An Open Apology
Man, I never thought it would come to this – that Ken Griffey, Jr. could possibly be underrated.
In the 90s, Griffey was always the player folks liked to call the best in the game, even though for years many argued that Barry Bonds was getting short shrift for that title. This was because even then, the media loathed Bonds and his attitude.
And yet, as of today, this is the all-time homerun leaderboard, with active players in bold and their age:
- 1. Hank Aaron 755
- 2. Barry Bonds (42) 751
- 3. Babe Ruth 714
- 4. Willie Mays 660
- 5.Sammy Sosa (38) 602
- 6. Ken Griffey (37) 586
Frank Robinson 586
- 8. Mark McGwire 583
- 9. Harmon Killebrew 573
- 10. Rafael Palmeiro 569
In fantasy baseball, I’ve long been a serious Griffey hater. In the early part of this decade, just after he became a Red and therefore a NL player (we play NL-only because we are MEN) I drafted him twice. In neither year did he remotely come close to his potential, and played in less than half those games due to injury.
But look at that list again. Of the active players, Bonds and Sosa have the steroid-taint, as do McGwire and Palmeiro at #8 and #10.
(I just wrote – and deleted – another paragraph of why I don’t like seeing Sosa’s name on this list and why I’m more than okay, even happy, about seeing Bonds eventually atop the list entirely…but I’ve been down that road before, and so enough said.)
Griffey has so far avoided any steroid suspicion – either because there’s no reason to suspect him or because he was injured for so much of that period that it’s somewhat irrelevant. Given that he missed about a quarter of games every season over his career – he’s played in just 77% of the games possible during his 19-year career – his numbers are perhaps the most shocking on this list. (Though due to completely different reasons, the same way it’s shocking that Ted Williams is still at #15 with 521, despite the fact he missed three years because of WWII.)
It seems more likely that Griffey will hit the 75 HR he’d need to pass Willie Mays than Sosa, who only needs 59. Sosa just seems to be doing this on fumes, sticks and tape, while KG just needs to want to keep playing and keep finding a way to do so without getting injured.
If Griffey can, at the least, knock Sosa out of the 5th spot, he’ll be on hallowed ground. The next active player on the list is Frank Thomas at 501, but just lurking behind him is Alex Rodriguez, already at 493 at just 31 years of age. It’s really amazing what A-Rod is doing, and how fast. I know he’s considered the best player in baseball, but I’m not sure even he has the measure of respect he should.
So eventually, one could reasonably expect to see a top-five all-time HR leaders with A-Rod, Bonds and Griffey, along with Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, of course. I think that would make plenty of sense, even though I’d hate to see Willie Maysfall out of the top-five, it seems all but inevitable.
And, at least speaking for me, I’d be the most shocked to see Griffey’s name up there. Because with all those injuries, I’d not only thought he was done, completely toast, but that he’d never have time to make up ground. And that’s because I just didn’t respect Griff.
My bad. I still don’t want him on my fantasy team, because that’d pretty much ensure he’d tear a hamstring, but it’s a pretty impressive career.