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