Monday, June 25, 2007

What is getting into Griffey?

On the heels of his homecoming weekend in Seattle, Ken Griffey, Jr. reminded us of something: he can still play. He can still play because, finally, for the first time since he left Seattle, he is healthy, and he still has a lot of get up and go in his game. Thru Sunday, he has 21 home runs and 49 RBIs in 70 games, putting him well on his way to career highs in all three categories with the Reds. He is second thru Sunday in All-Star voting among NL outfielders, and the move to right field might add at least one more year to his career.

Health is a big reason he's playing well, but there's something else. Having the opportunity to spend the summer with the Cincinnati Reds last year, I observed a lot of things, some of which I cannot discuss here. One of the more glaring memories I have of last summer was the one day when a reporter asked Junior if he would ever consider moving to right field, to make way for a quicker, more instinctive Ryan Freel. This was not something to ask him at any time, but definitely not before the team was to take batting practice. Usually when Griffey fields a question from a reporter, he would give an answer that was off-color and hysterical, and then answer the question with something they could use. He did neither in addressing the move to right field, instead he proceeded to take 20 straight minutes of batting practice. It was like nothing I had ever seen.

Billy Hatcher, the Reds' first base coach who usually throws Griffey BP, had to turn over the duties about halfway in, to bench coach Bucky Dent. What this said to me was that Griffey just wants to be appreciated. When you think about it, even though he has been injured, Junior has really been lost in the shuffle of superstars, unlike any other superstar that has preceded him.

This off season the Kid finally agreed to the move to right, and allowed other players, (Ryan Freel and Josh Hamilton) to play center. I can only imagine this has been a huge weight off of his shoulders, and his numbers are proving it. On a team like the Reds, there isn't that much to cheer about this year, besides the resurgence of this still legendary Kid, who is finally getting some of that appreciation back with the media and the fans, something I think should have never left his side. If he keeps playing this well, he could force a trade away from the Reds before the trade deadline this year:
This would never happen if George Steinbrenner were still alive. Much thanks to the Boston Dirt Dogs for their photoshop abilities.

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