In February of 2009, the Atlanta Braves were close to signing Ken Griffey Jr. to play left field, but at the last minute, The Kid chose to return to the Mariners. Why did he change his mind?
It very nearly happened.
It was widely reported in February of 2009 that Griffey reached out to Bobby Cox and Jones to express interest in playing for the Braves. This is the story Bleacher Report posted about the mutual interest.
In fact, David O’Brien, who was then of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, went so far to say that Griffey WAS coming to Atlanta. That is also included in the Bleacher Report piece.
It wasn’t like the Braves were going to get the Ken Griffey Jr. of the late 90’s when he was one of the preeminent players in the game.
In 2008, where he split between the Reds and the White Sox, Griffey hit 18 home runs and drove in 71 runs with a line of .249/.353/.424.
That’s not an all-star player, but certainly, it would have been a welcomed addition to a lineup that had Chipper, Brian McCann and not a whole lot more.
But then at the last minute, Griffey decided to go back to Seattle, where he began his career.
There was speculation as to why he spurned the Braves at the last minute and one of the juiciest rumors was O’Brien’s allegedly premature reports on Griffey joining the Braves.
In fact, a report from Yahoo Sports, which was published on Bleacher Report, stated that Tim Hudson, who was the Braves ace at the time, confronted O’Brien about it. The exchange reportedly got heated and Hudson had to be restrained.
So with days before spring training starting, the Braves turned to Garret Anderson to fill their outfield void. Anderson’s numbers were similar to Griffey’s in 2008: 15 homers, 84 RBI and a line of .293/.325/.433.
In 2009, Anderson wound up hitting 13 home runs and drove in 61 runs. He had a line .268/.303/.401 and a -1.4 WAR.
Griffey hit 19 home runs in 2009, but only had an average of .214 and a WAR of 0.6.
So it ended up not being a big difference for the Braves, which went 86-76 and finished third in the NL East while missing out on the playoffs.
Still, it would have been something seeing one of the greatest players of the past 25 years in the same lineup with another great player of the same generation in Chipper Jones.
We are left with wondering what could have been.