The Mariners sent out a press release announcing Ken Griffey Jr.’s decision to retire from baseball on Wednesday afternoon. This move doesn’t come as much of a surprise based on the events that took place about three weeks ago. A report came out saying Griffey was sleeping in the clubhouse when Manager Don Wakamatsu wanted him to pinch hit. The incident led to a rage of heavy criticism against Griffey for being unprepared, unproductive, and taking up a spot on the roster. I said that the backlash would solve the problem of public complaint and I was right — Griffey has taken matters into his hands and decided to retire.
While injuries, decreased production, and the infamous sleeping incident marred the end of Jr.’s career, there is no doubt that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer. Griffey Jr. was the 1997 AL MVP, a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, and he’s 5th all time with 630 career home runs. Throughout the 90s, Griffey was one of the best, if not the best all-around outfielder in the game. He combined speed with defense and power, and he possessed the entire package that so many players wished they had.
Growing up in the 90s, Griffey’s popularity was unmatched. He was the favorite player of many of my friends and his Super Nintendo game was a must-have for anyone who had the system. Even today when I read profiles on current players, many of them say Griffey was their favorite player growing up. With his hat turned backwards, the shimmy at the plate, and the all-around swagger, Jr. was the epitome of cool.
I was disappointed that the Mariners and Griffey agreed on a contract for the 2010 season because I felt that his .214 average in 2009 was enough of an indication that it was time to hang it up. Griffey could have retired over the offseason gracefully and avoided the disappointment that arose over these past two months. Unfortunately like many other players, maybe Griffey didn’t see what we saw, or maybe he just didn’t want to leave the game. It’s too bad things ended this way.
Looking back at Griffey’s career, it’s impossible not to pinpoint his trade to Cincinnati as a major turning point. After leaving Seattle, Griffey’s batting average plummeted, and he struggled to play a full season (and in several cases, even a half-season). Although the second decade of his career was marked with disappointment, his first decade was one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve seen.
Griffey may leave the game at 40 years old and with less speed, power, and ability than when he started. Regardless, no matter how old he gets, I will always remember Ken Griffey Jr. in one way: he is and will always be The Kid.Google+