End of the Line? Let’s Hope so … ‘C’mon, Junior, Give Us a Break

March 6, 2010
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Brad Eastland

Brad Eastland

by Brad Eastland, the Sports Philosopher….


      Do you remember how good Ken Griffey was?

      The reason I ask, is that if you don’t you’re probably not even aware he’s still playing professional baseball, and if you do, well, you are probably and quite painfully aware that he is.   And you’re hoping nobody will notice.

      Well I’m sorry, all you pathetic Griffeyites out there, I can’t help you.   As a duly deputized member of the Order of the 4th Estate of the Jockstrap (that’s code for sportswriter), I have an obligation to see to it that you all come out of the closet.  

      Yes you, all you tight-lipped Junioraholics, it’s time for you rugged, crusty baseball lovers to confess your lifelong man-love for Ken, and at the same time it’s time for you to help me get him out of the game.   That’s right.   Just say no. 

  •       Because any coldly objective analysis of the historical record of the 2009 baseball season proves beyond a doubt that Ken Griffey (so lovingly referred to all these years by everybody except me as “junior”, because his dad is also Ken Griffey) is the most coddled and protected superstar athlete of all time….

    griffey3  Don’t get me wrong.   I like Ken Griffey just fine.   I don’t worship him the way some of you do, but I do like him.   Seems like a decent guy.   I mean he doesn’t shoot himself like Plaxico Burress or kill dogs like Mike Vick or diminish the magic and majesty of baseball on a daily basis like Pete Rose.   And with 625 home runs and 10 gold gloves for fielding excellence he is, beyond dispute, one of the greatest players to ever play this great game.

      And that’s the point.

      He has to retire.   Now.

      He has to retire before he embarrasses the game.   He’s already succeeded in embarrassing himself.   Too late to do anything about that.   But the church of baseball is more important than any one of its congregation.

      But here’s the problem.   You Griffeyites, in your blind, unquestioning love, are making things too difficult for him to quit!

      Let me ask you mute meek Griffmaniacs who love the fact that Griffey still has a job and Barry Bonds does not one simple question:  Do you know what Griffey is hitting right now?   I’ll tell you.   He’s hitting .218 as of Sunday, September 6th.   That’s right, I said two one eight.   Not two seven eight or two six eight or even two five eight, or even two freaking thirty eight.   The guy is hitting two-eighteen!   And he’s not just a part-time, once-in-awhile player either.   No once-a-week pinch hitter is he, no sir.   This record of woe has been compiled over a nearly full season of at-bats, a mere 71 hits in 325 official plate appearances, I say again, two one eight.   And he’s making two million dollars a year, plus incentives.   Now that Bush is out of office, perhaps no person in the United States gets paid so much to do a job so poorly.   It’s the baseball equivalent of grand larceny.

      How is it that he is able to get away with this kind of conspiracy-level deception, you ask?   Once again, I have to say it’s entirely your fault.

      It goes back to the 90s, when Griffey and Bonds were head-and-shoulders better than anyone else.   That’s when you all fell in love with Griffey because he was the anti-Bonds.   Griffey laughed and always smiled perfect teeth.   Bonds grumbled and always frowned.   Griffey treated autograph seekers like members of his own family.   Bonds treated autograph seekers like they had small pox.   Griffey treated the press with respect, as his allies.   Bonds treated the press like he was Hitler and all reporters were either Russian spies or Jewish sympathizers.   And Griffey’s body never changed, so we assume—America being first and foremost essentially a nation of gullible romantics—he never used Steroids.   Bonds’ body morphed and expanded like in a 50s science fiction movie, and naturally we all assume he eats Steroids for breakfast.   So you all fell in love with Saint Griff.   Most of you assumed he was better than Bonds.   Was he?   Of course not.   Better numbers?   Of course not.   Better overall resume?   Of course not.   A proven winner who led him teams to more playoff appearances and World Serieses than Bonds did?   Of course not.   But he was pure.   Worthy of your love.

      I’ll prove it.   I was on the phone with Pete Bennett the other day, who publishes this fine paper.   I decided to conduct an experiment with him.   I asked him what popped into his head when he heard Ken Griffey’s name, and he replied, instantly, “Best player of the nineties.”   It was at that moment—right after excoriating friend Peter on his general ignorance and blind man-love for Ken—that I decided to do this column as a public service.

      The other thing about Griffey that gets my goat is that he doesn’t even make his teams better.   He never has.   Isn’t that what great players are supposed to do?   And isn’t that how great players usually justify hanging on for a year or two too long at the end of their careers?   To help some borderline, nearly-great team get over the hump and into the World Series?   Griffey never made the Mariners much better, they never won anything, then he never made the Reds better, they got worse after he got there, then he went to the White Sox and didn’t do anything for them, back to the Reds where they got worse and of course never won anything and now he’s back on the Mariners and they stink, in part, because Ken Griffey is hitting….what was it again.…oh yeah, two-eighteen.

      But because everyone loves him and he is seen as the heir apparent to Aaron, Mays, and Mantle as the best player of the succeeding era, and the one true beacon of Light and Hope and Goodness in the otherwise polluted Steroids Era, no one wants him to retire even though he’s a complete embarrassment hitting two-eighteen.

      I’ll prove that too.   During that aforementioned phone conversation with friend Bennett, he yelled to his son in the other room, “Ryan, the Sports Philosopher is getting ready to do a column bashing Griffey and saying he should retire right away!”, as if merely by suggesting such a thing I had insulted the Pope or advocated free pornography for twelve-year-olds or something.   Now then, Ryan Bennett is a great kid.  I love the guy.   I’ve always treated him like the nephew I never had.   And he’s a very bright kid too, ‘went to college and everything.   But do you know what he said to his father in reply?   He said, “I say give him another year….”   True story.   There’s simply a general feeling in the air that most folks don’t want him to leave baseball.   His mere presence makes people feel good.   Another year?   Another year???   Good grief.

      Once again, I say, two one eight.

      You know what else is weird?   We live in the Media Age.   Everything gets reported, analyzed, scrutinized, dissected, and beat to death.   You can’t get away with anything nowadays, people.   Just ask Wilbur Mills, Richard Nixon, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, and John Edwards.   FDR (poor health, dead legs) and JFK (massive womanizing, Secret Service agents sneaking endless willing women into the White House etc.) could never have become President now.   Yet when it comes to Ken Griffey, you never hear a peep about how bad he is.   The baseball press keeps quiet about how lousy Griffey is the way the press used to keep quiet about JFK’s women.   Let me put it another way: During the entire 2009 baseball season, I HAVE NOT READ ONE SINGLE WORD FROM A SINGLE SPORTS WRITER URGING KEN GRIFFEY JUNIOR TO RETIRE.   Not one.

      That streak ends today.   Step aside, Ken.   You owe it to baseball.   There must be someone who reads LaVerne Online who knows somebody who knows you, please announce your retirement today.   That gives you three weeks to travel around the country in a hastily-arranged farewell tour before the season ends.   You’re having the worst last season (hopefully) any all-time great player has ever had, and we’ve had some bad ones.   Hank Aaron was almost too fat to fit into his uniform in his last season, and he was two years older than you are now, but he still managed to hit .229.   Mickey Mantle was virtually a cripple in his last season.   Thanks to injuries, a degenerative bone disease, womanizing, and alcoholism the Mick could literally barely run to first base, but he still managed to hit .237.   You, my friend, are hitting .218.   That’s two….one….eight.

      I’ll make you a deal, Ken.   I don’t think I could stomach you doing the Brett Favre should-I-or-should-I-not-retire lap dance for the next six months.   Announce your retirement before this season ends and I’ll write a wonderful, glowing column about all your accomplishments.   I’ll sing your praises to the skies.   So will a bunch of other sports columnists.   Somebody will probably sculpt a bust of you, ‘stick it in a museum someplace.   Not sure if there is a museum honoring washed-up ballplayers who finally come to their senses, but—–

      Oh wait, I just remembered….they do have a museum like that!

      It’s called the Baseball Hall of Fame.  


The Sports Philosopher

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, baseball savant, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered within the links below :


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