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McGriff minding family

Slugger's agent says his comfort in bay area is holding up trade to Cubs.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 14, 2001


MONTREAL -- It's not about the money. It's not about a contract extension. It's not about any other compensatory issues that have been bandied about.

Fred McGriff's agent said Friday that it is family matters, specifically the effect on McGriff's family if he leaves home to play in another city, that are keeping the first baseman from approving the trade from the Rays to the Cubs.

Further, agent Jim Krivacs said the familial issues are so important to McGriff that it could delay his decision to the point where the deal becomes moot -- which, in essence, would be the same as a veto -- or even lead to McGriff's retirement at the end of the season.

"All it comes down to is the family issue," Krivacs said, speaking for the first time on the subject. "That is very critical, very important. From the baseball side, it's a no-brainer. It's not even an issue.

"Family is a real priority for him. Nobody wants to read that. It doesn't make a good story. But it's real simple."

Basically, Krivacs said McGriff, a lifelong Tampa resident, has grown very comfortable playing at home for the past 31/2 seasons. He doesn't have to relocate for spring training, he gets to live in his house during the season, he gets to be with his wife, Veronica, and children, 10-year-old son Erick and 8-year-old daughter Ericka, when the team is home.

McGriff, 37, is so troubled by the idea of giving up such conveniences, and feels the need to think it through so methodically, that he is willing to take a chance the Cubs may drop the deal and pursue other trade options.

"I don't know if he'll have enough time to do it in time," Krivacs said. "We're not trying to hold anybody hostage. ... We'd like to put some finality to it, but we want to do the right thing."

If McGriff refuses to waive his no-trade clause and approve the trade, he may have to play in another city next season anyway. It seems unlikely the Rays will give him the opportunity to make enough plate appearances to vest his $6.75-million option for 2002, and even less likely they would pick it up by choice since they are committed to reducing salary and providing opportunities for younger players.

The difference, Krivacs said, is that McGriff would have more time at the end of the season to make a decision and, in theory, more teams to pick from as a free agent.

Or, Krivacs said, there is another option -- McGriff could retire.

That, however, would seem unlikely given that McGriff, who hit his 433rd homer Friday, is closing in on the 500-home run plateau.

For now -- as of Friday night anyway -- McGriff plans to keep playing for the Rays, and continue weighing the familial issues with no deadline in mind.

Krivacs, speaking from his Pinellas County office, said the idea of getting extra money from the Cubs, or the Rays, to waive the no-trade clause "has not come up at this point." He said talk of a 2003 option was mentioned in "happenstance discussions" but was not holding up the deal.

"As soon as this came out, the first thing he said to me is, "The No. 1 thing is my family.' And you know he's got a real good family, they're real solid," Krivacs said. "So it's been really wearisome for him to think through."

McGriff had nothing to say on the matter Friday, and assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said there were no developments to report from the Tampa Bay side.

In Chicago, Cubs manager Don Baylor said McGriff had returned one of the many phone messages he left for him, but they had not had a chance to speak. Cubs star Sammy Sosa told reporters he too wanted to speak to McGriff, but McGriff didn't seem interested when the message was relayed to him.

Baylor said the Cubs were still hopeful McGriff would approve the deal, but that they wouldn't wait forever, certainly not until the July 31 trading deadline as McGriff suggested Thursday.

"It's not going to be July 31; it's not that open-ended," Baylor said before the 7-2 loss to the White Sox. "As we speak he's still considering making the move. I'm not going to put a time on it, but I don't think it will last for another two weeks."

Meanwhile, shortstop Jason Smith, one of the two players the Rays would get in the salary-saving deal, was placed on the Triple-A disabled list retroactive to July 9 with what is believed to be a minor hamstring injury.

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