I'll admit it, I thought it was pretty cool last year when Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez all hit number 500, but in the past two weeks…we witnessed, arguably, something more impressive.
Of course I am talking about Manny Ramirez quietly hitting number 500 and, finally, Ken Griffey, Jr. doing what we’ve been waiting for for the last twelve years…hitting home run number 600.
Since he reached his milestone first…we’ll talk about Ramirez first.
Manny has quietly been one of the best (if not THE best) hitters in the game for each of his fifteen seasons. Considering he’s NEVER hit less than .290 in any full season that he’s played (incidentally, Ramirez has the fourth highest career batting average of anyone in the 500 Club)...I’m not sure why he gets such a bad rap.
Tell me it is because he’s a bad fielder and I’ll tell you that if I can get a guy with the potential to hit 40 home runs, knock in 120, hit .320 AND allow my team to get an equally dangerous bat in the lineup at DH…and I’ll take his fielding every day of the week.
Tell me he’s a bad teammate and I’ll point out the watch he gave Dustin Pedroia for winning the American League Rookie of the Year last year.
Tell me the guy is flighty and I’d agree. I’ll follow it up by reminding you that he is durable, keeps his mouth shut, absolutely a monster in the clutch AND certain to be the first dreadlocked player in Cooperstown.
Now…on to the other guy.
Unless you lived under a rock, you know that Ken Griffey, Jr. became the sixth player to hit 600 home runs. Of course, as mentioned before…you would have been hard pressed to find substantial press leading up to it.
Maybe the mainstream media was keeping it “hush hush” so Junior wouldn’t be jinxed. Maybe they just forgot about “The Kid”.
Junior’s list of accomplishments are sick and I could go on and on…but I’ll leave that to SportsCenter. They’ve spent the last couple of weeks NOT building up to number 600…perhaps now they can spend some time appreciating it.
Take his durability out of the conversation, and you really can’t come up with a reason to NOT call him one of the best all around players of the last 20 years.
Of the other 23 members of the 500 Club, Griffey’s .289 career average is better than Eddies Murray and Mathews, Willie McCovey and eight others.
His 1729 RBI puts him eleventh among those with more than 500 bombs. Compare him to contemporaries Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire and they pale in comparison.
Remarkably, the once slender Griffey hit 40 or more home runs in seven seasons. Memo to world…Frank Robinson did it once, Reggie Jackson twice.
Junior will bring a ton of Gold Gloves with him to Cooperstown as well…ten to be exact. He won one EVERY year in the 90s and among the others in the 500 Club, only Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt have as many.
Put both Ramirez and Griffey together and you’ve got a duo that rivals very few that have played at the same time. We’re living in a fortunate age right now…let’s hope it stays this way for some time.