The Last Good Guy?!?!

So good that he didn't have to try.

 

“It was kinda cool – a career highlight. I don’t care if it is an exhibition game. To be able to run around the bases with USA across my chest and have ( Ken Griffey ) Junior and Brian Schneider waiting at home plate to slap high-fives. That was special.”      

                                       Larry Wayne Jones, Jr  

On Wednesday afternoon Ken Griffey, Jr a/k/a The Kid, a/k/a Junior. Griffey b/k/a The Natural decided to hang up his spikes and wait for his call to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. That wait won’t be a long once his five-year grace period after retirement has passed.    

I’m barely 31 years old and Junior had the best swing I’ve ever laid eyes. That same swing that would allow him to hit 630 home runs over the span of his 22 year career. The son of a longtime major league out fielder Ken Griffey Sr, the younger Griffey was bred to be a baseball player. At six-foot three and 220 odd pounds Griffey’s genetics and talent gave him a leg up on everyone else. He was baseball’s version of Kobe Bryant but with a personality to match his talent. As a young player the Mariners center fielder was criticized for not playing 100 % all of the time but as former teammate Harold Reynolds would say in his defense, “He’s so misunderstood…”    

He was known for wearing his hat to the back way before TLC and Tony Romo, and even this slight gesture irked the old men who still to this day want baseball to remain the game of their youth and not of today’s youth. What many of those critical of Griffey failed to realize was the Griffey didn’t have to play hard, he was just better than everybody else on the field making his actions look easy. He was a five tool player. He was a staple on ESPN’s SportsCenter because of his hitting and his ability with the glove. Before he reached the age of 30 George Kenneth Griffey Jr was named one of the top baseball players of last century.   

As he reached the age of 30 injuries would begin to plague Griffey, but when he was on the field he remained a threat. If he had remained healthy Barry Bond’s would have been chasing Junior instead of Hank Aaron. Ironically Griffey’s skills begin to erode like the players of yesteryear. As he got older his talent would begin to leave him in a natural manner. You see athletes don’t gain talent in their 30’s, they lose it.  In an era of filled with false baseball gods Ken Griffey Jr. may be the last of the “clean” players in an era of nothing but dirt. Every baseball player from Canseco to Clemons left the game with a tarnished reputation and record book. In a world were the names of many baseball’s greats like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro became synonymous with steroid use, Ken Griffey Jr’s name was never uttered once. The irony of this is that his nagging injuries became the savior of his reputation. He was just a man and not a superman like Bonds and McGwire. Where they completed superhuman feats in their late 30’s, Griffey was forced to switch positions because he just couldn’t get it done anymore.   

So after a few months of seeing the field as a back-up designated hitter with his original team, the Seattle Mariners, one of baseball’s last good guys called it quits after simply not being able to bat his own weight. Quitting while your ahead is not the same as just quitting. Sadly, Ken Griffey, Jr may have been baseball’s last great, black superstar. (Not named Jeter of course.) A young kid with his athletic skill set would not consider baseball his first sport in this day in age. It would be his third. baseball,l seeming to white at times, too expensive at others, and too rigid the rest baseball should take a look at itself and begin to make corrections to save it’s own future. The good white athletes don’t bother with the sport anymore either, they are off playing football and basketball too. (This is another blog for another time.)   

Hopefully the Albert Pujols of the world won’t let Ken Griffey, Jr get stuck with being the Major League Baseball’s last good guy.

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4 responses to “The Last Good Guy?!?!

  1. There is no such thing as cheating in baseball, only getting caught. The HOF is filled with cheaters. Griffey just did not have it in him to be truly great. He just wanted to coast. Do you know what Barry did after he hit the cream? He worked out like a demon, improving his body and his game. Griffey half-assed his rehabs, and did not truly care. Yet is beloved for being a slacker.

  2. The Mario Washington

    Bonds also had the luxury of not being injured ever because of his steroid use. I’m sure that Griffey would have had a lot more healthy seasons than he ended up with if he would have used roids like all the others. But instead we have a clean and legit, 600+ homers, double digit gold gloves, and the memory of a beautiful text book swing. His 630 would have easily been 800 if it weren’t for the injuries. Yet he’s still arguably only number 5 when we discuss the greatest 5 center fielders of all time. But the others were players that we didn’t get a chance to see live. So for the era that we grew up in, Griffey was clearly the greatest player of the generation. He only appeared as a slacker because it was so easy to be great to him. But his ego allowed him to be content with being the Best Ken Griffey Jr. he could be instead of being the best player of all time. Maybe Bonds and the others in the steroids era should have thought about that.

    • Barry had multiple knee surgeries. His knees and being black balled by the league shaved a couple of years of of his career. He was hurt often. Barry just refused to let being injured keep him off the field. Barry always had the work ethic, and the juice only gave him the ability to work harder. The juice was not really a short cut. For it to do anything, you still have to put the work in.

  3. Dash I will agree with you that baseball has always pushed the envelope when it comes to cheating. The players in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s did speed to make it through the season. The notion of playing back to back double headers in St. Louis or Kansas City in July and August without the aid of something is laughable. YFunny how we only get the day night version of the double dip now.) Cleon Jones and Eddie Matthews weren’t any tougher than their modern day counterparts.

    Was Junior a slacker? F**k yes he was. Did he slack on rehabing himself? Yes! Was he balls to the wall when he was on the field? Hell yes. He and Bonds (later A-Rod) has so much more talent than their peers it almost wasn’t fair. He just wanted to play baseball well. That’s it. He had nothing to prove. He was what he was.

    I’ll with always give Barry a harder time because he started “enhancing” because he wanted the attention that McGwire and Sosa was getting. He knew that he was better than those two on his worst day but his Type A personality, inner attention whore, his ego, and daddy issues forced him to enhance. In the words of Puffy that’s bitchassness personafied. (I quoted Puffy, so I need someone to lay hands on me.) So he went from a 185 lbs fleet of foot 40-40 guy to a man who looked like Bishop from the X-Men. I will also agree that a bum with muscles is just a bum. A great talent on steriods is superhuman.

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