Griffey says he retired for betterment of Mariners

Griffey says he retired for betterment of Mariners

Griffey says he retired for betterment of Mariners
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ken Griffey Jr. returned to the Mariners on Wednesday for the first time since his retirement this past June 2. He's back as a special consultant, and spoke about his decision to retire for the first time since then.

Aside from a printed statement the day of the announcement, Griffey had declined to address the issue. Until now.

"I'm only going to do this one time and this will be the last time I talk about [it]," Griffey told a small group of reporters in the press room at the Mariners' Spring Training complex a few hours before their game against the Brewers. "Last year I felt that it was much better for me to remove myself from the team. I told [president] Chuck [Armstrong] and [chairman] Howard [Lincoln] if I felt I was going to become a distraction, then I [would] retire. One thing I didn't want to become is a distraction to the organization.

"A lot of people who are friends of mine tried to talk me out of it. I just thought that it was best for me and the organization to retire. There was no fault. Things happen. I'm not upset. People thought I was upset about certain things. That wasn't the case. I just felt it was more important to retire instead of becoming a distraction. It no longer became the Seattle Mariners. It became, 'When is Ken doing this? When is Ken doing that?' I didn't want people who I truly care about have to answer those questions day in and day out."

2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info

Griffey's playing time had clearly decreased and he was reportedly at odds with then-manager Don Wakamatsu, who has since been replaced by Eric Wedge. Griffey hit .184 with no homers and seven RBIs in 108 plate appearances over the course of 33 games. He finished what surely was a Hall of Fame career in his 22nd season and with 630 homers, fifth on the all-time list and 17 ahead of Alex Rodriguez, the current Yankees third baseman and a former Mariners teammate.

Griffey said he has not spoken to Wakamatsu since retiring and has made no effort to call him.

"My phone rings," he said. "That's just the way it is."

About his role with the Mariners, Griffey, now 41, added: "Coming to Spring Training it's just a matter of what they want me to do. I may spend some times with the kids and give them my opinion of things and the way I see things moving forward.... It's a lot of learning because it's a little different. I'm still going to be the same person. I'm not going to change. You'll know exactly how I feel."

Griffey said that fans should not have been angry or surprised that he left without staging a media conference or that he's remained mum for more than nine months. He said he made it clear to everyone that he wanted no farewell tour a la Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001, which was their final seasons for the Padres and Orioles, respectively. Griffey was intent on going out quietly.

"Do you want me to apologize for something I thought was right?" Griffey said. "I felt that it was right for me to leave. It was not [like] I intended to hurt people. It was a decision that I made and I made that 15 years ago. It wasn't like it was something you guys never heard before. You guys have heard from Day 1. There are some people who are upset and there are some people who are not. I can't worry about that. I had to do what I thought was best for me."

Asked whether he felt he had anything left in his tank when he walked away from a game he began playing in the Major Leagues as a 19-year-old when he came up with the Mariners in 1989, Griffey demurred.

"That's not important," he said. "The important thing is is that it was time. That's all that needs to be said."

About his career, which spanned two tours with the Mariners sandwiched around nine years with the Reds and a blink of an eye with the White Sox, Griffey said there was only one way he wanted to be remembered.

"That I just went out there and played as hard as I could every day," said Griffey, who never played in a World Series and on only three clubs that made the playoffs. "That was the only thing that was important to me."

Aside from the 630 homers, Griffey led the American League in homers four times and RBIs once. His peak home run years were 1997 and '98 when he hit 56 in each of those seasons. A 13-time All-Star, he was named the AL Most Valuable Player in 1997 and was MVP of the 1992 All-Star Game played that summer in San Diego. His Reds years, though, were plagued with injuries and from 2002-04 he played in only 206 games.

His departure from Seattle to Cincinnati in a trade just prior to the 2000 season was emotional, as was his return to the Mariners as a free agent in 2009. Griffey hit 19 homers that season, his last one coming on Oct. 3 at Safeco Park against the Rangers.

Griffey could have walked away in glory after that season, but he said he won't second guess his decision.

"No, things happen," he said. "It's no fault of anyone. Things happen. I got to meet some great people last year. People who still call me to this day. So, no, I'm not sorry that I came back."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.