Was Griffey pushed into retirement?

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Griffey on shoulders.jpgLast month Larry LaRue famously reported that the Mariners were either hoping or actually trying to get Ken Griffey to retire. People freaked out about that, mostly because of the sleeping-in-the-clubhouse stuff, but also over the mere suggestion that Ken Griffey Jr. should leave the game before he was good and ready to.

Ken Rosenthal thinks that, public sentiment notwithstanding, Griffey was pushed, reporting that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu spoke in private with Griffey recently in an effort to persuade him to call it a career.

Wakamatsu said “this was Ken’s decision” and that he “would honor Ken and his career and never even
approach that.”  He would not, however, comment on the matter of the conversations, saying “I won’t be quoted talking about any private conversation I had with a
player.”

Rosenthal also notes that Griffey’s statement yesterday — “nobody in the Mariners’ front office has asked me to retire” — conspicuously omits Wakamatsu from the equation.  Did he ask Griffey to retire?

Given that no one is going to publicly rain on Griffey’s retirement parade now, this is probably one of those unknowable things. At least until someone writes a biography of Griffey, at which point it will only be a footnote.

Still, it’s sad to me that Griffey’s career is ending on such an ignominious note.  Last year, at the end of the season Griffey left to the cheers of the fans while riding on his teammates’ shoulders.  Too bad that, and not these awful past two months, wasn’t the final chapter.

Matt Shepard to be the Tigers new full-time play-by-play guy

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Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.

This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.

Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.

Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.