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The Best Baseball Player Ever: Ken Griffey Jr.

In my opinion, Ken Griffey Jr. is the best baseball player ever. His charismatic personality earned him the nickname “The Kid” and is the reason why I loved baseball so much in my childhood. Most importantly, Griffey played the game CLEAN and how it was suppose to played. In an era of baseball which is now known as the “Steroid Era” Griffey maintained his integrity and his statistics in a pure and honest work ethic.

Last night, I was hanging out with my friends when the question came up, Who was your favorite athlete to watch growing up?

I instantly said Michael Jordan, however when I reflect on my childhood I realized how much of a baseball fan I was. When it comes to who was my favorite player growing up, there is no question it was Ken Griffey Jr.

I will never forget watching Griffey in his home run derby appearances. I remember seeing him wear his hat backwards as he would crush baseballs 400ft+. He was having the time of his life and you saw it through his emotions. To this day, every time I go up to bat in my softball leagues I wear my hat backwards as a tribute to him, and it is my way of reminding myself to always have fun when you are playing sports because you can’t do it forever.

Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey Terrorized Pitchers In The 90’s

Griffey On The Mariners (1989-1999):

Griffey 1st 10 years in the majors was epic. Griffey hit 348 home runs in this 10 year span including two back-to-back years with 56 home runs (1997-1998). He also drove in 1,156 RBI’s, 167 stolen bases, 747 Walks, and maintained a batting average of .326 in this 10-year span.

In addition to those numbers I just stated, Griffey was selected to 10 All-Star games (All-Star MVP in 92′), Won 10 Gold Gloves, Won 7 Silver Sluggers Awards (awarded to the best offensive player at each position voted by coaches and general mangers in Baseball), and Voted MLB Player of the Year and AL MVP in 1997.

Griffey’s impact was not only felt in the regular season, in the three postseason appearances he made with the Mariners Griffey’s numbers did not slip. Griffey batted .285 with 6 HR’s, and 11 RBI’s.

Not a bad start to a career right?

Griffey Goes Home, Signs With Reds (2000-2008):

At the age of 29, Griffey decided to go home and play for his hometown team the Cincinnati Reds for the upcoming 2000 season. Griffey’s tenure with the Reds started out promising in his 1st season with his hometown ball club. In his first season with the Reds, Griffey batted .271 with 40 HR’s and 118 RBI’s. However, the Reds would lose against the Mets in 1-game playoff to decide who would go to the postseason.

After his 1st season with the Reds, it all went downhill from there as Griffey would struggle mightily to stay healthy.

Griffey Reds

Injuries Plagued Griffey In Cincy

From 2001-2004, Griffey would miss 331 games due to injuries. To put those numbers in perspective, in Griffey’s 1st 10 seasons as a Mariner, he missed 247 games. In this 4-season nightmare, Griffey batted only .262 with 63 HR’s and 174 RBI’s.

It is tough to watch such a great player who played the game with such fun and spirit go through a time like this where he just could not stay healthy and produce like he used to. For the the first time in his career, Griffey seemed not only mortal but brittle.

 

In 2005, at the age of 35, Griffey showed he still had power and playing days ahead of him. In fact, Griffey would put together one of his better seasons as a Cincinnati Red. Griffey batted an impressive .301 with 35 HR’s and 92 RBI’s. In fact, Griffey from 2005-2007 averaged over 100 games, Batted .271 with 73 HR’s, and 276 RBI’s.

Griffey's 600th Home Run

Griffey’s 600th Home Run

However, Griffey’s most inspirational year was in 2008 when he took a 3-1 pitch from Mark Hendrickson and drove the ball out for his 600th career home run. Griffey became only the 6th person in MLB history to hit 600 home runs and his journey to get there was not the way some planned, but it was special to see. Through determination, work ethic, and perseverance Griffey showed just how great of a player he truly was.

He did not quit, he was beaten and battered but he stayed the course. That is not only what sports are about, it is what LIFE is all about and Griffey personified that with his 600th career home run.

 

In that same year, Griffey was traded from the Reds to the White Sox in an effort to get Griffey back to the postseason. Griffey made a huge impact for the White Sox, but it was not with his bat. In a 1-game playoff between the Twins and White Sox to decide the AL Central crown, It was a game saving throw by Griffey in the 5th inning to keep Michael Cuddyer from scoring that allowed Chicago to stay in front and move on to the post season. However, the White Sox would go on to lose to the Tampa Bay Rays in the divisional round 3-1.

Griffey’s Final Years And His Legacy:

After his stint with the White Sox, Griffey went back to where it all started for him as he signed as a free agent to play for the Seattle Mariners.

These final two years were more of a “thank you” to the Seattle fans than it was competitive baseball for Griffey and the Mariners as the numbers back up my statement. In his final 2 seasons, Griffey batted .199 with 19 HR’s and 64 RBI’s. Griffey would retire a third into his 2010 season.

Despite his final 2 seasons, Griffey’s legacy will always be of the dominant hitter, spectacular fielder, and the childish joy he played the game with. Safe to say, Griffey’s next stop is Cooperstown, where he will be inducted as a Hall Of Famer.

Griffey’s Career number’s include a .284 Batting Average, 630 HR’s (5th All-time), 1,186 RBI’s, Slugging % of .507, and an OPS of .907

The reason why I think he is the greatest ever is because of how he played clean in an era filled with cheating. He hit 630 HR’s while being completely unhealthy for four straight seasons in his prime (31-34 years old). Ken Griffey’s career At-Bats to Home Run Ratio is 15:1 and as I said earlier he missed 331 games during his 4-year span of injuries.

So I apply this ratio using an example from his 2008 season where at the age of 38, Griffey still hit 30 home runs. I would also think that Griffey at the ages of 31-34 is a better hitter than Griffey at the age of 38.

I took the 331 games missed and  I multiplied 331 by four, four being the At-Bats he would gain in each game which came out to 1,324 more At-Bats in Griffey’s career.

Than I divided 1324 At-Bats by 15 which is his ratio of Home Runs per At-Bat. Griffey would have hit 88 more home runs which would bring his total career home run number to 718 home runs which would be good for 2nd all-time. With Barry Bonds using PED’s, I do not account for him as baseball’s true home run king. So in my book Griffey would have been 2nd all-time in Home Runs behind only Hank Aaron for the all-time lead.

Regardless, Griffey to me is THE BEST player to have ever played baseball. I loved and admired the way he played the game throughout his Hall Of Fame career.

#24 “The Kid”

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About peteydeez
College Graduate from St. John's University with Bachelor Science Degree in Sport Management - Sports Enthusiast - Jets/Mets/Rangers/Knicks Fan

5 Responses to The Best Baseball Player Ever: Ken Griffey Jr.

  1. Neoslotty says:

    George Herman Ruth 1 home run per every 7.8 at bats. Almost at will. Not bad for a pitcher who held the record for most consecutive scoreless World Series Innings pitched.

    • Neoslotty says:

      That should have been 1 home run per every 10.8 at bats

      • peteydeez says:

        The Bambino is one of the best, I am not trying to dispute his numbers or play. However, when comparing players that are separated by generations, one must look in the ERA’s they played in. Ruth was a man amongst boys as the stats you just stated prove that. Griffey, on the other hand, was a spectacular player that played the game clean in an ERA FILLED with cheating. I think Griffey is the best because of how well he played the game and if it was those 4 miserable seasons of Injury, I feel that this would be much more fact than my opinion.

  2. Lorrin Bird says:

    Really enjoyed the review of Griffey’s career, had always wondered how he did after leaving the Mariners.

    In my youth, Willie Mays was considered one of the greatest players ever, and many of his playing characteristics were similar to Griffey (youthful joy for the game, exceptional fielder with a super throwing arm, combination of power hitting and average, great baserunner). I’ve read where Mays was on track to hit 60 or more homers during 1954, which was not helping the team too much, so Durocher dropped him in the lineup and Mays started getting the basehits the team needed.

    It’s a shame that Mays and Griffey weren’t in more World Series.

    • peteydeez says:

      thank you for reading and commenting! I completely agree that it is a shame that Griffey and Mays were not in more world series. However, both players have had career moments in the playoffs. Willie Mays made probably one of the best catches in world series history. Griffey scored a dramatic game winning run for the Mariners to advance. I just wish Griffey won just one, he clearly deserved it.

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