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.