Just got back from the Ken Griffey Jr. press conference, where we cleared some things up about all the confusion of the past week between the Mariners and Atlanta Braves. First off, I was told by Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, that when Junior flew to Pebble Beach, Calif. for a golf tournament and to finalize an offer from the M’s last Wednesday, there was no other team vying for his services. In essence, he was going there to play golf — with team president Chuck Armstrong in tow — and then hammer out a deal with Seattle.
All of a sudden, out of the blue, the Atlanta Braves called on Thursday and decided they wanted a lefty bat. Up to that point, all preliminary discussions between Goldberg and Braves GM Frank Wren, dating back to before the winter meetings, had seen Atlanta stressing the need for a righty bat. Just as Griffey was set to finalize things with Seattle, the talks with Atlanta having cooled to that point, in step the Braves at the 11th hour.
All of a sudden, there’s competition. The Braves actually were the first to pitch Goldberg and Griffey a concrete offer. The Mariners wanted to meet with Griffey first, which they did on Sunday when he took a physical and an offer was presented.
Goldberg told me there was “a little tweaking” by the Mariners after that, in which some of the incentives in his contract were made easier to reach. At least one of those incentives is tied to attendance. Both sides have agreed to a realistic figure the Mariners could have attained without Griffey. At year’s end, if it is over that figure, some of Griffey’s incentive money will be forthcoming.
I’m also told that Griffey can reach most of his incentives if he has a season like he did for the Reds in 2007.
Griffey is not coming in here a shrinking violet. He talked openly about the clubhouse and how he expects people to get along with each other. He spoke of taking an active role and of how he sees himself helping the team.
“I may not hit 50 (home runs),” he said. “I may not hit 40, I may not hit 30. But I can do the little things to help a team win.”
One of those will be working closely with Ichiro, perhaps serving as a liaison between the Japanese leadoff hitter and some of his teammates who were less than enamored with him last season. Ichiro issued a statement from Team Japan’s overseas training camp moments ago, saying: “In 1993, 16 years ago, I bought a Ken Griffey Jr. jersey. This is one of my treasures to this day. He has always been a hero to me, and being able to play with him is like a dream come true. Now we share a dream: and that dream is to work hard together and win a World Series.”
We’ll have more photos, info, video, audio and other stuff from the press conference coming up shortly. Also, don’t forget to tune in to our special edition of Geoff Baker Live! at 3 p.m. direct from Peoria.
February 21, 2009 at 2:10 PM