These are frenetic days for Harold Reynolds as he dives into the launching of the new MLB Network, the first channel devoted 24 hours a...
These are frenetic days for Harold Reynolds as he dives into the launching of the new MLB Network, the first channel devoted 24 hours a day to baseball.
As one of the lead analysts, Reynolds is loving the eclectic nature of the network, which reached 50 million households — the largest launch in cable history — when it was unveiled on Jan. 1.
The former Mariner might be analyzing the chances of, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates one day, discussing the World Baseball Classic another, and debating fellow analysts like Al Leiter, Dan Plesac, Mitch Williams and Joe Magrane — “our crazy four horsemen,” as he describes the quartet of lefty ex-pitchers — on Alex Rodriguez’s steroids allegations in between.
“Baseball is a fanatical game, and we’re trying to feed that appetite,” he said by telephone, in between production meetings and tapings.
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Oh, yeah, Reynolds also found the time last week to help former Mariners teammate Ken Griffey Jr. (they played together from 1989 to 1992) navigate through his agonizing decision of where to play in 2009.
When Griffey finally chose the Mariners over the Braves, Seattle president Chuck Armstrong made it a point to single out Reynolds for his help throughout the process.
Armstrong said Reynolds was essential to swaying Griffey toward Seattle, but the former All-Star second baseman stressed it was Griffey’s call all the way.
“We’ve always had a real solid relationship,” Reynolds said. “When there are things on his mind he wants to talk about, he usually gives me a call. It didn’t head down a road of me talking him into anything. He just wanted to bounce some things by me. I obviously wanted him to go back to Seattle, but at the end of the day he had to make the decision.”
As it turned out, several days ended with Griffey still pondering. At one point, Reynolds said, Griffey had the Mariners’ schedule, the Braves’ schedule, and the schedules of his two older children, Trey and Taryn, laid out on his table, trying to figure out which way to go.
“We talked for hours,” Reynolds said. “He was really torn. I was honored he even called me and wanted to get my opinion. He had everyone under the sun call him.”
Reynolds went over Griffey’s options with him, boiling them down to three.
“I said, ‘Let’s look at the scenarios. One, you can retire and stay home. Two is Seattle, which baseball-wise is the best fit for you. You can play outfield and DH, not to mention going back home where there will be an incredible reception.’
” ‘Three, Atlanta is a perfect fit for your family. Spring training right in Orlando for six weeks, Taryn’s playing basketball in Atlanta, and it’s a one-hour flight to Orlando.’ “
At one point, several media outlets reported that Griffey had chosen Atlanta. Reynolds said he thought so, too.
“When I first talked to him, he was going to Atlanta,” he said. “I really think he was.”
In the course of their discussions, Reynolds advised Griffey to call his old Mariners teammate, Jay Buhner.
“I said, ‘No one knows you better than Jay,’ ” Reynolds said.
Another piece of advice to Griffey was to not put a deadline on his decision.
“He kept saying, ‘I have to decide Tuesday.’ He wanted to be in camp when everyone opened camp,” Reynolds said. “I said, ‘No, you don’t. Take your time. This is a life decision for you. There’s no timetable. If someone says they don’t want to wait, you know your answer.’ “
One other piece of persuasion Reynolds offered Griffey regarded the potential performance of the two teams in question.
Said Reynolds: “My point to Ken was this: Atlanta is in a division — and I honestly believe this — where they’re not going to win for a few years. You’ll be long gone when the Braves get over the Mets and Phillies. They’re going to spend money to make sure they stay on top.
“Seattle is in a division where it can get fun real quick. They have some pitching with [Erik] Bedard coming back, King Felix [Hernandez] and [Brandon] Morrow. You have three guys that can turn it around real quick, in a division with really one team on top, the Angels.
“I said, this isn’t a 100-loss season you’re looking at this year. They can turn this around real quick.”
Reynolds’ ace in the hole was Willie Mays, as has been well-chronicled. Reynolds arranged for the Giants legend to call Griffey, as Hank Aaron did as well on the final day.
“I just thought, who understands the situation better than Willie Mays?’ ” Reynolds said. “I said he should talk to Willie or Hank — that’s the level he can reach people.”
When Griffey finally decided on the Mariners, Reynolds naturally was thrilled.
“I just think he’s one of the most exciting players ever, and he still has some magic,” he said. “I think it will be really cool watching him in Seattle.
“And it speaks to Junior’s class and character that he called the Braves to let them know he was not coming there. They weren’t going to read that in the newspaper. To me, that’s the most difficult call of all.”
Reynolds is now back to devoting his total efforts to MLB Network, which will be broadcasting games from the World Baseball Classic throughout March.
When the season starts, the network will segue from its current “Hot Stove League” show to its showcase “MLB Tonight” broadcast, which has been described as “ESPN’s Baseball Tonight” on steroids. Each nightly episode will last eight hours, starting pregame on East Coast night games and running through the end of West Coast games.
“That’s going to be exciting,” said Reynolds, who will have one shift on the show.
It’s a redemption, of sorts, for Reynolds, after losing his 11-year gig at ESPN over a dismissal that resulted in him filing a $5 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the network.
Reynolds had been fired by ESPN in July 2006 after a female intern complained about what he called a “brief and innocuous” hug. The two sides reached an undisclosed settlement last April. Reynolds did work for mlb.com and TBS as well as working on Mets broadcasts last year before landing the coveted MLB Network gig.
“It’s a fantastic place to be,” he said. “I feel very fortunate and blessed to be here. It was a battle I had to stand up for, and I’m glad I did. To land in this situation is that much better.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org