Sunday, June 17, 2007
Griffey Is Still A Threat
There was a time when Ken Griffey Jr. was one of the most feared hitters in the game. Griffey was feared more than Barry Bonds is now and even more than Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa during their chase for Roger Maris’ homerun record. Now-a-days when you discuss the greatest hitters of the game, with ‘average’ or today’s fans, you only hear names like Berkman, Rodriguez, Pujols, Bonds, and Ichiro etc. Griffey is now an afterthought in these discussions unless you find someone old enough to remember when he played for Seattle. For the most part his time in Cincinnati is considered a waste and a blackmark on his career because of all the injuries during the ‘end’ of his prime. Even though his power numbers has severely dropped off and he is no longer going to break every offensive record imaginable, just take a minute to reflect on why Griffey should still be considered a big threat in the National League today. Griffey broke and re-wrote every offensive number that the Seattle Mariners had in their record books while he had on #24. He was the super kid that drew fans to the Kingdome for no other reason to see the 19 year old phenom that was dubbed the next Willie Mays. He had a stellar Rookie campaign cut short due to broken fingers but still finished with 120H in 127 G, 16HR and 61RBI and 16SB. Not bad for a shortened Rookie season. The rest of Griffey’s credentials while in a Seattle Mariners uniform speak for itself. Griffey received 10 straight Gold Glove awards from 1990-1999. He is a 4 time AL Homerun Champion (1994, 1997-1999) and the AL MVP for the year of 1997. When Griffey finished his time in Seattle he had 1742 hits, 398 homeruns, 1152 rbi’s, 167 stolen bases and finished 11 seasons in Seattle with a 298 batting average. To digest these numbers as they stand, at the age of 30 Ken Griffey was just short of 400 homeruns, and presumably with 9 years left in the majors, at an average of 35 homeruns per season, Griffey would hit approximately 715 homeruns in his career, that would be 3rd on the all time list. This is of course ignoring logic that would dictate he would still hit 40+ per season as from 1993-1999 he hit well over 40 per season. Rbi’s are a hit and miss stat but how bout just doubling the mark to be around 2300 for his career and would make Griffey the all time RBI leader. Griffey has all of this potential and then he goes and requests a trade and ultimately ends up in Cincinnati. Instead of testing the open free agent market Griffey makes a 9 year deal with the Cincinnati Reds worth $116 Million. This is of course a lot less than what he would be offered in the open market, remember A-rod got $250 million, Griffey could have easily got above $175 Million.
His first season in Cincinnati was a continuation of his pace to close in on Hank Aaron’s Homerun record. With the Reds Griffey hit another 40 Homeruns and recorded 118 RBI’s, his 9th season of over 100 RBI’s in his 12th MLB season and that includes his shortened rookie campaign and the MLB strike season. Just absolutely impressive. There is the saying that goes, All good things must come to an end, and beginning in 2001, is when everyone started forgetting about Ken Griffey Jr. as he embarked on consecutive years of injuries that would cut his chances of chasing history. From 2001-2004 Griffey only played in 317 out of a possible 648 games. Over half the games lost from the ages of 32-35 definitely key years for baseball players, just ask Bonds as he didn’t start his big time hitting until he was 32. Griffey returned to form back in 2005 as he earned ‘NL Comeback Player of the Year’ hitting 35 Homeruns with a .301 Batting Average while driving in 92 RBI’s. Many people remembered Griffey existed after that year but one thing has definitely changed. He may not be as feared as he was but this allows him to be a bigger threat and he can still pop out the homeruns. As I sit and type this Griffey has hit 2 Homeruns and is now only 19 away from making the 600 Hr club. He would be only the 6th man to hit 600 in his career, presuming Sammy Sosa will hit his one as he currently stands at 599 Homeruns. The point to all of this is that Ken Griffey Jr. should be given more credit and despite his ‘disappointing’ years in Cincinnati. He is still a great hitter and whether he stays in Cincinnati next year, or he is traded to another team, preferably an AL team so he can be a DH and continue to play through his early 40’s. You always have to remember that if it wasn’t for Griffey in Seattle, there would not be ‘The House That Griffey Built” and the Seattle Franchise may be somewhere else in the continental United States.