CINCINNATI -- Ken Griffey is a loving father who longs to be reunited with his son and namesake in uniform in Cincinnati next year.
As a baseball lifer, a member of Reds management and a possible successor to Jack McKeon, however, his instincts tell him it might be best to wait for another year to fulfill the dream.
The Reds bench coach, contacted in Puerto Rico on Thursday, told The Cincinnati Post he wholeheartedly supports general manager Jim Bowden's decision to back out of the Ken Griffey Jr. sweepstakes because of Seattle Mariners GM Pat Gillick's insistence on including Gold Glove second baseman Pokey Reese in the deal.
"I totally understand where Jim Bowden is coming from because if I was making the decision, there's no way I'd give up Pokey Reese," said Griffey, whose Santurce Crabbers are one game out of first place in the Puerto Rican Winter League. "There's just no way. You've got to be strong up the middle, and you can't weaken yourself that way. Pokey is an amazing second baseman, and anyone who has watched him knows it."
Griffey received a late-night phone call from his son when the Mariners asked him to approve a trade to the New York Mets this week.
"I've been trying to stay out of this and letting Junior and Brian (Goldberg, his agent) handle this, but I'm also his father, so he knows I'm always going to be there for him," Griffey said. "I offer him advice in a way where I ask him questions and let him answer them himself. I just want him to be happy."
Gillick did nothing to contribute to Junior's happiness at the winter meetings, which concluded Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif. He insulted Griffey, who has the contractual right as a player with at least 10 years of major-league service and at least five with his current team to veto any trade, by calling him indecisive.
Gillick also tried to trade him to the Mets Monday night. By doing so, Gillick prompted the center fielder to strengthen his Cincinnati-or-nowhere resolve.
"To me, that was not a sincere trade," Griffey said. "They wanted to make Junior look bad. They know how vicious the New York press can be. That was Gillick's way of getting even and making Junior look like the bad guy."
The elder Griffey noted that his son never asked to be traded. Seattle management visited Junior at his Florida home just after the World Series and asked him his intentions for when his contract expires after the 2000 season. Junior told the trio, which included Gillick, he would almost certainly look into signing with a team closer to his Orlando-area home.
"I don't think people realize that Junior never went to them and asked to be traded," Griffey said.
Both sides agreed it might be best to explore a trade so Seattle could attract more than the two first-round draft choices it would get if Junior leaves via free agency after this upcoming season.
Griffey initially wanted to go to either Atlanta or the Reds, but expanded his list to Houston and the New York Mets to make it easier on the Mariners, according to Goldberg. More than a month later, Junior narrowed that list to just Cincinnati after the Mariners kept bringing him trade proposals that were from teams that weren't on his list.
Junior had initially agreed to keep quiet about the names and number of teams on his list, according to Goldberg, because the Mariners wanted to use the offers of other teams to drive up the asking price from the teams on Junior's list. But Junior became uncomfortable as the Mariners tried to talk him into going to teams not on his list. Atlanta showed little interest, so Junior focused entirely on Cincinnati.
Gillick's statements about Junior changing his mind a lot only hurt the situation, according to his father.
"That's what caused a lot of problems," the elder Griffey said. "(Gillick) should have said nothing.
"They've known for almost three weeks that Junior wasn't going to go anywhere but Cincinnati, and then they still went and called Pittsburgh? Why would you do that?"
Griffey Sr., who played for the New York Yankees in 1982-86, said Monday's trade rejection had nothing to do with a fear of playing in New York. It was simply done on principle.
Griffey said he's holding out hope Gillick will call Bowden to resurrect trade talks.
"I don't know if it will happen," he said. "It's probably about 50-50 at best right now. If (Seattle) can accept a scenario without Pokey, they can get it done sooner than later."
If his son returns to Seattle to honor the final year of his contract, Griffey said, Mariners fans should expect the same all-out effort.
"This is not about money," Griffey said. "This is about being happy. He'll decide if he'll be better off in Cincinnati, where he'd be with his family, when the time comes.'
(Jeff Horrigan writes for the Cincinnati Post.)
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