I’ve made it no secret to those I know that I’m not a big fan of the player Ken Griffey Jr. has become, though like many I was a huge fan of the player he used to be.
To be blunt, he is an older, fatter, slower, broken down version of himself, his defensive range has completely disappeared, he’s chronically injured and over the last couple seasons his hitting power has begun to disappear as well.
I’ve long since learned to separate my current perception of Ken Griffey Jr. with my perception of him in his heyday, which is not something I can say for most Mariners fans, which have openly pined for Griffey’s return damn near since the day he initially left and are understandably thrilled that he has returned under a one year deal. The team sold over 16,000 tickets in the few days after his announced return.
That said, despite his current liabilities, the signing didn’t bother me. The Mariners aren’t going anywhere this season, Ken Griffey Jr. will probably DH and he isn’t blocking the progress of any young talent by being on this team. His decline over the last few years coincided with playing the field every day even though doing so further wore down his broken down knees. Not having to play the field could help improve his leg strength and keep him fresh, though that’s only blind speculation. But also, let’s not discount any motivation Griffey could have to try and live up to the Seattle fanbase’s high expectations of him, in the highest emotionally leveraged situation he’s seen since… well, the last time he was a Mariner. There is a non-zero chance his hitting ability could rebound enough to somewhat resemble the great hitter he was before, even if chances aren’t likely that he will replicate his glory days.
I’m curious more than anything else about how Griffey’s next run with the Mariners will go. I doubt he will experience the same flameout that fellow has-beens Carl Everett and Jose Vidro experienced as Mariners. But once he shows he is anything short of the glorious slugger that fans nostalgically remember, I wonder how the team will respond to playing him everyday, and I wonder how those fans will respond. That alone gives me a reason to watch the 2009 Seattle Mariners as closely as ever.