The love started when he was just six years old going to the clubhouse with his dad who played for the Cincinnati Reds at the time. Every boy wanted to be like their father and your father would always say “don’t be like me– be better than me”.
It’s an understatement to say that Ken Griffey Jr took those words to heart.
Griffey Jr became a big leaguer at the age of 19 in 1989 and who would’ve thought that 22 years later many would be calling him the best? Griffey’s career will be remembered for the remarkable feats but also for the time spent away from the game due to multiple injuries.
For as good as he was there will always be an asterisk next to his name. Not because of PED’s or anything but largely it will be a “what if” situation. During his time with the Seattle Mariners he was money, one of the best and this was before we knew guys may have cheated the sport. Remember watching Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Paul Molitor or Gary Sheffield swing a bat, it was a cool breeze on a humid day but to watch Griffey step into the batters box and take a swing was unlike anything. The swing was smooth no matter if he was chasing a fastball, slider, curve, or changeup.
What’s funny about Griffey is that by looking at him and his stance at the plate you will automatically think, small ball player. But he ranks 6th All Time in HR’s (4th if counting PED users). Griffey was a 13-time All Star and wasn’t to shabby on the defensive side of the ball either, evident of his 10 Gold Gloves he won as a center fielder. He was doing Mike Trout before Trout was born.
To ask a great question. What couldn’t this guy do?
The answer. Stay healthy.
When Griffey left Seattle and went home to Cincinnati we thought this was it. The Reds were getting the power bat and big name they needed to push them over the edge and get to a World Series but…
The hamstring, foot, groin and a few other injuries coupled with Father Time began to take away his power, bat speed and overall performance and what was once a great player was now among the mortals he played with and against. Injuries happen all the time in sports but when it robs one of the greatest players and us the fans of someone or something special like Griffey we are left twisting in the wind.
What if Bonds, McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Alex Rodriguez never took steroids, what would be their legacy? Bonds and A-Rod are ahead of Griffey on the list mainly due to PED’s but if they never took them and Griffey stayed healthy while in Cincinnati there is no doubt who the real HR king would be. But that is all speculation.
What is known is that we may never see another player like Griffey in this lifetime. Players like Trout and Bryce Harper have the bat and base speed to make a run at his throne but like Michael Jordan in his prime Griffey put MLB on his back for over a decade while keeping a smile on his face and his hat turned backwards.
At six he knew then what he wanted to do– he wanted to be like his dad but MLB needed him to be better.
Welcome to the Hall of Fame Kid.