Cincinnati writers name Griffey both 2005 MVP, Good Guy
Outstanding pitcher honor goes to Harang
CINCINNATI — As he chatted on his cell phone, Ken Griffey Jr. first was dropping luggage into the trunk of his car at an Orlando, Fla., airport at the beginning of the conversation and then was filling his fuel tank at the end of the conversation.
“Some people need to pump gas, too,” he said with a laugh as the pump dinged in the background.
Griffey was in an upbeat mood, just as he was nearly all of the last baseball season, a mood and attitude that earned him The Good Guy Award, as well as the Ernie Lombardi/MVP award for 2005.
The Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America voted Griffey the two awards and voted the Johnny Vander Meer/Outstanding Pitcher award to Aaron Harang.
“I’m in shock,” Griffey said. Asked which award shocked him, he said, “Both.”
For those who see him nearly every day, the writers, it was a slam dunk — or grand slam, to use baseball vernacular. He was named on all 16 ballots. And it was not an easy award to win because the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse is filled with deserving good guys.
“I never expect anything, never look for awards. I just want to do what I can to help the ball club, and all the other stuff is flattering. It’s my new image,” he said with another laugh.
Griffey admitted his first three or four years with the Reds were not smooth and maybe he didn’t handle it with aplomb when he was hit with injury after injury.
But the last two seasons he has been exemplary with the media and handled his string of debilitating injuries with the same attitude as loading luggage or pumping gas.
And Griffey said he used his experience to advise Sean Casey when Casey called him a day after the Reds traded him to Pittsburgh.
“I told him he would only be there a year, if that’s what he chooses,” Griffey said. “I told him he has family and friends there, and most of all, don’t do anything differently. When I got here (2000 from Seattle in a trade) I constantly had to defend myself, and I didn’t handle it that well, did some things and said some things I shouldn’t have.”
Griffey was last season’s National League Comeback Player of the Year when he hit .301 with 35 home runs and 92 RBI, playing 128 games. He played only 83 games in 2004, battling the inevitable injuries, and his season ended Aug. 18 when he had revolutionary knee surgery.
Dr. Tim Kremchek implanted three permanent screws to attach Griffey’s right hamstring to the bone to repair a complete tear.
Griffey’s season last year ended early, too, when he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in September that he needed for at least two years.
Griffey says he’ll be ready for 2006, adding, “I wouldn’t have signed up to play in the World Baseball Classic (in March) if I thought I couldn’t play.
“I try to be a good guy all the time, try to treat people the way I want to be treated,” he said. “Baseball lasts only so long, and how people think of you off the field is more important then what they think about you on the field.”
Griffey said he appreciated The Good Guy award because it comes from writers who see him nearly every day, “And know about 95 percent of who I am,” addressing the perception of some fans that he isn’t always a good guy.
“I never think about winning anything but the World Series. That’s why I came here, and hopefully, we still can get that done. I’m tired of my father (Ken Griffey Sr.) waving his three World Series rings under my nose.”
Harang was stunned that he won Outstanding Pitcher of the Year, realizing he had a losing record (11-13, 3.83 earned-run average) and it was by default because no Reds pitcher was truly outstanding.
But he had 19 quality starts (three or less runs in six or more innings) and easily could have won 15 games with better bat and bullpen support.
There was a long pause when Harang was asked about the award, and he said with a laugh, “I don’t know how I feel. It hasn’t set in. It’s a great honor.
“But (in 2006) I’d like to improve my overall consistency,” said the 6-foot-7, 270-pound right-hander. “I thought I matured and I got more confident with each outing. I had a good season and I could have won two or three more games, but that’s baseball. I’d like to cut down my walks (51 in 211.2 innings), keep the ball down more and get more ground balls.”
Griffey said he watched some Cincinnati Bengals games this season and loved the fans’ support, “And that’s the atmosphere we need to have in our ballpark.”
But, he knows, that comes with winning.
covers the Cincinnati Reds for Cox News Service. He can be reached by e-mail at hmccoy@DaytonDailyNews.com