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What If Ken Griffey Jr. Became a Met?



By Mike Silva ~ June 7th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, NY Baseball Memories.

I wrote about the plight of Ken Griffey Jr. a couple of weeks ago. It was sad to see him bumbling to the sunset of his career in the town where he became a baseball legend. A few days ago Tyler Kepner of the NY Times did a nice profile of Junior, a man he covered doing the Mariners beat for The Seattle Post- Intelligencer. The blurb that caught my eye is a story that was big at the time, but gets lost in the lore of Mets history:

“At the ’99 winter meetings, the Mariners talked with the Mets about a deal centered on Armando Benitez, Roger Cedeño and Octavio Dotel. They asked for Griffey’s approval within 15 minutes, never interpreting that as a hard deadline.”

What’s the point of that deal over a decade later? Could you imagine how that would have changed Mets history?

In theory it would have blown up in the Mets face because Griffey spent the majority of his Cincinnati time injured. Still, in nine years he was a pretty productive player averaging 24 homers, 70 RBI, and an .870 OPS. Not superstar numbers, but certainly not Mo Vaughn circa 2003. Even with those numbers he still would have been a great offensive complement Mike Piazza.

What Griffey could have impacted was the 2000 season. If that deal goes through then Mike Hampton probably doesn’t become a Met (David Wright might not be one either!) and who knows what John Franco would have done closing games for that team. I do remember rumors they would have tried to sign Kazuhiro Sasaki to replace Benitez so maybe it would have been a wash. I do think Griffey in the middle of that 2000 lineup with Piazza, Alfonzo, and Zeile would have beefed up what was an average offensive team. He was vintage Griffey his first year in Cincinnati hitting 40 homers, driving in 118, and putting up a .940 OPS. Big difference having Griffey in centerfield than Jay Payton.

The ultimate “what if” is regarding Griffey’s health. What if the Mets acquired a healthy Junior? Look at his numbers with compromised legs. Could you imagine him pursuing the all time home run record in New York? Imagine how that would have rankled George, since Griffey was the one star that never seemed to want pinstripes.

Of course, there are parts of me that wonder if Griffey, even healthy, would have really liked it here. Kepner describes a moody guy that didn’t always like talking to the press. That works in Seattle or Cincinnati, but will get you tons of bad ink here. You don’t have to be Jeff Francoeur, but you need to play the political game to manage the relationship.

Alas, it probably all turned out for the best. The Mets got to the World Series with Hampton and wound up receiving draft pick compensation when he departed in the name of David Wright. It’s still fun to wonder “what if” the Mariners didn’t tick Griffey off that winter night in 1999. The course of Mets history would certainly look a whole lot different.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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4 Responses to What If Ken Griffey Jr. Became a Met?

  1. Dave Wakeman

    While playing the “What If?” game. We could also say that the possibility exists that Griffey may have been able to have had a little better luck than he did in Cincinnati in regards to the injury bug. Because 2000 Riverfront still had artificial turf, which ruined the legs of many a great player, having him get onto grass full time one season earlier, may have meant the difference in a few of those injuries that he suffered.

  2. RonOK

    When I saw this post, my first reaction was “if my aunt had testicles she’d be my uncle …”

    But seriously, it’s realy not a bad thing to debate. The Mets went to the World Series with an outfield of Agbayani-Payton/Hamilton-Bell/Perez. Think about that …. it’s almost impossible to fathom.

    In my opinion, getting to the rotation with a starting rotation of Hampton-Leiter-Reed-Jones-Yoshi/Rusch is equally unfathomable.

    We know how it worked out win 2000 with what we had …. the question is would Griffey’s offense have made a bigger impact then Hampton’s pitching — I say no.

    The historical impact after Hampton left for the Colorado school system netting us David Wright makes the events as they happened just fine. So I guess what I am saying is I don’t think the Mets win the World Series with Griffey in place of Hampton – probably they don’t even get there — and getting Wright was a huge bonus.

  3. Mike Silva

    In some ways this current group reminds me of that team. You could argue the 2010 squad is better.

    Santana and Pelfrey are just as good 1-2 and 3-5 are no worse than the 2000 team.

    Offensively you get similar production to that team.

    I think where they differ is the 00′ bullpen was consistent and deep while the current group has been spotty.

    The big difference is managers as Bobby V maximizes talent while Jerry….. well you know

  4. Scott Carrier

    This is a grass roots campaign to give Ken Griffey Jr. his proper
    farewell. If you are at all nostalgic like me i ask you to join and
    invite all of your friends:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=132375283445862

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