Ken Griffey Jr. owes the Cincinnati Reds nothing.
Since returning home in 2000, Griffey has respectfully served as the face of Reds baseball despite seven consecutive losing seasons and a plethora of home-town criticism.
As the game’s greatest player, Griffey bolted Seattle for lil’ ol’ Cincinnati, thumbing down millions of more dollars to play elsewhere for the chance to don the same jersey his father once wore.
And, despite one serious injury after another in Cincinnati, he always returned to the team’s lineup, earning his money the hard way, rehabbing for a perennial loser and serving as the team’s lightning rod for its terrible play.
Plus, considering the seriousness of his many leg injuries, no one would have questioned Griffey had he retired years ago.
Still, Junior humbly took the field time and time again for a frugal organization that never held up its end of the bargain to return championship baseball to Cincinnati.
Reds managers came and went, its pitching staff always subpar and the unveiling of Great American Ballpark was over shadowed by one of baseball’s largest fire sales ever in July, 2003.
And even as Junior neared the historic 600 career home run mark the organization did little to promote such a historic baseball event. Shameful.
Yet, all the while Junior stayed true to himself and to the team he wanted to end his Hall of Fame career with.
However, the relationship between the Reds organizations, its fans and Griffey has unfortunately grown beyond repair.
This became obvious to me when Junior, sitting on 599 career home runs, opted to play the final game of a four-game series in Miami with the Reds returning home a day later to begin a nine-game homestand.
Griffey later stated he’s increasingly felt more fan appreciation playing on the road than in Cincinnati; so be it if the home crowd wouldn’t witness history.
Thus, dealing Griffey to the White Sox is the right move for both parties: Jr. now has a legitimate chance to win a ring with Chicago this year or by signing with a contender next season, and the Reds finally bandage a decade long wound.
Unfortunately, though fittingly, Junior leaves Cincy without a proper farewell celebration.
The culmination of Junior’s work in Cincinnati should have been celebrated one last time in front of the home crowd.
And, as one of the game’s few home run hitters still believed to be untarnished in an era known for PEDs, it would have be nice for Reds fans – for or against Griffey’s departure – to show respect for a player who represented his family, team and city in an honorable fashion.
Of course, that possibility is over, and with it, so is the Junior era in Cincinnati.
- Notes: Junior has hits safely in all 11 games since the All Star break.
- He departs tied for the Reds leads in doubles this season (20).
- For his career, Junior has homered against 389 different pitchers including 12 this year.
- He is the 18th player in MLB history to reach 5,000 total bases.
- Griffey also ranks sixth in career home runs (608), and 16th in RBIs (1,752).