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Overrated, yet still great, Ken Griffey Jr. left a mark

Jun 2, 2010, 8:33 PM EDT

griffey.jpgA massive talent with a big smile he wore constantly, Ken Griffey Jr. burst onto the scene in 1989, hitting 16 homers and finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing the entire season at age 19.
Griffey just made it look so easy. And there were times in his mid-20s when he really was baseball’s best player. He led the AL in homers four times, won an MVP award in 1997 and finished in the top five on four other occasions. Capitalizing on one of baseball’s greatest offensive eras, he drove in 140 runs in three straight seasons.
Griffey, though, was not the best player of the 1990s. That was Barry Bonds. He never led the American League in batting average or on-base percentage. He topped the circuit in slugging only once. It’s true he had more defensive value than most of the guys who were outslugging him. But the one MVP award was truly all he deserved.
We know what happened to Griffey after the 1990s. Following a trade to the Reds in Feb. 2000, he put up one All-Star caliber season and then spent much of the next four years on the DL. In 8 1/2 years with the Reds, he played in 945 games, hitting .270/.362/.514. Just once did he finish in the top 10 in the NL in OPS (7th in 2005).
As a Red, Griffey was a big disappointment. As a Mariner, his teams were chronic underacheivers. In his 22 seasons, Griffey went to the postseason just three times and his clubs won only one postseason series. Griffey did come through in a big way in 1995, hitting five homers in the ALDS win over the Yankees and then putting together another strong series against the Indians in the ALCS loss. However, he went on to go a mere 2-for-15 in the 1997 ALDS loss, and he wasn’t a factor in the 2008 postseason, going 2-for-10 as the White Sox were eliminated by the Rays.
Griffey is certainly a Hall of Famer. Fairly or not, he’s gone untarnished despite playing during the Steroid Era, mostly because he never looked like a user. He was a brilliant player with a gorgeous swing that produced 630 homers. Before his legs began to go, he was an outstanding center fielder.
I just wish I remembered those days better. Griffey spent about four or five too many seasons patrolling center when he would have helped the Reds more in a corner. He didn’t drive in 100 runs in any of his final 10 seasons. It’s been so long since he was a true great that it’s easy to forget just how good he was.

114 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Andrew - Jun 2, 2010 at 8:53 PM

    Wow.
    Just wow.
    A sure first ballot Hall Of Famer and one of the best baseball “ambassadors” the game has ever seen is overrated?
    Dude . . . You should never have dropped out of clown college ’cause sports writing ain’t your strong suit.

  2. Merkle Boner - Jun 2, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    How are you guys not covering the perfect game. Wow did that umpire mess up.

  3. Erik - Jun 2, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Yeah, if Griffey is overrated, who isn’t? I mean, if Bonds is your yardstick for “good” then jeez, the 1990s sucked for everyone. You’re walking down the line of being one of those writers who acts like they don’t like baseball.

  4. Jimmy - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Jim Joyce just became the Bill Buckner of umpires. Oh. My. God. I wish it would have been Joe West.

  5. Eric Cioe - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Worst call in the history of the game. Out by a fucking step, not even close, and ruled safe.
    Hang all these bastards.

  6. Dan W - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    I feel like using caps right now. OH MY GOD. I still do not want instant replay on outs / safe but as a major league umpire, you need to be able to get that call right. It was not EVEN CLOSE.

  7. Reggie Noble - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:07 PM

    Overrated??? WOW! What are you smoking?

  8. Taylor - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    Overrated? How is he overrated? Especially when his name was never linked with the s-word? Did Jose Canseco even bring him up in that book?
    Had it not been for injuries, he’d be on top of that HR list. He’s a legend, even WITH all his injuries. Imagine him without the missed games and tweaked legs. It took Bonds his steroids to become a legend, but for Griffey, all it took was his passion for the game.
    He’s not overrated. Everyone should know that.

  9. Jon - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    The second anyone says anything positive about Barry Bonds’s feats as far as him being “great” I dismiss them. Bonds was a cheater, which is why NO club would hire him. No one wants a cheater on their team.
    Plus Griffey had BETTER stats in the 90’s then Bonds – I remember very specifically a Sporting News article on “Griffey vs Bonds” where the two were compared side-by-side. Clearly he never actually watched Griffey.
    My problem is how naive and blatantly disrespectful the headline alone, let alone the rest of the garbage, this piece is. Bonds left the game in disgrace, Griffey is leaving with the upmost respect and dignity. True baseball fans despise the steroid players and what they’ve done to our sport. Yuppy naive fans just think how cool all those homeruns were in the 90’s, cheating be damned.
    I guess that’s why I’ve never heard of “Matthew Pouliot”. I guess that’s why “Matthew Pouliot” has no quotes in his article, which shows that he couldn’t get any from any players.

  10. huggs - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    Matthew,
    Yeah, Barry was the best of the 90’s, pharmaceutically enhanced division. But a clean player? Griffey, no doubt.
    As an all-round player he had a few peers, namely Aaron, Mays, Williams, and Ruth. Any others? Don’t think so. His outfield mate in the Kingdome for many years, Jay Buhner, says that the K-D turf robbed his own career of 3-4 years. How many did that horrible carpet cost Griffey and his fand? But Griffey chose to never complain, never make excuses, just go out and play his best every day.
    Too bad more writers don’t do that. Quit telling jokes about Bonds.

  11. Charlie - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Pouliot -He’s over rated? Look at his numbers. no roids. put the pipe down. do you you even read the crap you write.

  12. Erik - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Matthew,
    I hope you trip walking down the street and break your arm. Seriously. Go f*ck yourself.

  13. Edgar Martinez - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Overated hahaha! Come on now. There were couple stats Bond may have better in the 90s but not more compared to what Griffey had over Bonds. Griffey was better all around. Griffey is UNDERATED. His injuries were a burden.

  14. scatterbrian - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:40 PM

    Agree with the above. Calling Griffey Jr. overrated is a pretty ridiculous statement.

  15. Ed - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    Overrated? You, sir, are an idiot. Griffey saved baseball for the city of Seattle, took the Mariners from a laughing stock to a contender and did it all with class and no steroids. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, unless they go crazy and give you a vote.
    Overrated? 630 Home Runs is more than you could hit in the Beer Leagues in 50+ years.
    Overrated? How many catches did he make in center field that took away home runs and extra base hits?
    Overrated? You, sir, are overrated. How dare you publish such tripe in the day when Griffey should be remembered as one of the best players ever in the game. Taking away from a man’s career when he hangs them up is quite possibly the worst thing possible in your “profession”. I suggest you return to whatever hole you came from and never write about baseball again, as you clearly have no grasp of the game. You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to grab a headline at the expense of a player who deserves nothing but accolades.

  16. Jay Buhner - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    You don’t understand. You gotta see this guy when he played for the Mariners. You gotta see these catches that would constantly be on the hilight reel. You gotta see his consecutive home runs he would hit and win games. Like, he was the best player ever when he played for the Mariners. Screw the Red and White Sox. He got hurt. You don’t know what the hell your talking about saying he was better than Bonds in the 90s. Wholly sh–

  17. Dave Valle - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:51 PM

    He is the 4th all time leader in Home Runs. Aaron, Babe, Mays, Griffey. Overated?

  18. Chris - Jun 2, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    Matt I like most of your stuff but you clearly stepped off the boat on this one. The best all around player of the 90’s and the most fun to watch hands down. Not to mention he also has one of the best baseball video games of all time named after him “Ken Griffey Jr’s Baseball.” Was Bond’s ever good enough to have a baseball game named after him in the 90’s? That would be NO!

  19. Not a Mariner fan - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    Matthew Pouliot? More like Matthew IDIOT.
    You rate the steroid king Barry Bonds over Ken Griffey? How blind and stupid are you?
    Totally agree with Ed. You obviously have no conscience or morals to publish this nonsense when we should be celebrating one of the greatest careers in the history of baseball.

  20. MIKE - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:07 PM

    YOU LOVE DICK MATTHEW

  21. Colleen Baker - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    Sir…oops my first mistake.
    Your last mistake? Your article today!
    To your boss: get rid of this no talent writer.
    Find someone who knows the game and appreciates great players who are not on steroids. Building up Bonds while tearing down Griffey? Discussion over. Griffey wins!!!
    Ken Griffey is a gentleman, he is ethical, moral and one funny man. He is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Bonds can not even compete.
    Now shut your mouth and go home…

  22. Ibis - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    Griffey was the best outfielder of his generation. He was a highlight reel. The reason he was hurt in the second half of his career was because of how insanely hard he played defense in the first half.
    Pretty sure he was OK on offense too.
    If he’s overrated, who isn’t?

  23. Robin Huud - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    It only takes an article like this to show how absolutely stupid most of the sportswriters are in this country. They hide behind their computers and spew their filty when they don’t have the abiity to pick up a baseball much less play. Good luck to Griffy; he was always a pleasure to watch and he goes out in style land class. Too bad this jerk can’t go out period. People should boycott this clowns article to show just how stupid he really is.

  24. Jodie - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    I clicked on this link because I was offended by the use of “overrated”. I’m not sure how “overrated” is applicable here. The guy played a great game and as far as I can recall was never lauded beyond what is standard for the game. I think it’s pretty unfair to use that word in an article about a guy who worked pretty darn hard and it showed. Add to that the lack of a steroid controversy and I think there should be a bit more respect.

  25. Nick - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:29 PM

    Bring me the head of Jim Joyce AND Matthew Pouliot!
    WhoTF are you to talk about Ken Griffey Jr. like this? You’re a fool

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