Ahh, what might have been...
Ok WMHG readers, quick quiz. Raise your hand if you remember right around 1991 when Ken "the kid" Griffey Jr. was on the Mariners and also was the youngest, most exciting, most explosive player with the brightest future in all of baseball. Raise 'em up high so I can count. (By the way, those Mariners uniforms were ridiculous right before he came up to the bigs, right? With the trident for the 'M' on the hat. Did he ever wear those? I wonder.)
That's right, all of you did.
And you had good reason. From 1989-2000, the first 12 years of his career, (including the '94 strike shortened year and '95 and '96 when he suffered wrist injuries, the first of which was from that sweet catch where he crashed into the wall in center) he hit 438 homers. 438 HOME RUNS. FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY EIGHT H-O-M-E R-U-N-S. He was only 30 at the end of that run. 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in the AL. 11 straight All-Star games. An MVP. King Kong didn't have shit on him. (Points if you know what movie that's from)
However, in the next 7 seasons he hit only 155 dingers (which still ain't bad). But why'd he slow down so much?
Well a funny thing happened. A combination of things, really, I like to call real life.
You see, I'm not a doctor, I don't play one on TV, and I've never to my knowledge ever even been in a Holiday Inn Express, let alone stay in one last night. But I'm pretty sure when humans turn 30, especially humans that have subjected themselves to consistent and prolonged physical stress, they start to get hurt.
Here is Junior Griffey's injury history from 2001 on... brought to you by my friends at thebaseballcube.com. Actually, I've never met any of them. I don't even know if there is a 'them'. Maybe it's just one of those big WWII vacuum-tube based computers that take up entire rooms. Anyway, here it is:
Apr 30,2001 - 15 Day Disabled list - (Partial tear in left hamstring)
Apr 7,2002 - 15 Day Disabled list - (partially tore the patella tendon and partially dislocated his right kneecap)
Jun 25,2002 - 15 Day Disabled list - (strained right hamstring)
Apr 7,2003 - 15 Day Disabled list - (dislocated right shoulder)
Jul 11,2004 - 15 Day Disabled list - (partial tear of his right hamstring muscle)
Aug 12,2004 - 15 Day Disabled list - (complete tear of his right hamstring)
Apr 17,2006 - 15 Day Disabled list - (Injury unknown)*
(*=Injury unknown? Are you kidding me? What was he, in the CIA? Hey, that's what it said)
Hmmm, looks like it's hard for normal human beings, even those with exceptional physical gifts to play at their God or evolution given best (your preference) every day for their entire lives. Unless, of course, if you cheat.
Steroids would have been the answer to Griffey's problem. Thats what they do, they help you play at your absolute very best every day.* It's about recovery time.* According to Andy Pettitte, it's about healing from injuries faster. You know, like the injuries Griffey got giving his all 100% of the time, crashing into walls, playing every day, walking with his shoelaces untied, waking up in the morning and putting on a bathrobe, playing scrabble with his family, cooking chicken parmigiana, during "little kenny"time (you know, when he's alone) and any of the other 30,000 ways he got hurt.
(*= I have no idea what they actually do at all, that's just what I've heard/read and it sounds about right. I think I saw an interview with Hank Aaron saying that's what they do and if it came from Hammerin' Hank, thats good enough for me. I'd buy stock if the Hammer told me to.)
Now, I know I can't know for sure he never used, but to my knowledge he's never been seriously linked to steroids. Griffey wasn't in the Mitchell report. He's never been linked to steroids at all.
He did it on his own. McGwire didn't. Sosa didn't. Bonds didn't. Matt Williams even didn't. Hell, he looks like Homer Simpson and he was on steroids. But not Griffey, and he paid the price. The price of having a normal career. The career his body and modern training/medicine/science/zience allowed him to have. Just like everyone else that didn't use them. You know, those players from the 100 years of baseball played before the '80s.
Look, I know time goes on, things change, medical treatment improved, training improved. It's not 1929. We don't literally 'rub tobacco juice on it and get back out there' anymore. They did that, you know. The conversations went a little something like this:
"Skip, I broke my leg on that big hole in the field out there diving for the ball. I'm not sure if I can keep playing, even though I just finished playing the inning on 1 leg and had to tear my sleeve off to use as a tourniquet."
"Listen Stubby (random player I just made up), if you don't get out there right now and quit your belly-aching, I'll kick you off this team so fast you'll think I'm doing the Charleston (a very popular dance at the time) all over your ass! Now, rub some tobacco juice on it and get back out there, or I'm keeping the 40 cents your being paid today!! What are you, yella?"
See? I told you it it was rough back then. That shit doesn't happen anymore. These players are multi-million dollar investments and are taken out when they come to the stadium before the game and their socks don't match.
(Where was I...Ohh yeah, the game's changed and players are just naturally better.)
Times are different. The game is different. The players are different. But there's a reason no one broke Marris' record for a long, long, long time. IT WAS REALLY REALLY HARD TO DO. All of a sudden, 3 guys brake the record in like 10 minutes?!?!? WTF?! Half the balls they hit still haven't landed yet and they hit them 10 damn years ago. Thats right, the balls are still in flight. I know it sounds impossible but I watch a lot of shows on the Science Channel and believe me...string theory, dinosaurs, anything is possible. I think Bonds' 73rd hit Mir. Poor Russian bastards.
Anyway, the point is, the world would have been a better place if Griffey fulfilled his destiny and took his rightful place among the greats as the the right and true King of England, wait, I mean the guy who hit all the home runs. I know things didn't go well when he left Seattle and he's been surly in interviews, but he's the golden child with the million dollar smile. It would have been poetic. It would have been the way it's supposed to be. It would have been perfect. But he didn't cheat. He just played. Maybe if he did cheat, he would have done it despite the injuries. Although, now he'd be caught and exposed and that would really suck!
Injuries were what was in the cards for The Kid. So I guess by not changing his destiny, he fulfilled it after all.
Was that ending deep? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!! (NOT A REAL EMAIL ADDRESS....YET!)