As fans, I think we should all be ashamed of ourselves for what has transpired in the last 12 hours. Somehow, we've let a soft, sensitive, sissified 1st-base umpire who's testicular fortitude was tested by the apex of perfection and in jest dropped the proverbial ball in egregious fashion, that we've let the second most important athlete of the 1990's go away without any fanfare whatsoever.
The pundits of professional sports have conveniently swept Ken Griffey, Jr.'s career under the rug as a #2 story as if we've never seen a perfect game before. You'll see plenty more perfect games before you see as great a baseball player as Junior. (Hell, we've seen two already in this 2010 MLB season before the All-Star break) So pay respect, and tip your cap to someone who at 40 years old can still be called, "The Kid" and everyone knows the deal.
People have already started roasting Griffey not looking like "The Kid" he used to be, he finished this season hitting under the .184 with no homers. The pundits are saying he should've retired a long time ago, hell even I said it once upon a time, saying he was over the hill.
Let me tell you something, there's a reason why when John Elway retired it was such a phenomenal thing. Because no one ever gets a chance to retire when they are on top, it rarely ever happens. When Jordan retired the first two times, it was utterly amazing because he was still on top. When Jordan retired the third time, everyone was like, "he should've never came back." Why do folks say this? Because people have a strong tendency to only have short-term memory. When Jordan retired the 3rd time, folks were killing him.
With Griffey its already been the same way, piling dirt on the man when he finally realizes he can't cut it anymore and when the game's not fun anymore. Folks talking bad about Griffey falling asleep in the locker room "supposedly". You know what? He's a man, he's 40! Old people tend to fall asleep more often than younger folks. Let the man get his winks in! Even my dude Stephen A. Smith this morning talked bad on him, which stunned me. "He couldn't even show up to the stadium the next day and be appreciative of the fans." What? Let that man retire on his own terms! He's a grown man, he can do what the hell he wants to!
(from baseball-reference.com) And so, the retirement of one of the greatest centerfielders of all time takes back seat to an even bigger story. These days, it's easy to forget the impact that Griffey had on the game. As a rookie in 1989 he was a favorite across baseball. Before McGwire and Sosa took center stage in 1998, Griffey was the pre-eminent power hitter in baseball and he averaged more than 50 HR over the 4 seasons from 1996 to 1999. Throw in excellent defensive abilities (in both flashy plays and fielding runs for the first half of his career) and this guy was an all-around stud. After 22 years, Griffey can now nod off to as long a guilt-free nap as he likes.
Recognize the fact that Griffey's game was transcendent in a very similar capacity to Jordan's career in the 90's. Much like how Willie Mays changed the game with the over-the-shoulder catch, Griffey made the jump-at-the-wall watch look super easy (think the Jordan fadeaway) and with flair. Griffey had the super-dope Nike's, I remember folks were hooping in his shoes religiously. Griffey's cleats were $130. Trust me...I know, I had two pairs. His swing was so live that it rivaled Jordan's jumpman as the dopest Nike logo for a period of time in the 90's. He also dominated the Home Run Derby like Jordan did the Slam Dunk Contest, especially making it cool with wearing the hat backward. Even Griffey's video game was great.
Ken Griffey Jr tribute @ Yahoo! Video
Folks seem to forget that Griffey was robbed of his quest for breaking Maris' record in the strike shortened 1994 season (40 HRs in 111 game), forget the fact that he took LESS MONEY to play for his hometown Cincinnati Reds team, was destroyed by injuries while in Cincinnati for multiple years, and still finished 5th all-time in home run history. Understand that Griffey was destined to break Hank Aaron's record, it was supposed to happen, it just didn't because the baseball gods robbed him.
Ken Griffey Jr. was perfectly made to play this game, so don't let a "perfect game" take away from not only the greatest baseball player of our generation, but the coolest baseball player of all-time (even with Willie Mays) stepping away from the game. All hail "The Kid."
P.S. If you missed our live show, you can download our weekly podcast of "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" on the ETSF Radio Network, as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan!