Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Trying to unload star feeds Junior's paranoia, fan distrust

The Reds have decided Junior Griffey is expendable. They would have traded him last week for, uh, Phil Nevin. Tragically, Nevin vetoed the deal.

Help me here: One of the best players of this time or any time, a 13-time All Star, a member of the All-Century Team, at age 33 still young enough for further greatness, shipped to San Diego for Phil Nevin.


That's what the Reds think of Griffey now. That's what they think of his chances to be the player he used to be. Phil Nevin.

The problem here, one of many, is that Griffey can be paranoid when he has no reason. Now, he has plenty of reason.

How is Griffey supposed to feel about his manager having dinner with Nevin, while asking the Padres third baseman to waive his no-trade clause? How does he feel when Carl Lindner says it's OK to shop Griffey like little cedar boxes at a flea market?

My, how times have changed from the day this Oct. 16, 1995 issue of Sports Illustrated was published.
If I were Griffey, here's how I'd feel: The Reds brought me here to sell tickets, first in 2000, then luxury suites in 2003. I helped immensely on both counts. Now, they have no use for me. I am a commodity.

I deferred money. I offered to defer more, on more than one occasion, if it meant adding talent for a pennant run. I'd have given the club $1 million last season to get Chuck Finley. Now, I'm being offered like fragrant meat at a Korean street bazaar, even as the general manager is denying it. The team never called me or my agent while it was going on.

"The way the Reds have gone about this has thrown all that goodwill back in Junior's face," said Brian Goldberg, Griffey's agent.

What a glad clubhouse presence Junior will be this spring.

It gets worse.

Reds chief operating officer John Allen announced Friday that the team would entertain offers for the player they were building their team around, oh, five minutes ago. Which, as we are coming to understand, is a very long time in Redsland these days.

Allen made the comments at Redsfest, where Reds fans are supposed to feel good about their team. He made them while Griffey was there, posing for pictures with children. In the same hall. How do you feel about the Reds now?

It's nobody's fault Griffey's three years here have been one big pulled muscle. You can debate the diligence of Griffey's many rehabs. The Reds say Junior has done everything required, if you can believe anything they say these days. Maybe it's the wear and tear of a 14-year major league career. Maybe it's bad luck.

You can agree or disagree about trading Griffey. It's another breech in the bargain the team made with you, to build a winner in time for 2003. Yet if they trade Junior, get a decent player in return, then spend the salary savings on pitching, you might buy that.

The problem is this organization is a mess. The Reds don't talk about a vision. They don't offer their public a plan because, beyond balancing the budget, they don't have one. You could say the momentum associated with the opening of Great American Ball Park has been stalled. That would require you to believe there was any momentum.

The Phillies are a year away from opening their new place. They signed Jim Thome and David Bell, and were in the game with Tom Glavine. The Reds say they might trade Griffey because he makes too much money.

The Indians prepped for Jacobs Field by signing good, young players to multi-year deals. Cleveland won immediately. You couldn't get a seat at The Jake. The Reds prep for GABP by offering their once-in-a-lifetime player for Phil Nevin.

The Reds say nothing is more important than scouting, signing and developing their own players. Their best scout, Gary Hughes, left the club. They don't usually draft the best available players. They draft the players they think they can sign. The payroll that Allen said would be set by Thanksgiving is still a mystery.

And who is in charge? Carl Lindner doesn't speak publicly. Jim Bowden sometimes speaks with forked tongue. Allen is the point man, but he doesn't make policy.

Who works for the Reds now? In the grand offseason shuffle, so many scouts and front-office types have left or been reassigned, those still employed need name tags.

Junior Griffey is still a Red, though. Who, including Junior, thinks that's a good idea?

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com

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