Sunday, February 24, 2002

SULLIVAN: Tough week for the Griffeys


Like father, like son

By Tim Sullivan
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SARASOTA, Fla. ’— Tough week for the Griffeys. Junior gets back-to-back bashings from former teammates. Senior extends his club record for sudden resignations. Nobody understands.

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        Cincinnati's first family of baseball is a complicated clan — proud and prickly, talented and tormented, widely renowned yet largely unknown. They are equal parts mirth and melancholy, quick to laugh and slow to forgive. Their first instinct is to find the humor in a situation — however dark — but they can nurse grudges for generations.

        ’“That's the thing I get from my dad,” Ken Griffey Jr. said Saturday afternoon. “We never forget.”

        Senior is still steamed about Sparky Anderson's decision to pinch hit for him during the third game of the 1975 World Series. Junior surely will be stewing about the criticisms of Pokey Reese and Dmitri Young until the cows come home in Cadillacs. Neither one has offered an explanation for Senior's abrupt departure from the Reds' coaching staff Friday, but no one should have been completely surprised.

        Father and son both hit left-handed and think righteous. When they feel wronged, they tend to react.

        Senior won't talk

        Senior demonstrated his dissatisfaction Friday by resigning from Bob Boone's coaching staff on the first scheduled day of full-scale spring training. Though the particulars of his problem are unclear’— Senior returned to the Reds complex for 40 minutes Saturday morning but declined to address reporters’— Senior told WCIN-AM radio he was “tired of being treated like dirt.”

        For five years and three managers, Griffey Sr. performed a variety of roles for the Reds’— hitting coach, bench coach, first base coach’— without ever seeming to crack the inner circle. If he was ever consulted as Jack McKeon's bench coach, it was surreptitiously. If he was highly valued by Boone, it was not reflected in his duties.

        If he was ever in line to manage the Reds, he was never at the head of the line. Some suspected Senior remained on the payroll primarily as a sop to his son. When Senior resigned Friday, the Reds immediately hired Jose Cardenal to replace him, as if to forestall a change of heart.

        Time to turn page

        “That's not the case,” Reds general manager Jim Bowden said. “I told him, "I want you to think about it tonight and I want you to come back tomorrow.' He said: "This time I'm not going back there. I want to turn the page and go forward and help you in the front office.'”

        Ken Griffey Jr. continued to deflect questions about his father's decision Saturday. He had issues of his own. He has been stung by the sniping of Reese and Young. Junior offered to defer additional salary to get the two players under contract last season. They have repaid his largesse with allegations of selfishness.

        “If I didn't care (about the team), I would have sat out all last year,” Griffey said, referring to the hamstring tear that stifled him all season.’“But I wanted to be a part of a team. I could have listened to everybody else and shut it down. I didn't. I went back out and played. I was proud of what I did.”

        He spoke at length about injustice and image, but he declined to retaliate against his former teammates.

        “If they feel that way, that's fine,” he said. “Five years from now, who will remember that? Except me.”

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456 or e-mail: tsullivan@enquirer.com.
       

       



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