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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 16, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Braves are yearning for Griffey

I’m sitting in Champion Stadium in Orlando, smack dab in the middle of Disney World, which is where the Atlanta Braves train. Hey, I was in the neighborhood, so I thought it made sense to take a spin here and see if Ken Griffey Jr. materialized.

He hasn’t, yet, but several Braves were startled this morning to see a Seattle Mariners equipment bag in the empty stall next to Chipper Jones’ locker. As David O’Brien explains in his blog for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jones did a double-take and looked around to see if Junior was indeed in the clubhouse.

False alarm. Turned out the bag belonged to none other than Greg Norton, who you may vaguely remember had a short stint with the M’s last year before getting designated for assignment (while hitting .438) in May and traded to the Braves.

Still, the Braves have a quiet confidence that they will land Griffey, who may make his decision today, or tomorrow at the latest. The Braves have their first full squad workout on Wednesday (as do the Mariners, for that matter). As O’Brien notes, Chipper has talked to Griffey several times this week and said their chances “sound pretty good.” But I’ve been led to believe it’s truly a split decision, and it’s hard to say which way it’s going to go.

I stuck my head in the office of Bobby Cox, who is remarkably affable for a guy that has managed as long as he has and has done probably 10,000 interviews. Make that 10,001.

Here’s what Cox said about his relationship with Junior, which is being cited as a selling point for the Braves. He was Braves’ general manager when Ken Sr. played for Atlanta in the mid-1980s.

“Kenny doesn’t know me that well, probably. But I’ve watched him play since he was a little kid. Watched him in high school, watched him tailing around with Kenny (Sr). I’ve always liked Kenny. He’s a wonderful human being, a great kid. And I think he’s got some skills to help.”

He added, “It was awful he got major injuries. He could have been the home-run leader — and played center field, which is saying something.”

Cox acknowledged that he, like Jones, has been lobbying Griffey by phone in recent days while Junior was playing golf at Pebble Beach.

“I think it’s 50-50,” he said. “We kind of think it will happen. I’m sure Seattle is saying the same thing.”

I asked Cox what his selling points were when he talked to Griffey.,.

“Just how much we’d love to have him here. We have a nice club; we’re missing one hitter. We think he’s got plenty left to do that.”

Did Griffey sound receptive?

“You know, he lives in Orlando, that’s a little bit of a plus. And Atlanta’s not a long ways from Orlando, a seven-hour car ride to the ballpark, or less than that. We’ve got a pretty good team.”

There were reportedly some doubts in the Braves’ organization about Griffey’s ability to stand up to a whole season in left — they plan to platoon him with Matt Diaz, which means that Griffey, the lefty bat, would get the bulk of the playing time — but Cox dismissed that notion.

“He made it through last year pretty darned good. We think he can help. We need something, and he might foot that bill for us.”

So there you are. I’ll keep an eye out for a guest appearance by Griffey here at the Braves’ complex. So far, all I see are Goofy and Pluto.

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