Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint what happened to some of sports' greats. As Josh and I were watching Little Big League yesterday, which by the way is one of the dumbest movies of all time, a chilling reality came crashing down on me. Whatever happened to Ken Griffey, Jr?
Griffey was once the biggest name in baseball. He was the poster boy for the 5-tool player. Pitchers feared him. Women wanted to be with him, men wanted to be him (who knows, but it sounds good). If he wasn't hitting homeruns, he would just hit gaps and steal bases. He was a machine. And much like Mischa Barton's career, POOF, it was gone.
Now it's easy to say that we don't talk about Griffey anymore because of his injuries. His legs have caused us to push him out of the national spotlight. But hell, even in Ohio, no one talks about him and he's healthy now. The list of Ohio sports figures that are dicussed more than him is growing by the day. LeBron James, Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Jim Tressel, Thad Matta, Brady Quinn, Grady Sizemore, Eric Wedge's mustache from a few summers ago, and Travis Hafner all get more run in the press than Kenneth. How did this happen? Was it all the brain tonic that Mr. Burns made him drink while he worked at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant? Maybe. Was it the fact that he sold out Seattle to return home only to see his skills diminish rapidly? Could be. Is it that Cincinnati is a terrible market and the Reds are one of the worst franchises in baseball? More than likely.
I honestly don't have an answer. The guy is approaching 600 bombs so that should get him in the national spotlight again. Griffey is arguably one of the 5 best talents to ever play baseball and that is not up for debate. In the 90's, if the Mariners were coming to your nearest ballpark, it was a spectacle. But once he moved on to the 'Nasty and his legs gave out on him, no one cared anymore. And that's sad. And I'm guilty of that, too. I have lived no more than 4 hours away from Cincy while Griffey has been here and I've never even remotely thought about going to see him play.
I watched his first at-bat in Seattle on Friday night. I saw the standing ovation the Mariner faithful gave him, it was chilling. I saw him wrap a single by Jeff "worst player ever" Conine and the crowd still cheered. It was truly a sight. It was special. It made me feel like Griffey could still be a spectacle like he once was. That him coming to your town could be an "event" again.
Talent like his doesn't come around everyday. He is easily the most talented OF to play the game since Willie Mays. As he approaches a milestone in his career, maybe it's time to start hyping him up again even though he's on a shitty team. Griffey's having a phenomenal season, too, by the way, but no one outside of southwest Ohio knows that.
And much like he stole a game-winning, walk-off home run from Twins 1B Lou Collins (played magnificently by Timothy Busfield) at the end of Little Big League, maybe it's time we allowed Griffey to steal our attention again. Ken Griffey, Jr. is a legend in this sport...let's give him back the respect that he earned and the coverage that he deserves. Because unlike Mischa Barton, you will care when he's gone.