What should the Mariners do with Ken Griffey Jr. next season? The fans love Junior, and the Mariners love his positive impact in the clubhouse, but his declining performance hinders the ability of an otherwise pretty decent team to contend for a postseason berth.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times speaks to some of the value Griffey has had in the clubhouse this season:
He has been the godfather to the parade of young players who have come into the clubhouse. He has been a close friend to the veterans. He has offered advice on pitchers’ and hitters’ tendencies….
He has been good for the club, good for the city and great to have around again.
The thing is, there is a perfectly good way for the Mariners to get all of these benefits without wasting precious at-bats on him: they should simply make him a coach. They could even pay him the exact same salary, if they think he is that worth it, but please, don’t waste precious at bats on a guy which could be given to better performers just because you like the advice he gives to younger players or his friendly presence in the dugout.
That’s the sensible part of my plan for Griffey. Now here is the slightly crazy part.
The Mariners should sign Griffey to a $1 million “personal services” contract or whatever, and then use him as a coach. He’s not on the active roster, but he travels with the team, wears a uniform, sits in the dugout, gives advice, etc. And as long as the Mariners are in contention, they should only put their very best players on the field.
But if Griffey is still interested in playing, here’s what you do. Let him play in spring training. Let him take batting practice with the team during the season if he wants to. And then, if the Mariners actually do actually fall so far out of contention that they can’t possibly come back, the team should cut its worst player and install Griffey as the DH. Or else, when the rosters expand in September, add Griffey to the 40-man and put him on the team for a few at-bats down the stretch.
Look, this plan is pretty silly, but if Griffey is already under contract as a coach, the only thing he really costs you is a roster spot, and only a 40-man roster spot at that, if you wait until September. It’s still probably not the optimal use of resources, but in this darkened age of steroids, Ken Griffey Jr. is the one player who has emerged as still being beloved by pretty much the entire nation, and if he still wants to play a bit, and the fans still love to watch him (which they do), and the Mariners players and staff all love him, I say let him play a bit.
In any case, it’s a decent compromise with the foolishness of giving him so many at-bats this season when the Mariners actually had a shot at contention.