Saturday, June 05, 2010

Ken Griffey Jr. Has Announced His Retirement

By Nicholas Stix

Seattle Times

From 1993-1999, Junior Griffey was the best position player in the American League. (I’m only counting clean players.) Over the course of his 22-year career (1989-2010), the following number among his accomplishments: 2,671 games played, 1,662 runs, 2,781 hits, 524 doubles, a lifetime batting average of .284, slugging percentage of .538, 630 dingers (fourth all-time among non-juicers) and 1,836 RBI (13th on the legit list). He was the 1997 American League MVP, the 1992 All-Star Game MVP, led the AL in homers four times (1994 and 1997-1999), won ten consecutive Gold Gloves (1990-1999) in center field, and was selected for 13 All-Star games. He had it all: He could hit, hit for power, run, catch and throw, plus he was a very likeable young man, handsome with a winning smile and a personality to match.

Except that he is young no more.

Junior grew up a well-bred, good-natured baseball brat. He was named after his father, the .300-hitting outfielder, Ken Griffey Sr., who starred for Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, and later played for the Yankees and Braves, came home to Cincinnati late in his career, and ended his career playing with his son for the Mariners, who signed him both as a publicity stunt, and to make their young, budding superstar happy. One accomplishment the father has over the son are two World Series rings (1975 and 1976); the son never got to play in a World Series. Ken Sr. retired 19 years ago, almost to the day that his son did.

Ken Griffey Jr. benefited from a juiced ball, beginning in 1994, a small strike zone compared to earlier generations, and some new, band-box stadiums, but he had no control over those circumstances. Regarding that over which he had control, his power did not come out of the end of a syringe, and he proved himself a legitimate slugger prior to the juiced ball era (1994 through circa 2006). In 1993, his first big long-ball year, he hit 45 dingers (2nd in the AL to the highly dubious Juan Gonzalez) and 109 RBI (10th), and his .309 average made for his fourth consecutive .300 season. And that, at the advanced age of 23.

Early in Griffey’s period with his hometown Cincinnati Reds (2000 through 2007), home run king Hank Aaron said that he thought that Griffey was the only player with a shot at breaking Aaron’s record. Unfortunately, Griffey would be bedeviled by a series of injuries from the 2001 through 2004 seasons, which made that goal unattainable. Through the 2000 season, he had played in 1,680 games, already more than most big league stars’ careers, and the mileage was wearing out his splendid body.

The only negative that occurs to me regarding Griffey is cultural: Early in his career he began wearing his cap backwards, which was then part of the unofficial mugger’s uniform, and thereby helped mainstream mugger chic. That presumably bought him credibility with racist blacks who might otherwise have considered him insufficiently “authentic” (racist). Meanwhile, since the racially sycophantic MSM were never going to criticize him—indeed, they praised him—for adopting and popularizing the style of cut-throats (today the same media promote the keffiyah scarves made popular by Arab terrorists, while lying about it), he was able to have his cake and eat it, too: Be both “wholesome” and racist.

In six years, Griffey will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, other deserving players will find their path to Cooperstown is blocked by a rogues’ gallery of criminal cheaters with illegally inflated muscles and statistics.
Junior Griffey’s baseball legacy is that he was the best player of his generation, got everything out of his body that it had to give, and played clean.

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