I remember the day he arrived in Cincinnati. I was just a high school sophmore, and things were going to be different for me; and everyone else that ever followed the Cincinnati Reds, from that day forward. He arrived at Lunken Airport via a Jet, and there would be Championships and an unlimited, bountiful sea of milestones and records to follow. All in Cincinnati in front of my very eyes. I went to see him that summer of 2000, two times to be exact. I didn’t yet have my drivers liscense but had a friend who did and he’d take me to see him twice. That summer I’d hang onto every Reds game like it was life or death. Granny and I would stay up late and watch the Reds lose heartbreakers, and she’d tell me that Griffey was too much of a hot dog for her liking; God bless her sweet soul.
The Reds would finish a competitive 2nd in the division that year, and from that year forward the story would play out like a Shakespearean tragedy. There would be sad drama and excitement, at times occurring during the same moments. But Ken Griffey Jr. would never reach the expectations or deliver what he was supposed to, and it was clear long before now. It became clearer and clearer with every limped at-bat and every season he finished on the DL.
Today, it all comes to an end. In this end, Ken Griffey Jr. is ultimately sold off for peanuts. There’s the me who is one half jumping for joy and thinking that this is the dawn of a new era and signaling the end of the old ‘lax’ clubhouse of Cincinnati baseball. My team couldn’t take that step forward without doing that. Now Jay Bruce can be a warrior without having to worry about Griffey laughing at him for busting his butt. Adam Dunn is truly the last of the Mohicans. Then there’s a part of me that just feels weird for now knowing that Ken Griffey Jr.–best player of my era, my lifetime, the guy who I spent many summers night as a boy waiting up late to hear the west coast scores because of–well, Ken Griffey Jr. was traded and will finish out his career like Willie Mays did before him. He’ll be wearing #17 when he does it.
I’m not really sure why the Chicago White Sox wanted Griffey. He doesn’t fit in all that great. He’ll look kind of weird in the uniform. I heard that he’s demanding to play centerfield. But I do know why the Reds traded him. They did it as much for Junior as they did for their fans and their own clubhouse. All three parts would probably be in equal agreeance it needed to happen a while ago. Griffey is sent to a contender with a lineup around him that could revive his career–in the AL where he can DH if needed. He gets the shot to play in a World Series, something that wasn’t going to happen in Cincy this season. The Reds move on and grow and can install Jay Bruce in right field for the next 15 years, and finally the 3-hole is opened up to someone other than Griffey, who was clogging the heart of the lineup.
And what’s left? Oh yes, the fans. The fans of the Reds who are left cheering for a team that never won that World Series with Junior (the #30 version or the #3) being the face of the franchise. We’ll never know why things played out so tradgically here for Griffey. It’s too much to try and define or answer or sum up. It just wasn’t meant to be. If you enjoyed the milestone home run chases, and I have to admit they felt weird to me; then you got some fulfillment. Griffey was good to my fiance and me. He personally recognized me at the ballpark on many occasions. I grew up with him as a Red. I think back to how my life has changed since he has became a Red. He’s been a Red as long as George W. Bush has been in office. Bottom line is you should wish Griffey the best, know that he’s misunderstood at times, know that he was once the very best in the game, and know that it’s a sad ending for some because of what it could have been. I have to admit when I received that Sports Illustrated cover in the mail, I never would have bet it would have ended up this way.