Ok, it took awhile to get this conference call translated. It was a long one, almost 30 minutes. Also the transcription was tough because the reception caused by Zduriencik's phone made it sound like he was calling from outer Mongolia, not from Peoria. It was tinny and echoing and a constant static at times, for which he profusely apologized. (Most of the questions are summarized to the main point)
Anyway some interesting stuff in here ...
We are very excited and ecstatic that Ken has chosen to come back. Certainly he's a first ballot hall of famer. His legacy in Seattle was extremely important to him. It was a very difficult decision for him simply because of his family ties in Orlando, the proximity to spring training that he would have and certainly between Atlanta and Orlando would have been much easier route for him to go.
In his heart of hearts, it was important for him to come back to Seattle for the fans. It was important to come back to Seattle because of his love for this city. And as we talked through this thing over the last week or so, his relationship with Chuck Armstrong was also a critical factor. He looks at Chuck as a favorite uncle. So all these things together was a baseball decision that was made and at the end of the day the love that Ken has for the city for the Seattle and the fans swayed him to come in this direction and we're extremely excited to add this left-handed bat to our lineup.
How many levels of up and down did you go through in the last 48 or 72 hours?
Well, when the reports came out a few days ago about him signing with Atlanta, you never know really what to believe as that unfolded and it turned out not to be true. We were holding out hope and had on-going discussions with him. And Chuck was very instrumental in having conversations with him. And (Griffey's agent) Brian(Goldberg) and I carried on many conversations. We met with Ken and his wife here this past Sunday, he had chance to sit down with Don and myself and it was very, very positive. At the end of the day, he's coming home.
Talk about Chuck Armstrong's influence and role he played
Chuck was extremely important in this whole decision of Ken's. As I said earlier, his relationship with the Ken from the years gone by and his friendship with the Griffey family was very, very important. I think that there's a great admiration that Chuck has for Ken and Ken has for chuck. There's a tremendous amount of respect there. In fact when Ken made the decision, Brian Goldberg informed me of it and Ken called Chuck. I'm sure it was a personal decision on Ken's part as well as a baseball decision. And from our end, it was a strictly a baseball decision. We think he can come in and help this ball club.
If it was only baseball decision could they have acted sooner?
We've been working on it for about three weeks, but some of the things that were obstacles were exactly on the baseball end of it. We were coming to a determination of where we were going to be as a ball club. As you well know, there were a few deals that were made here recently. As we were getting through those couple of trades and couple of acquisitions, we were trying to figure out what kind of club we were going to be putting on the field to give us exactly the direction we needed.
And then as we talked about it a little more, about Ken and the injuries he had were a factor as well for us to make sure we had the medical information. So to gather all that stuff, and then finally when we looked at this club, and how important it would be to get a veteran leader here - it was very important. And we said all along we were looking for another bat, and preferably a left-handed bat, so it all come together. We've been pursuing for a few weeks and it's come to a head and we're ecstatic he's going to be a Seattle Mariner again.
What are the plans for when Griffey will show up to Peoria?
It's a little bit up in the air. He's trying to tie up loose ends with his family in Orlando. We expect him to be here sometime over the weekend. As (Mariners media relations director) Tim Hevly said, he'll probably be here for the workout and we'll probably hold a press conference after the first workout. When that is exactly going to be it's yet to be determined. It could be Friday, Saturday, it could be Sunday.
What was the meeting like with Ken and what was discussed?
In terms of the meeting, Ken left the Pebble Beach came here with Melissa and we sat here for almost two hours. And then he went to his physical afterward. The doctors waited around so we could get our hands on his physical and then he went through MRI and x-rays.
It was a cordial meeting and I think more than anything else, it gave him a feel for myself and for Don and hearing about the direction of the ball club and what we're planning to do short term, long term, our vision for the organization, how he fits in here, why it was so important of him to be a part of this ball club and why we thought that he would be very important to us. We talked a lot of personal thins. It was a nice meeting. He has lovely wife. I was a very impressed with Melissa. I heard a lot about his families and his kids and his desire to spend as much time with them as he can. That's about in a nutshell, in a rather nutshell.
How is his overall health, particularly the surgically repaired knee?
Our doctors checked him out and gave him a good bill of health and felt that he was healthy enough certainly to play. The surgery he had was successful so we're anxious to get him out here, get him on the field and watch him.
What is Griffey's role with the club going to be, DH, LF or both?
It'll probably be a lot of that. It depends on how he feels physically, I think that will all be determined, I think it works to his advantage that we have a designated hitter. I think that was something that Don expressed to us when we sat here and talked.
How much did he have to be convinced or nudged to bring Griffey back to Seattle?
In no way at all. It was a baseball decision. Chuck and Howard have left that up to me and given me full autonomy to make these decisions. When I sate with Chuck and Howard and told them what I wanted to do, they were extremely supportive. It was a baseball decision to bring him back.
Was there any thought given to level of ticket sales he might generate?
That was not a factor at all on my end of it. My decision was strictly: Can this guy help this ball club, can this guy come back to this city and be rejuvenated. After it was all said and done, we've all came to the same conclusion that it would be great to have Ken Griffey back in a Seattle Mariners uniform and helping this ball club return to its winning ways.
Was there a point in time where you thought he was going to the Braves?
I'm optimist so I never really put myself in that position, I just thought he would make the right decision regardless of what it was. Obviously, I had my own personal view of what the right decision was. He certainly had his point of view of what the right decision was and you have to respect Ken Griffey the man and I did that.
As we were going through his process, there were some reports came out that he was going to Atlanta. Certainly there were emotions that were tied into in many of the discussions we had internally here. At the end of the day, this is somewhat like a negotiation that goes on. There will be a decision made and you only control one side of the equation. The person at the other end controls the side. In this particular case, Ken wanted to come back to the city that he loves. He wanted to come back to the city that he loves and I think his legacy was important to him. I think he's going to be very excited to see the fans of Seattle and I know they are going to be very excited to see him.
If there is any special provisions in the contract a la Roger Clemens with the Astros?
No, I think Ken Griffey wants to be a part of this ball club. He's a very proud individual and he should be with his talent level and what he's done in the game. What he's excited and happy about I being here and getting us get back to the winning ways and restore this franchise to greater heights to where it was years ago and even beyond that.
Are there any attendance clauses in the contract?
I wouldn't speak to anything regarding the contract. My decisions are based on him being on the field and that's what my concern is is him becoming asset to us on the field, in the dugout and just being around our ball club.
Was he aware of the fans recent response to him coming back and did it make a difference to him?
You're talking about arguably the greatest athlete that's played in the Northwest. Certainly the greatest athlete that's ever played in Seattle Mariners history and probably the best athlete that's ever played in the city of Seattle. I think Ken at the end of the day loves the fans in the city of Seattle. He expressed that to us. He knows what they mean to him. He knows what a motivator that it's going to be to him. And I think it was huge factor in him wanting to come back here.
There was some turmoil with last year's club, was there some thinking that he can stabilize the clubhouse and bring in leadership and reach out to Ichiro?
There were a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. When you're talking about a guy that's a first-ballot hall of famer, a guy that's done what he's done in the game, a guy that's been the type of player that's he was, the day that he walks into the locker room, there's just a respect. The fact that we are revitalizing this franchise, I think he brings something to the table there. I think the years in the game are going to be very important to younger players. His experience in the game is going to be very important to younger players. He said to me, "I've been there done that and there isn't much I haven't seen, and anything you can ask me, I've been there and done it." I think he understands what his role is going to be. I think he's going to come here and be an integral part of this ball club. And just by his presence, he'll bring leadership. We're excited about that aspect not only the left-handed bat, but the aspect of what he'll bring in the dugout, around the ball club as well as what he'll bring to the field.