The Seattle Mariners will honor their best player of all-time tonight when they induct Ken Griffey Jr. in to the Mariner’s Hall of Fame. A precursor, no doubt, of Griffey’s ultimate first-ballot election into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when he becomes eligible in 2016. Only a fool would argue that Griffey doesn’t belong in either Hall. And I certainly won’t be doing that. But at a time when the city of Seattle will once again bathe this man in all its love, all the love its ever felt for any personality, it’s important for me to express my dissatisfaction with Griffey, the man. I am not a fan.
Being a big-time sports fan I am certainly a fan of all that Griffey did on the field. His array of acrobatic outfield dives, slides, fence climbing catches could get him a Hall nomination alone. He was the best defensive outfielder in baseball through the 90s. His glorious swing made for 630 home runs, sixth on the Major League Baseball all-time list. Fourth All-time if you eliminate the cheaters…which we should. To me even more impressive is the fact that only 5 players (clean players) have hit as many as 600 career home runs and absolutely nobody is on the horizon to do it again. Sadly Griffey’s career included only three playoff appearances for his teams. And he never played in the World Series, surpassing Ernie Banks of Chicago Cub fame as the best player to never make it to the baseball players ultimate competition.
Yes, Griffey was an incredible talent. And he was also an incredible jerk. I’ve always been amazed how lovingly Seattle continues to embrace a man who twice gave the city his backside and his middle finger as he headed out of town. By contrast Alex Rodriguez was vilified the moment he signed the richest contract in baseball history to go to a team that had been to the playoffs two of the previous three years. A-Rod was booed lustily when he returned to Safeco Field as a Texas Ranger in 2001 (All this long preceding the revelation or even suspicion that A-Rod was a multiple time cheat and liar). But Griffey was practically given the keys to the city when he returned as a Cincinnati Red player for the first time in 2007. How quickly we forget that he forced his way out of Seattle demanding to be traded prior to the 2000 season; and then hamstringing the Mariner’s ability to trade for value by limiting what team he would accept being traded to only his hometown Cincinnati Reds.
Griffey’s narcissism and ingratitude was demonstrated one final time with perhaps the most classless retirement of any Superstar athlete ever. Disgusted at having been benched in 2010 because of his pathetic .184 batting average with zero home runs and only 7 RBI, Griffey left town without a word. Not a goodbye to his teammates, a fair well to fans, a closing interview, nothing but his proverbial “bird”, and a curt statement sent to his longtime friend and boss Mariner President Chuck Armstrong.
Griffey’s narcissism was evident early on. As a lonely 19-year-old playing for the Bellingham Mariners he attempted suicide; a gesture mostly, but one in which the individual is demanding attention. As if the number one draft pick in the entire MLB Draft the previous June wasn’t getting enough attention. I am genuinely sorry he was sad and suicidal; knowing him as I do I never took it seriously.
Know him? Why yes, I do. As much as a local small-time reporter from over 20-years ago can know him. Which isn’t much. He wouldn’t allow it. In the 3 years I covered Griffey and the Mariners as a reporter for a radio station and for my own syndicated daily radio interview show he never once made himself available to my microphone. But that wasn’t unusual. Griffey almost never made himself available to any local reporter, only national reporters. I’m sympathetic to those who would claim support of Griffey’s stance of not talking to reporters and remaining “private” if it were true. But it’s not. He would talk to reporters. Just not local reporters. We were too little for him in his eyes. For the record I found his father to be a prick too. But that’s another story.
Griffey has friends who will tell you he was kind to children, and teammates and that he was fun-loving and a practical joker. I’m sure he was all of those things. But a Hall of Fame Person is someone kind to most-everyone not just the chosen few who adore you. Junior will go into the team Hall of Fame tonight and the bigger Hall in 3 years and he earned it. He just doesn’t get into my Hall.
Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.
- Virtual sell-out for Ken Griffey Jr.’s Hall of Fame induction (q13fox.com)
- Recalling Ken Griffey Jr.’s purity, A-Rod’s insecurity (blogs.seattletimes.com)
- Please Watch This Video of Michael Jordan Asking Ken Griffey Jr. for Autograph (bleacherreport.com)
- A look back: Ken Griffey Jr. pranks Paul Silvi (king5.com)
- My Dream Home Run Derby Team (paydirtsport.com)
- Alex Rodriguez to be Suspended Monday (thetop7guy.com)