One has what could be considered the sweetest swing in all of baseball history. The other has the most intimidating hitting stance in the league today. Both are considered to be the greatest hitters of their generations.
Simply known as "The Kid," Ken Griffey Jr., the first overall selection in the 1989 Major League Baseball draft, wasn't one of the best baseball players of his time; he was the best player of his time.
Griffey dominated the game of baseball. He did what only a handful of baseball players have ever done: become bigger than the game.
Griffey was the initial spokesman for baseball cards for Upper Deck, and his 1989 Upper Deck rookie remains one of the most iconic baseball cards of all time. He was everywhere. He was a spokesman for Nike and Pepsi, and even got his own baseball game for the Super Nintendo in 1994. If you grew up in the 1990s, you knew who Ken Griffey Jr. was and which team he played for.
In his first 10 seasons in the big leagues, Griffey smashed 350 home runs, drove in 1,018 runs and batted .300. He made the All-Star team nine times, won the Gold Glove Award nine times and was voted the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player.
Griffey Jr. captured the hearts and minds of the sports world. If anybody had a chance to catch Roger Maris's single season home run record of 61, it was him. By all accounts, he was also on pace to break the all-time home run record set by Hank Aaron at 755.
He was ahead of pace on just about every single stat possible, alongside those of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.
Down in St. Louis, Albert Pujols, a 13th-round pick in the 1999 draft, has become the best player of this generation. He has put up numbers that have equaled or bested those of "The Kid."
In his first 10 seasons in the league, Pujols has hit 408 home runs, driven in 1,230 runs and batted .331. He's been selected to nine All-Star games, has won the Gold Glove twice, and has been named National League MVP three times.
At just 30 years old, Pujols has 66 more home runs than Hank Aaron did when he was 30. Aaron played 23 seasons to set the all-time home run record of 755. On the other hand, at the current rate and if healthy, Pujols could hit 800 by the time he hits 40 years old. (For me at least, Aaron's 755 is still the legit record, and Roger Maris still holds the single season record of 61)
While Pujols's numbers have far exceeded those of Griffey Jr. in their first 10 seasons played, Pujols had a great advantage of playing alongside great hitters like Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and, recently, Matt Holliday.
Griffey Jr., on the other hand, played with designated hitter Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Alex Rodriguez for four full seasons.
Pujols's numbers in his first 10 seasons are greater than those of Griffey Jr., yet Griffey Jr. had better individual single seasons than Pujols in home runs and RBI.
In Junior's 1997 AL MVP campaign, he drove in 147 runs and hit 56 long balls. Meanwhile, Pujols's single best season was in 2006, when he finished second in the NL MVP race while hitting 49 home runs with 137 RBI.
Since 1988, there have been only a handful of baseball players who were considered the best in the game. Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and now Albert Pujols. These players were bigger than the game during their run in the big leagues.
Although steroid allegations have dampened the runs of Canseco, McGwire, Bonds and A-Rod, Pujols and Griffey Jr. have been in the clear, although allegations will always be around simply because of the era both players played in or the physical breakdown of Griffey Jr. once he left Seattle.
As of right now, both Pujols and Griffey Jr. are in the clear when it comes to steroid use, and with that, they remain as the two greatest hitters of their generation. None have come close to their numbers, and possibly none ever will.
Here's the question: which baseball player was better in his prime, Ken Griffey Jr. or Albert Pujols? Who would you take?
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