Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Perspective on Griffey's unique career
By ESPN Stats & Info
Ken Griffey Jr.'s long and historic career appears to have come to an end with the announcement that he has retired. The first-overall pick in the 1987 draft retires with the same team that drafted him exactly 23 years ago to the day.
Griffey's power hitting is what helped burst him onto the national scene early in his career. In the summer of 1993 as a 23-year old, he tied Don Mattingly and Dale Long's MLB record for most consecutive games with a HR at 8. He hit 398 HR before turning 30 years old, breaking a record that Jimmie Foxx had held since 1937. The 13-time All-Star finishes in fifth place on the all-time HR list with 630. He was the active leader with 1,836 RBI. He finished in the top five of MVP balloting five times, but walked away with the award just once, in 1997.
Right or wrong, Griffey's monster HR total is often seen as a more pure number than some of his contemporaries'. Only one other player hit more HR than Griffey since he made his MLB debut on April 3, 1989 and it was Barry Bonds. The only player to hit more HR than Griffey in the 1990s was Mark McGwire.
Overlooked because of those power numbers is the fact the Griffey will go down as one of the best defensive centerfielders of all time. He was a 10-time Gold Glove winner. Only Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays had more as an outfielder.
Still some people will be hard on Griffey because he never consistently dominated in the postseason. He has the most HR of a player to never appear in the World Series. He appeared in the postseason three times for a total of 18 games. After he clinched the franchise-saving, series-winning run in the 1995 ALDS for the Seattle Mariners, Griffey's teams went 4-9 in postseason games and Griffey himself had just three extra-base hits in that stretch.
But in the end, Griffey was more than just a compiler. He often had a flare for the dramatic. On September 14, 1990, Griffey and his father become first father-son combo to hit back-to-back HR. In 1997, his 56th HR of the season at the time set the record for the most in the AL since Roger Maris in 1961. On June 24, 2007, he hit his 583rd and 584th career HR in his return to Seattle against the Mariners.
Statisically speaking, he will go down as one of the all-time greats. But in the eyes of Mariners fans, he will be remembered as so much more than that.