Baseball fans collectively sighed in a mixture of relief and resignation today as it was announced that Ken Griffey, Jr. had retired. His statements, which can be read here, were all class and he stated that as a part-time player, he didn't want to be a distraction to his teammates.
The decision was good for us who loved this player. It was tough to see him play sporadically and ineffectively. It was painful to read those who called for Seattle to release him, though those calls were certainly justified. He had become a distraction and the focal point for the team's inability to hit this season. His presence created debate for all the wrong reasons.
At the same time, it was a sad day. Many of us have watched him play for all of his 22 years. His smile and his enjoyment playing the game were infectious and made us as fans enjoy his heroics and his strikeouts. The advent of ESPN led to highlight reel after highlight reel of his circus catches in centerfield. We all knew his classic swing. There wasn't another one like it. It was a beautiful thing, that swing. And we reveled in that swing many times on SportsCenter.
He finished with 630 homers and over 1800 RBIs. Many will point to Griffey and say he was the pure player in the midst of the PED era. But you can't make that claim. Nobody knows. If that's how he is remembered, that's a shame. He should remembered for his grace, his pizazz and for a natural talent that doesn't come along every day. He should be remembered for a guy who was one of the best players of his generation. And he should be remembered for making us smile back at him.
Yes, there is relief and resignation for this writer today. Griffey is gone and we won't have to worry about what was happening with him out there in Seattle. That's a relief. But this Fan will miss the player. The Fan will miss him a lot.