Monday, May 12, 2008

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

It is no secret that being flamboyant, outspoken, or controversial will make you the center of attention in the media. It is the public equivalent of nice guys finishing last. That being said just by being associated wth this site I am as guilty as the next person. Everyday I watch, listen, or read every sports media outlet like a high school girl looking for the latest gossip and dirt. I started thinking about that a lot today which led me to think of who my “favorite” baseball player is. The kind of question that was so simple when I was a kid. Now I have a hundred different explanations and reasons for my choices, most of which ends going over some many variables as to make it difficult to widdle a list down to 10 or even 20. These days I’ve realized that my soap box stance of keeping the sanctity of the game has seemed hypocritical at times while other times it simply was. Consider the following beliefs or statements that I have made whether on this site or during debates off the record:
• I believe in Tradition of Baseball, that some things are sacred and that it is the closest thing to pure sport that you can get.
• I watch the AL, like the DH, and think that a great offense is the best defense
• (It is no secret that I am a Cleveland Sports Fan) I would want to play for my home team at whatever cost
• It is not a question of whether I would sell out or not it is just a matter of when.

I can go on and on and I am not a great prophet of baseball, or of keeping it pure. I know that if I played I would not be so humble nor would I be winning any morality contests. I picture myself as Willy May Hays always swinging for the fences, and trust me it would take someone like Lou Brown to keep me in check. That being said I think that it is time to give credit where credit is due. I give credit to those to who keep the ideals alive, and have eluded being hypocritical in their “love for the game”.

This takes me back to my previous statement about it being so much easier to pick my favorite player when I was a kid. I had two posters on my wall: Kenny Lofton and Ken Griffrey Jr. Growing up I had a million arguments with my pops over who was the best modern era baseball player of all time: Bonds or Griffey. He wrote it off as me being young, but maybe it was because I was not jaded yet. I saw the game as a game, and I recognized who was the best, who played the hardest, and who had all of the qualities that I wanted to have. Lets run down some reasons as to why Griffey always has and always will be my favorite player and my choice in a debate for the best of all time:

First Off What Griffey Has Accomplished on Paper (Currently in 19th Season):
Career: .289, 597 HR (6th all Time, 1st Among Active Players), 2593 H, 1719 RBIS, 1561 R.
Gold Gloves: 10
All Star: 13
MVP: 1

What Could Have Been:
Taking away the 38 games he has played so far in 2008 he has averaged nearly 132 games a year in his 18 years. This includes 95’ where he played in only 72 games, 94 and 01 he only played in 111, and 02-04 combined he played in 203 games. Now this may not sound like much, and yes his career game average might appear to be counterproductive in my argument. The thing is that the type of injuries that took him out of these games is what is key. In 02-04 his injuries were all season ending injuries. He had broken wrists, including the infamous diving play in the wall(see pic) to make a catch. He played his heart out, and didn’t exhibit a lot of the normal wear and tear injuries that sidelined a lot of players these days. One of the biggest stats this effected was his homerun production, which is always at the forefront of debate because well chiks dig the long ball.
1993: 45, 1994: 40, 1995: 17 in 72 games, 1996: 49, 1997: 56 (5 away from the record in the year when McGuire hit 58), 1998: 56 (Again 5 away in the year McGuire/Sosa had their epic chase), 1999: 48, 2000: 40. Next comes 4 years in which he has shortened seasons due to injury. Take away 95 due to injury and he was averaging 47 homeruns over those 7 healthy seasons. If we take into account the 5 seasons of 01-04 and say he averaged 40 HR a year he would be sitting at 797 not 597 and have absolutely crushed the all time record. Even looking at Griffey as 39 year old ball player in what would be his twilight years he has averaged 30 HRs over his last three seasons.

Take that seven year span and look at his hit numbers. He average 166 hits a season over that period. Strictly looking at averages for projection and arguments sake he would have another 830 hits or so. That would give him 3424 for his career and passing Carl Yastrzemski to be 6th on the all time hit list.

The numbers are projections and what could have been are seemingly meaningless debates are made of, but what about the intangibles that he displayed. After the 1999 season Griffey asked to be traded. This was at the end of his hot streak that I have been using. During the middle of negotiations for a contract extension with the Mariners that would have earned him $148 million over eight years, instead he expressed his desire to be traded to the Reds so that he could be closer to his father. He wanted to wear his number, and be close to what really mattered. The Reds subsequently offered him 112.5 million over 9 years. Now this is not a sympathy situation by any means, but he did take a substantial pay cut as far as a top professional athlete is concerned.

Flash forward to May of 2008 and the Mariners are trying to establish a connection with Junior in hopes of a return. He has openly stated that he would not try to extend his career by hitting in the DH spot. His stance is that if he can’t play in the field anymore than he is too old to play. I love the homerun, I love the DH, I have for love Griffey, but I don’t know how a person could not respect what he has done for this game. He is soft spoken, humble, can never be accused of not playing hard every day, and has never been associated with performance enhancers. Talk about athletes being role models, well then he should be the poster child for it. He literally was for me. Even if the rest of the world has forgotten about Griffey, I haven’t, and will continue to acknowledge him as one of the best players to even play the game.

4Real Out....