McGwire Arrives at Spring Training
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Mark McGwire arrived at spring training Tuesday and liked what he saw - or didn't see. There were only a dozen reporters, not 100.
``This is the way it should be,'' he said. ``Let Ken Griffey deal with it this spring. Now he knows what I've gone through the last couple of years.''
Last year, coming off his record-setting 70-homer season, McGwire needed a conference room for his arrival. Last year, he hit 65.
``Ho hum,'' he said with a smile. ``But I'm still very proud of what I accomplished last year.''
Dressed in a T-shirt, shorts, Cardinals red turf shoes and sunglasses under a St. Louis cap, McGwire discussed a wide range of subjects.
``John Rocker can help any team anytime,'' he said of the Atlanta reliever, suspended until May 1 for his comments about gays, foreigners and others. ``He has a lot of talent but he messed up and said some things he shouldn't have said, but who are we to judge?
``It's unfortunate, but it's something he's going to have to deal with the rest of his life. He might have been better off not to appeal the suspension, just apologized, sat out his time and gotten on with his life.''
During the offseason, McGwire caught the attention of many when he agreed to exercise a mutual option in his contract for 2001 rather than remain eligible for free agency after this season.
``I'm absolutely happy to be in St. Louis and I'm paid very well,'' he said. ``If you can't be happy with $11 million, there's something wrong with you.''
St. Louis hasn't finished first since McGwire's arrival late in the 1997 season, and the division became more competitive when the Cincinnati Reds acquired Griffey from the Seattle Mariners.
``It's great to have Griffey in the Central. I think he did the right thing by going where he'll be happy even if it is for less money,'' McGwire said. ``But it's still not an individual game. It's a team game. He and I and Sammy Sosa and the guys in Houston, we're just pieces of the pie.''
The 36-year-old McGwire is pleased the Cardinals added pitching, and thinks they're ready to challenge for a playoff spot.
``We still have to go out and perform on the field,'' he said. ``They say all good clubs are strong up the middle. With Fernando Vina at second, we should be able to turn the double play better. I haven't seen (catcher) Eli Marrero yet but they say he's throwing better, and the year of experience should help J.D. Drew in center field.
``But the bottom line is still pitching. All the new pitching should be a big help. We lost a lot of leads late in the game the last two years. The key for us will be the ability of the starters to go deeper in the game and not wear out the bullpen.''
Since setting the home-run record, McGwire has tried to avoid limelight in the offseason.
``I didn't go anywhere. I spent the whole time in Southern California hanging out with my friends, family and my son Matt,'' he said. ``I just tried to stay low key. I can't go anywhere, but I've learned to deal with it.''
How did he spend New Year's Eve?
``At home,'' he said, ``watching my favorite movie, `American Pie.'''
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