Lou Piniella looks at the standings. First place.
He looks at the stands. Full house.
The Mariners manager smiles. Seattle is surviving -- thriving, even -- without Ken Griffey Jr.
''It's still early, but it's a good pattern we've developed here,'' Piniella said. ''What it is, basically, is a formula to win.''
No such luck in Cincinnati. A month into their first season with Griffey, the Reds look like the junior varsity.
''For whatever reason right now, we're atrocious,'' Reds general manager Jim Bowden said. ''The general manager stinks, the starting pitchers stink, the relief pitchers stink, the hitters and fielders stink.''
So much for the steal-of-the-century making a sudden impact.
''There's an adjustment for everyone,'' Griffey said. ''I've only been here three weeks. I can't make any judgments.''
Of course, it might be too soon to expect immediate changes. Juan Gonzalez, Shawn Green and Vinny Castilla, three top sluggers traded during the winter, haven't been big hits in their new towns, either.
And, as Piniella cautions, the season is young.
Signed to a $116.5 million, nine-year contract, Griffey surely will enhance his reputation as an All-Century player. No doubt the hometown hero will be worth what Bowden gave up Feb. 10 to get his favorite player -- outfielder Mike Cameron, pitcher Brett Tomko and minor leaguers Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer.
It's just that the Reds and their rooters want so much, so soon. As in, an NL Central championship and maybe a World Series appearance for the first time since 1990.
''I think the fans are a little star-struck,'' Reds manager Jack McKeon said. ''They're kind of waiting for him to hit a home run every time up.''
True, flashbulbs pop and the crowd shrieks each time he hits even a routine fly ball. His No. 30 jersey is the most popular one at Cinergy Field and there are a pair of billboards featuring Griffey on Interstate 75 heading downtown.
He has helped draw a lot more fans, too.
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