Friday, February 11, 2000


Contract richest ever - or is it?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ken Griffey Jr. took less money, but he's still a rich man.

        The contract Griffey signed Thursday with the Reds will keep him in Cincinnati nine years — from 2000-2009 — for a total of $116.5 million, the richest package in baseball history. The Reds have an option for the 10th year with a $4 million buyout.

        Griffey will be paid $12.5 million per season for each of the next nine years of the contract. Reds Chief Operating Officer John Allen said more than half the total money is deferred over 16 years, from 2009-2024. A balloon payment of $16.5 million is due in the final year.

        “I think this is a return to fiscal responsibility in baseball,” Allen said.

        Griffey turned down an eight-year, $148 million offer from Seattle last summer.

        The Associated Press, citing management calculations, reported that the present-day value of Griffey's contract — what it's worth in 2000 dollars — is less than $10 million a year, well below the $15 million average salary agreed to by pitcher Kevin Brown in his $105 million, seven-year contract with the Dodgers.

Big moment
        Reds senior advisor Sheldon “Chief” Bender, who has been with the club 34 years, said the trade is “one of the greatest things that's ever happened to Cincinnati, and Reds baseball. It doesn't get any bigger than this.”

        And that's saying something, considering Bender has seen the Reds win three World Series titles and watched Pete Rose break Ty Cobb's record and the 1999 team electrify fans.

        “It's just awesome,” Bender said after leaving a packed press conference. “I can't believe it.”

GM nirvana
        Reds General Manager Jim Bowden spent most of Thursday's press conference grinning with a gleam in his eyes. He said even when he was forced to dismantle the team beginning in 1996 because of a money crunch, he believed a day like this would come.

        “Yes, or I wouldn't have been here,” said Bowden, who signed a five-year contract extension in October 1998. But he didn't expect it to happen this quickly. “I thought it would be 2003,” he said, in reference to the opening of the Reds' new stadium.

        The trade could be considered the highlight of his career.

        “It doesn't get any better than this,” Bowden said. “To trade for Ken Griffey Jr., that's what you dream about as a general manager.”

Media blitz
        Thursday's news conference was a national event, carried live on ESPN News as well as all four local network stations.

        About 25 radio and television microphones crowded the podium, and 20 cameras lined the back of the Crosley Room at Cinergy Field.

        Reds publicity director Rob Butcher took one look and said:

        “Who are all you people?”

        As the news conference began, fireworks lit up the sky over Cinergy Field.

Best lines
        Highlights of the press conference included:

        Multi-millionaire businessman Carl Lindner, the Reds' principal owner and chairman of such diverse businesses as Chiquita and Provident Bank, calling the day, “One of the highlights of my career.”

        Allen asking a sweating Griffey if he was nervous when he first stepped to the podium wearing a Reds jersey. “Nervous?” Griffey replied. “Yeah. The last time I put on this uniform I was 8.”

        Griffey talking about the reception of 200 fans that met him at the airport when he landed on one of Lindner's private planes: “I never had a reception like that at the airport. Then again, I normally don't travel like this, either.”

A gift from the boss
        Reds majority owner Carl Lindner presented Griffey with a pair of cuff links that say “Only in America.”

        “I think that applies to you and me,” Lindner said. “I wear them every day.”

Griffey III
        Griffey's son, Trey, tried on his dad's Reds jersey after the news conference. That amused his little sister, Taryn.

        “Mommy, look at Trey-Trey,” she said.

Nice reception
        A couple hundred people were at Lunken Airport to greet Griffey as he arrived in Lindner's private jet.

        “We usually don't get that kind of reception,” he said. “Or course, we usually don't travel like that either.”

        On the plane, which came from Orlando where Griffey lives, were Griffey, wife Melissa, their two children and Griffey's mother Birdie. The plane had earlier picked up Reds General Manager Jim Bowden, Bowden's wife Amy and Butcher in Sarasota. They were all returning to Florida after the news conference.

Up next
        Now that Griffey has his long-term deal, does fellow Moeller alumnus Barry Larkin, who will be a free agent at the end of this season, intend to finish his career as a Red?

        “They've got to work out a contract,” he said. “On that front, Jim Bowden told me to let him get that Griffey thing done, then we'd get to it. I guess I'm next.”

Big attraction
        Other National League teams are looking forward to greater attendance in 2000 when Griffey comes to town.

        “The interest will be heightened 100 percent,” said Warren Miller, director of media relations for the St. Louis Cardinals.

        Most National League fans have never seen Griffey play, so sales are bound to spike for Reds series, said Jim Trdinich, director of media relations for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

        Even on rumors of the trade, fans last week in Pittsburgh were buying up tickets for this years' Reds series in Pittsburgh.

        “I'm sure even with today's announcement sales will pick up the rest of the week,” Trdinich said.

        Even the callous fans of New York are going to want to see Griffey play in greater numbers, one Mets executive said.

        "I'm sure our fans are anxious to see him just as they are anxious to see any top-notch ballplayer play,” said Jay Horwitz, public relations director for the Mets.

        He estimated that ticket sales for the Reds' series with the Mets in New York should increase by about 10 percent.

        “It will certainly bump attendance,” said Kevin Wade, vice president of ticket sales for the St. Louis Cardinals. “It will be nice to have Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr. on the same field.”

        “No question, it's good for the division and the fans to see a premier player, and I'm sure attendance will be affected by having Ken Griffey in the league,” Pirates general manager Cam Bonifay said. “It's good for the league.”

Voice from past
        Former Reds slugger Greg Vaughn, who helped the Reds to a 96-win season last year and then signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent, endorsed the Griffey deal.

        “They should have told me this was gonna happen, it would have been a lot of fun,” Vaughn said, laughing, on ESPN. “I expect them to make another run. They have the best player in baseball without giving up the nucleus. They got to keep Pokey (Reese), Scott Williamson ... It should be very fun in Cincinnati.”

Tip of the cap
        Nationally syndicated radio host Jim Rome on the Griffey trade: “Probably, Jim Bowden should be clearing some space on his mantle for his soon-to-be-received Executive of the Year award.”

Longballs and losses
        How important are sluggers Griffey, Sammy Sosa and McGwire? Their teams were a combined 43 games under .500 last season.

        Mike Ball, John Eckberg, John Fay and Scott MacGregor contributed to this report.

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