In a perfect world, our favorite athletes would play forever. They cause us to think unrealistically and give us an escape from reality, and we love that about them. Especially superstars who played an integral part in your childhood. You grow up wanting to emulate them knowing your best backyard heroics pale in comparison to what they do in front of millions seemingly every night. Ken Griffey, Jr. was one of those athletes.
Far from a prophet, but I feel confident saying he made baseball “cool” for those were largely unfamiliar (or uninterested) with the game of baseball. Regardless of whether you played organized ball or just for fun at the park, you attempted to mimic dude’s stance and swing. Don’t connect either, because if you did, you’d walk all the way to first base admiring the ball you just placed into orbit. Because Griff did so. However, throughout the years, it was tough to witness Junior’s fall from grace – the injuries, the journeyman travels from Cincy to Chicago and then back to Seattle. As a diehard fan of the guy, it was a tough realization that time takes its toll on everyone. Even Ken Griffey, Jr.
The one thing I respect most about the slugger is that he went out on his own terms. A rare feat in today’s world.
“While I feel I am still able to make a contribution on the field and nobody in the Mariners front office has asked me to retire, I told the Mariners when I met with them prior to the 2009 season and was invited back that I will never allow myself to become a distraction,” Griffey said.
“I feel that without enough occasional starts to be sharper coming off the bench, my continued presence as a player would be an unfair distraction to my teammates and their success as a team is what the ultimate goal should be,” he said.
Even with the rough second half of his career, the original #24 (sorry, Bean) should still be a lock down first ballot Hall of Famer when Cooperstown comes a knockin’ in about five years. Check his stats: 13 All-Star appearances, 630 home runs – fifth all time -, 1,836 RBI’s, 2,781 hits, three Home Run Derby titles and a career fielding percentage of .983. I don’t fault the guy for falling asleep in the clubhouse either. Baseball isn’t exactly most exciting sport in the world and baseball in May doesn’t excite many given the fact they play damn near to Thanksgiving.
Yet and still, I’ll pay homage when it’s due and Ken Griffey, Jr. deserves that. The entire “steroids in baseball” saga never really interested me. Mainly because the game was a lot more enjoyable to watch when guys were hitting 800 feet foul balls and belting 60+ homers a year. Imagine if Ken could have linked up with Barry Bonds trainer at least one time – we could be looking at 750 or more home runs right now cementing him as the greatest player of all time. At the very least, Bonds’ trainer is down to do a bid as long as long as money is put on his books.
Unethical, I know, and I’m glad Junior didn’t take that route because they would have crucified the guy had it ever came out he did. Instead, with Junior’s (expected) retirement comes the realization that the homie Joe Scudda was even forced to deal with – the last of my childhood sports idols has decided to call it quits. I assume that means I’m officially an adult now. That’s cool, I guess.
Now about that Ken Griffey “30 For 30.” Let’s make that happen.