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Congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr., who hit his 600th career HR tonight. In the Top of the 1st, Griffey knocked a 2-run shot over the right field fence in on a 3-1 offering from Marlins pitcher Mark Hendrickson.
Junior, along side Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), and Sammy Sosa (609), becomes the sixth player to join the heralded 600 Home Run Club and he deserves it as much as any player in baseball.
Junior approached the game the right way and might be one of the most naturally talented players to ever play the game.
He started playing major league baseball at the age of 19, when he appeared in 127 games, something that would be unheard of for a 19-year old today.
On the defensive side of the ball, Junior won an unimaginable 10 consecutive Gold Gloves for every year in the 1990s. He flashed some excellent leather and managed to match it with his bat.
A career .289 hitter, Griffey hit over .300 from 1990-1997 (except for 1995, a year in which he only played in 72 games). Ninety-five was also the only year from 1993-2000 that he didn't launch at least 40-HRs. He had back-to-back 56 HR years in 1997 and 1998, but his monster season in 1998 was overshadowed by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing and breaking Roger Maris' record. McGwire and Sosa are long gone and tainted by controversy, but in much the same way as Hank Aaron did, Junior keeps hammering away.
Griffey proved his talent with all the gaudy stats, but proved himself as more than just a talent by how he got those stats.
He started his career quickly and developed his power at a relatively young age. His numbers follow those of a natural maturation. He hit well throughout his twenties, but after hitting 40 HRs in 2000, Griffey never managed to scale that plateau again.
Junior fought through injuries that limited him to only 206 games in three seasons from 2002-2004. He didn't use HGH to rush himself back as other players have admitted to doing. He overcame his injuries naturally and it paid dividends in 2005 when he hit .301 while jacking 35 HRs.
If healthy, imagine how many HRs he would have hit!?
From 2001-2004, Griffey only hit 63 HRs total.
Figure that in only half a season in 2004, he hit 20 HRs in 83 games, a pace that would have finished right between the 35 he hit when finally healthy in 2005 and the 40 he hit in his previously fully healthy season in 2000.
If Griffey stayed healthy and hit 40 HRs each year from 2001-2004, he would have had 160; tonight he would have stroked No. 697 tonight and the Watch for 700 would be fully on.
Six-hundred. Seven-hundred. Eight-hundred. They're all just numbers.
The thing I'll always remember Junior for isn't for the six-hundred some-odd runs he'll finish with, nor his 10 Gold Gloves, nor his 13 (to date) All Star selections, the thing I'll remember this Hall of Famer for is his sportsmanship.
Despite the injuries, I never heard Griffey say a bad word about anything. He was a true competitor and has conducted himself with true class throughout his 20-year career.
He didn't get abnormally buff nor go bald nor develop a quick temper and produce an unexpected home run total. He's never failed a drug test. He's never been asked to appear in Congress. He's never been caught with a cork bat. He doesn't pop up on the police blotter.
Ken Griffey Jr. truly is the class of the Major Leagues. He should be a role model for any aspiring young players.
Congratulations on such a successful career Junior. No one deserves to reach this milestone more than you!
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