re: shift...George, if it were only that easy...

Foster believes Griffey should give up playing center field
By Ron Jackson

Staff Writer

MIAMISBURG | Former Cincinnati Reds great George Foster is not pleased with some players on his former team or the team in general. His critical comments were specifically aimed at Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., on Tuesday while appearing at the "Extra Innings" baseball and softball training center.

His appearance benefitted Building Bridges and the George Foster Home for at-risk juveniles.

The five-time All-Star and 1977 National League MVP was asked if Griffey should move from center field to one of the corner outfield positions or first base.

"I would move him to first base," Foster said. "I was with Ken Sr. recently and I know he's discussed it with Junior, but it's an ego thing with him and he doesn't want to go to left or right. That would save his legs, but he's out to prove something; that he can win another Gold Glove in center.

"But there's lot of wear and tear involved with playing center or shortstop. They're demanding positions along with catcher. Junior's a player and he can play the angles and make the adjustment to either corner outfield or first base. As long as you have Junior at first, for instance, you don't need an offensive player in center. It would prolong Junior's career."

Foster helped to power the Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s. He said players were unselfish in that era.

"The beauty of the Big Red Machine was the chemistry," Foster said. "Players made switches for the good of the team or took extra batting practice. You don't see that in today's game as much. Junior and Adam Dunn should take extra BP to learn to break the defensive shift they face."

On the Reds' chances in '06: "I just don't know if they have the thoroughbreds, the stamina, to stay in the race when July comes. I worry they didn't work hard enough in March and April to prepare themselves to stay in the race."

Foster also feels the game needs to start giving back to the fans and needs a more stringent steroids policy.

"Now you have growth hormones to worry about," Foster said. "It's like chess or checkers and the players are trying to stay a step ahead of the program. It isn't even anymore. The performance enhancers increase the hand-eye coordination — the bat speed — so much that it is unbelievable. More so than the noticeable size."

Foster, 57, became a star after May 3, 1975 when manager Sparky Anderson moved Pete Rose to third base, opening up a spot in left for Foster, giving Ken Griffey Sr., a full-time job in right field and revving up the Big Red Machine. The Reds dominated, winning the World Series in '75 and '76. In 1977, Foster hit 52 home runs when it meant something and drove in 149 runs. He was the only major-leaguer to clout more than 50 homers in a season from 1965-90.

"We started dominating people and intimidating teams after that move," Foster said.

Foster lives in Greenwich, Conn., and still trains and instructs youngsters of all abilities at youth camps and batting cages. He will give his annual clinic at North Riverdale Little League's Fenner Fields today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.