Griffey sets sights on title with Sox
Newest South Sider expresses gratitude for chance to win
KANSAS CITY -- Ken Griffey Jr. was about to sit down and enjoy a postgame meal earlier this week when he got the word from Cincinnati officials that the first-place White Sox were seeking his services.
Never mind the entrée. For Griffey, this news was the equivalent of dessert being served first.
In a mercurial career in which Griffey has made highlight reel catches, achieved financial security and zoomed to sixth place on the all-time home run list with 608, one thing is missing from his glittering baseball resume.
Griffey wants that piece of jewelry that a baseball player can't buy. Put a championship ring on his finger and Griffey's life in the game he loves would be complete.
That's why Griffey gave the green light to a trade which brings him back to the American League. The White Sox are in a position to rekindle the magic of 2005 and Griffey wants to help expedite the process. With his trademark cap flipped backwards, Griffey met the media on Friday for the first time as a White Sox player and expressed his eagerness about the mission ahead.
"These guys have done a great job," Griffey said. "I just want to help them get to a common goal and that's winning a title. The last 35 hours have been a whirlwind for me."
Although he's leaving a city dear to his heart, Griffey saw the White Sox opportunity as one that was simply too good to pass on. He is being asked to play center field again with Carlos Quentin in left and Jermaine Dye in right.
"It's a position I played for 17 years," Griffey said. "Just go out there and read the ball off the bat. ... I understand what I'm supposed to do in center."
Griffey isn't trying to sell the idea that he's still the spectacular center fielder fans remember from the Seattle days. But if playing center for the White Sox fits into a winning equation, Griffey is up for the challenge.
Griffey hasn't experienced the playoffs since 1997 and he's still waiting for his first appearance in a League Championship Series.
"It doesn't really weigh on me," Griffey said. "You think about it, but it's not like it's going to define who I am. You think about it every day and now I have the opportunity to achieve that goal."
Griffey, who batted seventh in his Chicago debut, had a quick reply when asked what he envisioned it would be like playing for exciteable manager Ozzie Guillen.
"I've also had Lou [Piniella]," Griffey said. "It can't be that much different. Two guys that care about baseball -- two guys that care about how people play."
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams had an interest in acquiring Griffey in 2005 and now finally has his man for this latest pennant chase. The ripple effect of Griffey's arrival means the White Sox can always have a proven power hitter on their bench. Paul Konerko was thrust into that role on Friday.
Nick Swisher offered to give up No. 30 for Griffey, but Griffey declined the invitation and took No. 17 instead. For Griffey, it's all about fitting in with his new mates.
"Don't want to be a disruption to the team," Griffey said.
As long as the expectations are realistic, Guillen thinks Griffey will be fine both offensively and defensively.
"Obviously, he's not going to be the same Junior he was in the '90s," Guillen said. "But I don't think he's going to have any problems playing out there [in center field]."
Griffey, 38, was hitting just .245 for the Reds, but the White Sox can imagine the offensive possibilities if Griffey gets hot in the midst of a playoff chase.
"He didn't come here to carry this ballclub," Guillen said. "He came here to help this ballclub get better."
After the trade proposal was presented, Griffey discussed it with those who are close to him. Ken Griffey Sr. told his son that this was his chance.
Griffey Jr. was thinking along similar lines and jumped on that chance.
Veto power waived. Home run power coming soon to U.S. Cellular Field.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.