Griffey's flights of fancy


June 03, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

Picture Ken Griffey in an Atlanta Braves uniform, or -- in the worst nightmare of any Orioles fan -- imagine him wearing the colors of the Toronto Blue Jays.

It couldn't happen, could it?

The Seattle Mariners could not possibly deal Ken Griffey to the fattest cats in baseball, could they?

The answer is probably not, but Griffey did make his dissatisfaction with the Mariners' seemingly perpetual losing condition known this week, stating that he would not sign an extension to his contract, which expires after the 1996 season, unless Seattle management made a deeper commitment to winning.

And before you discount the notion that a megastar would be traded, remember that players of the stature of Frank Robinson, Jose Canseco, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wayne Gretzky have found themselves wearing new uniforms in their prime.

So, let's assume, for the sake of argument and a bit of fantasy, that Griffey, who told the Tacoma (Wash.) News-Tribune that he was happy with the city of Seattle, was unhappy enough to demand that the Mariners place his name on the trading block.

What exactly would it take for a team to pry away such a remarkable talent?

"He's the best player in the game. I don't think you could offer enough to get that guy," said Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson. "He might take our whole team. There's no telling what you could get for him."

Certainly a 24-year-old player who possesses Griffey's complete package of speed, defense and power would command a hefty return package of everyday players and/or pitchers, as well as top prospects.

"I still believe Griffey's better than that," Anderson said. "Sometimes you get to the point where you're so good where there's nothing that anybody can offer for you that's enough."

OK, maybe Griffey's not that good, but he or Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, who like Griffey is on a pace to challenge, if not break, Roger Maris' single-season home run record, arguably carry the highest price tags in the game.

"The thing with Griffey is that when the bat drops, he's playing just as good [on defense] as when he has a bat in his hands," Anderson said. "The other guy [Thomas] can't do that."

Now, that that's settled, the matter comes back to who could make the Mariners an offer they couldn't refuse.

Peter Gammons, an ESPN baseball analyst, said the Braves and the Blue Jays, who both possess talented regulars and deep farm systems, could make offers that might satisfy the Mariners.

"If Atlanta finished out of the playoffs, I could see them making a bid, if they felt they had to keep their ratings up on TBS [the superstation that carries Braves games]. I can't see anybody else, though," Gammons said.

However, Gammons and Anderson doubt that the Mariners would part with Griffey, the acknowledged cornerstone of a franchise that has had little foundation in its 18-year history.

"If they lost him, that would be the end of the franchise," Gammons said. "If this business is going to work there, he has to be there. For them to trade him would be for them [management] to say this business won't work."

Said Anderson: "He has become so big that the people out there actually come to see him. They can't afford to lose that."

One never knows.

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