The Last Man Standing: Junior's Legacy Remains

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The Last Man Standing: Junior's Legacy Remains
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

If you weren't already numb to it, I'm sure you are by now.  Baseball is sick of steroids and we all just want to move on.  But every time we think maybe it's safe to flip on SportsCenter or go to a game, there's a bombshell.

Another baseball stud used PIDs. This time it was Manny, and I don't know about you, but I didn't have any reaction. I had heard it all before...

1.  Breaking News! (Insert baseball star's name here) failed an MLB drug test.

2. (Insert baseball star's name here) claims he was given drug for "personal reasons" by a doctor who claimed it would be acceptable to take.

Then either...

3a. (Insert baseball star's name here) admits to using PIDs, but gives absolutely no details which leads us to suspect the worst

or

3b. (Player's name) denies steroid use, but tests show elevated testosterone levels. 

Or there's always the Barry Bonds case, where it is so blatantly obvious we don't even need to see a test.

And so it continues.

The generation of players that hit more home runs than John Daly drinks beers and brought excitement back to baseball were all a bunch of frauds.

Nine of the top 20 home run hitters of all-time are from the recent era. Six of those nine players have either admitted to using steroids or are under strong suspicion (in other words, we know whether they'll admit it or not.)

The three that are clean are Ken Griffey Junior (fifth), Frank Thomas (T18th), and Jim Thome (14th).  Thome and Thomas didn't need steroids because they are just naturally big, ripped guys.

Junior on the other hand is an exception. An outlier. He's a big guy. In fact, it was just the opposite: He was as skinny as Mary Kate Olsen at 6'3" 195 pounds during his rookie year.

Despite the fact that he has never tested positive on any drug test or done anything to suggest he may have taken PIDs, there are still the pessimists. They claim his weight gain and all of his injuries are a little too suspicious and that since "everyone was doing it" he probably was too.

This is ridiculous.

1. Yeah, Griffey put on 20-plus pounds during his career, but honestly, take a look at him. There are two kinds of weight: muscle weight, and that other kind that 60 percent of Americans have a problem with. 

Unfortunately, I think most of that 20 pounds is the second kind.

2. If you look at Junior's stats, he progressed and digressed just like he was supposed to.  In his first year, he hit 16 home runs in 127 games while batting .264.

Pretty good for a 19-year-old, but nothing spectacular.

Over the next three years, Griffey progressed, hitting over .300 and 20 home runs every year. 

The next year, however, is where a lot of people get suspicious. 

Griffey went from 27 to 45 home runs, which I agree is a lot, but think about it: Griffey turned 23 that year, and it was his fourth year in the league. Is it really that hard to believe that a player that young who has some experience under his belt can make a significant improvement? I don't think so. 

Players normally hit their prime around this age and continue until about age 30. Not coincidentally, Griffey continued to be dominant until the age of 30 (the last year he hit 40 home runs.)

3. Now the injuries.  And believe me, as a Reds fan I know there have been a lot. 

I sat in the stands frustrated that the Reds were paying him $13 million a year for him to sit on the bench.  But don't forget, Griffey played on the AstroTurf of the Kingdome. There's a reason the material's more extinct than a Stegosaurus.

And people forget how good Griffey was in center field, but he has the hardware (10 consecutive gold gloves) to prove it.  He went all out climbing walls and diving all over the place.  Doing that for an extended period of time takes a toll on the body.  It is completely understandable that Griffey had so many health issues after what his body went through. 

4. I know it's tough because we have all been let down so many times, but let's not forget what makes truly great players truly great: talent.

Griffey is one of the most naturally gifted players ever. He was truly a five-tool player. I go to the same high school (Moeller) Griffey went to and you should hear the people who coached him.  They rave how much better he was than anyone else. And it's not like these people haven't seen other great baseball players.  Barry Larkin and the entire Bell family also went through Moeller. 

There's a reason he was the first overall pick out of high school and made it to the pros in two years; the guy has talent. Remember, Junior's dad was a pretty good ball player himself.  Junior has it in the blood. 

There are always a few truly great players a generation.  We probably lost a couple of them to steroids, but I think Griffey is one of those guys who really was special, one of the great ones in our generation.

It would be a shame if Griffey's legacy was tarnished in any way for the mistakes of those around him. 

I know I'll always remember Junior as one of the greats, and I hope everyone else will too.

He deserves it.

 

 

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