File photo of Seattle Mariners' Griffey Jr. following through a three-run home run against the Yankees in Seattle

Ken Griffey Jr. talks about why he retired

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When Ken Griffey Jr. retired last year, he did so pretty quietly.  Yes, there was a bit of rancor around the time it happened, but there wasn’t much to the actual announcement. An announcement which almost got lost in the shuffle because it happened on the same night as the Armando Galarraga Jim Joyce game.  He spoke with the media about it yesterday, however, and said it would be the last time he does:

“Last year I felt that it was much better for me to remove myself from the team. I told [Chuck Armstrong] and [Howard Lincoln] if I felt I was going to become a distraction, then I [would] retire. One thing I didn’t want to become is a distraction to the organization … There was no fault. Things happen. I’m not upset. People thought I was upset about certain things. That wasn’t the case. I just felt it was more important to retire instead of becoming a distraction. It no longer became the Seattle Mariners. It became, ‘When is Ken doing this? When is Ken doing that?’ I didn’t want people who I truly care about have to answer those questions day in and day out.”

Most folks believe that Griffey and manager Don Wakamatsu were at odds, which was probably a safe assumption. It’s also clear, though, that Griffey had nothing left as a player, so the rancor and the distraction were likely only part of the equation.

And, actually, Griffey’s diminished-to-the-point-of-disappearing skills are probably what made the relationship between Wakamatsu and Griffey so tough to begin with. Piecing together the various things we’ve heard in the past year, the manager understandably felt that he had to win games, and he couldn’t do it with Griffey. He needed to limit Griffey’s contribution, but didn’t have any support from the front office in how to do that.  This, in turn, led to the rest of the team turning on Wakamatsu when he limited Griffey’s role and it turned ugly from there.  And while in my view it was the front office that should have driven that train and smoothed things out with respect to Griffey being benched, it’s also quite possible that Wakamatsu didn’t distinguish himself in the interpersonal relations department himself.

Ultimately this is a minor footnote to a Hall of Fame career, but it’s interesting all the same.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

It’s not known yet what kind of contract the two sides are negotiating. It could be a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, a non-guaranteed major league contract, or a guaranteed major league contract.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.