Ken Griffey Jr. has called it quits after 22 years. One of the best players of all time, “The Kid” has endured one too many injuries, aged one too many years, and sat on the bench one too many games. After a stellar career, he has decided to hang up his cleats.
Griffey was the Player-of-the-Decade in the 90’s—Voted to the All-Century Team when he wasn’t even 30 years old—10 gold gloves, 40+ homers in 7 seasons, 56 HRs in 1997-1998 and a .300 batting average.
Griffey averaged 52 HR, 142 RBI, 19 SB, and had a .294 batting average from '96-'99!
Yes, those were his average totals.
Nothing “average” about them.
In comparison, the current most feared hitter in baseball and Player-of-the-Decade for the 2000s, Albert Pujols has career highs of 49 HRs (2006), 137 RBI (2006), 16 SB (2009,2005), and a .358 batting average (2003).
That means for a four year period, Griffey averaged more homers, RBI, and stolen bases than Pujols has ever had in any given season. Pujols has won three MVP awards and Griffey won just once. After nine full seasons, Pujols is still almost 300 homers behind Griffey.
Pujols is a great, great player and that shows just how ultra-great Griffey was in his prime.
That’s why it was so hard to watch the 40 year old "Kid” struggle this year. He should have gone out last year as the catalyst for an over-achieving team while smacking 19 HR’s in just 117 games. Instead, he goes out after “Nap-Gate” and a .184 average with zero long balls for an under-achieving team about ready to dismantle players at the trading deadline.
If the Mariners could have turned it around prior to Griffey retiring it would have been unlikely. Without their veteran team leader, Hall of Fame voice in the dugout, fun-loving, practical joke playing mentor, the M’s success this season seems impossible.
Griffey hit 630 homers over 22 seasons, an average of one long ball every four games of his career.
He had four seasons where he played in 83 games or less, missing 370 games in the prime of his career due to various injuries. Had he played those games he would have likely hit 100 or more home runs.
Regardless of the injuries, his statistics place him among the best players in the history of the game, however, his achievements are much more impressive than his “numbers."
“The Catch," “The Double," the smile, the leadership, the chemistry, the enthusiasm, and the savior of baseball in Seattle (and possibly for MLB after the 1994 strike season put many fans out of favor with baseball), all point to Griffey being much more than just a great baseball player.
He was arguably the greatest of the last 50 years— in offense, defense, and leadership ability.
Ken Griffey, Jr. will be missed in Seattle and in Baseball. He is the last chapter in the book of the Mariner’s teams of the '90s—Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson have a new teammate in retirement.
Thank you, Griffey, for all you gave to us.
Good night and good luck.