How Griffey Could Hurt Attendance

DMZ · February 7, 2009 at 6:06 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Some people will come out to see Griffey if he’s a Mariner next year, or at least tune into games, or read about the team in the one remaining paper. I don’t know if that’s one fan or twenty thousand over the course of a season, and neither does anyone else. I’m on the skeptical side, as you’d probably expect: from the Mariners own experience with declining stars and bringing aging veterans back for one more run, there’s not much reason to expect a huge bump. I loved watching Rickey Henderson play, but I didn’t attend any games I wouldn’t have otherwise that year. Some people went to see Gaylord Perry in his quick tour here, especially for #300, but not a ton, because the team stank. And so on.

That’s not perfectly analogous, because they’re not formerly hugely beloved players who forced their way off the team to another league, after which some segment of the fanbase spent the time since making goo-goo eyes at them.

I want to raise another issue, and Larry Stone touched on this in passing. What if he’s bad for attendance over the season?

What if Griffey comes in, and 5,000 more people show up for the non-Opening-Day games, and then he’s the shell of a player that Seattle fans haven’t really seen? Think Edgar 2004, but worse. Boone 2005. And these too were popular players in Seattle. Did fans come out to see what might be their last season when they sucked?

No. Of course not. What are we banking on, then? That Griffey’s going to contribute, or that he’s so beloved from his early years and so forgiven for the trade thing, that it’s an entirely different situation?

If that’s true, it’s quite possible he ends up driving people away. The last time Seattle fans saw him play regularly it was 1999, when Griffey still hit like crazy, played center field, went to All-Star games, and placed in MVP voting. If you’re an old enough fan, your memories are of the nineteen-year-old becoming one of the game’s greatest and not long afterwards departing.

What about if Griffey sucks? If he’s hobbled and doesn’t play much, and particularly if the second marriage turns sour and he starts sniping at the front office for not bringing in enough veteran leaders to support him? Or if he picks up feuding with the fans for inadequate fawning? How many people will not want to watch because he’s here, preferring to remember him as the graceful and happy-seeming Kid?

I worry that having this go badly will taint the story of the season, and instead of being about how they’re improving, playing far better defense, and have a promising future, we’ll have a year of Griffey-related pain and hand-wringing, where instead of wanting to go to Safeco to see the new direction they’ll avoid it because they don’t want to see a wrenching reminder of the toll age has taken on the Kid they still want to see.

If we’re going to acknowledge that people’s actions will be determined by their emotional reaction to one player, we have to face that the results may not be all beneficial to ticket sales and ratings.


127 Responses to “How Griffey Could Hurt Attendance”

  1. terry on February 8th, 2009 6:39 pm

    What possible obscure metric are you basing that on? You guys must be crammed into that dark basement…

    In the spirit of not feeding the trolls, I vow not to and hope others do the same.

  2. AKMarinersFan on February 8th, 2009 6:39 pm

    You guys seem to be so worried about Griffey setting back the Mariners. You are talking about a team that got nosed out of the worse record in MLB last year. A team that has made very minor player moves to this point. A team that isn’t full of players that are expected to suddenly have career performances next year. A team that unless they make antoher move, is likely to start Endy Chavez next year.

    I think your worries are a bit overstated.

  3. galaxieboi on February 8th, 2009 6:41 pm

    What possible obscure metric are you basing that on? You guys must be crammed into that dark basement…

    Seriously, other than for comedic amusement why is this guy not been deleted yet? I enjoy it when people come here and challenge us with some good reasoning, but hurling insults is just bad pool.

  4. Slippery Elmer on February 8th, 2009 6:57 pm

    Galaxieboi: “If Griffey signs with the M’s, gets dumped on the bench and the team does a total nose-dive it’s gonna get really ugly, really quick. And people will stay away. IMHO, of course.

    Sure, but as I noted, that’s the worst-case scenario. However it still would not prevent me from making the trip to see him.

    That being said, if the FO and coaching staff are on-board with a Griffey pickup, and here were to struggle, I highly doubt they’d be willing to let him languish on the bench. It would be tough to see him founder out there day after day, a la Edgar in his final season, but the team would’ve chosen PR over better play, and they’d have to live with that.

    Despite what I’ve said about wanting to see him in Seattle once again, for the sake of all concerned, I hope they ultimately just say NO to Griffey. I think a September waiver-deal, like what they did for his Dad, would be ideal for everyone.

  5. joser on February 8th, 2009 7:06 pm

    Seriously, other than for comedic amusement why is this guy not been deleted yet? I enjoy it when people come here and challenge us with some good reasoning, but hurling insults is just bad pool.

    Every so often Derek indulges the dark side with a post that invites this kind of discussion, and we all get to wade through the shallow end of the pool that is the normal mudbath for KJR callers and PI forum denizens, stagnant and addled, and we all are reminded why we are grateful for the deep, clear refuge of USSM. Sometimes it’s a steroids post, sometimes it’s a Griffey post. And we haven’t had WFB or Ibanez to kick around any more, so….

    Anyway, it’s early February and cabin fever is at its peak as we wait for “pitchers and catchers” (and the WBC). I expect this whole weekend was a kind of intellectual colonic for him and the site, and we’ll be back to normal sanity, spa-fresh and cognitively cleansed, with the new week.

    At least, that’s what I’m hoping….

  6. AKMarinersFan on February 8th, 2009 7:20 pm

    [your act has gotten old; contribute something to the conversation without insulting others or stop commenting]

  7. BurkeForPres on February 8th, 2009 7:30 pm

    I’m getting the impression that you don’t understand the rules of baseball.

    That made me laugh. Really hard.

    I think it is completely reasonable to think that Griffey could result in lost revenue. Likely? Maybe not, but like DMZ pointed out, if he is just a shell, people are going to be heartbroken, and that is just as strong of an emotion as nostalgia.

  8. SonOfZavaras on February 8th, 2009 8:36 pm

    I’m 37 years old now, and have been a fan since 17. And one lone thing got me started loving this game.


    That being so said, I don’t want him back. I have a sentimental side, and I admit seeing #24 again would tug at some heartstrings. But, I don’t think- or pay money- with my heartstrings. And I know that Ken Griffey, Jr. as a player in 2009 has very little else to give my team or to the game.

    In my perfect world, he hangs them up. Now. He takes his numbers, and his rightful place in the Hall of Fame- right after he sees #24 retired on Opening Day in Seattle. I want to get older and have him be like our Ted Williams- old coots who actually saw him debating about how much better his numbers would have been if not for this, that and the other.

    I saw him at least two dozen times, one game I was at in particular in 1994 sticks out- he hit two home runs against the Yankees (prompting a brawl in the Yankees dugout after the second one) and then made an unreal catch against the centerfield wall that I thought for sure was a home run.

    And when I saw him that game, I’m 22 years old thinking “Someday I’ll tell my kids and grandkids I saw that performance for myself. Someday they’ll ask me how good he was and I’ll tell them ‘If you saw him at his peak, you’d never forget him’.”

    I want to keep those and other memories where they are.

    I want to remember how graceful, how easy he made a difficult game look without being encumbered by juxtaposed memories of a past-his-prime hitter trying for just a little more time in the sun.

    Maybe that’s me being selfish- wanting to avoid any chance at seeing cruel reality manifest itself. But that’s what I’m thinking. If Griffey suits up for the M’s in 2009, I’m sure there’ll be a brief flurry of attendance…but me, I won’t spend any more money than what I normally would.

    While I’m not sure if Griffey would hurt attendance, I really don’t think he’d markedly help it.

    I can say I’m way more interested to see if Balentien (like Buhner before him) ever lays off 59-foot sliders, if Clement can catch, and further down the line…if Carlos Triunfel,Greg Halman and Adam Moore will be the next great right-handed hitters in Mariner history.

    Nostalgia is like vanilla extract- small doses only if you’re going to indulge.

  9. Breadbaker on February 8th, 2009 9:28 pm

    people are going to be heartbroken, and that is just as strong of an emotion as nostalgia.

    Which proves that Derek’s point that we cannot

    reliably predict the emotional reactions of vast numbers of people.

    applies to both sides of the argument.

  10. Jeff Nye on February 8th, 2009 9:32 pm

    Well, if they trot Griffey’s remains out to do a dog and pony show for exactly the sort of fans that have helped hold the team back the last few years, I know I’ll go to less games than I would otherwise.

    So there’s at least one ticket sale that Griffey would cost.

    Real fans want their team to win now and in the future, not endlessly relive a past that wasn’t even really all that great.

  11. spar123 on February 8th, 2009 10:42 pm

    real fans also wouldn’t want their team to trot out a bunch of defensive specialists who can’t hit the ball to save their life all in the name of run prevention but that doesn’t stop some.

  12. aaron11 on February 8th, 2009 11:24 pm

    What if aliens came down and kidnapped Ichiro…..Or what if Felix decides he wants to be a priest and retires ….what if,…what if,….what if,….

    I guess if you have to write about a downside of actually selling tickets this year…this is the way to do it. So “what if” Griffey is actually good!? Just throwing it out there. Anybody bother to actually go back and look how he’s done any year after coming off an injury?…… I think it might calm people down a bit…..

  13. Slippery Elmer on February 8th, 2009 11:32 pm

    Jeff: Real fans want their team to win now and in the future, not endlessly relive a past that wasn’t even really all that great.

    You know, I really enjoy reading this site, learning about valuable metrics for gauging the game to which I’ve generally never been exposed by the MSM. But elitist attitudes like this are a real turn-off. Who is anyone to say what a “real fan” is? Just because someone wants to relive their boyhood by watching Junior play in a Mariners uniform for one more go-around they’re not a “real fan?” Good gracious!

    And I recall 1995/’97 as being a pretty great piece of the past, don’t you?

  14. Jeff Nye on February 8th, 2009 11:43 pm

    Those of us who don’t want to see Griffey signed when there’s no case to be made that he’ll help the team win baseball games (no, really, there isn’t) have spent this entire weekend having our fandom called into question by random passerby.

    If wanting to see the Mariners concentrate on putting the best possible team on the field, now and in the future, makes me an elitist, I guess I’m an elitist.

    Whatever sepia-toned memories people have about Griffey, he’s not that player anymore. If the team wants to bring him back for a one-day contract at the end of the season and let him get a token at-bat, that’s fine; but there are many, many better options out there for the DH spot, and in a weak division with a good amount of potential upside on the roster, they can’t afford to throw away at-bats on a player who isn’t going to help them win just to let people “relive their boyhood”.

  15. Steve Pool on February 8th, 2009 11:43 pm

    Edgar in 2004 is the only apt comparison for Junior potentially coming back for 2009 season. Boone was a Mariner for only 4 full seasons, and was never the face for the franchise. It would be hard to evaluate Edgar’s impact on any 04 attendence figures because of Ichrio’s record setting year going on at the same time.

    It all hinges on Kenji for me. In my view, if the Mariners plan on Clement being the starting catcher with Johjima as the backup, then if the price is right go ahead and bring back Junior. If they are going to honor Kenji’s contract and give him plenty ABs as catcher, while Clement plays mostly DH, then don’t sign Junior. Where does Sweeney fit into all of this?

    Also, consider this: if signing an over the hill Griffey to a one year deal doesn’t improve us in the long run, how would signing anybody else to a one year deal help us in the long run?

  16. scott19 on February 8th, 2009 11:45 pm

    For those who really think it necessary to pick up a washed-up old geezer, excuse me, “veteran left-handed bat” for the lineup, you might as well try to go get a guy like Matt Stairs. Not that he’s exactly great and grand these days, but: (1) you could get him for a hell of a lot less than you’d have to pay Griffey, and (2) at least if he fell flat on his face, you wouldn’t constantly be reminded of how great he was “back in the day”.

  17. Slippery Elmer on February 9th, 2009 8:19 am

    Jeff: # Those of us who don’t want to see Griffey signed when there’s no case to be made that he’ll help the team win baseball games (no, really, there isn’t) have spent this entire weekend having our fandom called into question by random passerby.

    If wanting to see the Mariners concentrate on putting the best possible team on the field, now and in the future, makes me an elitist, I guess I’m an elitist.

    Whatever sepia-toned memories people have about Griffey, he’s not that player anymore. If the team wants to bring him back for a one-day contract at the end of the season and let him get a token at-bat, that’s fine; but there are many, many better options out there for the DH spot, and in a weak division with a good amount of potential upside on the roster, they can’t afford to throw away at-bats on a player who isn’t going to help them win just to let people “relive their boyhood”.

    I totally agree, Jeff. I wouldn’t like to see Griffey signed for all of 2009, but I would love it he were to be obtained on the cheap in September to give fans a month of reminiscing. I don’t expect the team to be in contention at that point, so it really wouldn’t matter whether or not he helped them win. If they are in contention, then a one-day contract may have to be the way to go.

    The “elitist” comment was in regards to your definition of a “real fan,” and how anyone who doesn’t match that criteria must not be one. Sports can be many things to many people; it’s a fan’s personal relationship with a team that defines their fanhood, not what other people them it should be.

  18. Slippery Elmer on February 9th, 2009 8:24 am

    “not what other people tell them it should be.”

    (Darn clients interrupting my editing time!)

  19. oceantides23 on February 9th, 2009 8:33 am

    (note to reader….for a condensed version of my points, see the numbered points at the bottom of this post)

    Ok, so let me preface this by saying that I’m a big Griffey fan, started to love the Mariners at the age of 9 back in ’94 largely because of Jr, and I will, in no way, claim that everything I’m about to say here is completely unbiased. The problem is that while my argument may dwell a bit in the “pro-grif” corner, this original article dwells a bit too much in a griffey doomsday scenario.

    First off, I think it’s fairly clear that the overall sentiment towards Griffey is that the majority of the Mariner fanbase wants this guy back in blue and teal. This is independent of what he may or may not do on the field, what kind of team the M’s will have, etc etc. So, even if the argument of ticket sales not being helped by this guy after the first month or so of the season, that’s still a lot more gate receipts, and in this current economy, every seat that’s occupied at any game counts. That’s not even taking into account the rest of the season, which I think would receive a boost in attendance as well…but we’ll leave it at that. Bottom line, the beginning of the season will bring much more revenue in than it would otherwise without Junior Griffey.

    Second, while I applaud the admission that the analogous arguments between Gaylord and Rickey Henderson don’t completely fit…I would argue that the argument is so extreme it does not even belong in the discussion. I’m sorry, but the 1990’s mariners were the golden years for probably 99% of us, and Griffey is cornerstone #1 of that era, not Gaylord Perry, who was in Seattle at a time when next to no one cared about the M’s. Do we all have “countless gaylord perry memories?” I mean, really…do we? Not to the extent that we do Griffey. Rickey Henderson??? He never was “our” star, and if Griffey was just a random first ballot HOF’er looking to finish his career in Seattle, I couldn’t care less if they’d sign that guy. Not all first ballot HOF’ers are created equal….not when one held our collective minds and hearts on a nightly basis for ten years and one was maybe one step above Goose Gossage’ final voyage aboard the good ship Mariner, and that’s only because Rickey played on a winning M’s squad.

    Edgar? The guy is beloved, no doubt about that, but even with his massively slipping production towards the end of his career….has Edgar’s legacy inside of M’s fans hearts been hurt at all? When you think of Edgar Martinez are you just as likely to think about his decline as you are “The Double?” Maybe I don’t have a critical enough eye, but Edgar’s diminishing skills toward the end did nothing to taint his Mariner legacy or the memories I have of his hitting….which leads me to my next point….

    This article is written in a way that it seems a foregone conclusion that M’s fans have their collective blinders on and not only hope, but halfway expect the Griffey of old to come walking through the door. Anyone that i’ve talked to and the comments i’ve read on the countless articles written about this subject all seem to point to those who want Griffey back in a Mariner uniform completely understanding that they’re not receiving 50+ HR’s and a guy who will continue to crash into outfield walls a few times a week for highlight reel catches. Some of us may have our griffey colored glasses on, but few of us are dumb enough to think that we’re getting the player back that we traded away nearly ten years ago. Simply put, Griffey does not need to do what he did then for this to be a success.

    So, especially with expectations NOT being through the roof, while I understand the argument of Jr’s numbers continuing to fall off of a cliff, I could also see it going a bit the other way. If someone may say his HR numbers may decline by five or so….who’s to say they won’t increase by that many? Then we have a guy who is hitting about 25 bombs for us. Of course, it’s specualation to say that…but it’s also speculation to say that, by default, his production is going to go down for sure. So, why do I think his production could go up?

    His production could go up based upon the fact that he WANTS to be here now. Much like guys putting up larger numbers in contract years (minus Richie Sexson…yuck), much has to be said for a revitalized Griffey who, believe it or not, knows that he is in the final stages of a dazzling career. Think otherwise? If his ego let him think otherwise, would he be publicly saying that he realizes he is a fallback option for many teams…or would he be willing to take a one year deal for a few million to probably be a DH? I’m sure he’d rather not do these things…but unlike many players out there right now, Jr realizes these things so has chosen to embrace it as much as he can. Couple this “attitude” change with a Griffey that is ten years more mature (free now of stories of his personal recliners), his knee presumably (and yes I did say presumably because I know we’re not doctors) healthy, and the fact that Jr has evidentally shed quite a bit of weight (per a recommendation from doctors to help him extend a productive career)….and you’ve got a guy who could easily see a bit of a resurgence. Will this happen…who knows? Is it possible based upon all the things i’ve laid out….yes it is.

    So if it’s possible, what are the consequences? Hindering player development? I don’t see that happening to a significant degree, especially with a guy who will primarily be a DH I would imagine. Plus, i’ll flat out say it….to be able to enjoy our hero for another summer in a #24 Seattle jersey with that sweet swing of his, is worth it for me to wait a year on seeing a guy full-time that oughta be in the minors for another year to begin with. Griffey is not an everyday position player!

    So, for one final breakdown (if you’re not sick of this long, first-time post already)….

    1.Griffey does have potential upside based upon his desire to be here, his apparent change in attitude, and his apparent better health.

    2. Griffey is NOT just another fading superstar making a farewell tour with a random team. He was OUR guy.

    3. Griffey is not going to hinder the development of a team that we can all agree is not going to win the division or wild card to begin with. If we have a team on the cusp of contending, some of these arguments change slightly, but we don’t. Simply put, we’re not casting aside an actual all-star player contributing to a winning team to bring in all-star memories.

    4. Finally, and most importantly based upon this initial article, we don’t know exactly what the ticket/merchandising impact would be for Jr. I think we can definitely all agree though that in the short term, Griffey will boost all of these things. Later on in the season, even if Jr ends up producing next to nothing for this team, can you M’s fans who oppose a Griffey signing honestly tell me that you’d be so bitter towards the organization for making this move that you’d refuse to go to the games because you are not able to see a different non-contributor on a daily basis instead of Junior? Are there enough of you who would boycott M’s games if Griffey is not performing to actually make a dent in making attendance less than it would be otherwise? Again, based on every article and every comment on all things Griffey…..the demand is there. You can debate the reasons why that is…but it’s there regardless.

    Thank you!

  20. Steve T on February 9th, 2009 10:56 am

    Nobody goes to games to see single players. Nobody. They go to see teams. If Griffey helps the team win, they’ll come out to see him; if he doesn’t, they won’t. Period.

    Griffey can’t help this team win.

    And, pardon me for asking, but who really cares if he does bring out more fans? Are you a fan of high attendance, or winning baseball?

  21. oceantides23 on February 9th, 2009 11:04 am

    I would agree with you to some extent Steve T, but Griffey and his plays in the hearts of Seattle fans and it’s baseball history, is not just “any player.” I’m more a fan of winning baseball than I am high attendance, but high attendance (if ownership spends the money properly), will cumulatively help foster winning baseball down the line. So in a season where fans most likely are not going to see winning baseball, why not give fans who don’t go out just to see teams (and I promise you they are out there regardless of what you think), something to cheer for and be excited about?

    Tell me then also, if Griffey isn’t going to help the team win…who will within reason? You can exclude the Bobby Abreu’s of the world, because he clearly would help us win, but comes with double or more the price tag.

    Griffey is not the savior….and he’s not going to put us in the playoffs. He is, however, low risk with a potentially higher reward.

  22. pshmidget on February 9th, 2009 11:10 am

    Personally, I think some people have their priorities screwed up.

    So many people here saying how his stats aren’t there, and he couldn’t possibly do anything to help this team besides bring in a few ignorant butts and plant them in the seats for a few miserable games as the Mariners sink farther and farther in the west. They point to Dunn, or Abreau, and say – there’s better ways to spend money.
    Or, they’ll point to demands of being traded etc. They say Jr was an immature brat that jilted the town for selfish reasons, and ruined the team for future fans.

    where do I start?

    1st – you can’t compare Ricky H, Bret Boone or Edgar / it’s pointless to go down that road. Edgar draws a comparison, but not a good one. If he’d left for 10 years, and came back – then go ahead and compare. But how did you decide he’d be worse? Back it up.

    2nd – “Trade thing” – as I recall, and my memory isn’t totally shot – he wanted to leave, for whatever reason, so fine. He was a grown-up making a grown-up decision for him and his family. I think that’s good enough explanation – he didn’t say, “the money’s not important in my thought process” – then sign the biggest $$ contract in history. He said “I need to go.” That’s straight up, like it or not.

    3rd – “He sucks” – maybe he does, maybe not – but compare Beltre and Griffey from last year, and there’s not too much difference – though Griffey played fewer games on a bad leg which he needed to drive the ball with any power. The doctor said his surgery went great, Griffey’s lost weight, and is healthier than he’s been in years.

    4th – What if he’s not washed up – and delivers a 260 BA 75 RBI 20 HR and teaches the youth on this team how to mature? The difference between 2+ wins added (Dunn etc), vs 1/2 game added (Griffey)is only 1 1/2 game, people! Is it worh 4-8 Million for a year for those 1 1/2 games?

    5th – The M’s are not going to spend money on Abreau or Dunn. It’s just not realistic. You cant include Swisher in any discussion, because he’s not available, and I venture to say those 3 guys are not long term solutions for various reasons. Garrett Anderson? Maybe, but he’s asking more money than he’s worth and who wants to deal with Boras?

    6th – Griffey said he’d play LF, 1B, or DH. For less money than Abreau Dunn Anderson, etc. Also For the money – is it worth the 1 1/2 extra wins that stat-heads project we gain by signing one of these Sexon-styled bashers?

    7th – Junior is not “the Kid” any more. Most people – I’d say 95%, understand that to be the case. But it’s also about baseball history in Seattle. Real life history. Real people, and their stories, not just Griffey’s.
    Everyone who’s a fan from that time has a story. Some of the stories are not great. Babe Ruth disappointed a lot of people back in the day when he’d sleep around on his wife, party till he puked, and skipped out on charitable events. But over-all, he made up for it in other ways. We know what those are. Plus, he helped more kids than he turned away. The Babe just went out on the ball field, and “did his thing.”

    8th – Jr always “did his thing” – yeah he was a petulant kid, but he grew up in a jock’s dressing room. He’s always played pro baseball. What kind of life is that for a kid? What do you expect? He led a sheltered life What do you expect? He hasn’t been totally healthy the last 10 years, but he would run into a brick wall for you – and there’s proof of that! He always played at the best of his ability, and didn’t hold back…

    Now, he’s mature enough NOT to run into that wall.

    9th – I’m not sure if it’s a bad thing if these stat geeks boycott games if they brought him back – would they deprive Seattle Mariner fans of their “Cal Ripkin Jr moment” just to say “hey I was right, Jr is only worth 1/2 a win.”

    10th – In these terrible economic times, how is putting butts in seats a bad thing? If Jr is as bad as the stat-heads say, then maybe he’ll retire early. But at least the people of Seattle can look with pride at their team and say – “Wow! This is a great story that’s coming to an end. I was there at the beginning, and I’m here to see it end. You don’t see that happening very often, and the best way to move forward in life – is to make sure you’ve closed the door on the past, and not 10 hours later, or 10 years later, say “Did I leave the front door open?”

    You close it, and move on.

    Then, someone starts telling stories about how the “new kid” reminds you of another “kid” from another time.

  23. huckleB on February 9th, 2009 5:22 pm

    dnc, You keep backing up and backing up and backing up. Get it yet?

  24. spar123 on February 9th, 2009 8:07 pm

    [nice try attempting to tie your random potshot at Ichiro to the thread topic, but you didn’t quite make it]

  25. DMZ on February 9th, 2009 8:09 pm

    Um, what?

  26. dnc on February 10th, 2009 1:52 am

    You’re going to have to point out this alleged backup up, huck, because I don’t see it.

  27. huckleB on February 10th, 2009 6:35 am

    dnc, Read your posts from top to bottom. It’s quite clear. At the end of the day, you say people go to a ball game for one player. I say most people go to see a good team, or a team with potential. I say I’m right. You disagree.

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