That greener grass in the Northland that enticed Calvin Griffith and the original Senators out of Washington sure has faded. "The only thing I'll say," he says after reviewing the Twins' books for 1980, "is, in 70 years of operation, the Griffiths never lost this much money."

Not even the sounds of stadium construction in downtown Minneapolis persuade Griffith that this year's estimated $1 million deficit will give way to a long era of prosperity. All he ventures is, "No matter what happened, we will try to operate until we get into the domed statium in 1982. That could be a windfall for a couple of years."

In New York, owner George Steinbrenner says Dick Howser -- with a couple of years left on his three-year contract -- is the one to say whether Howser stays as Yankee manager for 1981. Steinbrenner, echoed by General Manager Gene Michael in denying a newspaper story that Michael signed a contract Monday to take over as field manager, declared: "If Dick Howser makes a decision not to return as manager, it will be his decision . . . without any pressure and without any set of rules, as has been previously reported. I rather expect that this decision will be coming to a head sometime later this week."

Johnny Bench: The effects of 14 years of crouching behind the bat for Cincinnati goaded him into wangling permission from the Reds to catch no more than two games a week hereafter. But he insisted he be used at another fielding position for 70 or 80 other games a year, and President Dick Wagner said that could not be guaranteed. "The rest of your service," Wagner said, "would be as (Manager) John McNamara needs you -- to fill in or in pinch hitting." Bench, as he considered his options in the no-DH National League, thought of requesting a trade to the American League.

Finally, Bench assembled a news conference yesterday to declare, "Cincinnati realy has become too much a part of me for me to ask to be traded." Saying he can play decently at first or third base, left or right field, the nonpareil catcher concluded: "I'm going down to spring training and it's up to the Reds to tell me what glove to bring."

The inevitable, a squawk about World Series divvy. Each full-share losing Royal took almost as much as each full-share champion Phillie, $32,211 against $34,693, because the Kansas City players voted only 26 of same -- to 21 players , manager and four coaches -- while the Phils found 33 uniformed players and 11 other individuals worth the whole boat. Chief squawker is Jose Cardenal, the short-term K.C. outfielder now a free agent. Voted a one-sixth share, $5,368, Cardenal yowls: "The first meeting they had, players were mad because they said there were too many full shares. They were chopping throats. They were chopping mine . . . I worry 'cause I haven't received a check yet. Maybe they decided to give Jose nothing". . .

Shades of Howard U.'s misfortune of a few years back, the University of San Francisco has been stripped of its 1978 national soccer championship. The Rev. John LoSchiavo, USF president, cites belated discovery that a player submitted an altered academic transcript in applying for enrollment.

NASL shift: goodbye, New England; hello, Jacksonville Tea Men.

In the Big Ten, Rick Venturi not only ended 0-11 for his third year as Northwestern coach, but with 20 consecutive defeats, a 1-31-1 aggregate and a flock of grievances by black players. And now, without his job. He was fired yesterday, and John Pont, athletic director for eight years with him . . . also canned. Claude Gilbert, No. 6 in winning percentage among active college football coaches; by San Diego State. The man he succeeded eight years ago, Don Coryell of the Chargers, slammed his fist on the podium in disgust after the athletic director announced Gilbert's firing. Said Coryell: "I can't believe how blind, how studpid they are."

In the NFL, owner John Mecom Jr. said when New Orleans was 0-10 that if Dick Nolan weren't such a fine man, he might be gone as coach. Now he's 0-11, and Mecom says, was outcoached and outprepared Sunday by the Falcons. Next?