Monday, June 18, 2007

Long Live "The Kid"

Junior Griffey: healthy, hitting, and happy.

I once attended an Interleague Game with my dad at Chavez Revine, the Dodgers taking on the Mariners on a beautiful summer day years back, when Ken Griffey Jr. was still worthy of Wheaties box covers and mentioned in the same breath as Babe Ruth. When he flirted with Maris at the plate and channeled Mays in center. When he placed on the same plateau of sports icons as John Elway and Michael Jordan. When he was the best player in the game.

Why do I bring this up? Nostalgia. Junior's Summer of 2007 is taking me back to a much simpler time for me, when I still had my youth and the game still had it's innonence, when it was still pure, before it was considered tainted by cheaters. Before "The Steroids Era." As I write this, Griffey's played in 64 of a possible 70 games and hit 18 homers and 43 runs batted in. He's on pace to play 156 games and finish with a .287/44/105/.957 OPS season, which would be his best year since 1999, his last year in Seattle. Sure, he's on a last place team, but who cares.

Griffey's downfall always saddened me. Granted, even if he had never played a single inning in a Reds uniform, he still would've made it to Cooperstown, already having totaled 10 All-Star Game appearances, 10 gold gloves, and 398 home runs. And overall, he's a 12-time All-Star who's eighth on the all-time home run list (581 and counting) and tied for the second most gold gloves amongst outfielders (with Al Kaline, behind Mays and Brooks Robinson, who each have 12). But he should have been the best ever. He should've won 15 gold-gloves, played in closer to 20 All-Star games and shattered Aaron's record. Unfortunately, injuries would not allow it. It wasn't meant to be.

So instead, let's forget about what Ken Griffey's Son (Does Kenny Mayne still do Sportscenter? If he doesn't, he needs to.) should've been and focus on what he is: a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and one of the 25 greatest players ever. And remember the days when the game was still good.

(Of course, it's only a matter of time before he gets hurt. He'll be rounding third tomorrow and tear all four of his quadriceps muscles, causing him to miss the rest of the season. But still.)

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