One of my favorite athletes of all-time just retired. I've watched Ken Griffey Jr. play baseball since I was a small boy, so you can only imagine that when I heard the news last week, I was utterly in shock. It still hasn't hit me that "The Kid" just abruptly ended his 22-year career in the middle of a season. But that's Junior for you. He never was one to beg for the spotlight. He never took the big money in New York or Boston, but instead signed a long contract with the Cincinnati Reds, where he thought he would end his career.
Junior was one of a kind. When he came into the league in 1989, he took the world by storm. No one had seen the likes of him since the great Willie Mays, and he did not disappoint. Griffey was one of the few players who wasn't wrapped up in the Steroid Era in baseball during the 1990's, and I think that may have kept him from breaking a lot of records. I looked at his career games log and calculated that he missed over 600 games due to injury. That's over 3 seasons of baseball we didn't get to see from him.
His career numbers are as follows:
630 HR's (4th all-time. I do not count Bonds' 762)
Think about what he could do if he had played 3 more HEALTHY seasons at that pace. He easily gets 3,000 hits. He shatters Hank Aaron's home run record, and would finish with well over 2,000 RBI.
People don't give Ken Griffey Jr. the credit he truly deserves when looking at his career. He was one of the hardest workers on and off the field, which is most of the reason he was injured. He broke his ankle flying into a wall. He made diving catch, after diving catch on the Astroturf in Seattle for all those years. The man was the true definition of a "5 Tool Player".
It is my humble opinion that Ken Griffey Jr. was the greatest baseball player to ever step on the field, and sadly we didn't get to see all of what he was capable. No one will ever be able to change my mind of that.