In baseball, 2007 will go down as the year of the milestone. We had Barry breaking the all-time HR mark in San Francisco, Craig Biggio surpassing 3,000 hits in Houston, Tom Glavine eclipsing the 300-win mark for the Mets, Sammy Sosa hitting his 600th career home run for the Rangers and Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas with the 500th home runs of their respective careers.
As fans, are we burned out on milestones?
I ask because one of the most popular players since the beginning of integration is on the doorstep to 600 home runs and there’s barely a peep out of the mainstream media.
Ken Griffey Jr., sixth on the all-time home run list with 591, is on the verge of joining Sammy Sosa in the 600 club. Now, the questions surrounding Sammy after his dismal performance in front of Congress for the *teroids hearing helps explain why his feat went off without much fanfare. But Griffey? Those rumors don’t dog him like they do many power hitters from the 90s and 00s.
With the Reds 12 games under .500 and not even able to contend in the awful NL Central, Griffey is not in the middle of the baseball universe. But I am still surprised by the lack of notoriety received by the player the media helped anoint as the player of the 90s over Barry.
Perhaps the media is (rightfully) focused on crucifying Michael Vick at the present moment and once that story grows cold, they’ll move on to Griffey. I suppose it’s also possible that the stories are already written and editors across the nation are holding them until Junior moves within three to five homers of 600 to unleash them.
Also, 600 does not have the same round number appeal that 500 homers does. I read online recently a fan speculating that if we had six fingers on each hand that we would view 600 as the number with the most appeal. Shouldn’t Antonio Alfonseca (a pitcher with the Phillies who has six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot) write an article about that? But the fact that only five players have reached 600 career home runs to this point, compared to 22 players reaching 500 homers, should largely negate the fact that most humans have five fingers on each hand.
Still, the silence is just so strange.
At the age of 37, Griffey is enjoying his healthiest season this century. He has already hit 28 homers this year and is on pace for the most at-bats in a year since his last season in Seattle in 1999, when he amassed 606. His on-base percentage is a robust .390, thanks to 81 bases on balls. He has a chance to establish a career-best in walks, which currently sits at 96 in the 1993 season.
He’s years removed from the height of his popularity, but Griffey remains one of the best-loved players in the games. Sportswriters who may have distanced themselves from Griffey when he forced his way out of Seattle should flock to him now, as he is one of the few power hitters around to not have PED questions surrounding him.
If nothing else, this would be a good time for card speculators to start purchasing his Upper Deck rookie card again. PSA 9s are going now in the mid $30 range. These cards once fetched $100 and could soon again.