Hoping Junior-M's relationship doesn't end badly
With talks apparently progressing rapidly between Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners, the last obstacle to Griffey's long-anticipated return to Seattle could be a physical examination early next week.
And Cincinnati Reds team physician Tim Kremchek doesn't believe passing a physical will be problem for the oft-injured outfielder, who turned 39 in November.
"I can't imagine any problem," Kremchek said by phone from Cincinnati. "I've known Junior 10 years. I've operated on his right shoulder, his wrist, his right knee, left knee, his foot and hamstring.
"He's lost some weight, and looks to be in good shape. I think he's ready to go mentally and physically. I don't want to put pressure on the doctor doing the physical, but I don't see any reason he wouldn't pass."
The Mariners, sources say, are moving toward finalization of a one-year, incentive-laden contract that would bring back the franchise's most celebrated player.
Griffey, who ranks fifth in baseball history with 611 home runs, struggled in 2008. He hit .249 with 18 homers and 71 runs batted in for the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox.
But Griffey's proponents point out that he played much of the year with an injured left knee that prevented him from driving with his plant leg. Kremchek performed arthroscopic surgery in October to repair partially torn meniscus and cartilage, and believes the procedure should help restore Griffey's power. Griffey hit 30 homers and drove in 93 runs in 2007.
"I'll tell you this: He'll be a different guy than you saw last year," said Kremchek. "He's able to run, he has more flexibility. His hamstring is strong. His leg feels good. His shoulder is stable. He's in as good shape as he's been in a few years."
Look, I'm no physician. Nor do I play one on the InterWeb (h/t: Will Carroll). But I can't help thinking that a player who's had his right shoulder, one of his wrists, his right knee, his left knee, one of his feet and one hamstring operated on just might find himself back on the operating table sometime soon. I hope not. But passing a physical in February isn't the same as answering the bell in August and September.
Actually, what's more frightening is the notion of an "incentive-laden contract," because that suggests the M's are hoping Junior will play a lot and that Junior's expecting to play a lot. What if he's too healthy to hit the Pavano* but not healthy enough to play well? Might he balk about being benched, and thus failing to reach those "incentives" that weigh so heavily in his compensation?
Maybe it'll be all sweetness and light, and plenty of bombs deposited in the right-field stands. I hope so. We could use some happy baseball news out here. But the skeptic in me sees real potential for an ugly ending to this relationship.
* A wonderful little nugget from the Torre/Verducci book: During Carl Pavano's time with the Yankees, eventually the players began referring to the disabled list as the "Pavano."