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Griffey needs change of scenery

Editor's Note -- ESPN baseball analyst Joe Morgan is slated for an ESPN.com chat Friday at 10:30 a.m ET.

Most people are aware that I'm a big Ken Griffey Jr. fan. I've known him since my Big Red Machine days when he was a kid running around in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse. I envisioned Griffey finishing his career in Cincinnati -- and I even hoped for a storybook ending, with Griffey leading the Reds to victory in the World Series as the hometown hero.

When he came to Cincinnati prior to the 2000 season, I felt that the Reds were one player away from winning it all.


But in 2001, Griffey's injury problems began. His latest season-ending injury -- a torn right hamstring which was surgically repaired on Monday -- makes me believe that it's time for Griffey to move on. I never thought I'd say this. He went home, but it didn't work out.

This is strictly my opinion, by the way. I haven't talked with Junior about this. Maybe the Reds want to keep him, and maybe he wants to stay in Cincinnati.

But with all the injuries and the misfortune he's experienced, I believe it's time for the 34-year-old Griffey to get a new start someplace else. It would be a good move for both Griffey and the Reds.

If he has a change of scenery, maybe his luck will change -- you never know.

And from the Reds' perspective, Wily Mo Pena has done a good job filling in while Griffey has been hurt.

If you're Griffey, you'd want to go to a contending team where you can make a difference and have a shot at the postseason. He deserves that after all he's gone through. It wouldn't be easy, because any team that trades for him will want to know he's healthy.

If the Reds do trade him -- he's under contract through 2008 -- it would ideally take place in the offseason before spring training starts. That way, Griffey and the Reds will have a fresh slate and a new outlook heading into the season.

For Love of the Game
This year, Griffey and the Reds got off to a great start, and I was looking forward to Griffey being part of the 500-homer celebration at the All-Star Game. Griffey was all set to be part of a historic starting outfield for the National League.

For the first time, all three starting outfielders voted by the fans -- Griffey, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa -- were members of the 500 home-run club. But then, just days before the game, Griffey pulled his hamstring, which led to his season-ending hamstring tear.

Even with a healthy Griffey, the sub.-500 Reds wouldn't have been able to win the NL Central because they're short on pitching. But they would have been in the wild-card race, although even that would have been a long shot.

If not for the injuries, Griffey might still be the best player in the game.

He's a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He was named MLB's player of the decade when he was with the Seattle Mariners. He won the 1997 AL MVP award and 10 straight Gold Glove awards in center field. And he earned accolades for the way he played the game.

Griffey has always enjoyed playing baseball. That's what has impressed me about him -- his love of the game. Every time he was on the baseball diamond, you could tell there was no place in the world he'd rather be.

After all that's happened to him in his past four years, though, it must be difficult to continue to love the game. There's an old saying -- tough times go away, but tough people don't. That epitomizes Ken Griffey Jr.

Former All-Star Cesar Cedeno used to tell me that the guys who get hurt are the ones who play the game the hardest. If you don't play hard -- diving for balls, running into walls, hustling all-out -- you're less likely to get hurt.

Junior has played the game hard from the day he got to the big leagues.

Big Red Machine Lessons
I've admired the way Griffey has handled himself in the face of adversity over the years. I thought it was great for him to come to Cincinnati, where he grew up when Ken Griffey Sr. was a member of the Big Red Machine.

Junior learned to play ball in Cincinnati, and his father won two world championships there, so it made sense for the son to go home and hopefully finish his career there. I've always felt a fondness for him because he was a good kid, and he turned into a great adult.

I'll always remember something Junior said to me: He learned about winning by watching the Big Red Machine play. He said he learned to play the game by watching us.


That was emphasized by our manager, Sparky Anderson, because he instituted a rule that players' kids could only come into the clubhouse after we won. Griffey learned early that there was a difference between winning and just playing the game. He told me that always stuck with him.

Of course, the reason for Sparky's rule was an incident with Griffey and Pete Rose Jr. They used to play baseball in the clubhouse before the game ... with real baseballs. One day Griffey hit a line drive that missed my head by about six inches. I was sitting in front of my locker talking to Rose, whose locker was next to mine.

After that, Sparky wouldn't let the kids in the clubhouse at all before the game -- they could go on the field, though -- and after the game they were welcome only if we won.

From my vantage point, Griffey will always be welcome in Cincinnati's clubhouse. But I think it's best for him now to move on.

An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan won back-to-back MVP awards with the Reds in 1975 and '76 (the Reds won the World Series both years). He contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.