McCoy: Griffey deserves applause as he leaves Cincinnati
By Hal McCoy
the Dayton Daily News
Friday, August 01, 2008
In 1979, Joe Morgan stuck a finger in my face and said, "Don't ever try to talk to me again." I haven't.
Morgan was in his free-agent year, and I wrote a column saying it was time for Joe to go, that the Reds were reloading and had no need for him.
And now I'm saying the same thing about Ken Griffey Jr. It was time for him to go, and I know he won't stick a finger in my face.
He has too much class.
It is a sad time in Cincinnati, but perhaps it is the dawn of the Walt Jocketty Era. He was brought in as general manager to turn around seven straight years of losing.
Trading Griffey to the Chicago White Sox is the beginning. Younger players are the future, not a 38-year-old outfielder whose skills are eroding fast due to age and enough injuries to use as a living model for a medical school.
And it is sad to say that. In 36 years of covering the Reds, I have not met a classier man, a man who loves the game and loves his family and loves charitable work with deep devotion.
Some believed he loafed, didn't run out ground balls, didn't chase down balls in the outfield.
He didn't loaf. He couldn't run any harder. There is nothing left in his knees from a half dozen surgeries, nothing left in his shoulders and elbows from surgeries.
And yet he has hit 608 home runs and has done it the right way. No steroids. No growth hormones. Just the sweetest swing ever seen and a beaming, infectious smile.
Some fans blame him for the seven losing seasons because he arrived in 2000, the year before the losing began. One man does not make a team a loser. He wasn't surrounded by enough talent, especially pitching.
Some fans thought he was a cancer in the clubhouse, but they never saw him talking to young players, giving them equipment as well as advice, buying food for all the players and being the No. 1 clubhouse prankster.
Not only did they congregate around him, many were in awe — as they should have been. Leadership? He was a leader by example in many ways, not just how to play baseball, but how to cope with life's roadblocks.
Many Cincinnati fans don't realize it, but they were fortunate to see him in a Reds uniform, even when he was diminished by injuries. He played every day, and when his name wasn't in the lineup, he invariably lobbied managers to put him in.
He need make no apologies for his nearly nine years in Cincinnati. He came to Cincinnati from Seattle for a discount and, yes, $116.5 million is more money than the majority of us can dream about, but it was less than he could have obtained elsewhere, and there were no guns pointed at general manager Jim Bowden's head when he offered that contract.
Yes, sadly it was time to go. The Reds, in the words of Jocketty, "are re-tooling, getting younger."
Griffey doesn't fit the pattern.
At least the Reds traded him to a first-place team. Griffey often referred to the World Series rings flashed at him by his father, Ken Griffey Sr., and said, "All I want is one."
Now he has that chance. He deserves it.