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Baseball’s Controversy on Hold as Junior Returns Home

 

Can’t believe I spent the last week with my eyes and ears glued to the Ken Griffey Jr. decision saga. Almost went insane last weekend. Then I realized the whole story is healthier than the Virgin Mary on Metabo-life. No needles, pills, cream, oversized heads or tainted numbers in this one. Ken Griffey Jr. has decided he will return to Seattle to end his career with the team with which he spent his first 11 seasons playing, quieting the Atlanta Braves’ hot pursuit of him. He’s slowed the bleeding in Major League Baseball as the steroid circus takes a back seat; and Seattle welcomes him with open arms and a one year, $2 million deal.

He’s a generation’s final gasp before it sinks into the sea of hopefully remembered. It’s like Michael Jordan’s return to the Bulls out of retirement, Wayne Gretzky hanging on to New York one final season, or Led Zeppelin’s reunion tour. It’s one more flash of baseball’s innocence when professional players were genuine heroes. Remember those days? Get this: Griffey has never even played in a World Series. So what’s the big whoop about his return to the Mariners? Are we forgetting he’s been playing for two other teams (Reds and White Sox) for the past 9 years? Truth is, baseball fans need this dose of the past. We need the sense of magic that we felt back in the ‘90s when Griffey last donned Mariner digs. He’s one of the final players who I believe has been honest his entire career. No performance enhancing disgraces on his resume that I suspect, and the guy’s returning to a team whose chances of winning a World Series are worse than Satan’s shot at one day handing out popsicles. That screams loyalty and strength of character in a man who will always be the face of Seattle from now on.

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Griffey’s a family man, and the Atlanta Braves’ offer to him included a Spring Training site that would be near his wife and kids in Florida. All arrows pointed to Atlanta, and Mariners fans were all but left to only imagine what it would be like to see Griffey end his career as a Mariner—as a hometown hero. But a true ballplayer’s heart never lies, and when it bleeds sea-green and silver, following it is such an easy task. He’s re-emerged to receive his due credit and tribute.

Think of the stories he’ll tell his kids as they join him in this, his final year as a Mariner—and very possibly his final year as a professional ballplayer. He’ll tell them about those years he won batting titles, MVPs, Gold Gloves, and All-Star Game appearances. They’ll get to experience firsthand the eruption at Safeco Field as their father; Ken Griffey Jr. is announced at every home-game during the 2009 season. They’ll see the effect their dad has had on the game of baseball his entire career. In the end, they’ll see the sun set on the final piece of a generation that helped make baseball the greatest game ever invented.

If a World Series appearance isn’t in the final chapter for Ken Griffey Jr. as he ends his career as a Mariner, he’ll have created an even higher honor. He’ll have shown kids and fans all over the world that, even in the midst of peer pressure and controversy, the measure of a true athlete resides in his/her heart. He ultimately proved that by choosing to return to Seattle. He’s a family man, and his family came first. Good Luck in ’09, Junior.

 

By Tim Gaffney
New York Yankees Correspondent


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