Aloft in a $35 million Falcon 900 jet last Thursday night, Ken Griffey Jr. told the story of recently playing golf with Jack Nicklaus for the first time. Nicklaus, his son Mike and Mark O'Meara, a PGA Tour pro and friend of Griffey's, smacked their drives off the 1st tee down the middle of the fairway. Griffey, hitting last, could feel his knees trembling as he stood over the ball. He didn't know Nicklaus well, and the golfing legend had said almost nothing to him. Griffey promptly sent an ugly slice screeching far into the rough. "So Jack walks by me," Griffey said, "and as he's walking, he says to me, 'In my sport we play the foul balls.'"
Griffey howled with laughter, as did the rest of the passengers, including his wife, Melissa; his son, Trey, 6; his daughter, Taryn, 4; and a few Reds executives and members of their families. This went on for two hours—Griffey, the life of the party, telling one funny story after another. Never had a man seemed so ebullient upon signing away the next 10 years of his career for about half his market value.
What mattered more than selling himself short was that Griffey, Cincinnati Moeller High class of '87, son of Reds coach Ken and Birdie Griffey of Cincinnati, was heading home. Reds majority owner Carl Lindner had approved the trade with the Seattle Mariners and Griffey's new contract and then had provided his jet to make the sentimental journey possible. Considering his status as one of the game's greatest players now and forever, Griffey accepted such a huge discount that commissioner Bud Selig greeted the news of his signing by yelling, "Thank you! Thank you very much!" and nearly weeping.
Griffey is guaranteed $116.5 million over the next nine years, with the Reds holding an option for a 10th season. Although Griffey's salary will be $12.5 million a year (plus a $4 million buyout for the 10th year), the deal is worth only about $89 million in present-day dollars because Griffey agreed to defer $57.5 million of that total at 4% interest. Those payments are stretched between 2010 and 2025, when Griffey will be 56 years old.
Griffey agreed to those terms one day after the Mariners finally blinked following four months of talking and posturing about a trade with the Reds. Seattle agreed to take righthanded starter Brett Tomko, outfielder Mike Cameron and two minor leaguers, righthander Jake Meyer and infielder Antonio Perez.
Lindner, a Cincinnati financier who has a controlling interest in
Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Amtrak, among other
holdings, sent his jet to Orlando, where Griffey lives, to bring
him to Ohio in style for the posttrade news conference. Two
thousand people greeted the Falcon 900 as it touched down. A
Rolls-Royce and two limousines pulled up while two news choppers
with searchlights hovered above. Lindner told Griffey to hop in
the front seat of the Rolls—with the 80-year-old Lindner
driving—and told Junior's wife and kids to sit in the back. The
rest of the traveling party jumped into the limos. As the
vehicles crawled out of the airport, fans swarmed the cars,
popping the flashes of their cameras, banging on the hoods and
windows, and yelling, "Welcome home!"
Lindner, in the lead car, slowly steered the Rolls free from the
knot of people; the sleeves of his jacket slid back enough to
reveal a pair of gold cuff links he wears every day that read
ONLY IN AMERICA. As the caravan gathered speed onto Kellogg
Avenue, something happened that seemed serendipitous—that is, if
you hadn't known how well-connected Lindner is in Cincinnati.
Every one of the traffic lights on the avenue switched to
flashing yellow, affording Griffey an unimpeded trip downtown to
Cinergy Field, where a burst of fireworks welcomed him.
Unimpeded? If only the trip had been so easy from the beginning.
Griffey wound up in Cincinnati only after the Mariners alienated
him with their curious trade tactics; only after the Reds twice
pulled out of the talks, including as recently as three days
before the actual trade; only after Griffey's agent illegally
jump-started discussions; and only after Griffey was snubbed by
his first choice, the Atlanta Braves, who wanted his teammate,
shortstop Alex Rodriguez, instead. According to several insiders
familiar with the deal, this is the story of how Griffey came
The first sign of trouble in Seattle came in July, when the
Mariners offered Griffey (who was scheduled to become a free
agent after the 2000 season) $138 million over eight years and
were met not with a counterproposal but with indifference.
Griffey, whose Mariners salary was $8.5 million, had no problem
with the money--though he didn't tell Seattle that at the time--but
he wasn't sure if he wanted to stay. His children were reaching
school age, and that had made him ponder more often the idea of
playing closer to Orlando. "We'll think about it," his agent,
Brian Goldberg, told Seattle.
Later that month the Mariners opened Safeco Field, a resplendent
$517 million stadium with a sliding canopy that keeps out the
Northwest rain but not the chill. Between one wall of the
Mariners' clubhouse and Griffey's locker the club did not install
the three other lockers that would have fit there. This area was
designed specifically for Griffey, who in that space could store
his personal travel trunk for his bats, as well as the assortment
of gadgets, boxes and other equipment he accumulates during a
Griffey showed his appreciation for this custom-made jewel of a
park by saying nothing. The franchise player who made the team's
continued existence in Seattle possible refused to comment on
Safeco Field. He would explain later that he did so to avoid
misleading people about his future. If he praised the place,
people might think he was staying. If he ripped it, people might
think he was leaving. But the silence was ominous. His private
grumblings were worse. The ball had jumped in the Kingdome, his
old, indoor home stadium. Safeco was, in the words of one of his
teammates before the final price was toted up, "a $450 million
icebox. He knows it might cost him the home run record." Balls
hit in the air died. Centerfield, in particular, was a graveyard;
the Mariners couldn't hit balls out even in batting practice.
One night, after yet another of his well-struck fly balls had
died in an opposing outfielder's glove, Griffey called Woody
Woodward, the Seattle general manager at the time, from a dugout
telephone. In front of his teammates Griffey screamed through the
phone at Woodward, "Get me out of this place! Trade me right
"That wasn't why he left," Goldberg said last Friday, referring
to Safeco Field. "It was one piece in the puzzle. There was no
one thing, no one event. I want to emphasize [that] what happened
was not anyone's fault. Things just kind of went sideways."
Griffey's mood darkened on Aug. 12. That's when his wife and
children returned to Orlando in preparation for the school year.
A few days later he told friends that he was leaning toward
playing for the Braves or the Houston Astros, contending teams
with spring training sites within minutes of his home. (The
Mariners train in Arizona.) Griffey liked the idea of gaining
five weeks at home with his family during the school year. "What
can the Mariners offer me that nobody else can?" he said.
Griffey's season deteriorated. He hit just .255 after the All-Star break, including .212 in the final month, and finished at .285, albeit with 48 homers and 134 RBIs. Teammates noticed how he'd skip batting practice and stretching exercises for weeks at a time, preferring to linger in the clubhouse. The Mariners lost 83 games, failing to make the postseason for the ninth time in his 11 seasons with the club.
Woodward retired after the season, remaining true to the words he repeated to Cincinnati general manager Jim Bowden on the three or four occasions every season when Bowden would ask, "When are you going to trade me Griffey?" Woodward would say, "I'm not going to be remembered as the guy who traded Ken Griffey Jr."
That distinction would fall to 62-year-old Pat Gillick, Woodward's successor. In November, Gillick and Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln flew to Orlando to meet with Griffey. The outfielder did not want any more offers. He wanted out. He told Gillick and Lincoln he preferred to be traded rather than play the last season of his contract in Seattle. As a player with 10 years of major league service, including at least the past five with his current team, Griffey had the right to veto any trade. He gave the Mariners a list of four teams he would consider playing for. He listed them in his order of preference: Braves, Reds, Astros and New York Mets.
Gillick made a request before leaving Orlando: Would it be O.K. with Griffey if he talked to teams not on his list? Gillick wanted to gain some leverage by expanding the market. Griffey
gave his approval.
Over the next month that tactic blew up on Gillick. The G.M. seemed to Goldberg and Griffey to be spending more time talking with clubs not on the list than with those on the list. Gillick tried to cut deals with the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, each time asking Goldberg if Griffey would accept a trade based on what were supposed to be only diversionary talks. Gillick was also telling baseball people that Griffey had 20 teams on his approval list—every team that trains in Florida. "After a month of that, it was starting to wear on Junior," Goldberg says. The idea of coming back to Seattle for one last season became more remote.
Privately, Gillick had been told by Seattle executives that Griffey was known to change his mind easily. So Gillick didn't assume the list of four teams was written in stone. Meanwhile, that list was quickly sliced in half. The Braves told Gillick they might have interest in Griffey as a free agent, but they would not trade for him. Atlanta did, however, want to talk about a trade for Rodriguez, who will be a free agent after the 2000 season. Gillick passed, explaining that he had to resolve the Griffey matter first. The Astros also dropped out; owner Drayton McLane already had worries about his payroll, with second baseman Craig Biggio, outfielders Derek Bell and Carl Everett, and lefthanded starter Mike Hampton all entering the last year of their contracts. (All but Biggio, who signed an extension, were eventually traded.)
That left the Reds and the Mets. Talks with Cincinnati got off to an awful start at the general managers' meetings on Nov. 19. Sitting in an ocean-view suite at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Gillick made his first offer to Bowden: Griffey for four frontline players—second baseman Pokey Reese, first baseman Sean Casey, lefthanded starter Denny Neagle and righthanded closer Scott Williamson—and one player from a list of the five best prospects in the Cincinnati system. Bowden nearly fell out of his chair. His club had won 96 games last season. All his plans were aimed at building a winning team in 2003, when the Reds are scheduled to open a new ballpark. A deal like this would decimate the team and his plans. Before leaving the room, he recovered enough to tell Gillick firmly, "Casey and Reese are not going to be in this deal."
Gillick and Bowden exchanged many proposals in the ensuing weeks without getting close to a trade. One of Bowden's earliest pitches included Cameron, a speedy outfielder with a .240 career average. Gillick said he didn't want Cameron. Bowden drew up a secret list of 11 players, including prospects, that he wouldn't trade. At the top of that list was Reese, a natural shortstop and the player Gillick demanded as a hedge against Rodriguez's leaving by trade or free agency. Also, as a condition of any deal, Bowden insisted that the Mariners pay Griffey's entire 2000 salary of $8.5 million and allow Cincinnati a window to sign him to an extension; Seattle refused on both counts.
Once, after Bowden faxed a proposal to Seattle, Gillick left a voice mail for Bowden: "Jim, you may have a problem. Someone used your letterhead and signed your name to the most ridiculous proposal for Ken Griffey Jr. that's ever been made. If I were you, I would order an investigation to find out what's going on."
Bowden called back and left his own voice mail for Gillick: "Pat, we checked with security about the faxed proposal. You're right. It is ridiculous. I would never give up that much for Ken Griffey Jr."
That was one of the few light moments between Gillick, the old-school, close-mouthed veteran, and Bowden, who at 38 still hadn't outgrown his reputation as a whiz kid with an affinity for reporters, TV cameras and Austin Powers. Both of them knew Gillick's hand was growing weaker, and the tension between them escalated.
Bowden tried to turn up the heat on Gillick on Dec. 9, the eve of the winter meetings in Anaheim, by publicly announcing that he was going to bring Griffey home. The next day, though, Reds managing executive John Allen told Bowden the chase was over; Lindner had decided the Reds could not afford to trade for and sign Griffey. Allen ordered Bowden to announce that the Reds were out of it.
Bowden couldn't do that...not yet, anyway. It would mean all the spadework of the past month had been a public sham. No, instead Bowden scheduled a meeting with Gillick for the morning of Dec. 11 in Gillick's suite. When Gillick began the session by asking for Reese again, Bowden wasted no time. He shot up from his chair. "That's it!" he yelled. "I told you we weren't trading Pokey Reese, and you continue to insist on Pokey Reese! We have nothing more to talk about! We're finished!" He wheeled and hustled out of the room, making sure Gillick had no chance to respond. Bowden called a news conference to announce that the Reds were finished trying to get Griffey because of the Mariners' intractable demand for one player, Reese. It was a masterpiece of showmanship.
Now Bowden was worried about the Mets, especially when one New York executive told him at the winter meetings, "We're going to step up and do it." Mets general manager Steve Phillips agreed to send righthanded starter Octavio Dotel, outfielder Roger Cedeno and one other player to Seattle for Griffey, but the two teams could not agree on the third player. Gillick wanted righthanded closer Armando Benitez, but Phillips wasn't biting. Deadlocked, the general managers decided they would see if Griffey would approve a deal to the Mets before they tried to settle on the third player.
At 11:15 p.m. EST, Mariners president and COO Chuck Armstrong, who was in Hawaii, telephoned Goldberg at his Cincinnati home and asked if Griffey would accept a trade to New York. "I'm going to dinner in 15 minutes," Armstrong said. "We need to have an answer as soon as possible, because if the answer is no, the Mets need to get on to other things as early as tomorrow morning."
Goldberg called Griffey at home with the news. Griffey talked it over with his wife and mother. By this time he was annoyed at Gillick's games of thrust and parry. Now he had to decide his future in 15 minutes? (Armstrong later explained that he did not mean to imply that the deadline was a mere 15 minutes.) Besides,
even though the Mets were on Griffey's list, they were a weak fourth. He had listed them because they were a contending club that trained in Florida, and a part of him was intrigued with the idea of tweaking George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' owner, who Griffey claims once had him chased from the clubhouse when his father played for New York. Griffey's desire to play for the Reds far surpassed his vague interest in the Mets. He called Goldberg back. "I don't feel right about this," he said. "I feel cornered. Tell them no."
Now only the Reds were left—and by this time Griffey was sure he didn't want to return to the Mariners. Some fans had peppered his Web site with hate messages, and a letter from Seattle threatening his family had arrived at his Orlando home. The idea of playing in the town where his parents and grandmother lived looked better and better.
Bowden, sensing his strengthened bargaining position, took it upon himself to quietly reopen talks with Seattle in January. The Mariners wavered about what to do: Midway through that month Gillick decided he'd rather have his team play the season with Griffey than cave in and make a bad trade; Lincoln preferred to honor Griffey's request rather than bring back a hostile star. The talks continued to go nowhere, but Bowden couldn't stop himself from dropping hints about them in public. He held a panel discussion about the possible trade at a Reds publicity event on Jan. 28. One fan asked him, "How about Tomko, [lefthanded reliever Dennys] Reyes and [outfielder Dmitri] Young for Griffey?" Responded Bowden, "I like that one. I'd do that one." Then he laughed. In fact, Bowden had made that exact proposal earlier that morning.
On Jan. 30, after two more days of no movement, Bowden presented this idea to Gillick: "Forget about the issues of the 2000 salary and the long-term contract. Let's just see if we can make a baseball trade, and we'll let Chuck Armstrong and John Allen negotiate the dollars." On Feb. 5 Mariners vice president Roger Jongewaard called Bowden with a new proposal, this one without Reese: Seattle wanted Perez, Reyes, Tomko and catcher Jason LaRue (one of the 11 players on Bowden's secret list and the only top young catcher in Bowden's system). Bowden couldn't part with LaRue. Perez was also on the list of 11, but with Reese, veteran shortstop Barry Larkin and shortstop prospect Travis Dawkins in the organization, Bowden felt deep enough in the middle infield to make him expendable.
When Jongewaard ended the conversation by saying, "Where are you going to be tomorrow?" Bowden detected the scent of urgency. After he hung up the phone, Bowden said softly to himself, O.K., we're Jason LaRue away from getting Griffey. I can find a way to make this deal.
Bowden dialed Allen. "John, we've agreed on three players," he said. "I feel I can make this deal tomorrow. Do I have the O.K.?"
"I'll call Mr. Lindner and call you back," Allen said.
Not until 6:30 the next evening, just as Bowden sat down to dinner, did Allen call back. "Jim, I've got some bad news for you," Allen said. "You're going to have to pull out. It can't work financially. I want you to release a statement tomorrow."
Bowden drove the next morning, Monday, Feb. 7, with his wife, Amy, to the airport for a flight to Florida to prepare for two arbitration hearings, conveniently postponing work on the statement. He randomly pulled into a parking spot in the lot. He and Amy looked at each other. The car was parked in section D-30 (Griffey Sr.'s number), row 24 (Junior's Seattle number). "It's going to happen," Amy said. On Tuesday morning Armstrong telephoned Goldberg. "We heard the Reds are going to release a statement pulling out of trade talks," Armstrong said. "We're giving you permission to contact the Reds."
The Mariners had no authority to grant Goldberg such permission--that lies only with the commissioner's office--but Goldberg didn't know that. He called Allen. "Junior's willing to commit to a long-term deal with the Reds in the event of a trade," Goldberg said. "He's willing to work with terms that are very reasonable, less than market value."
(A high-ranking Major League Baseball source says that an investigation did confirm that the contact was illegal but that baseball considered it not serious enough to jeopardize the deal because the Mariners had endorsed the contact and no third team was harmed. Another source familiar with the investigation says that baseball officials are so pleased to see Griffey in Cincinnati under such reasonable contract terms that "they're willing to look the other way on this one" and may choose only to levy a small fine on each club.)
With that phone call the endgame had begun. Suddenly Griffey was affordable. Allen telephoned Lindner, who immediately gave a green light to make the deal. Allen called Bowden and said, "Mr. Lindner has had a change of heart. You have permission to go make a baseball deal. Whatever money you can get them to include in the deal will help, but Mr. Lindner is not putting any financial restrictions on you."
Bowden called Gillick. They agreed to a 4 p.m. conference call the next day, Feb. 9. Gillick said he and Armstrong needed to be somewhere at 8 p.m. Fine, Bowden thought, a deadline. It'll be done by eight.
Bowden started the conference call where they had left off: Perez, Reyes and Tomko, and let's talk about the fourth player. "Wait," Gillick said. "We want Pokey Reese in it. Now that you're considering Griffey long-term, the price has gone up."
Executives from the two clubs alternately argued and caucused for the next hour. The Mariners gave in. They asked for Cameron instead of Reese. Bowden coyly refused. He offered to get outfielder Jim Edmonds from the Anaheim Angels and pass him on to the Mariners. Gillick didn't want Edmonds, who could be a free agent at the end of the season and who, the Mariners already knew, would not sign a long-term deal with them.
Bowden came back with another offer: Tomko and Cameron for Griffey. Gillick insisted on Reyes and Perez, as well. "You're not getting Reyes and Perez," Bowden exclaimed. "No way. We don't want to do it, but we'll put Perez in. That's it. No more. And this deal is off the table tomorrow. Let's make it or not right now."
Said Gillick, "Are you going to let Dennys Reyes keep you from trading for Ken Griffey, and are you willing to live with that for the rest of your life?"
Bowden shot back, "Are you willing to lose Ken Griffey for nothing and live with that for the rest of your life?"
It was 7:55 p.m. The conference call ended abruptly. The Mariners hung up without so much as a goodbye. Bowden sat in silence by the phone. They hadn't said goodbye, he thought. That's a good sign. Maybe they'll call back.
His telephone rang at 8:21 p.m. One of the lower-level Mariners executives said they had to have a fourth player. What about Meyer, a relief pitcher the Reds had left unprotected in the December Rule V draft? That was it. The deal was done.
Beginning at 9 p.m. and only now with the proper blessing of Major League Baseball, the Reds had 72 hours to work out a deal with Griffey and Goldberg. "I don't want to be an albatross around anybody's neck," Griffey told Goldberg. "I don't want to take up such a huge part of somebody's payroll that they can't do other things. They should still have money to get a player at the [trading] deadline if they need one."
The contract came together quickly last Thursday morning. "The secret to the deal working is the amount of deferred money," Allen says. "This is a return to fiscal responsibility." Actually, the deal is an anomaly. Griffey had limited his own market value by announcing he wanted to play for one team—a team with limited resources, at that. Neither he nor Goldberg, an attorney and longtime family friend who represents no other ballplayer, had a history of playing hardball at negotiating tables.
Other agents reacted with as much horror as Selig did glee. Surely, they figured, the deal must include some form of income escalation, such as a guarantee that Griffey would always be the highest-paid Red, or an attendance clause similar to what Mark McGwire has with the Cardinals. But none exists.
It took only a few hours for Griffey to begin to have the effect on Cincinnati that McGwire had on St. Louis after the slugging first baseman's trade there in July 1997. The Cinergy Field switchboard was overwhelmed with incoming calls for tickets. The only way to reach anyone in the Reds offices was on a cell phone. So many people showed up to buy season tickets that they had to take numbers in the lobby and wait to be called into a room to buy them—and even then Reds employees couldn't get an open phone line to run charge cards. An advertising agency called to offer free billboard space with a picture of Griffey to hawk season tickets.
The rest of the National League celebrated, too, now that it can promote dates featuring Griffey, McGwire and the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa, probably the three greatest drawing cards in the game today. The only three players still alive to have hit more than 55 home runs in a season all play in the National League Central, which gives teams such as Selig's own cash-strapped Milwaukee Brewers 18 dates to sell the Big Three. Look for special ticket packages—the 18-game Power Pack—at a National League ballpark near you.
Remember this, though: Griffey, McGwire and Sosa hit 176 home runs among them last year, yet all played for losing teams that finished a combined 67 1/2 games out of first place. Beyond the glamour of the home run race, the success of the Reds, Cardinals and Cubs will depend mostly on pitching, which none have in abundance.
Bowden will try to deal from his surplus of outfielders to find
another starter to join Neagle, Pete Harnisch, Steve Parris and
Ron Villone, though Bowden's history suggests he will do so in
July. (He has picked up Dave Burba, Juan Guzman, Mark Portugal
and David Wells in deadline deals.) He postponed any such
thoughts, though, on the jet ride back to Florida last Thursday
night. This was a time to celebrate, especially when Lindner's
son Craig popped the corks of the Dom Perignon.
It was also a time to reflect. Bowden thought about his seven
years with the Reds, all but the last in the employ of the
penurious Marge Schott, whom Lindner replaced as the majority
owner. He thought about how Schott wouldn't provide the offices
and clubhouse with bottled water. (That's why we have water
fountains, she reasoned.) Now here he was sipping champagne and
sinking softly into the cushioned leather upholstery of a private
jet that cost nearly as much as his team's entire 1999 payroll,
surrounded by fresh food, a DVD player, a big-screen television
and one of the 50 greatest players of the 20th century. Only two
others, he figured, had changed teams in their youthful primes:
Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby.
He saw Griffey laughing with his children, and he knew the fit
was right. Junior last wore a Cincinnati uniform when he was
eight years old and his father was an All-Star outfielder with
the Reds. The kids beat their dads 12-0 in the player-family
game. Junior would relish victories by his father's teams because
after them he could grab "red pop and bubble gum" from the
clubhouse. He'd cry after losses because that's when children
weren't allowed in. Now Trey and Taryn can scamper around the
same places he did, only this time at the feet of their father
Bowden had felt a tightness in his gut ever since he'd hung up
the phone at 8:21 the night before. That and a sense of decorum
were all that kept him from yelping with joy as loud as he could.
Yes, sir. He was flying.
COLOR PHOTO: COVER PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR. COVER How the Reds got
PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA Home Economics The inside story of how the Reds coolly snatched Ken Griffey Jr. from the Mariners for a bargain price and reunited him with his dad in Cincinnati [T of C]
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR. The big step On Monday, Griffey relaxed in his Orlando home, just 130 miles from the Reds' training camp in Sarasota.
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL E. KEATING All's well that ends well Surrounded by family and Reds brass, a relieved Griffey basked in the glare of the hometown media last Thursday, after Cincinnati merchants (above) jumped the gun and sold the wrong jersey number. (He'll wear 30.)
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL E. KEATING/CINCINNATI ENQUIRER [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE A-Mays-ing Now the fans at Cinergy, rather than Safeco, will witness Junior's routine robberies in center.
COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN GREEN (REESE) Bargaining chips When Bowden refused to relinquish the prized Reese (3), Gillick reluctantly settled on righty Tomko, Cameron and two prospects.
COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL/ALLSPORT (CAMERON) [See caption above]
B/W PHOTO: JIM CALLAWAY Reds roots At Riverfront in 1980, Ken Jr. (opposite, right) and brother Craig hung with dad; at Moeller High, Ken was a man among boys.
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL E. KEATING [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. Tee time On Monday, just a week before spring training would open, Griffey headed off to work on his golf swing.
Few players have backed a team into so tight a corner as Ken
Griffey Jr. did the Mariners, but he's only the latest star to
leverage his way out of town. Here are five other franchise
players who held guns to their teams' heads until they were
shipped out. --Stephen Cannella
Tom Seaver Mets June 1977
--New team Reds
--Ammunition used After months of contract bickering with Mets,
Seaver demands trade to one of four teams.
--Ransom P Pat Zachry; INF Doug Flynn; OFs Steve Henderson, Dan
--Upshot Seaver goes 75-46 in six seasons with Reds; Zachry
never wins more than 10 for Mets; Henderson, Flynn and Norman all
leave New York by end of '81 season.
Mark McGwire A's July 1997
--New team Cardinals
--Ammunition used A free-agent-to-be, Big Mac makes it clear he
won't return to Oakland.
--Ransom Ps Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, Blake Stein
--Upshot McGwire breaks Maris's home run record; Mathews still
in Oakland pen, but Stein and Ludwick no longer with club.
Mike Piazza, Dodgers May 1998
--New team Marlins
--Ammunition used Piazza rejects $80 million contract offer,
says he'll test free-agent market at season's end.
--Ransom OFs Gary Sheffield, Jim Eisenreich; 3B Bobby Bonilla;
C Charles Johnson; P Manuel Barrios
--Upshot Deal completes Marlins' dismantling; Piazza spends one
week in Florida before trade to Mets; Sheffield only player
still with Dodgers.
Randy Johnson, Mariners July 1998
--New team Astros
--Ammunition used Fed up with acrimonious contract talks,
Johnson sulks through first half of season, plans to leave as
--Ransom Ps Freddy Garcia, John Halama; SS Carlos Guillen
--Upshot Big Unit goes 10-1 down stretch, pitches Astros into
playoffs before leaving as free agent; Garcia and Halama are in
Seattle rotation, Guillen to start at 3B this season.
Roger Clemens, Blue Jays February 1999
--New team Yankees
--Ammunition used Exercising secret contract clause,
Clemens--determined to win a World Series, play closer to home
and/or get a bump in pay--demands trade.
--Ransom Ps David Wells, Graeme Lloyd; 2B Homer Bush
--Upshot The Rocket gets his ring; Bush, Lloyd and Wells perform
well, but Blue Jays fade from wild-card race.
GRIFFEY ACCEPTED SUCH A HUGE DISCOUNT THAT BUD SELIG GREETED THE
NEWS BY YELLING, "THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" AND NEARLY WEEPING.
"THAT'S IT!" BOWDEN YELLED. "I TOLD YOU WE WEREN'T TRADING POKEY
REESE, AND YOU CONTINUE TO INSIST ON POKEY REESE! WE'RE FINISHED!"
"ARE YOU WILLING TO LOSE KEN GRIFFEY FOR NOTHING," BOWDEN ASKED
GILLICK, "AND LIVE WITH THAT THE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?"
BOWDEN SAW GRIFFEY LAUGHING WITH HIS CHILDREN, AND HE KNEW THE
FIT WAS RIGHT.