Originally created 07/11/00

Dorsey: Baseball star, journeyman cross paths



ATLANTA -- Player A came into the National League with much ballyhoo, a center field legend not yet 30 leaving the outskirts of Seattle to join an energetic young team that missed the playoffs by a mere nine innings.

Player B entered the National League in March with little fanfare, a disgruntled, oft-injured center fielder for a mediocre team in Anaheim traded for an 18-game winner. His glove may have an occasional dramatic flair, but his game had little else, till now.

Player A, with the klieg lights of Cincinnati focused on his every move, became embroiled in a uniform controversy as he demanded that he be able to don a number already retired for Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez.

Player B, an enigma to much of his new division, swung into St. Louis without trouble and found himself re-energized by America's best baseball town.

Player A spent most of the three months preceding the All-Star break trying to top the Mendoza line in average, and his .238 mark is the lowest among his National League All-Star mates.

"Certainly, there have been some frustrating moments so far," said Ken Griffey Jr, Player A. "It's not about individual numbers; it's the fact that we're not winning like I thought we could.

"As for my hitting, it's coming around. You've got to learn new pitchers, new backdrops, new stadiums, new umpires. It takes a while to get acclimated."

Player B, Jim Edmonds, finds himself among the top 10 in most National League offensive categories, from on-base percentage to home runs to runs scored, the type of five-tool showcase that wins over converts with each at-bat.

"Winning is all that matters in this game, and when we're winning like we have been, it's just fun to come to park every day.

"I don't think there's too much difference between leagues. Everyone moves around so much anyways ... It's still baseball. You just trying to keep it simple. It was an easy transition for me."

This is a story of two outfielders, both intertwined by their inclusion in the National League party this season. Both jumped from the A.L. West to the N.L. Central. Both have been the focal points for their teams' turnaround, positive and negative.

When critics wonder why the Reds have slumped to a 43-44 record, they first blame Griffey. When those same critics try to figure out how the Cardinals have risen up to challenge the Braves for National League supremacy, most fingers point to Edmonds.

It's only fitting that Edmonds, the first half's most surprising superstar, replaces Griffey, the first half's biggest day-to-day disappointment, in tonight's All-Star Game starting lineup.

"Jimmy's the MVP of the first half in my mind," Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile said. "We're basically the same team we were from a year ago, with that one big guy in Jimmy that we added."

Griffey's old team finds itself 16 games over .500, leading its division by three games, while his new team trails Edmonds' new team by eight games.

"Junior will be alright," former Mariners teammate Alex Rodriguez said. "He's got to take all that pressure he's put on himself and just relax a little more. He'll be fine. And bad could he be? He's got 28 (HRs) and 72 (RBI)."

Power numbers aside, the Reds believed Griffey would put them over the top, and instead, he's contributed to their demise. There are innuendos that Griffey called up one of his ESPN buddies to complain that the network was showcasing too many of Edmonds' highlights, a rumor Griffey denies but one that seems appropriate for his less-than-authoritative start.

Edmonds can only laugh at his newfound fame. He earned 1.35 million votes in the highly competitive N.L. outfield race, "about a million more than when I played in Anaheim," he said.

"Griff and I have a lot in common, but we're two different people," Edmonds said. "It's not fair to either of us to compare to the other."

Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.