Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome Back, Junior

Image credit: Rich Pilling/MLB Photos/Getty Images

He's not the old Ken Griffey, Jr., the one who could hit 50-plus home runs a season. He's still the guy who takes joy in playing the game, and for that alone it's nice to see him back.

Let's face it, the Mariners lost 100 games last year. They aren't going anywhere this year unless half the other teams in the league implode or disappear, in which case they'd probably end up in the middle of the pack. Junior's enthusiasm for the game will be a joy to watch. It might even help some of the younger Mariners keep in mind why they are there. In contrast to Alex Rodriguez, the other star hitter who left town early in the decade, Griffey left so that he could be with his father, not so he could earn an even more ridiculous amount of money.

When he left town, Junior looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer. By the time he'd left Seattle after eleven seasons, he'd hit 398 home runs. He was still in his late 20's, which is usually a baseball player's prime. It looked like he'd end up being the Major Leagues' leading home run hitter by the end of his career. Since then, he's been injured several times, and has really only played two full seasons. He's hit 213 home runs since leaving Seattle over ten seasons, and his slugging percentage is a shadow of its former self. He's now 39 years old, which is a time when most players have hung up their spikes already.

His numbers are still respectable, especially considering how much he hasn't played, but he's half the Junior of old.

Still, half a Ken Griffey, Jr. is a lot more ballplayer than most in the majors. He's a welcome addition.

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