I am not buying for one second this junk Ken Griffey Jr. is throwing out there about needing to leave Seattle because his family is in Florida, because he was somehow jolted into reality by the tragic airplane crash that claimed the life of his friend Payne Stewart, blah, blah, blah.
Hardly anybody in sports says what they mean anymore. I don't doubt Griffey would like to spend more time with his son, Trey. This just in: There are children who live in Seattle. They have schools in Seattle, good ones. We haven't heard of any reason for Griffey's family to be chained to a pile of bricks in Orlando. And it's not like Griffey took the train out to the Pacific Northwest looking for work catching salmon and isn't sure of his prospects or whether he can afford to send for the family to come on out.
The next contract he signs will pay him approximately $18 million a year. Where I come from, 5-year-olds don't have a say in where the family is going to live. Neither do other dependents. If your family is so important, as it should be, you make the following announcement: "Family, we're all going to Seattle. That's where we're going to be for the foreseeable future."
They've got beautiful, exclusive gated communities in and around Seattle, just like the one Griffey has in Florida. I'm certain the Mariners, in case Griffey is running a little short on change, are willing to pay the moving expenses for the entire Griffey family. When you make $18 million a year, there's no limit on where your family can live. They can be right by your side every minute. He could build a mansion looking down on Safeco Field if he wanted. He could make the kid a batboy during the summer when school's out, like Mark McGwire's kid, and they can be together 24/7 if Griffey wants. But, of course, this is all just a bunch of junk because it's not about family. It hardly ever is, even though athletes throw it out there all the time, hoping to spin their way into favor with fans and, therefore, corporate sponsors. Hiding behind "family" is the new athletic pastime.
If Griffey doesn't want to be in Seattle anymore after 10 years, just step up to the microphone like a grown man and say: "Hey, it's been great. I've enjoyed the people here, the ballclub, wonderful teammates. It's been a blast. But I want to move on. I've always thought about living in the warmth of Atlanta, or in New York just to see what it would be like to play Broadway every night. As much as I've loved the time here, I'm not ready to make this my home."
These guys employ agents, publicists, spokespeople--and you mean to tell me none of them are savvy enough to simply sit down and craft a public goodbye that is appreciative and truthful? I guess not. Griffey told a Seattle newspaper, "Everyone should live where they want." He's absolutely correct. And every grown man should have the guts to say so. He also undercut all that "be close to my family" junk when he said in the same interview, "If we stayed in Seattle--sometimes it gets so wet, it's tough to do things." See, that's the deal: Griffey doesn't want to spend his winters in Seattle. Guess what? He's not alone. There's a tactful way to say so. But apparently, it's easier to hide behind family.
This stuff about Stewart's death is equally lame. I don't doubt Griffey was affected in a major way. He and Stewart were neighbors. They did stuff together, like go to NBA games in the winter. But is moving to, say, Atlanta going to take Griffey off planes? How does he think the Braves get to Dodger Stadium, by stagecoach? Will playing for the Mets or Orioles reduce his air travel? No. If so, it will be too negligible to mention.
Griffey isn't some rube who got into baseball and was caught by surprise at the amount of travel and how much he is away from home. His father was a member of the Big Red Machine. Griffey Jr. knew exactly what he was getting himself into. You want to play professional sports, you fly. There's no Madden Cruiser. You get on a plane and you pray it arrives at its destination safely.
Now, if you're really serious about family and travel, you do what the U.S. women's national soccer team coach, Tony DiCicco, did this week. You just walk away. Actions, not words. DiCicco said: "It's just too much travel. I can't balance it. I wanted to be a world-class father more than a world-class coach." And then he resigned. He didn't leverage it, he left. He might be car-pooling right now, for all we know.
(When asked what Michael Jordan was going to do in retirement, his wife, Juanita, said, "I see car-pooling." Despite the best of intentions, after promising more family time, Jordan saw minor league baseball stadiums and golf courses.)
The rest of this stuff is lip service. Imagine Isaiah Rider, Mr. Irresponsible, trying to sell his employer, the Atlanta Hawks, on a family emergency keeping him away from the season opener and at least one practice. You ask half these guys to give you their grandfather's first name and they can't do it, but if they can miss a game or two assisting in the planning of the funeral, then they get real close all of a sudden.
Here's a bet: Ken Griffey Jr. will see Trey a whole lot less in his new city (unless he plays for the Devil Rays or Marlins) than if he just moved his wife and kids to Seattle, where he could see them every day. Trust me, New York and Orlando aren't that close.
In a great number of cases, "I want to be closer to my family" translates into, "I want to join a team that is closer to a championship." Alex Rodriguez hasn't used "family" as an excuse yet, but while he and his agent have said he will fulfill the final year of his contract with the Mariners, they also said that he will not re-sign with the Mariners unless they can field a team capable of contending for the World Series. Say what?
Hey, A-Rod, for $135 million over eight years, or whatever it is you're asking for, shouldn't you be expected to help produce that chance to contend for the World Series? Athletes want to walk into a room where the table already is set, then just sit down and start eating. They act as if they're doing you a favor by letting you pay them $110,000 or so a game.
If the rosters in Seattle and Baltimore are any indication, the ballplayers are not doing anybody any favors. Shouldn't it be an indictment when groups of all-stars play together and can't get within spitting distance of .500 most of the season? Already the speculation is that the Braves will be willing to trade Kevin Millwood, Andruw Jones and John Rocker to Seattle for Griffey. (Do the Orioles get into the sweepstakes by offering Sidney Ponson, Matt Riley, Albert Belle and Jerry Hairston?)
It promises to be a long offseason filled with many trade rumors and big, strong ballplayers hiding disingenuously behind their wives and children.