Yesterday, I published a critical reevaluation of Ken Griffey, Jr’s career at Outside Pitch. You can read that here.
When pressed to provide the case for Griffey, after they’ve finished scoffing and guffawing, nearly everyone I’ve seen online says the same thing in no particular order: 1) 630 home runs, 2) sweet swing, 3) defense, 4) sartorial choice in headwear during a home run exhibition, 5) baseball cards, particularly his 1989 Upper Deck rookie card and the 1992 horizontal stop-motion of said swing.
We’re not talking about Mays or Aaron. (Seriously, go look up how many hits Mays, and especially the Hammer, had!) This was a very good player who only peaked–and what a peak!–for maybe five of 22 years and then spent the back nine of his career injury-prone and a shadow of past greatness.
For most of his career, peak notwithstanding, he was above-average and excellent in CF. So was Jim Edmonds. So was Kenny Lofton. So was Bernie Williams. So was Tim Raines. So was Jeffrey Hammonds. He also played in three very friendly hitters parks, which would also play well to his defensive prowess. Still, outs are outs, assists are assists. Those defensive numbers amaze me. He was likely a better OF than Mays was, save for the arm.
And now that those who haven’t actively covered the game are being culled from the herd, we’re discovering that the electorate is star-struck by highlight reels and fancy-pants baseball cards to the point that the guy who just set a new election record was essentially Larry Doby, the extended edition. Doby’s in the Hall, but he’s never in the conversation for GOAT, nor should he be.
Perhaps those old battle axes knew a thing or two after all. I have even less faith in the HOF process than I did before. Even in something as trivial as baseball, style now matters more than substance.