SI article about Ken Griffey Jr.

There is an article in Sports Illustrated about Ken Griffey Jr.’s return to Seattle. It is appropriately titled It’s Like You Never Left, Kid. The article talks more about Griffey’s importance to the city, the Mariners and the game of baseball than it does how many homeruns he will hit this year.

I remember being in Sarasota for spring training in 2000. It was unreal. The expectations were sky high for the Reds. But for various reasons, it didn’t work out. Sadly, from a baseball standpoint, I don’t think his time in Cincinnati could have gone worse.

The man is probably the greatest individual talent ever to wear a Cincinnati Reds uniform and received more negative publicity from the local media and fans than just about anyone. His time in Cincinnati was riddled with injuries, causing him to miss over 400 games. It is no secret that he would be the all-time homerun leader if he could have stayed somewhat injury-free. And Junior did it right. Nobody has linked his name with any steroid allegations. I think that his body going through the aging process like it has proves even more that Griffey was and always will be clean.

Many fans in Cincinnati never really “got” Griffey. A lot of it was jealousy. People were jealous of his talent. They were jealous of the money he was making. They would find fault with anything he did.

Anyone who has ever played baseball (on any level) knows that Junior has as much natural talent as anyone in the history of the game. Reds fans (myself included) loved Pete Rose for his hustle and determination…running to first base on a walk, the head first slides and crashing into the catcher. Pete played that way partly because he had to. He did not have the arm, speed or power to make it to the major leagues. He drove himself to stardom with desire and perseverance. He was someone the fans could identify with.

People could not relate to Junior’s talent. Even with the natural decline of his physical abilities, he can still rip a double down the right field line or launch a homerun and it doesn’t appear that he exerted much effort.

To have that kind of talent must be amazing…few people actually know.

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