asking him whether there is a way to calculate how much of a ticket boost Griffey could bring.
Armstrong had more interesting revelations.
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The team’s season ticket sales are not going great.
“Our season tickets…we’re down,” Armstrong said. “We’re down substantially.”
It also turns out that 2008 was the first season in which a majority of the team’s ticket-buying fans — 61 percent — came from outside King County. Prior to that, it had always been a 50-50 split (a percentage point or two in either direction).
Armstrong figures the team was so bad, the locals just chose to stay home and watch them on TV. He didn’t seem to believe internal studies that show the economy is more to blame for the ticket downturn than the 101-loss season.
“I don’t know if they’re just being nice to us,” Armstrong said.
So far, the team has sold 23,000 total tickets in various packages in the first two days since the signing. On average, Armstrong said, it’s about 2,000 per day. So, a net gain of 19,000. We’ll see if that translates into more single game ticket sales when those are offered up starting next month.
One of you asked me if we ever got to the bottom of who lobbied who when it came to Griffey and the Braves. I put this question to Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, and got a long answer that said a bunch of different things. Goldberg said Braves GM Frank Wren approached them last Thursday and even used Chipper Jones as an intermediary on one occasion — with Jones speaking to Griffey and then passing Wren the phone. Goldberg later goes on to say the calls went “back and forth” so we really have no way of knowing how hard Griffey ever “lobbied” for the job if indeed he did. Wren may have made the first call, but it appears the M’s offered more total package money, so who knows how hard the Braves were pursuing as opposing to Griffey pursuing them? As you said, we may never know.
But here’s the audio clip of my question to Goldberg and his answer.
Goldberg also said the Braves never mentioned putting Griffey in a strict left field platoon in Atlanta. My source with the Braves told me a platoon is exactly what was being envisioned. So, who knows? The Mariners still haven’t spelled out exactly what they have planned for Griffey — to him or us. And we all know that plans can change.
The one mystery we have cleared up is why Seattle looked like a done deal for Griffey a week ago Wednesday night. If you remember, all of the big Griffey stories popped up Thursday in the Seattle media because the team had made him an offer on the Wednesday. Well, on that very Thursday, when news about Griffey was exploding across Seattle, the Braves stepped in out of the blue and made him an offer.
Goldberg told me that, up to that point, his conversations with the Braves had been infrequent and their interest-level lukewarm. Goldberg had been told the Braves were focused on landing a righthanded bat. All of a sudden, as my Braves source told us back then, Atlanta reversed direction and figured a lefty bat was best.
That’s where the story changed. Instead of flying to Pebble Beach for a little golf and a Mariners signing, the weekend changed into a big decision-making time for Griffey,
That part, we can all agree on. Everyone involved. Wren made the first serious contact with Griffey’s camp the Thursday before last. After that, exactly who lobbied who harder and how close Griffey was to signing with the Braves? We may never know. And really, it’s all history now.



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