• Junior, Juice and Justice

    Posted by on June 4th, 2010 · Comments (25)

    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.

    Comments on Junior, Juice and Justice

    1. YankCrank
      June 4th, 2010 | 1:05 pm

      Well-written, TreshFan.

      Sometimes, it amazes me how those mid-to-late 90′s Mariners didn’t win anything. Same goes for the Indians of the same era. Those teams were just so stacked with talent.

      Looks like nobody was able to get past those damn Yankees :)

    2. Raf
      June 4th, 2010 | 1:12 pm

      To be fair, Griffey was traded to Cincy and signed an extension, it wasn’t a straight FA cash grab.

    3. Jim TreshFan
      June 4th, 2010 | 1:26 pm

      @ Raf:
      True enough. But I take a larger view of free agency than most. Griffey was indeed “traded” to the Reds. Much like Pedro Martinez was “traded” to the Red Sox after winning the NL Cy Young award. Heck, even A-Rod was “traded” to the Yankees. But do any of those trades happen without free agency?

    4. June 4th, 2010 | 1:36 pm

      Used to LOVE A-Rod. These days, not so much anymore.

      Never liked Griffey, for what it’s worth. Started out with his bias against the Yankees because of Billy Martin and his father. That ticked me. Then, it was just because he seemed like a real, self-centered, “me” player. Also FWIW, I’ve heard many a story, thru the years, about what an immature, spoiled, brat he was…

      And, IMHO, if not for the Kingdome, we wouldn’t be all that impressed about his HR totals.

    5. Raf
      June 4th, 2010 | 1:58 pm

      Jim TreshFan wrote:

      But do any of those trades happen without free agency?

      Griffey expressed a desire to play closer to home (after Payne Stewart was killed in a plane crash), and signed an extension below market rate with the Reds after he was traded there.

      Rodriguez wouldn’t have been a FA until 4 years after he was traded to NY (via the opt out clause), I don’t think his trade to NY was a result of pending free agency. Also should be noted that in Griffey and Rodriguez’s cases they requested to be traded.

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      FWIW, I’ve heard many a story, thru the years, about what an immature, spoiled, brat he was…

      Any of these storytellers say anything about him restructuring his contract so that the M’s could sign players? I bet had they consulted him, they never would’ve traded Martinez and Nelson.

    6. MJ Recanati
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:04 pm

      Raf wrote:

      Griffey expressed a desire to play closer to home (after Payne Stewart was killed in a plane crash), and signed an extension below market rate with the Reds after he was traded there.

      There’s that side of the story, and then there’s the side of the story where he forced his way out of Seattle, demanded a trade to the Reds only, vetoed a trade to the Mets, and forced Seattle’s hand down to the miserable sum of Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko and two minor league non-prospects for the then-best player in the game.

    7. long time listener
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:10 pm

      I don’t understand why Griffey is beloved and A-Rod is so be-hated(?). Both forced their way out of Seattle, but A-Rod got (way) more money. I know the injuries to Griffey make him more sympathetic, and A-Rod’s steroids admission makes him less so, but the A-Rod hate and (to a lesser extent) the Griffey love existed at least five years ago, before the steroid stuff came out. This just seems like one of those times that people decided to hate an athlete, and cherry-picked the reasons.

    8. Raf
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:18 pm

      According to Griffey he had 15 minutes to accept the Mets deal. I suspect the truth lies somewhere between him and the organization’s stance. I don’t know about him forcing the hand of the M’s, as the Reds simply could’ve signed Griffey after the season, without giving up anything.

    9. Raf
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:19 pm

      long time listener wrote:

      Both forced their way out of Seattle

      Rodriguez didn’t force his way out, he left via free agency.

    10. MJ Recanati
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:21 pm

      @ long time listener:
      I think Raf’s point about Griffey taking less money with the Reds is one that resonates in the pro-Griffey/anti-ARod discussion. For some reason, human beings that would always take the most money they could in their own lives don’t react well to athletes that make identical choices. As such, Griffey is seen positively for signing a $115M contract whereas A-Rod has been demonized for signing two contracts each worth an excess of $200M.

      Pettiness, jealousy and hypocrisy.

    11. MJ Recanati
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:23 pm

      Raf wrote:

      I don’t know about him forcing the hand of the M’s, as the Reds simply could’ve signed Griffey after the season, without giving up anything.

      The Mariners were intent on trading Griffey because they knew he would leave via free agency. Instead of simply playing out a year in some other city and then signing with the Reds, he stubbornly insisted that he be traded to the Reds or nowhere at all.

      I don’t begrudge him his right to make demands, I merely point out that in the romanticizing of Griffey’s career, too many people forget that the M’s got a crap sandwich in return because Griffey made it such that no one else had a chance to trade for him.

    12. long time listener
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:50 pm

      @ Raf:
      I meant to qualify that. A-Rod didn’t “force” his way out, but he did choose to leave. He could’ve stayed for less money in the less optimal situation, as Griffey could have. But he was perfectly within his rights to leave when he did, whereas Griffey was under contract and forced his way out. If anything, that should be a point in A-Rod’s favor, yet he’s still the one who looks like a jerk to history.

    13. long time listener
      June 4th, 2010 | 2:53 pm

      @ MJ Recanati:
      I guess that’s true of all sports fans for as long as star athletes have been paid so much. I can’t understand why people begrudge athletes their money. Sure, they’re getting paid to play a game, but they’re getting paid millions by billionaires. And I don’t know many people who would turn down a raise of double, triple, or more from their current salary to do the same job.

    14. Raf
      June 4th, 2010 | 3:28 pm

      long time listener wrote:

      Griffey was under contract and forced his way out.

      That should be qualified too. Griffey wanted to play closer to home, and signed a below market contract. That was his MO from the beginning. Rodriguez said all the right things about how he wanted to stay, then left. Given the actions of the organization with Randy Johnson and Griffey, if the M’s felt that Rodriguez was going to leave, it would be reasonable to expect that they would’ve traded him. Rodriguez appears to be a “jerk” because in the eyes of the fanbase he “betrayed” them. While I don’t necessarily agree with that line of thinking, I have to take into consideration that this is the general public we’re talking about here…

    15. MJ Recanati
      June 4th, 2010 | 3:54 pm

      Raf wrote:

      That should be qualified too. Griffey wanted to play closer to home,

      Not that I disagree but I always love needling the pro-Griffeyites by saying that Griffey lived in a suburb of Orlando, FL so “closer to home” would’ve been Tampa, Miami or Atlanta. Cincy’s not so close to Florida. :-p

    16. BOHAN
      June 4th, 2010 | 4:51 pm

      only reason people hate an athlete is because they’re jealous of the money and talent they have.

    17. BOHAN
      June 4th, 2010 | 4:52 pm

      and griffey is the best baseball plyer ive ever seen play the game in my 22 yrs.

    18. Raf
      June 4th, 2010 | 5:01 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      Cincy’s not so close to Florida. :-p

      Closer than Seattle ;)

    19. MJ Recanati
      June 4th, 2010 | 5:18 pm

      Raf wrote:

      Closer than Seattle

      So was Shea Stadium! LOL

    20. June 4th, 2010 | 9:45 pm

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      You too? Griffey’s grudge against the Yankees because of Billy Martin was ridiculous.

    21. Corey Italiano
      June 4th, 2010 | 10:20 pm

      BOHAN wrote:

      and griffey is the best baseball plyer ive ever seen play the game in my 22 yrs.

      Mark me down for 23. Nobody was better than vintage Junior on both sides of the ball.

    22. Corey Italiano
      June 4th, 2010 | 10:27 pm

      lisaswan wrote:

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      You too? Griffey’s grudge against the Yankees because of Billy Martin was ridiculous.

      I’d say you guys both have a ridiculous grudge against Jr.

      If you judge Griffey based on his baseball skill (as we should be doing anyway), there hasn’t been a better player in my lifetime at least.

      One of the smoothest left handed swings ever and his defense was just as smooth. He defined what a 5 tool player is.

      I actually have a set of baseball cards (from Topps I wanna say, but not 100% sure) that were all about Griffey and how he was going to break the all time home run record some day. I recall it having projections for him on the back of one of the cards for the rest of his career (card is pretty old). I’ll have to dig that up one of these days. It’ll be interesting to see how many they thought he’d end up with.

    23. Raf
      June 4th, 2010 | 11:16 pm

      lisaswan wrote:

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      You too? Griffey’s grudge against the Yankees because of Billy Martin was ridiculous.

      That was part of it, he wasn’t happy with the way the organization treated his father, and according to a couple of anecdotes, Sr wanted his children to have nothing to do with the organization.

    24. Jim TreshFan
      June 5th, 2010 | 12:39 am

      Wow! what a response to my first real post! Thank you all for the great comments. My point was that Griffey with his injuries will be viewed more sympathetically than Rodriguez with his acknowledged steroid use. We will tend to overlook Junior’s faults and flaws while castigating A-Rod for his shortcomings. That’s just the way it works.

    25. Evan3457
      June 5th, 2010 | 9:19 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      And, IMHO, if not for the Kingdome, we wouldn’t be all that impressed about his HR totals.

      Griffey, in his career, hit 298 home runs on the road. Double that, and add a small home park advantage, and you’ve still got 600 HR. That’s pretty damm impressive, if you ask me. Doubly so if it’s really true that he never took PED’s.

      In his back to back 56 home run seasons (1997-1998): 1997, 27 at home, 29 on the road; 1998, 30 at home, 26 on the road. That’s 55 home road in the “road” season, and mighty impressive to me.

    Leave a reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.