Griffey’s Retirement

A busy news day in baseball. As Ken Griffey Jr. announces his official retirement from baseball, a chapter is closed on baseball’s past. I hope that the blown call on Armando Galarraga‘s perfect game attempt helps stimulate the mandate for more instant replay in baseball. If so, today could be seen as the opening of a new chapter in baseball’s future.

I spent my formative childhood years in and around Seattle. For better or worse, Griffey is what comes to my mind first when I think about the Mariners. Edgar Martinez was the better hitter and the consummate professional. Randy Johnson was electric in his own way on the field, but as a starting pitcher didn’t impact every game and he never had the force of personality that Griffey had.

Both of them were loved and even revered, but Griffey is the only player who I have ever seen stop concession sales. When he came up to bat in the 90s, people in line for a hot dog or beer would stop and watch the TV monitors. The lines stood still until the at bat was over.

The lines no longer stood still this season, but thankfully 2010 will eventually fade from memory. So many will remain. Griffey with his father in the clubhouse. Griffey hitting the warehouse in Baltimore. Griffey scoring the run in 1995. Griffey getting carried off the field in 2009. There are countless more.

The rational and calculating part of me is glad that Griffey has moved on. He was hurting the team on the field and that was too bad. On one hand, it is sad that it ends this way. On the other, I can confidently say that we saw every last drop of Junior that he could give us. There will be no wondering about what could have been with just one more year and in the end, I surprise myself by being almost happy that it does end that way.

So long, Griffey. I hope you stay around in some form or another and I will never, ever, forget your swing.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


39 Responses to “Griffey’s Retirement”

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  1. Rob says:

    Is and will always be my favorite player..and it’s because of the last thing you mentioned..His Swing. It’s the reason I watched every Home Run Derby, All-Star Game, and collected all of his Baseball Cards. It’s a bitter sweet day for me. I’ll be there in Cooperstown July 2015.

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  2. RonDom says:

    Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gywnn, and Greg Maddux.

    My childhood in one sentence.

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  3. Gu03alum says:

    I will miss the Griffey from th nineties, the one from my childhood. I am glad I was able to watch him play many times growing up in Seattle. He broke my heart when he left, but I forgave him. I will forgive him again for staying a little too long.

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  4. Loved seeing him play alongside Sr. One of the all time greats. Glad I could say I saw him at his best.

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  5. Circlechange11 says:

    I’ll always remember him robbing home runs and doing the “stroll” as he hit his own homers.

    For quite a few years “The Kid” was the best thing about MLB. His performance and his demeanor.

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  6. Phantom Stranger says:

    The greatest natural hitting talent I ever saw in my lifetime. One wonders how many more homeruns he would have hit if willing to take steroids and work harder on his conditioning like so many others in his generation. That swing was amazing and preternaturally quick.

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  7. mowill says:

    I hope someone here at fangraphs has the courage to write about Griffey’s stats being deflated because a majority of the pitchers he faced were cheaters. By comparison to his contemporaries Junior doesn’t look as good because a majority of the other hitters were cheaters. Ken Griffey Jr. was a man of honesty, integrity and character set adrift in a cesspool of scum and villiany. His career WAR will forever be lowered because he chose to do it the right way. I hope someone on this site has the guts to admit it, I’m not optimistic though. That’s the kind of courage that Griffey showed and if the steroid era is indicative of our culture (it is) then that kind of courage is as rare as Griffey himself.

    Do the right thing Fangraphs, call out Arod, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa and Bonds for the frauds they are and admit that stats like historical WAR should not even be mentioned in the case of villians like them.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      “…majority of the pitchers he faced were cheaters.” Where would I find such supporting data?

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  8. victor frankenstein says:

    So if the pitchers Bonds faced were ALSO cheaters then parity reigned.
    Kiss my asterisk.

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    • mowill says:

      Except for the few men of character who didn’t cheat like Griffey. So kiss mine.

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      • Patrick says:

        You do NOT know he didn’t cheat. You have no idea.

        You assume he didn’t because you love him. That’s NOT the same thing.

        You don’t know who or how many of the pitchers cheated – Though we do know nowadays that far more pitchers are being caught STILL trying to use PEDs (check out the minor league suspensions), suggesting they were probably doing it more in the 90s as well.

        Don’t deify the Kid and spit on everyone else.

        Griffey was a great player, definitely one of the top 10, possibly top 5 Center Fielders of all time. (Though remember how tough that list is to crack – You have to be better than at least one of Cobb, Mays, Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, and Tris Speaker. And the casual fan will say of course, but Griffey wasn’t the player Cobb or Mays was. His career peak was too short and his decline too fast for that.)

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I think folks are looking at his numerouds injuries and signficant “wearing down” as pretty good evidence that he was not using PEDs (whose #1 benefit is aiding recovery).

        Meanwhile McGwire stayed healthy and had the 3 greatest power years of his career, as did Sosa, and Barry Bonds hit his “peak” at age 36 (and Palmeiro did not wear down as he aged).

        I think it’s going overboard to grandstand that Junior is the only clean guy in the room and all that, wheras the better action would be to just operate under the assumption he was clean without all the chest-thumping and magephone praise.

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  9. bSpittle says:

    That was a baseball love letter.

    I remember even when Griffey started hitting 40 home runs a year, he was quoted as saying “I’m not a home run hitter”.

    Best home run hitter since mays (non-ped division).

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    • Patrick says:

      Hank Aaron called. He just shared one number, but it’s a big one – 755.

      Griffey was a great player, but the greatest home run hitter – non PED division – since Mays would probably have to be Hank, wouldn’t it?

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  10. Resolution says:

    That Griffey link in the article takes us to Griffey senior.

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  11. Shannon says:

    The notion that we *know* that Griffey didn’t use steroids is pretty ridiculous and part of the problem of why steroids in baseball get so much more press than in other sports. We have a very very small amount of knowledge as to whether Griffey used steroids or not (that is, the fact that he hasn’t already been outed for them), and taking that small amount of knowledge and declaring that he for sure hasn’t used steroids is just stupid. If you’re a power hitter of the last 20 years, you’re under suspicion, regardless of whether you’re one of the most beloved players ever or not. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it is the era that we live in, and denying it will only perpetuate this ridiculous constant surprise at every player that is discovered to have used steroids.

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    • Mike S says:

      Right on. And it shouldn’t be just power hitters under suspicion. FP Santangelo anyone?

      Regardless, as has been said a couple of times in this thread, the only players we KNOW took steroids are the names that have been leaked or those who have admitted it on their own volition. As much as I doubt Griffey took steroids, for anyone to definitively announce that he’s clean is, to put it bluntly, a moron.

      Regardless, great athlete, great career, great man. Remember when he went to Cincinnati and had a couple of “disappointing” 40 hr seasons? When you’re letting people down after hitting 40, your standards must be pretty high. All the best in retirement Junior. See you in Cooperstown.

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  12. thomas says:

    Unfortunately, for all the “who says he didn’t” posters, there is more evidence that Griffey did NOT take steriods than there is that he did. It’s fairly clear that no baseball player is untouchable in regards to steriod use, and no investigation, report, or player has indicated Griffey had anything to do with the stuff. Until you have sufficient evidence that Griffey took steriods, posting that he might of because other players did in the same era is frivolous. Let’s assume there was one great player of our generation that didn’t cheat until there is evidence to support the contrary.

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    • Rich says:

      “there is more evidence that Griffey did NOT take steriods than there is that he did. ”

      What evidence is that? Could you please post references to evidence that Griffey did not take steroids?

      The only evidence either way is that he was a power hitter who played at a time where almost every player in the game was on steroids. I’m not dumb enough to assume that he was clean. Maybe he was, but assuming that is just plain naive.

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      • thomas says:

        Extraordinary claims require that you provide evidence. I say that there’s no evidence that Griffey took steroids. Without evidence to the contrary, it’s more probable at this point that he was clean. You say he took steroids because “he was a power hitter who played at a time where almost every player in the game was on steroids.” So, he’s guilty by association? Was every German from 1933-1945 a Nazi? (Pardon the hyperbole).

        It might be naive of me to assume he didn’t use steroids in the steroid era, but it’s completely unreasonable for you to assume he did without sufficient evidence.

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      • Rich says:

        “Extraordinary claims require that you provide evidence.”

        I agree. I think that claiming a specific player didn’t take steroids, when 80% of players were taking them, is an extraordinary claim.

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      • Rich says:

        “Without evidence to the contrary, it’s more probable at this point that he was clean. ”

        I don’t think probable means what you think it does.

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      • thomas says:

        As if your first two posts were already egregious affronts to reason, your last two really don’t warrant rebuttal. But here we go.

        80% of the baseball players were taking steroids? WHAT? Provide evidence for this claim.

        Google tells me that the definition of probable is “likely but not certain to be or become true or real.” While it’s clear you only deal with unsubstantiated absolutes, I stick with the uncertainty principle here and leave the door open to the possibility that Griffey was in fact juicing. You seem quite convinced on the matter, so there clearly isn’t any point arguing with you.

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      • Patrick says:

        Thomas,

        I am not trying to tell anyone that Griffey took steroids, but we do NOT have a lot of reason to believe he didn’t. We have a few, and no specific reasons to believe he did.

        For what it’s worth, I think he didn’t – But I am upset by people putting him on a pedestal and saying how much better he must’ve been than everyone else.

        Many players took steroids, many didn’t. We don’t know for sure who didn’t, so it seems a pretty thin support to lean for deifying Griffey.. Who was a GREAT, GREAT player, but wasn’t good as Bonds (Pre-PED. Check out Beyond the Box Score today, they have a good article on that – Bonds was better all the way through his “thin” years, before he bulked up, hit bushels of homers and it’s generally thought he took roids, then WAY better after he started taking roids)…

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      • Rich says:

        ““likely but not certain to be or become true or real.””

        And I don’t think its “likely but not certain to be or become true or real” that Griffey didn’t take steroids. There’s no reason to think that he didn’t, other than his reputation as a nice guy, just as there’s no reason to think he did, other than the fact that they had been a part of the game for 40 years at that point, and the game had built a culture of players pushing the competitive limits (greenies, illegal spitballs, cutting the threads off of balls, etc).

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  13. DavidB says:

    “Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gywnn, and Greg Maddux.

    My childhood in one sentence.”

    Your childhood needs a verb.

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  14. dickey simpkins says:

    Fitting my two favorite players of all-time (Griffey and Frank) decide to hang it up in the same year.

    Just like every Frank Thomas at-bat was a work of art, anytime Griffey moved I expected brilliance and before his body failed I was rarely disappointed.

    Also, Griffey’s name belongs to the greatest baseball game ever produced.

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    • Mike S says:

      I hope you’re talking about the SNES version and not the abomination on N64. I can still hear the music to that game in my head…

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  15. Phantom Stranger says:

    There is absolutely no indication Griffey used anabolic agents. If anything, the public evidence points the other way. Yes, a majority of pitchers were also using steroids. What is not mentioned with that fact is the clear evidence that steriods do not increase pitching performance nearly as much as hitting performance. Anyone that has been around anabolic agents and baseball would tell you that common knowledge. Steroids for pitching are largely for endurance reasons.

    I feel quite safe in making the assertion that Griffey played the game to his natural, unenhanced ability. His workout laziness is legendary. Bonds is probably the closest comparison in natural talent, but Bonds had an intense work ethic and desire to be the best in the game. It all came too easy for Griffey.

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  16. Steve says:

    The biggest travesty of the steroids era is that we can’t have a discussion about one of the greatest players many of us have ever seen without debating how he arrived at the numbers on the back of his baseball card.

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  17. Colm says:

    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

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  18. mowill says:

    Read “Game of Shadows”.

    The devil came to tempt Griffey after the ’98 season and he passed the test. The fact that Griffey is already not getting the credit he is due is proof that this is not about deifying him at all. It is about coming to accept the players who did cheat.

    Alex Rodriguez
    Roger Clemens
    Barry Bonds
    Mark McGwire
    Sammy Sosa
    Rafael Palmiero
    Gary Sheffield
    Manny Ramirez
    David Ortiz

    Cheaters every one. And that is just a start.

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