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

Jun 2, 2010, 8:33 PM EST

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. merkle boner - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    Absolutely not true that Griffey had better stats in the 90’s than Bonds. Bonds and Griffey went back and forth in AVG and SLG through the nineties (http://www.fangraphs.com/comparison.aspx?playerid=1109&playerid2=327&playerid3=&position=OF&page=2&type=full). If you toggle through some of those other graphs it’s clear that Bonds had a consistently better OBP. Did I mention that Bonds stole more bases–way more. Griffey’s highest number of stolen bases, 24 in 1999. Bonds stole 15 in 1999 but besides that never dropped below 28 and hit 52 in 1990. Griffey had only three years in the 1990s in which he had a better WAR than Bonds. Maybe Griffey’s got him in HR’s and RBI but not by much.

  2. Phil A - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    you are nuts…and you just revealed your puny knowledge of baseball, calling one of the best players ever ‘overrated’ is totally bizarre, go write classified ads….

  3. Joe - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:52 PM

    Nothing to see here, some assclown trying to stir the pot in Skip Bayless fashion trying to draw some attention.

  4. sjp - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    I am overwhelmed by the completeness and clarity of the arguments stating that Griffey most certainly was not overrated. The mountain of evidence presented is daunting. Long has it been since such a collection of nostalgia was amassed in one place.

  5. sjp - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:56 PM

    I am overwhelmed by the completeness and clarity of the arguments stating that Griffey most certainly was not overrated. The mountain of evidence presented is daunting. Long has it been since such a collection of nostalgia was amassed in one place.

  6. Adam - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    MSNBC and NBC sports has been going progressively downhill for years now, and has officially hit rock-bottom with this classless, garage-blogger Pouliot. He doesn’t know the difference between a 1st ballot HOF’er and a tainted cheater who won’t get a sniff his 1st time up. Long Live the Kid! We’ll miss the fun, class and dignity you brought to the game. Shame on you, nbcsports.

  7. MVD - Jun 2, 2010 at 11:02 PM

    Ken Griffey Jr. is the greatest baseball player of all time.* Barry Bonds is the second best player of the 90s but its not even close. This isnt even worth arguing. Overrated? Are you retarded?
    *Before this gets complicated, yes, I’m disregarding his lack of longevity and durability. He’s better than Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Pujols, A-Rod, whoever you wanna throw in there. I dont care. I’m not debating this. The Kid is the best. Period.

  8. kevin - Jun 2, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    i thought the ump blowing the call was the dumbest thing i’d see tonight until i saw this article. Pouliot should lose his job over this. 630 homeruns and he’s overrated. that has to be the dumbest thing i’ve ever read. What a classless time to write it too, the day griffey retires. scumbag. Do you see how not one comment supports your ridiculously stupid opinion? congrats, idiot.

  9. sjp - Jun 2, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    Based on events on the field Chipper Jones has been every bit as good/valuable as Griffey and actually has better rate stats, so he has most likely been better than Griffey. So….unless people consider Chipper to be as good as or better than Griffey, then Chipper is underrated or Griffey is overrated. I guess all of you that base your opinions on nebulous memories instead of facts can decide which you prefer.

  10. Mike - Jun 2, 2010 at 11:25 PM

    You sir are the definition of moron. How the hell you can call yourself a baseball writer and then pass off this tripe as an example of your expertise is astounding. One of the earlier comments stated that you should be writing classifieds, I think that was generous, I personally would like to see you listed among the obits. Not writing them, but alphabetically listed. I would happily compare you to a horses ass, but the horses ass would take offense at the comparison.

  11. tyler r - Jun 2, 2010 at 11:28 PM

    Hey matt!
    Look at the comments buddy. Most people think you’re an idiot for calling Griffey overrated. AND you say because Bonds was better?! You can’t be serious. Barry Bonds did Steroids, you cant compare the two. I can’t believe someone hired you as a sports reporter.

  12. kmon - Jun 2, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    Ken Griffey Jr, my hat is off to you, and to your dad. Thank you. Thank you.
    This writer of no name is beneath contempt. Barry Bonds (hack, spit) cheated. Right? Steroids, right? His records are vacated.

  13. J MC - Jun 2, 2010 at 11:53 PM

    NBC Sports.com execs….You guys seriously hired this guy? Mr. Pouliot’s resume is OVERRATED!
    Best of luck Griffey Jr. you were truly one of the greatest players, a class act and most of all a Hall of Famer.

  14. J MC - Jun 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    Well said.

  15. waw - Jun 3, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    You are 1 big DUMB SON OF A BITCH. THE KID vs THE DRUGSTER.
    What did you smoke before hitting the save button?

  16. fred117 - Jun 3, 2010 at 12:55 AM

    With writers like you no wonder players feel they have to take PED’s. Think about what you write before you click on “Post”.

  17. Iceman - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:08 AM

    I get the feeling this D-bag of a writer has never watched a complete baseball game in his life. Honestly, do you know of any other writer who would ever use the word “overrated and Ken Griffey” in the same sentence. He was simply the greatest pure player in his prime I have ever seen.

  18. Patrick - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:24 AM

    When a writer has little talent or insight of his/her own to offer, the crutch becomes to speak to the outrageous. “hey, read my column because I am stirring the pot.” Belittling an obvious baseball icon as overrated is mere theater, similar to the antics of extreme media personalities. This writer and his editor are clearly desperate for attention.

  19. Wilyote - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    Dude,you are google looking stats writer!!!!! Notice I didn’t say sports writer. You suck. “Ken Griffey Jr. burst onto the scene at the ripe age of 19 and in 127 games in 1989 he hit 16 home runs and 61 RBI” (copied) I think this piece is a bit plagiarized. The rest of your articles barely even get a comment until you print this piece of trash. I can’t believe NBC hired you.

  20. L-Diablo - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    Retard-
    This is how you write an article. Learn.
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/tom_verducci/06/02/griffey.retires/index.html?eref=sihp

  21. MVD - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    Who?

  22. Stephen Miller - Jun 3, 2010 at 2:01 AM

    You did not just compare Junior to Barry “the cheat” Bonds! Sports writers cannot complain about performance drugs then critique one of the greats who clearly played his entire career clean (hense all the natural injuries, long recovery time, and declining performance over the last 10 years).
    Thank you Ken for saving baseball in Seattle and bringing honor to baseball (particularly during the 90s). You deserve first ballot recognition.

  23. Willy - Jun 3, 2010 at 2:11 AM

    Pouliot, Let me introduce you to Baseball. It’s a game played with a bat and balls. It has bases and dirt and pretty green grass. F’in idiot.

  24. erniestar - Jun 3, 2010 at 2:13 AM

    has the yahoo that wrote this ever been to a baseball game?

  25. al - Jun 3, 2010 at 2:16 AM

    And like how many homers and rbi’s did YOU put up?
    Those who can, do and those who can’t, write silly columns like this.

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