Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Griffey (.302) looking like young self

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Ken Griffey Jr. walked to the plate in the first inning of Tuesday night's game with the Houston Astros, the big numbers on the scoreboard read: “.300.”

        It marked the first time in his stay with the Reds that Griffey has started a game with an average of at least .300. To Reds manager Bob Boone, it was another sign we are starting to see the real Griffey, the All-Century Team Griffey.

        “His swings are getting better,” Boone said. “He's really been locked in the last two or three weeks. We saw this in spring training. I really thought he'd have a huge, huge year.”

        The hamstring injury that kept Griffey from starting a game until June 15 killed his overall numbers. But after going 2-for-4 Tuesday night to raise his average to .302, Griffey was hitting .403 with five home runs and 17 RBI in his last 18 games.

        When the Reds got Griffey, he was arguably the best player in baseball. Because of injuries and the adjustment to the National League, until recently Reds fans haven't seen that player. Is Griffey ready to reclaim that crown?

        “That's not important,” he said. “Whether people say I'm the best player or not is out of my control. ... I don't care. I'm trying to help this team win.”

        Lately, that has meant hitting for average.

        “I'm taking what they give me,” Griffey said. “If they play the shift, I'm going to slap it to left. If the situation is that we need a home run to tie or win it, I might take a different approach.”

        Griffey has hit over .300 seven times in his 12-year career, but he hasn't done it since 1997.

        He abhors talking about numbers.

        “The only number that matters to me is wins and losses,” he said.

        Griffey will continue to hit big milestones as long as he's healthy. He is 32 hits short of 2,000. He'll probably reach 500 home runs next year — he is 43 short. When he does, he'll be the first Red and the youngest player to 500.

        What number means the most to Griffey?

        “Being on the No.1 team in the world,” he said. “That's what interests me. The only (awards) I haven't won in baseball are a batting title and a world championship. That's what I want.”


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