It would be fair to assume that here in early 2009, the climate for sports is a stormy one. It seems as though in any sport you choose to follow these days, scandal overshadows achievement.
In no sport is this more apparent than Major League Baseball. The biggest stars of the game are having their names attached to performance enhancing drugs. Superstars who have played in the same towns for years are jumping ship for greener (by greener I mean money-laden) pastures.
Some players continue to sit at home in this tough economy. A portion of these players wait for a phone call that a club may not be able to afford. Still, others wait it out stubbornly, with the feeling that they are worth more than they are being offered, despite the fact that a team can't offer anymore.
And then there's The Kid.
The Kid is Ken Griffey Jr. The Kid is not really a kid anymore. The Kid is pushing 40, with three kids and a wife at home. The Kid was nominated to the All-Century team. In fact, he was the youngest player to be named in this collection of legends. If not for a plethora of injuries during this decade, he more than likely would be named to this centuries greats, as well.
Griffey, despite the injuries that have plagued him in the last eight seasons, carries a lifetime batting average of .288, with 611 home runs. He did it clean, too. Never has there been a thought of Griffey taking steroids or any other performance booster.
He was never mentioned in the Mitchell Report, there's never been a Sports Illustrated expose', no tearful confessions before Congress or Peter Gammons. Ken Griffey Jr. is a man that kisses his wife and kids, punches the clock and goes to work, plain and simple.
And in 2009, he's going back to the beginning to do it again.
The Seattle Mariners are bringing that Kid back for a well deserved swan song. He signed a one-year deal, worth two million. With incentives, he could potentially make somewhere in the range of four million.
Just to offer some sort of perspective on this, compare his stats to those of 36-year old Raul Ibanez, the outfielder the Mariners lost in this offseason. Ibanez carries a .286 lifetime average, with 182 career dingers. He just signed a three-year deal paying him $10.5 million per.
It isn't about money for Griffey, though. This is about going home. It's about paying homage to the Mariner fans. It's about a love and passion for the game that transcends contracts, and scandals, and all the other controversies that poke into this game like tainted needles.
It's a wonderful, feel good story.
Baseball needs one of those.
Baseball needs The Kid.