Griffey#8217;s numbers should be appreciated

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

Earlier this week Ken Griffey Jr. became the sixth player in major league history to hit 600 career home runs.

He smacked a 3-1 pitch from Marlins starter Mark Hendrickson out of Dolphin Stadium on Monday in the first inning. And with Father’s Day around the corner, it’s hard not to think of the Cincinnati Reds’ family connection.

There have been many father-son tandems in major league baseball. Gus and Buddy Bell, Bob and Bret Boone and Felipe and Moises Alou come to mind.

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But the best father-son tandems come down to Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. and Bobby and Barry Bonds. But beyond all that, there is a lot of controversy surrounding Griffey Jr. because when he returned to his hometown he had plenty of expectations placed upon him.

The excitement turned into criticism when injuries put Griffey on the bench. That was coupled with inadequate pitching during his time in Cincinnati that was largely responsible for losing teams, which meant Griffey quickly became a scapegoat for teams that couldn’t compete.

Instead of being the hometown boy coming home to take the Reds back to prosperity, he was injury-plagued and the Reds seldom found themselves playing games that mattered in September.

So, bringing Griffey back to Cincinnati was largely considered a mistake. But that simply isn’t fair to one of the game’s all-time greats.

A knock on Griffey was that he didn’t take care of his body as well as he should have over the course of his career. But trainers in Seattle have said he didn’t want to jeopardize his flexibility and that he did more with weights than many realized.

But the amazing thing about Griffey is to realize his standing on the home run list despite all the injuries. To think Griffey could still reach 600 when he was stripped of so much of the prime of his career goes to show how impressive a player he truly is.

Looking at statistics alone, Hank Aaron was 40 years old when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974. He finished his career in Milwaukee and ended up with a total of 755.

Griffey is 38 now and if Barry Bonds hadn’t soiled the most profiled individual record in all of sports, one can only wonder where Griffey would be on the list had injuries not slowed him down.

Some consider him the best baseball player to ever put on a uniform when he was in his prime. And fans in Cincinnati should appreciate that kind of a career, one that was hampered because he played hard, stayed straight and did everything we expect professional athletes to do.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at