By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Of all the players to reach 600 home runs, none makes the baseball fan feel more cheated than Junior Griffey, who blasted his landmark shot Monday night in Florida for the Cincinnati Reds. Even the site is sad to consider, since he hit it before about 12 people in Miami.
We might feel cheated by Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa reaching 600, since we believe they cheated. But it’s easy enough to blow off that kind of cheat.
Griffey didn’t cheat anyone. Instead, he was cheated, as were baseball fans, because he was the one pure, great player among the contemporary greats, and injuries kept him from beating the cheats. Griffey lost about 360 games to injuries in the last eight years, costing him about 100 homers and 400 hits. In juries have reduced Griffey from one of the 20th century’s greatest players to a sometimes all-star in the 21st century.
The Griffey saga still is years from conclusion and we have no idea how it will turn out. He still has milestones to go before he sleeps. Griffey is about 400 hits away from 3,000, about 1,000 total bases from becoming one of only four players to finish his career with 6,000, and another 280 RBI make have him one of four players with 2,000. And another 100 home runs, of course, makes him one of only four players with 700.
If Griffey plays to 42, like Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, all those marks are within sight. That means four more seasons after this one. From this day through the end of the 2012 season, Griffey would have to average 86 hits, 22 homers, 59 RBI and 223 total bases per full season.
That’s basically his 2004 season, when he played 83 games, batting 300 times with 76 hits, 20 homers, 60 RBI and 154 total bases. Griffey’s place in history is secure. With 1,500 more at-bats – four-plus years like his dreadful 2004 – it will be enhanced.
When it’s all over, Griffey will go into the same company with Mays, Aaron, Bonds and Babe Ruth – the very highest echelon of the baseball greats. But Griffey is the only one of those players who will make us feel like there could have been more.