Years ago (you may tell your grandchildren) Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez played on the same team. Indeed, both were highly touted prospects, the #1 overall draft picks, and actually lived up to their hype. Both broke into the majors as teenagers. And both were All Stars before their 21st birthdays. Strong up the middle? The Seattle Mariners had the world’s best SS-CF combination ever.
But it was not to be—at least not for all that long. Junior and A-Rod would both leave small market Seattle for the greener pastures of Free Agency and from there their careers would follow two very different arcs. Griffey, playing for his father’s team in his hometown (he was a graduate of Cincinnati’s Moeller High School), would be beaten down by injuries and—for the most part—mediocre teams over the next eight years. A-Rod would sell his bat to the highest bidder, eventually landing the fattest contract on the fattest team, a two time MVP and World Champion with the New York Yankees.
And it was not just their choices of teams that differentiated their legacies. Due to his many injuries Junior became sort of a Pete Reiser-tragic hero figure—what could have been? While A-Rod, with his steriod admissions, became more like a Barry Bonds-tainted idol character—what should have been?
But, in the end, Junior and A-Rod will meet up in Cooperstown, former teamates wearing different caps and playing to different crowds, and their stories will be joined together again at last.