A lot of people chipped in to make Junior’s return a possibility. Here’s a breakdown of all those individuals.
Chuck Armstrong. Without the M’s longtime president, this deal doesn’t go down. Armstrong has been an unabashed Griffey fan since the outfielder left Seattle following the 1999 season. He has expressed his desire to bring Junior back ever since then, and was a key cog in orchestrating the huge welcome home ceremony Seattle put on for Griffey in 2007.
Brian Goldberg. Junior’s agent. When I hear “Brian Goldberg,” I think Jerry Maguire. Like the kinship between Maguire and fictional receiver Rod Tidwell, the Goldberg-Griffey relationship is as tight as any real-life player-agent tandem in history. Goldberg may represent other clients, I don’t know, but does it really matter? In an era when the slimy uber-agent has taken over (think Scott Boras, Drew Rosenhaus), Goldberg is the mom-and-pop corner store that we can all appreciate. Had a Scott Boras been at the helm of this negotiation, Griffey may be an overpaid Yankee right now. But with Goldberg running the show, everything just seemed to work out.
Harold Reynolds. The former M’s second baseman played a pivotal role in establishing a line of communication between the organization and Junior. Reynolds reportedly spoke with Chuck Armstrong daily over the past week, acting as somewhat of a go-between from the Mariners to Griffey. Ultimately, Reynolds went so far as to bring Hall of Famer Willie Mays into the picture, setting up a conversation between the Giants great and Griffey.
Willie Mays. One of the greatest players in history, Mays initially spoke with Armstrong at the request of Reynolds. Following a conversation with the Mariners’ president, Mays then had a talk with Griffey, reminding him to keep his eternal legacy in mind when making his decision on his 2009 destination.
The Griffey Family. Without the strength and support of his family, The Kid would likely have become a Brave. Instead, the Griffeys selflessly put aside their own personal needs so that Junior could travel 3000 miles across the country and become a Seattle Mariner once again. One report even cited his oldest children, Taryn and Trey, as having told their dad to follow his heart and become a Mariner again.
Seattle sports fans. Last but not least, the fans of Seattle played as great a role as anyone in bringing Junior back. Without the overwhelming support of our city’s greatest athletic hero, Griffey may not have been as emotionally invested in this decision as he was. The differences between Seattle and Atlanta are immense. Atlanta is a one-hour plane ride from Griffey’s home in Orlando; Seattle is a day-long flight. The Braves are a potential playoff contender; the M’s are coming off a 100-loss season. The money was roughly the same from both franchises. And yet here he is, a Mariner. That’s a testament to the fan base, who have been outspoken in their desire to see Griffey return over the past decade, their three consecutive sellouts upon Junior’s return to the Emerald City with Cincinnati in 2007, and the pitch they made on local radio, message boards, and newspapers over the past week, selling Griffey on the people who truly love him. Good work, everyone.