This spring, the biggest surprise for me was the living legend Ken Griffey Jr. swallowing his pride and not making an issue of something that has been for the past few years. Reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer and long speculated, Ken Griffey Jr. confirmed that he will play Right Field in 2007, moving over from center to allow the speedy and dynamic Ryan Freel to take over the main slot in the Cincinnati Reds outfield.
Now I have to say, for all the crap the Ken Griffey Jr. gets for the injuries and everything else, he is truly a team player. This was a move that was best for the ball club and will actually go a ways in lengthening Jr.’s career longevity. His body has taken too much of a beating to continue playing center field every night, and he should honestly still compete as one of the better right fielders in the league. Jr. is a smart ballplayer, and he knows that the move to right field was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy and clear cut move.
When I was growing up, I watched Jr. play center field in the kingdome. He was my favorite player for the longest period of time. I have seen many great athletes and great outfielders in my time watching this game. I can say without a studder or without question that I have never seen an athlete or a baseball player for that matter play in the outfield like Ken Griffey Jr. did in center in his prime for the Mariners. I am telling you for those that don’t remember or didn’t have the luxury of seeing him play often in those years, he was Micheal Jordan in baseball cleats. Above he is pictured ironically making a catch that would start his rash of injuries. That was the catch he actually made where you could hear him fracturing his left hamate bone in his hand, but he made the catch.
All the great ones were center fielders by trade: Mays, Duke Snider, Dimaggio, Mantle, etc. In fact, it is well documented that when Mickey Mantle came up with the Yankees, he wasn’t allowed to play center field because Dimaggio wouldn’t give up the reigns to center field for him. There has long been ties to the position that carry the unwritten rule of ‘the best outfielder on the team’. By Griffey moving to right for Freel, he’s conceding that he knows he is no longer the most effective outfielder on the team, and while he’s still a very good outfielder, Freel is the better choice to play center.
I have admired Ken Griffey Jr. a lot over the years. He’s not the villan that many make him out to be. He is a puzzling and often misunderstood figure. From defferring large amounts of his salary for the Reds to have more spending money to throwing my fiance a baseball to be nice and talking to us while we were at games, Ken Griffey Jr. is a class act, and whether he wins a championship or not, or gets to 700 Homeruns, this is a move that I will not soon forget by ‘the Kid’.