Ken Griffey, Jr., the forgotten super hero…
Posted by silentarchimedes on May 23, 2008
Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports raises an interesting observation in his sports column today, Griffey and the silent 600 – how there is absolutely no buzz about Ken Griffey, Jr. reaching 600 home runs for his career. However, he only mentions one reason – the negative influence of the steroid era. To me, as a big Yankee fan, it is much more than that reason that Griffey has completely slid into my baseball subconscious. Here are my reasons, in order of influence:
1. Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs – Yes, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, and the whole Mitchell Report has changed the way we look at home runs forever.
2. Never met expectations – When Griffey was at his prime in Seattle, he was heralded as the one that would break Aaron’s career 755 home run record, and Maris’ single-season 61 homers. He came into the league at 19 years old. From 1989-1992, he hit 87 homers, and averaged 21.75 per season. Then, from 1993-2000, he hit 351 homers and averaged 43.9 homers/season. By the time he was 31, he had already hit 438 home runs, and averaged 36.5 per season in his career! He was staying ahead of the curve that everyone projected he needed to beat Aaron’s record. All he needed to average the next 10 years was 31.7 homers to tie Aaron. He was in his prime in 2000 at 31 years old. Everything was in his favor as he chased the record in his home town. It never happened… From 2001-2007, he hit 155 home runs, and only average 22.14 per season. People lost interest in him… they wanted to forget how a super hero came back down to earth.
Courtesy of GoCubsGo.com
3. Injuries – One of the main reasons he dropped so precipitiously from 2001-2007 were the injuries. They weren’t just typical injuries related to aging, they were just weird and frustrating. And he was still young. He would come back from one injury, only to have a freak injury a couple of weeks later! From 1989-2000, he averaged 140 games per season. From 2001-2007 he averaged 99.7 games.
4. Where are the ESPN highlights? – We were so used to seeing regular highlights of Griffey in the 1990s, either of his hitting prowess or his amazing centerfield plays. The only things we saw of him afterwards were of his injuries. It became gut wrenching to watch him play centerfield or steal a base. We were so afraid he’d tweak his hamstring or have another freak injury.
5. Cincinnati – This was probably his worst move ever, in hindsight. Everything seemed perfect for him in Seattle. He was doing well, he had a young A-Rod hitting in front of him, and Randy Johnson was lights out. The fans adored him, more than A-Rod at that time. Cincinnati is a small baseball city, with limited exposure. They have not competed for the pennant in years. Brown also questions why Cincinnati fans aren’t celebrating more for his reach to 600. The thing is his greatness era was with Seattle. He’s given nothing but heartache to the fans in Cincinnati.
6. Never broke single season home run record – Even though Griffey will not break the career home run record, he also never broke the single season record during his great period. He hit 56 home runs two years in a row. We so wanted him to. Then, the second time he did it in 1998 was during the McGwire-Sosa season. He was over-shadowed forever. So close, yet so far…
7. Other players have taken over spotlight – The truth is, when Griffey started having injuries, younger stars simply took over the spotlight, A-Rod, Pujols, Ortiz, Ramirez, Soriano, etc etc. He seems forgotten, from a period long ago.
8. In historical perspective – So in the end, what can we say of Griffey? His career average is now below .300 (.289). He has less than 3000 hits (2601), less than 500 doubles (480, only 24.9/season), less than 2000 RBIs (1723, 90.6/season). Great numbers, but nothing like we thought it would end.
KEN GRIFFEY JR CAREER STATS – as of 05/22/08
You know, I didn’t even know Griffey was on the doorstep of 600. As a matter of fact, for the past few seasons I never heard about him, except during trade deadline when rumors of Griffey coming to the Yankees appear.
It is sad that he seems a forgotten man. The beautiful swing, the beautiful catches, the Kid… I think MLB should be doing more to remind people of Griffey and 600…