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Griffey#039;s not as bad as critics think

You've seen the signs hanging from the stadium seats. You've read or heard the comments. He's been chastised ever since his second season with the Cincinnati Reds when he spent more days on the disabled list than he did in the batter's box.

Ken Griffey Jr. doesn't care. He's another spoiled ballplayer. He's got his money so he doesn't need to play or give his best effort.

Trade him. Send him to the Yankees. They can afford him.

He's always hurt. He's finished. He needs to retire.

Don't buy it.

Excuse me for being different, but I like Ken Griffey Jr. It's always easy to criticize, and some of the criticism is justified, but I like Ken Griffey Jr.

An outfield of Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns and Griffey is formidable. Three booming bats, three great arms. Possibly the best outfield in baseball.

If healthy -- and that's a big if -- Griffey can still be one of the best in the game.

He's closing in on 500 home runs. Yes, 500. The player once thought as the man to break Hank Aaron's record is in the Reds outfield. Obviously, injuries have slowed him, but he can still be a dangerous hitter.

The Reds were supposed to be close to dealing Griffey and his $10 million-a-year salary to the Yankees when the injury nixed the trade. Many figure he'll be in pinstripes by next spring.

I hope not. I like Ken Griffey Jr.

Certainly Griffey can act like a spoiled brat, but he can't be as aloof and egotistical as Barry Bonds. He certainly hasn't improved his physique with steroids like so many other players.

While Griffey has been maligned for his injuries, doctors have said he has a high threshold of pain. He tries to play hurt, but some injuries are worse than others.

Griffey remains one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. On a team that makes errors more often than Larry King changes wives, Griffey is a much-needed commodity.

I like Ken Griffey Jr.

Kearns is going to be a great all-around player once he learns the game at the major league level. Dunn can be a premier power hitter when he learns to make contact and stop trying to hit every ball into the Ohio River.

Griffey can teach them and others how to play the game, what to look for at the plate and how to battle through tough times. He certainly has experienced his share of tough times.

And he knows what it's like to face great expectations from not just the fans, but the management that wants plenty in return for their investment.

Can Ken Griffey Jr. get healthy? Certainly. Can he return to his old productive self? More than likely. Will he still be with the Reds next year? I hope so.

You see, I like Ken Griffey Jr.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.