Results tagged ‘ Ken Griffey Jr. ’

Goodbye Florida

Seven weeks have passed and Ken Griffey Jr. still hasn’t shown up.  If you run into any of his friends, ask them to tell Jr. that the Braves are heading home tonight and that they’ve decided to ignore his decision to play in Atlanta. 

Actually the Braves are heading home with reason to feel good about the fact that Griffey decided to play in Seattle.  We haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot of Garret Anderson.  But while watching him race into left-center field to make a catch yesterday in Lakeland, I was officially convinced that the Braves are better off with Jr. in Seattle.
 
The modern-day version of Jr. wouldn’t have gotten to that ball.  Nor can he display the kind of offensive consistency that Anderson has shown since he allowed his right calf to heal for more than three weeks.   When he’s recorded outs over the past three days, they’ve been loud ones.
 
Did I mention that we’ve been down here seven weeks?  I’m certainly not going to complain about having had the opportunity to spend the past 50 days watching baseball in the Florida sun.  But I echo the sentiments of Bobby Cox and all of the Braves players when I say that it’s time to come home.

Because I’m fatigued and anxious to return to Atlanta, this Spring Training simply feels like it’s been long.  But thanks to Jordan Schafer, Tommy Hanson, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, it will also prove to be one of the most memorable. 

Schafer and Hanson proved why many believe they could have a significant impact in Atlanta this year.  As for Heyward and Freeman, they simply exceeded any expectations you’d place on a pair of 19-year-old kids who were experiencing their first big league camp.

Tom Glavine had already notched 19 wins and compiled 65 career starts before Heyward was born.
  
While utilizing baseballmusings.com and baseball-reference.com to research these numbers, I found that Glavine actually tossed his fourth career shutout two days before Heyward entered this world. 

On that Aug. 7, 1989 night at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Glavine surrendered four hits to a Dodgers lineup that included Willie Randolph, Eddie Murray and Mike Scioscia.

Now that we’re strolling down memory lane, I’m going to reminisce about some of the most humourous things I’ve heard and witnessed over the past seven weeks.

Jeff Francoeur’s catch:  Francoeur caught a 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass in the pond behind the visitor’s clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday night.  Since then I’ve learned that the right fielder is certainly a novice fisherman, who simply found some luck after he grabbed one of the clubhouse attendant’s fishing pole and threw it into the water. 

Braves assistant clubhouse and team travel manager Chris Van Zant, who supplied the picture of Francoeur’s catch, has since told me that the right fielder initially had trouble casting his line further than five feet.

“Just like he always does, he stayed persistent and then ends up catching a fish that guys spend hours trying to catch,” Van Zant said. 

DOB’s furor
:  As I was walking toward my car in Bradenton on Feb. 28, I heard a guy across the street yelling and screaming in my direction.  I began to laugh when I realized it was the Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Dave O’Brien, whose car had been locked in a lot at a car repair shop. 

This might have been one of those “you had to be there” moments.  But I’ll attempt to explain the humor by saying that when agitated, O’Brien can make Archie Bunker seem like a lovable teddy bear.

Tiger’s line:   For this final tidbit, I’ll simply pull these graphs from my March 13 story about Francoeur: 

After Francoeur opened the back nine at Isleworth Country Club with consecutive birdies on March 4, (Tiger) Woods asked, “Who are you?”  
 
Francoeur, quickly responded, “I just wanted to see how the world’s number one golfer reacts with his back up against the wall?”  
  
This prompted Woods to reply, “Yeah, well I was wondering how much time you plan to spend playing in Mississippi this year?”

And with that, I’ll close by saying the dramatic improvement Francoeur has shown over the past seven weeks has provided the most signific reason for the Braves to be encouraged heading into the 2009 season. 

The Florida sun has been fun.  But it’s definitely time to bring this show home.     

francoeur.jpg

Did Griffey do the Braves a favor?

While writing the early version of the story about Garret Anderson and the Braves agreeing to the terms of his one-year, $2.5 million contract, I didn’t exactly have a firm opinion about whether or not he’d be a better fit than Griffey would’ve been. 

But after talking to some of the Braves and doing some more research before updating my original story, I gained the belief that Braves general manager Frank Wren might want to send a thank you note to Griffey and his agent Brian Goldberg.

When one of my respected colleagues opined  that Anderson is “the most underrated player of his generation to me," I certainly took notice. 

But such a compliment wasn't going to completely sway somebody who believes Griffey was the most purely talented player of this generation.  (Obviously raw stats aren't the only components I used to gain this opinion.)

So while attempting to evaluate the current talents of two former superstars who are past their primes, I have to give the nod to Anderson, who is 2 1/2 years younger, undoubtedly the better defensive option,  and a player whose offensive capabilities provide the Braves the opportunity to place an experienced and proven bat in left field on a regular basis.  

The fact that Griffey would have been platooning at least provides reason to wonder what kind of production Matt Diaz would have provided during those days when he was playing left field.  During his first two years with the Braves, he devoured left-handed pitchers.  But before he injured his knee in late May of last year, he created reason to wonder if he could rekindle the magic he experienced in 2006 an 2007, when he combined to hit .333 with 19 homers and an .856 OPS.

Looking solely at the statistics he might have produced while batting solely against right-handed pitchers, you could argue that Griffey would have provided more power.   But in doing so, you have to assume that he’s regained all his strength in his surgically-repaired right knee.

Assuming Griffey was at optimal strength, you might project that he and Matt Diaz could have combined for 25-30 homers while serving in a platoon role in left.   But the “if” that accompanies this argument seems to provide a greater variable than the certainty Anderson has shown through his consistent production he’s provided since ending his days as a legitimate power hitter.

Anderson  hit .293 with a .774 OPS against right-handed pitchers last year and .290 with a .704 OPS against left-handers.Over the past three seasons, he’s hit .295 with a .799 OPS against right-handers and .272 with a .713 OPS against southpaws.

When the Braves are facing a tough left-hander or Anderson needs a day off, Cox may choose to play Diaz, who has hit .328 with a .508 slugging percentage against them in his career.

But for the most part  I think you’ll see Anderson in left and he’s told friends he’s looking forward to the opportunity to play 120-130 games in the outfield this year.  This workload would  provide  Diaz the opportunity to be more than simply a valuable bat off the bench.

Anderson obviously isn’t the great player that he was at the beginning of this decade.  But because he still has the ability to give the Braves an experienced and proven presence in left field on a regular basis, I’ve gained the opinion that he’s better than any other options Wren has explored over the course of the past week.

- Mark Bowman

Moving away from Griffey

If you haven’t already, let’s get away from any belief that Ken Griffey Jr.’s decision to sign with the Mariners was solely based on the fact that he was upset about the fact that The Atlanta-Journal Constitution provided indication on Tuesday afternoon that he’d already chosen to play for the Braves.

Can you truly believe that a Hall of Famer would alter his plans by choosing to move three time zones away from his family just because he was upset about a report?

Because he’s always been fond of the Mariners organization and the fans of Seattle, I understand why Griffey was upset with this report, which was based on information provided by a source who regards himself as one of the outfielder’s closest friends.

While trying to evaluate every angle, I guess I can buy that the report at least played a small part in Griffey’s decision.  But if this is true (and it certainly might be), then you have to realize the fact that, beyond the nostalgic return and the reality that that the Mariners were providing more from a financial standpoint, there were a number of factors weighing against the Braves.

Over the past week, there was always a sense that Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg wanted his client to return to Seattle.  I think this belief was verified when it was Griffey who personally took the initiative to reach out to the Braves to start negotiating with them.

With this in mind, there’s certainly a chance that Goldberg used the  AJC  report as ammunition while trying to persuade Griffey to return to the greater riches awaiting him in Seattle.   But once again, this seems to only further prove that the Braves might have never had better than a 50/50 chance to land the outfielder.

Regardless of what Goldberg wanted, ultimately the decision was Griffey’s and I can’t blame him for returning to a place where he’ll be beloved, regardless of what he does on the field. 

If he’d chosen the Braves and struggled this season, Griffey would have certainly encountered more ridicule from the Atlanta fans, who would have been more apt to view him simply as a washed-up legend. 

There aren’t any guarantees that Griffey’s surgically-repaired right knee will allow him to encounter success this season.  But in Seattle, he’ll deservedly be loved whether he hits .300 or .220. 

This provides the makings for a  nice story.  But it certainly would have been nice if he wouldn’t have pulled the Braves into the mix while creating this next chapter of his storied career.

-Mark Bowman

Griffey to Seattle

Because of the time it took for him to reach a decision and the fact that he’d had limited contact with the Braves in more than 24 hours, I can’t say I’m shocked that Ken Griffey Jr. chose to sign with the Mariners. 

Seattle provides him a unique nostalgic opportunity to return to his Major League roots.  In addition, the Mariners were willing to provide more money than the Braves.

As of last night, both teams were offering a $2 million guarantee.  The incentive package offered by the Mariners was more financially lucrative.

With Griffey out of the picture, look for the Braves to make a trade or give one of their young outfielders a chance to platoon in left field with Matt Diaz.  They seem more intrigued with these options than the prospect of signing free agent Garrett Anderson.

I think this might definitely open the door for Jordan Schafer, who certainly has more power potential than Gregor Blanco or Josh Anderson.  Anderson is out of options and likely to land a roster spot.  Schafer is a sound defender who can play both left and center.

Having received a Major League-low 27 homers from their outfielders last year, the Braves needed to find some power to add to their outfield mix.  Their best chance to gain this power might  be via trade.  

What made Griffey more intriguing than Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady was his cost.  Now Wren might have to find a way to be able to afford one of these two Yankees outfielders.

- Mark Bowman

Still no Griffey update

When I arrived at the stadium at 7:15 a.m. my intentions were to find something more interesting than the fact that Kelly Johnson avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a one -year, $2.85 million contract. 

But there were no signs of Ken Griffey Jr. in the clubhouse on Wednesday morning and I’m no longer convinced we’re going to see him on the Disney property later today.

From what I can gather, Griffey still hasn’t told the Braves that he’s firmly decided whether he’ll be playing in Seattle or Atlanta this year.  This certainly wasn’t what I was expecting to gather when I woke up at the crack of dawn. 

My expectation was that The Kid would be participating with the Braves during their first full-squad workout this morning.  But for now  the waiting game continues and  based on everything that has happened this offseason, I think I’m done making any assumptions.

While remaining optimistic that Griffey will choose Atlanta over Seattle, Chipper Jones has said that he won’t actually believe it to be true until he sees him in the Braves clubhouse.  I’ve now officially adopted that same mindset.

- Mark Bowman

Griffey says he hasn't made decision

During a phone conversation with MLB.com’s Jim Street this afternoon, Ken Griffey Jr. said that he hasn’t decided where he’ll be playing this year.  The 39-year-old outfielder said he could decide to play for the Braves or the Mariners later today or tomorrow.

“We are still kicking things around with my family and have not made a decision,” Griffey said. “This is the first time in my career that I’ve been a free agent and it’s nerve-wracking.”

Citing a source close to the veteran outfielder and familiar with the on-going negotiations, <i> The Atlanta-Journal Constitution </i> reported early Tuesday afternoon that Griffey had chosen the Braves over the Mariners.  <p>

Griffey and his agent Brian Goldberg said that report wasn’t accurate.

Braves general manager Frank Wren was scheduled to meet with Goldberg on Tuesday afternoon.  In the hours following that meeting, Griffey could announce his decision.

While Griffey hasn’t revealed his decision, there’s still certainly reason to believe that he’ll end up with the Braves.  But until he makes an official decision, there’s at least reason to wonder if he’ll end up returning to Seattle, where he began his Major League career 20 years ago.

- Mark Bowman

Griffey and Glavine still the buzz in camp

There’s still no definitive word that Ken Griffey Jr. has chosen the Braves over the Mariners.  But we’ve reached a point where I’d definitely be shocked if Griffey wasn’t stretching alongside Chipper Jones and Brian McCann on Wednesday, when the Braves hold their first full-squad workout of the season. 

Even if Griffey makes his decision today, there’s a chance the Braves wouldn’t hold a press conference until Wednesday.  At the same time, they could officially announce that they’ve reached also reached an agreement with Tom Glavine.

These signings could prove historic for the Braves. I still haven’t found any other instance where any of the six members of the 600-homer club have been a member of that club while playing with one of the 23 pitchers who had already joined the 300-wins club. I’ll let you know if Elias provides verification later today.

If the Braves do indeed get both Glavine and Griffey, they will have to remove two players from their 40-man roster.  My guess is that right-handed pitcher Anthony Lerew and outfielder Gregor Blanco will be the roster victims.

I walked in with Jeff Francoeur today and there certainly didn’t  seem to  be any indication  that he’s disturbed by the fact that it appears he’ll be going to Phoenix for an arbitration hearing on Friday. 

It still seems quite hard to believe that Francoeur even has a chance to win the $3.95 million salary that he’s requesting.  As for Kelly Johnson, it still appears he’ll reach an agreement before his scheduled arbitration hearing on Thursday.

– Mark Bowman  

Griffey meets with Wren

What was shaping up as a rather ordinary Spring Training Monday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex turned into a rather interesting one when some guy named Ken Griffey Jr. arrived to meet with Braves general manager Frank Wren. 

Wren is scheduled to meet with Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, on Tuesday and in the hours that follow, the veteran outfielder will likely announce whether he’ll be playing for the Braves or Mariners this year. 

If I had to guess, Griffey is going to choose the geographical advantages provided by the Braves.  Going to Spring Training approximately 20 minutes from his Orlando-area residence is just as appealing as the fact that his family will be just a one-hour flight away from Atlanta once the season begins.

I’m not putting much stock in the nostalgic angle of Griffey making the cross-country return to Seattle.  The Mariner Moose is the only familiar face he’d recognize from his previous days with the Mariners organization. 

If Griffey reaches an agreement on Tuesday, he could be with the Braves when they hold their first full-squad workout on Wednesday. 

Within the next week, the Braves will likely also reach an agreement with Tom Glavine.  But regardless of when he signs, the 300-game winner isn’t expected to come to camp for at least another week. 

When Glavine made his Major League debut for the Braves in 1987, his left fielder that day was Ken Griffey Sr.  Twenty-two years later,  the crafty southpaw could end his career with Jr.  as his teammate. 

With Glavine and Griffey, the Braves would have the unique opportunity to have a members of the 600-homer  club and 300-wins club on the same team.  I’ll have to check with Elias to see if this has ever happened.  Or better yet, I’ll start researching this myself and will update later.

- Mark Bowman

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