BY John Hickey 10:31AM 02/15/2011

Griffey returning to Mariners as a consultant

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong talks about what Griffey’s role could be and why the organization opted for this move.

Ken Griffey Jr. will be returning to Mariners as a special consultant to the front office / Getty Images

PEORIA, AZ – It seems the Mariners now have an Icon At Large with the news Tuesday that Ken Griffey Jr. is rejoining the organization as a special consultant.

The announcement came a week short of two years after Griffey rejoined the organization where he rose to superstar status.

“He is our iconic player,’’ club president Chuck Armstrong said. “We’re happy to have him back home.’’

Just what will Griffey’s ultimate role turn out to be? That’s a question that will evolve over time. He and Armstrong discussed Griffey traveling to meet with the organization’s minor league players to talk about “what it means to be a Mariner.’’ It’s possible he will do a little TV and radio work. Community relations? You bet. Marketing? No problem.

When Griffey was first approached in 2009 about a return to Seattle, the team he broke in with in 1989 and played with through 1999, he talked about being with the organization past his playing days.

But the way he left the team last year, waking up one June morning to decide that he’d had it with playing part-time for then-manager Don Wakamatsu, then getting in his car and starting the long drive to Florida, it seemed like such a quick return to his first team was out of the question.

He was upset over suggestions that he’d been sleeping in the clubhouse, something some teammates said he blamed on Wakamatsu, even though it wasn’t the manager who lit those flames. He was tired of having to check the lineup everyday to see if he was going to play.

And he was at the end, the very end, of an illustrious career. He was no longer the player he once was. Although he had 1,836 career RBIs and 630 career homers, none of the homers and only seven of the RBIs came in the 108 at-bats he’d been allotted in the first two months of the season.

So he left, phoning in his retirement from somewhere along I-90 near the Washington-Idaho border.

“Time has elapsed,’’ Armstrong said Tuesday. “He and I talked about why he left at that time and how he left at that time. I believe that’s something he should address himself. From our perspective, last season was a difficult season and during the course of the season after he left, he and I would talk on a regular basis.’’

Armstrong, who has long viewed Griffey as part of his extended family, couldn’t criticize the way Griffey just packed up and left. Asked if he approved of the handling of the departure, Armstrong said Griffey was doing what he thought best, and it’s clear Armstrong accepts that.

“In his mind, he didn’t think he had any alternative,’’ Armstrong said. “We might have wished that he did it differently, but in his mind he did it the right way for himself and the franchise.’’

So what exactly will Griffey’s contributions to the Mariners in the coming weeks and months be? That topic remains under discussion, and it’s not clear how this position will evolve.

“I’m looking forward to staying very involved with the Mariners,’’ Griffey said in a statement released by the club, “working with the players throughout the organization, staying involved with the community and assisting in other areas of the organization.’’

Armstrong admitted that it make take some time to know how Griffey’s skill set can best be applied to the Mariners’ situation. Certainly the long-time center fielder can light up a room when he wants to. And he’s generally adored by the public in the Seattle area, so a move like this is likely to be greeted with approval.

“Ken made it clear (in 2009) that he wanted to come back as a Mariner and finish his playing career as a Mariner,’’ Armstrong said. “And when he finished playing, he wanted to establish what we’re hoping is a lifelong relationship as a Mariner.

“This is something that’s been in the works for over two years. We were waiting for the time with Ken with his family duties and his other responsibilities he’s got for the time he would want to do this.’’

The timing of Griffey’s arrival in spring training hasn’t been set yet. And it’s not clear if he will be around April 8 for the Mariners’ home opener.

“The situation is evolving,’’ Armstrong said. “Specific dates and times and exactly what he’s going to be doing, we’ll figure out as we go along.’’

Although the Mariners did not say so, it seems likely that Griffey will be given a chance to get behind the microphone some as the Mariners plan to use a variety of former players on television and radio this year while the club decides what it wants to do with its broadcasts in the post-Dave Niehaus era.

Niehaus, a longtime Griffey friend who was the team’s broadcaster from Day 1 in 1977, died in November.

John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)

Twitter: @JHickey3


YourThoughts

  • Lucky Infidel

    Fantastic! That is the one thing the Mariners have been lacking; a humble, well-balanced, willing to stay the course member of the organization.

  • Sam Chowder

    It had to be. Too much history. It was just a matter of time. Without the whole “playing time” equation complicating everything Griffey should be able to help in all kinds of ways.

  • Mark

    I Love IT! If not for Griffey I would not have become a fan of the Mariners. He is one of the All Time Greats, and this organization needs him in place to establish some kind of winning tradition going forward.

    Thanks Griff!

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  • paul baker

    Perfect, having Griffey around the younger players and learning from his classless examples, such as: When thing get tough you go take a nap, freeze out your manager, pout, show no respect, blame everyone else, leave in the middle of the night, act like a spoil rich kid. Yet Mariner fans still love ya. What am I missing?

    Thanks Griff