Whether jogging to first base on double-play grounders, being a step late on the type of flyballs he used to catch or flailing at pitches out of the strike zone, Ken Griffey Jr. has spent most of his eight weeks in a White Sox uniform looking as old as, well, Ken Griffey Sr.
Whether jogging to first base on double-play grounders, being a step late on the type of flyballs he used to catch or flailing at pitches out of the strike zone, Ken Griffey Jr. has spent most of his eight weeks in a White Sox uniform looking as old as, well, Ken Griffey Sr. Maybe Junior simply was playing possum, biding his time until the games really matter. Ozzie Guillen is banking on that. The Chicago manager is sticking with the 38-year-old Griffey -- .246 batting average, creaky knees and all -- and he doesn't care who likes or dislikes the decision. "Ken Griffey is gonna be in center field," a defiant Guillen said before Griffey's upper-deck homer provided one of the few highlights in Wednesday night's 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. "I make the lineup. If people out there don't like it, don't watch the White Sox." If you're a Sox fan, you no doubt are tempted to divert your eyes. If you're a Sox hater, you're loving this. Should the Twins complete the three-game sweep Thursday night, they will hold a half-game AL Central lead over the slip-sliding South Siders with just a few days to go. The pressure on young Sox starter Gavin Floyd to salvage a victory in the series finale will be immense. And this crew hasn't exactly thrived under pressure lately. Jermaine Dye has spit the bit since replacing injured Carlos Quentin as the No. 3 hitter, Javier Vazquez has proven he's no Mr. Clutch, slumping A.J. Pierzynski was dropped to eighth in the order, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko have gone cold at the worst time, Nick Swisher has played himself out of the lineup and the bullpen has been brutal. And yet Guillen is the easy target for those looking to assess blame. A lineup that includes Griffey -- the Ancient Ex-Mariner -- makes the target on Ozzie's back larger still. Junior has contributed little to the White Sox cause since GM Ken Williams acquired him from Cincinnati. He no longer is a great hitter and he can't cover ground the way he did during his Gold Glove-winning Seattle years. Nevertheless, I have trouble picking nits with Guillen's decision. It's not as if his roster is bursting with better options. "If I have Torii Hunter out there, it's another thing. I don't," he said, referring to the former Minnesota star who rejected the team's offer and signed with the Angels. "Junior has played good enough the last two weeks, and that's a guy who's gonna be there for us." Griffey's majestic home run in the fourth inning -- which still had folks at the Metrodome buzzing five minutes later -- was his second shot in a span of three at-bats. (He had gone deep in the ninth Tuesday.) The man's on fire! Once upon a time, such a prodigious power display wasn't big news. I mean, this is Ken Griffey Jr. Future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Owner of one of the sweetest swings ever. A guy with 611 career homers, more than all but four players in big-league history. Before he homered Tuesday, however, he had hit only one out of the park in his first 35 games with the White Sox. Before driving in four of the team's five runs in this series, he only had 14 RBIs in his first 115 Chicago at-bats. "I said when we got him, if people think Junior's gonna carry this ballclub, they're wrong," Guillen said. "He's got one more week to play for us. Hopefully, he's gonna swing the bat good." The White Sox won't pick up Griffey's $16.5 million option for 2008, so this indeed might be his last week with the franchise -- unless he and his teammates can remember how to win again. The doom-and-gloomers are out in full force, and who can blame them? Expecting the Sox to come through Thursday at their House of Horrors is as unrealistic as expecting presidential candidates to stop running attack ads fraught with lies. The White Sox had their chance to step on the Twins' collective throat. Instead, even with Ken Griffey Jr. hitting home runs again, Ozzie's lads have given their rivals new life. Mike Nadel (email@example.com) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at www.thebaldesttruth.com.