Thursday, June 3, 2010
Updated: June 4, 9:20 AM ET
Wakamatsu benched Griffey last month
ESPN.com news services
SEATTLE -- The Kid's farewell tour did not go according to plan.
In the final months before his abrupt retirement Wednesday, Ken Griffey Jr. struggled so mightily manager Don Wakamatsu met with the Seattle icon last month and told him he was benching him.
Still, the Mariners weren't going to release the man who is going to be their first player inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.
Then last month, two teammates told The (Tacoma, Wash.) News Tribune that they saw Griffey sleeping inside the clubhouse during a game.
"Certainly, that stung him," Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, told The Associated Press on Thursday by telephone from Cincinnati.
Griffey never denied napping. Instead, he lashed out at the anonymous teammates for not going to him first.
That was the beginning of the end. He became withdrawn inside the same clubhouse he transformed the year before. No more T-shirt poking fun at Ichiro Suzuki, who idolized Griffey when he played in Japan. No more white neckties bearing Wakamatsu's likeness, or ones with Griffey's face smiling under the words "World's Greatest Teammate." Griffey had the team wear those on road trips last season.
Wakamatsu told the Seattle Times it wasn't easy for him to pull Griffey from an everyday role.
"I'm no different than some of the players in here," the manager said. "I was with the organization when he had the greatest impact. To not write his name in the lineup's tough. Again, because I remember the home runs he had the last week of the [last] season. I remember some of the great ones he had when he was here early."
Even after his pinch-hit single on May 20 beat Toronto -- his last of 2,781 career hits -- Griffey was one of the first Mariners to shower and dress after the game.
The former AL MVP and 13-time All-Star batted just .184 and had a slugging percentage of just .204 in 33 games, first as a platoon DH and eventually a forgotten pinch hitter who appeared in a game only once in his final nine days in baseball. The fifth-best slugger of all time hit zero home runs.
It was a far cry from the final year Griffey imagined when he decided to return last winter. But instead of the storybook ending, Griffey departed in silence, with a Mariners statement Wednesday announcing his retirement from the game he revolutionized as a teenage sensation two decades ago.
"The suddenness of it -- there's never a perfect time to announcing it," Goldberg told the AP. "He just felt like [the] fanfare, having a goodbye party, he felt that would be taking away from what the team is trying to accomplish right now, which is winning games.
"There are no complaints from his end. He just felt it was time to step aside now."
Goldberg said Griffey will be back in the near future working with the team in a long-term job to be determined.
"I promise you, he will be around plenty," Goldberg said. "Actually, this is something that started getting discussed while he was still playing."
Goldberg said it's unlikely Griffey will be in uniform daily as a coach, at least not initially.
The agent also said Griffey will return this season for a formal goodbye and retirement ceremony in Seattle.
"Seattle's fans will have the chance to see him and honor him," Goldberg said.
Mariners spokesman Tim Hevly says the team welcomes opportunities for Griffey to return but that plans are far from finalized.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.