Right from the start let me say that I love Ken Griffey Jr. Without a doubt, he is one of the all-time greats to play the game (so far).
I had to throw the qualifier in because he seemingly has become one of those greats that tarnish their own legacy by playing years past their expiration date. If he was a carton of milk and you drank him, you'd get food poisoning and maybe die.
He currently ranks fifth on the career home run list, with 630. He is 15th all-time in RBI with 1,833, and his roots are firmly planted in the soil of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
So why, then, would a man continue to try (and unfortunately fail) to compete with men half his age who possess far greater skills than he now has mastery of?
He has an MVP award on his shelf, 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards, four home run crowns, an RBI title, and bragging right for batting over .300 in eight different seasons. He is also a 13-time All-Star in his now-22-year career.
What is left to prove? Is he clinging to the hope that the Mariners will win a World Series this year (as I predicted)? Because let's face it, that is about the only thing that has eluded him in his illustrious, now-fading career.
When he came to the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 I was thrilled. During his nine-year tenure in the Queen City he only had one 100-RBI season. That came in his first year with the Reds, when he batted .271 with 40 homers and 118 RBI.
After that he only averaged a tad over 100 games per year with the Reds.
In an era tainted—nay, smeared—by steroids, Junior and Jim Thome stand apart from the crowd. Both played in the era, had great careers, and stayed juice-free.
His career is virtually two different decades. In 1989 through 1999, his averages are:
BA=.299, H=158, R=97, HR=36, RBI=105, OBP=.380, OPS+=149.
From 2000 to Friday night, his averages are:
BA=.263, H=94, R=54, HR=21, RBI=62, OBP=.357, OPS+=118.
And from 2008 until now, his average is a paltry .236.
It is time to stop the bleeding.
It's painful to see a talent like this diminish before our eyes. It is reminiscent of the great Willie Mays.
Had Mays retired in 1971 in lieu of 1973, he would look better on paper. To see, arguably, one of the five or six best players ever to misplay fly balls wearing a Mets uniform is baseball sacrilege.
At the other end of the spectrum is Ted Williams. The Splendid Splinter batted .316 in the last season he played, a home run coming in his last at-bat. His career OBP of .482 is still the best ever posted.
Yet Griffey is presently batting .238 with four runs knocked in.
He has already gone too far; anything else will certainly damage his legacy. If he does, may the baseball gods have mercy on his soul.
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