Last night I wrote a pretty harsh criticism of Ken Griffey Jr. for choosing the Mariners over the Braves. In part that was a criticism of the Mariners for thinking that signing Griffey was a good idea. Here is what I said:
Griffey's decision relegates his 2009 season to a farewell homecoming tour - the baseball equivalent of the Vegas casino "meet the champ ex-boxing star greeter." The Mariners have no need for an aging slugger in their present state -- they're half a dozen moves from being competitive. Griffey has relegated himself to pure sideshow status on a completely irrelevant team thousands of miles from home -- absolutely stupid!
That drew some sharp replies from Mariners' fans stopping by to disagree (something I have absolutely no problem with, I encourage this kind of back and forth). However, I still maintain that my analysis of the situation was the right one. In an article posted to ESPN by Keith Law, I get some validation on my argument. Here is what Law says:
The Mariners' agreement with Ken Griffey Jr. is a nostalgia signing that does very little to push the franchise forward and carries some risk of retarding their recovery from five years of mismanagement by the previous baseball regime. [...]
What's most troubling is that this appears not to be a baseball move, but a marketing one. It's a cynical, insulting ploy to try to get fans into the park -- "Hey, they've heard of this guy! They won't know he's not half the player he used to be!" -- and worse, it's misguided. Fans who want to see Griffey play again will go … once. One past-prime player isn't going to get large numbers of fans to go to the park on a regular basis; the only thing that can do that is winning, and Griffey is worth maybe a win to the Mariners in 2009, with the potential that he reduces future win totals if he takes playing time away from younger players.
I guess to some degree the Braves desire to have Griffey was in part about him being an attraction for fans to come and see, but mainly it was about adding power to the lineup at a reasonable price. Our efforts this off-season to get a full-time left fielder were unscucesful or impossible due to financial constraints, so the next best option was to try and add a platoon partner for Matt Diaz. This seems like it would have been a more satisfying role for Griffey, but he chose the gold watch division.
Perhaps this is the best thing for the Braves. I said before the Griffey possibility broke a week ago that I thought the Braves should wait until the end of spring training or a month into the season before they make a move. We've got a lot of internal options and it could add long-term value to give guys like Brandon Jones and Jordan Schafer a chance to break into the majors.
I'd like to throw out one more name for left-field platoon consideration; Brooks Conrad. He's an unproven hitter, but as a switch-hitter batting left-handed against right-handed pitchers at triple-A last year he hit .262 with a .527 slugging percentage. If he can control his strikeouts he could probably be even better, as he had a .300 BABIP vs. right-handers. What Conrad lacks in average and plate discipline he brings in power -- which is a lot of what we're looking for in left field. He's obvoiusly not ideal, and I have no idea if he can play left field, but the Braves don't seem to be searching for a long-term solution in left field anyway.