The Reds acquired Griffey in a massive deal prior to the 2000 season, sending Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Antonio Perez, and Jake Meyer to Seattle in exchange for The Kid. Griffey promptly signed to a long-term extension that was considered well below market value, with much of the money deferred to subsequent years, all but guaranteeing him the opportunity to play centerfield for his home town team for the rest of his career. The first year was a smashing success--Griffey slugged 40 home runs and drive in 118 in 2000--but in 2001 was hobbled by the first in a long series of leg injuries that have marked his time with the Reds.
Griffey never was legitimately healthy again until the start of last season. Nevertheless, he proved that his bat is still a potent weapon. Despite a miserable April and missing the most of September with a minor injury, Griffey hit 0.301/0.369/0.576 and slugged 35 homers in 491 at-bats, leading the best offense in the league. This year, the Reds are praying he can stay healthy and continue his offensive excellence as they try to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
Historical Stats (for explanations of the statistics used here, please see the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet):
The story since his arrival in Cincinnati, unfortunately, has been one of disappointment thanks to a series of leg injuries that prevented him from appearing in even half of the Reds' games from 2001-2004. Last year, 2005, was the first time he had managed to remain "healthy" for most of the season since 2000. And 2005 was a great year. After an April in which he struggled terribly (0.244/0.315/0.366), Griffey caught fire and steadily improved throughout the season, culminating in an amazing August in which he hit 0.355/0.397/0.682, slugging 10 home runs in 107 AB's. Griffey proved that he is still among the most dangerous hitters in the game.
Like most long-ball hitters, Griffey has enjoyed hitting in Great American Ballpark. Like his lefty/right split, however, the difference between these two splits was smaller last year, indicating that his resurgence was not due to his home park: he had a 0.902 OPS away from home, while sporting a 0.990 OPS at GABP last year.
|Pos.||Year||Level||DI's||Dewan+- (plays/yr)||Dial ZR (runs/yr)||Gassko (runs/yr)||D*G (runs/yr)||Pinto (runs/27ot)||Davenport (runs/yr)||DewanHold (% held)||Walsh (runs)|
When I watch Griffey play, I see a guy who still gets good reads on balls. He takes good routes to the ball, plays the ball off the hop or the wall very well, makes smart decisions, and can make the diving, dramatic catch with the best of them. But he just can't close ground like he used to. It's a shame, but it's very damaging to the ballclub's defense. The Reds would be very well served in Griffey moved to left field, putting Dunn at first and either Freel, Denorfia, or Kearns in center. In left field, Griffey could probably become a defensive asset once again, rather than a liability. But that's ultimately going to have to be Griffey's idea, and his comments with the media earlier this season indicated that he's not ready to accept his loss of skill in the outfield just yet.
2006 Season Projections:
So far this season, Griffey has yet to really get it going. After a spectacular showing in the World Baseball Classic (0.524/0.583/1.048 w/ 3 HR's in 21 AB's), he missed most of April with a mild though nagging leg injury. He returned to hit only 0.253/0.286/0.481 in May, although he did show enough late-inning heroics that netted him my May Impact Hitter of the Month award. Signs in June are positive--through June 28, Griffey was hitting 0.264/0.330/0.540 for the month--but he's still not the same Junior we saw in the second half last season. All signs are that he is healthy, so I fully expect that we'll see a return to form in the second half.
As Griffey's career winds down over the next several years, I think most Reds fans will look back on his time with the Reds and be glad to be able to call him our own. It has been frustrating to watch injuries prevent him from achieving all he could. But even so, when all is said and done, Griffey will still be recognized as one of the best to ever play the game--a genuine first-ballot Hall of Famer. I find it hard to be disappointed by that. Moreover, Griffey will be remembered as one of the kindest, most charismatic, and easy to love individuals that our sport has ever seen.
And best of all, Baseball fans can take heart that he's not done yet. He still has a lot of game in him. Let's enjoy it.