Saturday, February 05, 2000

Beware of Griffey trade talks

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Reliable sources confirmed Friday that Ken Griffey Jr. will be traded to the Reds at precisely 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 14.

        Informed insiders disclosed that the Seattle Mariners are delaying the formal announcement in the faint hope Griffey will experience a change of heart on Valentine's Day.

        Reds officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed classified details of a plan code-named “Prime Time.” To satisfy Griffey's desire for natural grass, the Reds will agree to loan Deion Sanders to the Bengals on alternate weekends.

        Contacts close to Jim Bowden's dry cleaner told the Enquirer that the Reds General Manager has brought in his best suit for an emergency pressing in the event of a late-breaking photo opportunity.

        Lest the preceding poppycock resurface as an internet exclusive, let me assure you that it is pure fiction. Reports of an imminent deal involving Ken Griffey Jr. have been circulating for two months, but if Bowden and Mariners General Manager Pat Gillick have agreed on anything, it is their ability to disagree. Everything else you've heard about a trade is a hypothesis, a hunch, hearsay or hooey.

        When there is a deal — if there is a deal — the news will be out in a nanosecond. The Reds would be insane to sit on the story when they had tickets to sell and souvenirs to order. In the absence of legitimate news, however, rumors have grown rampant and speculation gets reported as scoops.

        “This is the third week in a row someone's written that we're going to make the trade by the end of the week,” Mariners executive Lee Pelekoudas observed. “How long is a week?”

Logic should prevail
        Logic says Bowden and Gillick will eventually find common ground. Gillick can ill afford to keep Griffey around as a discontented lame duck, and the prospects for a peaceful reconciliation would appear remote. If Griffey is fielding death threats from Seattle fans, it's probably prudent that he move on.

        Bowden, meanwhile, has trouble resisting the urge to make the defining deal of his career. If he weren't doing his darndest to get Griffey, you'd want to check his pulse. If the Mariners are receptive to a reported trade package consisting of Denny Neagle, Dennys Reyes and Dmitri Young, any executive worth his cell phone would want to pounce.

        Curiously, Bowden and Reds Chief Operating Officer John Allen have both decided to stop talking about the prospective trade. Their silence could be interpreted as a sign of progress or, conversely, as evidence of a concern about raising false hopes.

        “I just don't want to comment about it,” Allen said Friday. “This is just a sensitive subject and I'm concerned about misleading the fans.”

        While Allen has allowed Bowden to explore the possibility of a Griffey trade, he has never said he would authorize it. Until Friday, Allen's public statements had consistently downplayed the likelihood of a deal. Perhaps something has changed. Perhaps Allen and Bowden have been playing good-cop, bad-cop to drive Seattle's price down.

        Perhaps we read too many detective novels.

Financial formula
        Marty Brennaman, the omniscient announcer, has been using his radio pulpit recently to urge Bowden to put the Griffey matter “to bed,” and acknowledge that the effort is useless. He says the “stark, cold undeniable reality” is that Griffey's price is simply too high for a town the size of Cincinnati.

        Yet the small-market Mariners offered Griffey $140 million to stay put, and he might take less to play at home. Maybe Griffey would be willing to defer a substantial portion of his salary. Maybe he would leave some cash on the table for an option to buy a piece of the ballclub.

        Maybe Bowden has found a financial formula that fits in Allen's budget. Maybe not.

        “I don't know how you make the numbers work,” Reds partner Bill Reik said Friday.

        It's a good question. Be wary of anyone who claims to have the answer.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your e-mail at

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