***Note: E is back. Check out his normal ramblings HERE!***
It must be the Year of Apathy in baseball.
First, you have Frank Thomas, the greatest player to ever call himself a DH gets shuffled around so much in a week that no one knows (or cares) what team he plays for.
Then, Mike Piazza, possibly the greatest hitting catcher ever, retires, and no one notices.
Now, Ken Griffey, Jr., the player with the greatest potential in the history of baseball, gets within a home run of 600, something only five (six if you care to count Sosa, and I don't) players have done, and no one outside of Cincinnati seems to care. I think part of the problem may be that I don't think people realize that Junior is still playing.
No one noticed when Sosa passed 600 for the same reason.
And while these would appear to be similar cases of inflated number apathy, they're not. Sosa is, well, frankly, a dirty player. You don't go from a guy who hit 60 home runs in his entire tenure with the White Sox and Rangers to a guy who hit nothing but 60 home runs a year with the Cubs without being dirty.
When asked before Congress if he had used steroids, he replied, "F*** GASPAR GOMEZ AND F*** THE F***ING DIAZ BROTHERS! F*** 'EM ALL!!" He may not have actually said that, but it's more entertaining than the "No hablo Ingles" bit he actually used. This from a guy who, two years earlier, got suspended for using a corked bat.
That is one shifty mother.
Junior, on the other hand, has always had a clean record.
He's never been named in any of the random gossip that seems to implicate players on a weekly basis. Everything Junior has done appears to be due to talent, not only as a hitter, but as a fielder, having won a Gold Glove every year of the '90s. Here's a kid who may legitimately have been the best player in baseball.
Then he got traded to Cincinnati...and hasn't played a full season yet.
He became so injury-prone that he makes Mark McGwire look like a picture of health. And he has not gotten healthier, becoming seemingly more brittle (and fatter) with each injury. This for a guy who's only 38 years old.
And it's these injuries that have been happening on a yearly basis for nearly a decade that make us forget what a great player Griffey is/was. I don't think anyone knows when he's actually playing. Even though he played most of the season last year (having gotten his injury out of the way before the season started), I think most people forget that he's closing in on some milestones because they don't know if he's in baseball anymore.
I myself had taken for granted that he might not be injured and didn't know he was playing until I heard about the "599" thing. I also think that, because it's been nearly a decade since Griffey was any kind of force in baseball, people forget how good Griffey used to be.
Despite losing at least three seasons worth of games to injury, his numbers already make a strong case for the Hall of Fame. No where near as good as, say, someone like Hank Aaron's numbers, but consider that while Aaron played three more years than Griffey currently has, he had 3300+ more at bats. Give Griffey that many more at bats and consider what his stats might look like.
Yeah: Kid's a monster.
But, his stats being what they are, he is closing in on some milestones. He's 275 RBI from 2000, something only three other players have done. He's 395 hits from 3000. And he's got that whole home run thing, too.
Crossing my fingers, I'm hoping Griffey can make it through the rest of the year (and his career) uninjured.
He's been healthy thus far. And, he is only 38.
A lot of these records are within reach. I just hope he can get to them.
Oh, and in baseball related post-script to this story, earlier here in the Hall, Jesus was quick to give out this year's Bo Diaz Award to John Marzano. I think he's going to regret his choice when hears about what happened to Geremi Gonzalez, the pitcher who broke Sosa's corked bat.
That's a Bo Diaz winner if I've ever seen one!