Pay no attention to Ken Griffey Jr.'s official job title in his latest career opportunity with the Seattle Mariners.
Griffey was hired Tuesday as a "special consultant," which can either mean he'll consult the organization on special matters, or that he's a consultant who happens to be special. If that sounds vague, it's because it's vague.
A press release noted that Griffey "will be involved in numerous areas of the Mariners franchise, including, but not limited to, Major League Baseball operations, player development, our minor system, marketing, broadcasting and community relations."
In other words, he'll be everywhere, just not anywhere in particular. Spring training? Probably, at some point. Opening Day? Likely not, because of previous commitments. Class AAA Tacoma and the other minor-league affiliates? We'll see.
"The situation is evolving," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong told reporters. "Specific dates and times and exactly what he will be doing is evolving. We have never done this before."
My guess is that Griffey's third tour with the Mariners will celebrate the first phase of his Seattle career while attempting to repair whatever part of the legacy that was damaged during the second. And while many fans remain troubled about Griffey's mysterious disappearing act in the middle of last season -- he retired without stopping by Safeco Field to inform teammates and coaches, much less address the public -- his return in an "advisory" capacity was as inevitable as his Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2016.
Unless Edgar Martinez beats him to the punch, which is unlikely, Griffey will be the first Hall of Fame member to have played the majority his games in a Seattle uniform. That wonderful occasion wouldn't have been satisfying for anybody associated with the Mariners unless Griffey returned to the organization.
Cynics in the blogosphere wasted no time Tuesday bemoaning the Griffey hiring as a blatant public-relations sham arranged to put a positive spin on the 2010 fiasco created by the franchise icon whose unhappiness with his reduced role fractured a clubhouse.
Well, duh. The best way -- really, the only way -- to erase the fetid memories of 2010 was to welcome Griffey back by giving him a job that'll be as significant as he chooses to make it. This is what baseball teams do with the all-time greats.
Henry Aaron with the Braves, Willie Mays with the Giants, Sandy Koufax with the Dodgers: their titles vary -- consultant, advisor, assistant to the president -- but the idea is to keep them under the tent. Keep them, more specifically, as pillars of the tent.
As for Griffey's relevance as a special consultant? I can assure you that his opinions won't carry the influence of the late Branch Rickey, who was hired by the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 81 and immediately focused his efforts on persuading Stan Musial to retire.
Although Musial didn't budge, Rickey was more successful at convincing owner Augie Busch to purge most of the team's front office staff during the throes of a disappointing 1964 summer.
The Cardinals, beneficiaries of an incredible Phillies collapse in late September, came back to win both the pennant and the World Series. But manager Johnny Keane -- another target of Rickey's -- didn't return in 1965.
A man capable of convincing an owner to make wholesale front-office changes during a world championship season is what you might call a very, uh, special consultant.
More recently, the Dodgers hired a different sort of consultant: A Russian ZmigrZ scientist appointed by owners Frank and Jamie McCourt to channel his healing energy toward the ballclub.
Vladimir Shplent knew next to nothing about baseball -- he attended one game during his five years of employ -- but he nevertheless collected stipends from the McCourts by tuning in to Dodgers telecasts from his home office in Boston. It was there that Shplent emitted positive thoughts, often with his eyes closed.
(I know, you're expecting me to make some sort of reference between "eyes closed" and Griffey. But I won't go there. Eyes closed? C'mon. That would be a cheap shot.)
Between the aggressive meddling of Branch Rickey and the weird science of Vladimir Shplent, there is the more typical advisory role of Lou Piniella, who a few weeks ago was hired as a consultant for Giants general manager Brian Sabean.
"I took a little consulting job with the Giants," said Lou, sounding precisely like somebody impersonating Lou.
And what does "a little consulting job" entail?
"Whatever Brian needs me to do," he explained.
Some consultants are hands-on instructors. Don Zimmer, the 79-year old senior advisor to the Tampa Bay Rays, wears a uniform throughout spring training and during pregame workouts at Rays home games.
Others wait in the wings. Former Oakland and St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty took a job as a Cincinnati consultant in the winter of 2008. Three weeks into the season, Jocketty replaced Wayne Krivsky as the Reds' GM.
Billy Martin, who'd had five different stints as the Yankees manager, was hired as a special consultant to owner George Steinbrenner in 1989. Had he not been killed in a Christmas Day car crash, Martin might've returned to the Yankees dugout for a sixth time. Griffey's aspirations don't appear to put him on track to an executive position in the front office, as a field manager or coach. A broadcaster? Hmmn. A marketing specialist? Perhaps.
Most of all, Griffey's got a personality that connects with kids, and that -- speaking now as a parent of teenagers -- is a true gift.
If the most electrifying player of his generation can impart the joy he got out of baseball on the next generation, he'll be a most special consultant.