|Tuesday, November 2
Updated: November 5, 9:06 PM ET
Griffey rejects offer, asks for trade
SEATTLE -- The Mariners have a brand new stadium with green grass and blue skies and a payroll that may jump to $70 million next season. What they won't have for much longer is Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey said Wednesday the recent deaths of Walter Payton and Payne Stewart triggered his trade request.
He knew both the U.S. Open golf champion and the NFL's career rushing leader, but the death of Stewart was more shattering, Griffey said in a copyright interview with The Seattle Times.
"While my decision was mainly about family, this is what led to my final decision," Griffey said. "Payne missed the cut at Disney (a golf tournament in Orlando). On Saturday, he went to see his son play football -- his first football game -- and he caught a touchdown pass.
"On Monday, his wife and daughter kissed him goodbye. Forty-five minutes later, he's not there anymore."
The accident drove home not just his own mortality but his desire to spend more time with his wife, Melissa, their son, Trey, 5, and daughter, Taryn, who just turned 4, at the family home in Orlando.
"With our travel," Griffey said, "I play on one end of the country, and they live at the other end. I'd be flying all over the place. With Trey in school, it would even be tougher."
He said he drives Trey to school daily and wants to be able to see him play youth baseball. His own father missed many of his youth games while playing in the majors.
"I know people might ask about us moving to Orlando, but that's where we want to live," said Griffey. "Everyone should live where they want. If we stayed in Seattle, I'd only have the offseason to do things with Trey, and sometimes it gets so wet it's tough to do things."
Griffey, 29, has turned down Seattle's eight-year contract proposal, reportedly for $140 million. The ballclub, which moved into $517.6 million Safeco Field from the Kingdome in July, said it will try to accommodate him.
A 10-time All-Star center fielder who appears headed to the Hall of Fame, Griffey helped the Mariners to their biggest success in 1995, when they won the AL West and made it to the ALCS, a scenario that helped the Mariners secure public funding for their new park.
Mariners' officials said Tuesday they would try to arrange a trade. Griffey said he had not decided whether he would exercise his right to approve or reject a trade -- a right limited to players with at least 10 years in the majors and at least five years with the same club.
The Griffey announcement was greeted with a sigh of resignation by Mariners' fans, who have been waiting on pins and needles for word about the future of the team's two superstars, Griffey and shortstop Alex Rodriguez.
The Mariners said Wednesday that general manager Pat Gillick would meet with Rodriguez and his agent in Las Vegas on Thursday.
"Ken Griffey's a once-in-a-lifetime player," said fan Richard Brooks. "I've seen him make a number of great catches against the wall, over the wall. That's what I think I'll miss the most."
Griffey delivered his devastating news at a two-hour meeting Monday in Orlando that was attended by his agent, Brian Goldberg, of Cincinnati, and the top three Mariners executives; chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln, president Chuck Armstrong and Gillick.
Griffey's statement Tuesday read, "I want all Mariner fans to understand that my decision does not have anything to do with money or other issues. It is motivated solely by my desire to continue my baseball career playing on a team located closer to my family home, so that I can enjoy more time with my wife and young children."
"Money was not an issue," Goldberg said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
Lincoln said the Mariners still intended to field a competitive team next season and planned to increase their player payroll from $53 million to between $65 million and $70 million next season.
"This is a difficult loss for the fans who have watched Ken throughout his entire career," said Lincoln, who took over from John Ellis after last season. "But this is a man who has made a very courageous decision, a decision to put his family ahead of everything else."
Armstrong said he expects Griffey to be cooperative with the Mariners in their attempts to trade him.
"He recognizes that it has to make sense for the club," he said.
Fans and the media thought the Mariners had a good chance of keeping Griffey, who treated the franchise to unbelievable displays of power at the plate and wonderful catches in the outfield, although they have been pessimistic about keeping Rodriguez in the fold.
Gillick would not say which teams, if any, Griffey had indicated were acceptable. The two met for the first time Tuesday.
"I had never even met Pat before," Griffey said. "He seemed like an all-right guy.
"I was only there for a few minutes and told them how I felt, and that was it. There was no yelling or screaming. They may have talked about the 10-5 rights with Brian after I had left, but I do know that I'm supposed to be the one with the hammer."
The Mariners said they perfectly understood Griffey's mind-set.
"I think Kenny had kind of been agonizing on this decision," said Gillick, who took over for the retired Woody Woodward last week. "It was a difficult decision. I think it was one he had to make for his family."
The loss of Griffey's bat and glove will leave a huge hole in the Mariners' lineup. It also puts major pressure on the team to keep Rodriguez, who has been offered an eight-year deal to re-sign for a reported $135 million. Boras has said he won't talk about money until after the 2000 season and, should the Mariners trade his client rather than risk losing him to free agency, he would not negotiate with the team that traded for Rodriguez.
Griffey is signed for next season for $8.5 million and Rodriguez for $4 million.
Gillick, former general manager in Baltimore and Toronto, was asked if he was disheartened when players with the status of Griffey could walk away from a city that loved him, and a team that regarded him as its franchise player.
"It's just something you have to live with, it's just something you have to adjust to and go on," he said.