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Spitball
03-12-2006, 09:50 AM
Good old Griffey still hanging in
Unlike Bonds, oft-injured center fielder is aging gracefully
By Nick Cafardo | March 12, 2006

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- They are true and false. Yes and no. Comic and tragic.

Standing together as they have the past couple of days, Ken Griffey Jr., playing in the World Baseball Classic, and Barry Bonds, who visited the nearby WBC players from the San Francisco Giants' Scottsdale, Ariz., training site, might be friends, but they couldn't be more different.

Griffey will sail into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., no questions asked, five years after his significant career is over.

Bonds's journey toward the Hall is expected to be turbulent and possibly as nightmarish as that of Pete Rose, with his involvement in gambling.

Griffey has been depicted as the ''clean" one -- the one who has amassed Hall of Fame numbers with his sweet swing, swift legs, and grace in center field.

Bonds, who once heard every one of the superlatives used to describe Griffey, now is walking under a cloud of suspicion that may have jeopardized his immortality.

Over the past few days, the news stories about Griffey have included reports of him spending hours at a Scottsdale hospital with the family of Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett hours before and after Puckett's death. Bonds, meanwhile, has been seen ducking comment about a tell-all book by a pair of San Francisco Chronicle investigative reporters detailing his rampant use of steroids from 1998 on, and also has attended a custody hearing for his children in Los Angeles.

In modern times, nobody embodied natural athletic ability more than Griffey, except maybe Bonds during his Pirates days.

Griffey is older now. His body and face are fuller. He is no longer a gazelle in center. His legs have slowed, but his swing remains potent; he seems to be aging naturally. Bonds's larger, thicker body and bigger head, and his physical breakdowns, have been attributed by many to steroid use.

Griffey's reputation as The Natural has been maintained and has even grown, especially when compared to Bonds.

As the United States team arrived here yesterday from Scottsdale, Griffey, who hammered a pair of three-run homers and knocked in seven runs in a 17-0 victory over South Africa Friday, has become the face of the USA team.

Never overly friendly with the media, Griffey has been one of the most approachable players at the WBC, sharing his insights on the classic, and the life of his friend Puckett. He has talked of his pride in his country and has shown enthusiasm for commissioner Bud Selig's international event. Selig is happy to have him, but Bonds's recently stated desire to join Team USA for the later rounds has everyone in baseball trying to ignore the possibility.

Griffey is being viewed positively in the latter stages of his career, just as Bonds should have been.

''You're talking about one of the greatest," said Johnny Damon, who moved to left field for the WBC to accommodate Griffey. ''There's no shame in [changing positions]. Griffey is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. When Buck Martinez came and asked me if I'd move to left, I said there's no need to ask. I know where Ken Griffey Jr. plays."

Griffey, 36, is tied for 12th on the all-time home run list with Mickey Mantle at 536. If he hadn't suffered a few years worth of injuries, he, too, might have been knocking on the door of Hank Aaron's all-time home run mark.

He's been able to amass the numbers in spite of those numerous injuries, including the devastating hamstring injury (his hamstring was put back in place with three screws) that nearly forced him into retirement in 2004. He's also had shoulder and knee problems.

They are why Griffey stepped up his conditioning program in the offseason; he wants to make sure he finishes his career on top of his game. The fire to be great still burns.

He was Comeback Player of the Year in 2005, hitting .301 with 35 homers and 92 RBIs in 128 games, even though that season, too, was stopped by an injury, a strained foot. He had minor knee surgery this offseason.

But, as evidenced by his outburst Friday, the swing is still there, as are the eyes and the instinctual feel for the game.

Griffey has resisted temptations to leave his hometown and small-market Cincinnati for a contender and the chance to get to the World Series. If they hadn't acquired Damon, surely the Yankees would have loved to have seen Junior stepping up to the plate, with their short porch in right field.

But Griffey is fiercely loyal to his family and his hometown. He's wearing No. 3 this season rather than his usual No. 30 because he wants to honor his three children.

He's also still having tender moments with his father, who is a coach on Team USA.

And the softer side of Griffey really emerged last week while speaking about Puckett. He sat in the USA dugout at Chase Field in Phoenix and spoke for more than a half-hour about Puckett and what he meant to him, and why he held vigil the night Puckett died and tried to console Puckett's 12-year-old son, Kirby Jr.

''There are certain people that you owe it to for the things they've done for you," said Griffey. ''He was that important to my family. It was for the things he said to me, not for the way he played."

And one of the things Puckett said to Griffey back in his rookie season with the Seattle Mariners was, ''Your dad took care of me when I was younger. Now it's my turn to take care of you."

Griffey Jr. never forgot that. Which is why he was so shaken by the sight of Puckett's son walking into the hospital room where his father was dying, to say goodbye. Bonds, too, is often seen with his son, Nikolai, and his custody battle is a sign of how much he wants his children with him. In their love of their children, Bonds and Griffey certainly are alike.

But as they chatted recently in Scottsdale, it struck you -- these two great players both should have been ending their careers with grace and dignity. Only one of them will.

MrCinatit
03-12-2006, 10:32 AM
great, great, great article (or at least i enjoyed it). not because of the negatives towards Bonds - i have heard enough of those. i really loved the positives towards Griffey.
sure, he might not be the most approachable guy to many - but i attribute this more to a shyness than anything else. as a guy who is painfully shy, i can see the signs in others, and i do believe i've seen them in Junior.
besides, just because the guy is constantly in the public eye does not mean he must become the public's plaything.

what has also impressed me more about the guy is the whole Puckett thing. i know Puckett had his faults, but i liked the guy a whole lot. seeing how a guy like Griffey felt about a guy like Puckett gives me a whole lot of respect for both of them.

OnBaseMachine
03-12-2006, 12:35 PM
Great article.

This article just makes me appreciate Griffey that much more. Here is a guy who has belted 536 homeruns in his career, never juiced, suffered his share of injuries but still kept battling back when he could have just as easily gave up and quit. I'm so glad that Griffey is becoming the face of the Team USA team because he is exactly the type of player and person that I want representing the United States.

I'm so glad that I got to see Ken Griffey Jr. play for my favorite baseball team. As a young kid, Junior was always my favorite player in the game - even when he was with Seattle. You can't imagine how excited I was on February 10, 2000, when the Reds acquired him. To this day it's still one of the best days of my life. Knowing what I know now with all the injuries and time spent on the DL, if I were capable of going back in time, I would still make the trade.

max venable
03-12-2006, 12:41 PM
Excellent read. Thanks for posting.

Also...Johnny Damon...very cool. Very classy move. :thumbup:

Here's to another big season from Junior!

top6
03-12-2006, 12:51 PM
The signing of Griffey has unquestionably been a failure for the Reds from a competitive stand point. That said, watching his transformation during the last few years into one of the "good guy, respected-elder" types in the game has been an absolute joy, and, along with the development of Dunn, the only reason to enjoy following the Reds. I truly hope that Griffey's body and lady luck will allow him to put together 2-4 more quality years (.280+, 30+ HR, 100 + RBI), and that he will comfortably take over the role as veteran leader of the team. Nobody deserves it more than he does.

The ultimate dream, of course, would be for him to win a World Series ring as a Red. I can dream, right?

37red
03-12-2006, 01:14 PM
ditto top6

vaticanplum
03-12-2006, 02:25 PM
The signing of Griffey has unquestionably been a failure for the Reds from a competitive stand point.

I actually don't think it's so cut-and-dry as to be stated like this. Had the Reds had better management willing to fix their problems with pitching and the farm system, management that was smart with money, then none of us would be saying such things. Sometimes I feel like Griffey's injuries -- inconvenient and costly as they were -- serve as a scapegoat for bigger problems of the team. Problems that cannot be chalked up to his problems or even to his contract. Had the team, God forbid, made smart enough decisions to be competitive over the last few years, Griffey would have been an up-and-down part of a great team, not the shining light of whom so much was expected, which I think may have actually been GOOD for him.

Side question: when Griffey goes into the HoF, which cap is he going to be wearing? I've become interested in people's opinions in this only over the last year or so, and it's very interesting to hear people's takes on it. People I know in Cincinnati say there's no question it'll be as a Red, because of the sentimental factor and because he hit a lot of his milestones in Cincinnati (eg. 500). But others I've talked to believe that because his best years were in Seattle, and because his injuries caused him to fall short in Cincy, he'll be a Mariner. What do you guys think?

Blimpie
03-12-2006, 02:40 PM
I had no idea how instrumental Senior was in the development of Kirby Puckett. Fantastic article....

TeamBoone
03-12-2006, 02:44 PM
What a refreshing article on KGJr. He's so often been the subject of criticism that's it's definitely nice to read something like this.

And this, from Johnny Damon... total class showing KGJr the respect he has earned.


''You're talking about one of the greatest," said Johnny Damon, who moved to left field for the WBC to accommodate Griffey. ''There's no shame in [changing positions]. Griffey is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. When Buck Martinez came and asked me if I'd move to left, I said there's no need to ask. I know where Ken Griffey Jr. plays."

* * * * *

Side question: when Griffey goes into the HoF, which cap is he going to be wearing?

I love Ken as a Red, but without a doubt his Hall of Fame career was earned in Seattle. I think he'll go in as a Mariner, as he should.

OnBaseMachine
03-12-2006, 02:51 PM
I believe Griffey has said he will go in as a Mariner. The only way I see that changing is if he hits homeruns #600 and 700 with the Reds and wins a World Series in Cincinnati(highly unlikely).

KronoRed
03-12-2006, 03:00 PM
Agreed /\

The Reds will get the highly coveted "also played for" ;)

Awesome article.

captainmorgan07
03-12-2006, 03:39 PM
great article johnny damon's always been a classy guy he respects the guys who have came before him and the article is right griffey will be a first ballot hall of famer

reds44
03-12-2006, 03:52 PM
*claps*

Great article.

GAC
03-12-2006, 09:00 PM
I actually don't think it's so cut-and-dry as to be stated like this. Had the Reds had better management willing to fix their problems with pitching and the farm system, management that was smart with money, then none of us would be saying such things. Sometimes I feel like Griffey's injuries -- inconvenient and costly as they were -- serve as a scapegoat for bigger problems of the team. Problems that cannot be chalked up to his problems or even to his contract. Had the team, God forbid, made smart enough decisions to be competitive over the last few years, Griffey would have been an up-and-down part of a great team, not the shining light of whom so much was expected, which I think may have actually been GOOD for him.

Excellent viewpoint. I couldn't have said it better.

Griffey was not our savior. ;)

You can't expect an engine to perform when it's misfiring on all the other cylinders.

Even if they had not signed Griffey, one cannot expect the FO that was in place to have taken that money and spent it wisely. Recent history proves otherwise.

Caveat Emperor
03-14-2006, 05:43 AM
Here's to another big season from Junior!

Griffey gave another free baseball to a lucky fan in the cheaps tonight at the WBC (Team USA crapped the bed, unfortunately).

I'm excited by the possibility of Griffey already having has swing and mechanics timed up and ready to go for opening day. As great as last year was for him, everyone tends to forget that he had a horrific start to the season (I even remember Baseball Tonight asking the ridiculous question as to whether or not he'd ever hit a home run again, when he went 0 for his first 99 or so ABs).

With the amount of protection he's going to naturally get in this lineup, I have a hope that Jr. could be in for a monster year.

RedsBaron
03-14-2006, 07:31 AM
I believe Griffey has said he will go in as a Mariner. The only way I see that changing is if he hits homeruns #600 and 700 with the Reds and wins a World Series in Cincinnati(highly unlikely).
I agree.

oneupper
03-16-2006, 12:01 PM
I believe Griffey has said he will go in as a Mariner. The only way I see that changing is if he hits homeruns #600 and 700 with the Reds and wins a World Series in Cincinnati(highly unlikely).

I read somewhere that players can't choose which cap they go into the HOF anymore. Can anyone confirm?

registerthis
03-16-2006, 12:45 PM
I read somewhere that players can't choose which cap they go into the HOF anymore. Can anyone confirm?

It had somethign to do with teams paying players to go in under their caps, right?

Like, they didn't want Clemens to go in as a Blue Jay, for instance.

KronoRed
03-16-2006, 02:09 PM
I think it came about because Boggs was going to go in as a D-ray.

Now the HOF makes the choice.

Reds Nd2
03-16-2006, 02:18 PM
http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/faq.htm#logo

Who decides what team logo will be used on induction plaques?

The choice of which teamís logo appears on a playerís plaque is the Museum's decision, though we always consider the wishes of an inductee. As a history museum and as such, it's important that the logo be emblematic of the historical accomplishments of that player's career. A player's election to the Hall of Fame is a career achievement, and as such, every team for whom he played is listed on the plaque; however, the logo selection is based on where that player makes his most indelible mark.

Reds Nd2
03-16-2006, 04:10 PM
It had somethign to do with teams paying players to go in under their caps, right?

The Hall has also recently changed its stance regarding "team membership." Although all the teams a player played for are included in the text of the plaque, they are pictured wearing a cap of one team. Before free agency, this was not controversial, since many players played their entire career with one team. As free agents began to be inducted, it was the player's choice as to which cap they wanted to wear. However, in light of rumors that teams were offering number retirement, money or organizational jobs in exchange for the cap designation (Dave Winfield was widely rumored to have cut such a deal in 2001 with the San Diego Padres), the Hall decided that, though the decision-making process would be a mutual responsibility, they would have the final say in such matters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_Hall_of_Fame


I think it came about because Boggs was going to go in as a D-ray.

Boggs himself brought on some of this debate when he signed a contract with his hometown team, the AL East powerhouse Tampa Bay Devil Rays. As a condition to his contract, it was agreed that he would request that he wear a Devil Rays cap in his Hall of Fame plaque. The Hall, probably rightfully so, changed its rules, so that players will not sign such contracts and undermine the spirit of the rules of induction.

http://www.sportscolumn.com/story/2005/1/10/114318/537

FWIW, Roger Clemens has threatened to boycott his own induction ceremony if he is not allowed to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the New York Yankees. This was before he came out of retirement though and may have softened his position somewhat.

And while we're on the subject, Catfish Hunter could not decide which cap he preferred: he had nearly identical statistics and postseason success on both teams (New York Yankees - Oakland Athletics). He instead went in wearing a cap without a logo. This isn't unusual, as 68 of the 196 players either have no cap, a cap with no logo, or their head is turned and no logo visible.

TeamBoone
03-16-2006, 05:14 PM
FWIW, Roger Clemens has threatened to boycott his own induction ceremony if he is not allowed to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the New York Yankees. This was before he came out of retirement though and may have softened his position somewhat.

You know, this irks me. Leave it to Clemons to think he's bigger than the Hall of Fame. He should be honored.

oneupper
03-16-2006, 08:35 PM
You know, this irks me. Leave it to Clemons to think he's bigger than the Hall of Fame. He should be honored.

According to Chipper Jones, he's "more like Jesus than I thought".

He probably meant Jesus Alou, Jesus Sanchez, Jesus Manuel (Manny) Trillo or some other baseball Jesus.