The ever-expected news of the baseball season arrived, albeit a little late this season: Ken Griffey Jr. is having season-ending surgery.
Junior has always been my favorite player. He had the sweetest swing in baseball and glided through the outfield effortlessly. He seemed to enjoy playing the game and made those around him better. He won 10 Gold Gloves for his outstanding play at centerfield. He was named to the All-Century Team and was American League Most Valuable Player in 1997.
During his years with the Seattle Mariners, he was on pace to break dozens of records, including Hank Aaron’s career home run mark. He was on top of the baseball world, until he decided to go back home.
His dad Ken Griffey played for the Cincinnati Reds during their championship days of the Big Red Machine. Junior grew up in the Reds organization and in the ballpark.
When the time came for his contract to be up in Seattle, he could only think of one place he wanted to go – home. He could have grabbed a lot more money elsewhere (like his former Mariners teammate Alex Rodriguez), but he decided that family and being back where he grew up was more important.
The Reds fans loved it. They just knew with Griffey the All-Everything superstar back home, the Reds would be back in the playoffs again. The World Series would not be far behind.
That ended up being the biggest mistake of Griffey’s career. Every single season has been shortened by injury. Every single season started with the promise that the old Junior would come back this year. Most started with some type of glimmer of hope, especially the last two years.
This season after a slow start appeared to be "the year" for Griffey. The comeback had begun and his star was rising again. At the time of the injury, he was batting .301 with 35 home runs and 93 RBIs in 128. That was his first year batting above .300 since 1997. The home runs, RBIs and games played are all his best since his first year in Cincinnati (200).
Why did anyone think this year would end any differently? I love(d) watching him play, but every year I (and every sports journalist) am sure this will be "the year" for Griffey and every year we see it turn into another "next year."
I wish Griffey the best on his continued (continuous) road to recovery and hope that for once "next year" will be "the year."