I am already predicting the debates and the arguments I'll receive for writing this, but that's to be expected. It always is when you label someone "the best" at their profession.
I'm prepared to name Ken Griffey Jr. just that.
Now I know there are the legends: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson. We could go on and on, but those guys all had long and healthy careers, aside from Lou Gehrig, who unfortunately had to retire from the game he so passionately loved because of the disease named after him.
Then we have the modern players (even though it's hard to really say who's honest). Every single player that has shown the signs of being the best have either tested positive for steroids or have fallen completely off the deep end.
To even begin an argument like this is so hard to do because of the dishonesty taking place in baseball.
It would be fair to compare the MLB to an all-nighter full of telemarketers. It's just pointless.
One name stands above all of them though, and that's Junior.
Where do I start though? I could mention all the numbers and accolades, and that would be suiting. Or I could mention his character and how he seemed to be the bright young and old face of the MLB for 10 straight years.
Here's something for you to ponder: what about the injuries? He missed 260 out of 486 games from 2002 through 2004. And a lot more between 2004 and 2007. It's sad really. Torn hamstrings, pulled muscles.
There was a small—and I mean very small speculation—that Griffey was a user. That lasted probably five minutes.
He's never been publicly blamed for any form of performance enhancing. Truth be told it's due to his reckless and daring outfield play that those injuries even occurred. It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason, but that's as good as guess as any.
Looking at the numbers though, that's where the argument really comes into play.
Unfortunately, when we judge the best players ever, home runs always seem to be the main basis for discussion. Although Hank Aaron was the previous record holder, he was never really considered the best.
Griffey started his first 10 seasons in Seattle as an All-Star. He had 10 straight gold gloves. Ten! A 13-time All-Star, he also had seven silver slugger awards and won an MVP in 1997.
Those numbers don't tell the whole story, though. He boasts a career batting average of .287. He's hit 617 home runs, drove in 1,787 runs, had 2,710 hits and scored 1,628 runs. That's a career to gawk at, but we have to include those missing games.
In total, he missed about three seasons due to his injuries. Those three seasons towards the end of his prime where he was averaging 35 home runs a year. Now I'm not going to automatically throw 105 more homers onto his 617, but wouldn't that be the right thing to do?
It seemed that when Griffey left for Cincinnati, his career took a turn for the worse. The injuries were reoccurring. It was sad to see. For the longest time, Griffey Jr. was the face of baseball.
He has the sweetest swing baseball has ever seen, and many have tried manipulating. He was a trend setter with his cool style. Wearing the hat backwards at every home run derby, he was a fan favorite.
There was no fan of baseball in the entire country that could say a bad thing about him.
So then what's my reasoning for considering him the best baseball player ever? Well it's everything I just mentioned above. Griffey had too many setbacks to not be considered the best.
Imagine a healthy Griffey for an entire 19 seasons. The numbers would be out of this world, we would be praising him at this very moment instead of dreading the fact that a juiced up Barry Bonds is the owner of the record.
I would love to hear some arguments against this, I know there is plenty out there.
In my opinion, Griffey is the best baseball player ever, period!