HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

July 16, 2007

Oh, that sweet swing

By Jesse Menden

We live in an American League state, so consequently, we don’t get a lot of in-depth National League coverage.

The all-star game is always a good way to catch up on the Senior Circuit and a chance to watch some of their stars that we rarely see or have never heard of. This year, there was only one name I didn’t recognize, Cole Hamels of Philadelphia.

Of all the names I did know, there was one in particular that was good to see. Ken Griffey Jr. was back in the Midsummer Classic for his 13th career appearance.

It was so nice to see that sweet swing again. That stroke has to be one of the smoothest swings in the history of baseball.

Seeing his swing again reminded me of those days when he played for the Seattle Mariners and hit 40 home runs in seven of eight seasons starting in 1993.

That swing allowed him to become the seventh-youngest player to reach 1,000 hits when he hit a single off Minnesota Twin Frankie Rodriguez in 1995. He was a special player, and a likeable human being.

We haven’t seen much of Griffey since he moved to the NL in 2000. The reason we haven’t seen him is mostly because of the long laundry list of injuries he has sustained.

In 2006, Griffey missed 22 games at the end of the season with a dislocated toe, and 26 games at the beginning with a strained bicep tendon. In 2005, he missed the Reds’ last 26 games. In 2004, he missed opening day with a calf injury, and missed all but three games after the all-star break with a torn hamstring. The list continues with a slew of injuries in 2001-03.

Griffey hasn’t played more than 128 games in any season since 2000, when he played 145 as a first-year member of the Cincinnati Reds. And he has played less than 100 games in four of those seasons.

It is amazing to think that even though he has suffered major injuries over the past six seasons, he still has Hall of Fame numbers.

For his career, Griffey has a .291 batting average. He is approaching 2,500 hits and currently ranks 85th all-time. His 586 home runs are tied for sixth overall with Frank Robinson. His 1,667 career RBIs rank him 21st in the history of baseball.

With the season that Griffey has had so far, he is vaulting himself back into the major league spotlight. Before all of the injuries, Griffey was all over the television, on the side of lunch boxes, and was one of the most adored players in the league during the mid-’90s.

But when he moved to the Reds, a team with a lot less star power, combined with his injuries, he fell off the baseball map. Griffey is back, in a quiet sort-of-way if that is possible for a former star, and seems to be almost as strong as ever.

Griffey is having a great season. He is batting .286 with 23 home runs (which ranks second to Prince Fielder in the NL) and 59 RBIs. His 163 total bases ranks 14th overall in the NL.

The most impressive number on his 2007 stats is the number of his games. He has played in 82 of the Reds’ 88 games so far this season. It is too early to say that he has had a great season, because it is not over and he has been injured late in the season several times.

No matter what happens the rest of the season, it sure was nice to see him in the all-star games Tuesday night. And seeing that sweet, sweet swing brought back a lot of good memories.