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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ken Griffey, Jr.: rich man, poor man.

George Kenneth Griffey, Jr.

Obviously, he has the same name as his father who preceded him in the major leagues.  He also has the same first name as Babe Ruth.

Mariners Saw the Hall of Fame Version of Ken Griffey Jr.
NOV. 9, 2015 by By VICTOR MATHER The New York Times

... for 11 seasons, 10 of them as an All-Star. He led the league in home runs four times, belting 56 homers twice. He won a Most Valuable Player Award as well as 10 Gold Gloves in the outfield. In all, he amassed 398 home runs and batted .299 ...

... 11 seasons, but he earned only three All-Star selections. He never led the league in any category or earned any major awards. He hit only 232 home runs and batted .262.
Photo of Ken Griffey
Wow, Ken Griffey Jr. played 22 seasons? Wow.

He even played with his father in 1990 and 1991. Some men are forever junior and Griffey, the younger, seems to be one of them. Some of that is his personality. I blame junior for popularizing wearing the baseball hat backwards. I've seen fans squinting into the sun rather than use the hat for its sole intended purpose.

The Times article introduces something that impacts how we tend to view players and how much our view is based on early perceptions.

Griffey was a regular at 19 and a star at 20. He led in home runs at ages 24, 27, 28, 29. After 29 Griffey never led in anything.

Will Griffey be elected to the Hall of Fame? Sure. He hit 630 home runs. That alone would do it. Plus he was a great center fielder and base runner. In 1995 Griffey flew around the bases to score the winning run in the first preliminary playoff series to beat the Yankees:

Sunday, October 8, 1995, 4:09, Kingdome
Attendance: 57,411, Time of Game: 4:19
Mariners 6, Yankees 5 in 11 innings

Bottom of the 11th, Mariners Batting, Behind 4-5, Yankees' Jack McDowell facing 2-3-4

Cora single
Griffey single
Edgar Martinez double to LF (Line Drive); Cora Scores; Griffey Scores

Who can forget Griffey's delight?
Photo of Al Kaline
Al Kaline had a somewhat similar big start, not so big second half but Kaline had the good sense to play for the Tigers his entire career and not switch to another team as Griffey did. Kaline led in batting average in 1955 at age 20 but never again. Kaline led in slugging and on base average at age 24 and doubles at 26. That was it. By the time I became aware of Kaline I'd wonder why people made such a big deal about him.

A friend of mine has a similar view of Jim Rice. My friend missed the seasons when Rice was the big bopper ages 24, 25, 26. Last big splash: age 30, leading in homers and RBI. But my friend thinks that Rice teammate Dwight Evans is a Hall of Fame player, better than Rice.

Rice was born March 8, 1953, debut Aug. 19, 1974, last game Aug. 3, 1989.
Evans was born Nov. 3, 1951, debut Sept. 16, 1972, last game Oct. 6, 1991 playing for Baltimore.

Evans was a Red Sox starter in 1973 at age 21 but he did not lead the league in anything until 1981 age 29. In 1987 at age 35 Evans led in walks by which time Rice had dropped to OPS+ 101 while Evans had his second best at 157.

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