Ken Griffey Jr. exemplifies everything Major League Baseball should be about. He was a consummate professional throughout his career and one of the best pure hitters of all time. After twenty-two years in the league, Griffey finished with a line of a .284 average, 2781 hits, 630 home runs, seven Silver Slugger awards, an outstanding OPS of .908, and an MVP award in 1997. However, these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg for a player that is a shoo-in for an induction into the Hall during his first year of eligibility.
Ken Griffey Jr. Hall of Fame Profile
After coming into the league in 1989, he quickly established himself as a bright, young star for the Seattle Mariners while redefining the center field position for generations to come. He made up one half of quite possibly one of the greatest father/son duos in not only the sport of baseball, but in sports in general. The most outstanding part of their story is the fact they got to play together for two years in Seattle towards the end of Senior’s career. After eleven years in Seattle, Junior followed in his father’s footsteps and signed a nine year, $116.5 million dollar deal with the Cincinnati Reds. After that, things seemed to change for Griffey; he had health issues for pretty much the rest of career and only showed glimpses of the player we all saw in Seattle.
“The Kid” was also an elite defender; the ten Gold Gloves he won in center field tell just a small portion of the story. Griffey quickly became known as much for his acrobatic dives and amazing fence-leaps to rob opposing players of home runs as he did for his big bat. Plays like this are the standard that elite center fielders are held to even today, and a lot of that started with Griffey and his ability to dazzle at the position.
If there is any negative to Griffey’s career, and one could convincingly argue that there are not, it would have to be his struggles to stay healthy later in his career. One can’t help but wonder what might have been, what records would’ve been broken, what awards would have been won if Griffey had been able to stay healthy in Cincy. Yet there’s one intangible about Griffey that you’ll never see on the stat sheets or on his Wikipedia page: the man made the game fun.
His eventual date with Cooperstown seemed destined from the beginning. Whether it was turning his cap backwards for the Home Run Derby or adding more highlights to his seemingly endless montage, “The Kid” was always a treat to watch and it’s the very reason that he was my favorite player growing up. If it wasn’t for Griffey, there’s a very real chance I personally would’ve never fallen in love with the game and I might not even be writing this very article right now. He had one of the prettiest swings we’ll ever see and is an all-time great. It will be a privilege to see him get inducted into the Hall and it’s the perfect ending to an amazing career.