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06/21/2004 Archived Entry: "MLB news: Griffey joins the 500 club"

Griffey joins the 500 club
Milestones: June 11 to 21

By Michael Toeset

When Ken Griffey Jr. left Seattle at the end of the 1999 season, he was widely regarded as the best player in the game. The 29-year-old had been named to baseball’s all-century team – no small feat – his face constantly graced magazine covers and his name was frequently mentioned in the same sentence as Hank Aaron.
When he was traded to his hometown of Cincinnati, his career numbers were gaudy beyond belief: 398 home runs, 1,152 RBI, 1,063 runs and 1,742 hits in 1,535 games. This was the man who would re-write the record books, the player who would make America forget Babe Ruth. But then something happened. The once-dependable Griffey, the outfielder who had hit 209 home runs the past four seasons, became a fragile, disappointing has-been. It didn’t take long for the Cincinnati fans to begin calling for his head. Even his first season with the Reds, in which he remained healthy, his numbers weren’t good enough. He hit .271 with 40 home runs and 118 RBI, but he failed to deliver a championship to the Queen City. And so the downfall began. In his first four seasons with the Reds, Griffey seemingly landed on the disabled list more times than he hit home runs. He only bashed 83 home runs from 2000 to 2003 and only appeared in 379 games, an average of 95 games a season. Meanwhile, the Reds as a team continued to falter, only adding to the displeasure of the Cincinnati faithful.
Had Junior lost his talent? Had he lost his desire? The questions mounted, and Griffey could only answer with a pained smile. Every spring training since 2000, he has been under intense scrutiny: Baseball’s Michael Jordan was going to put together The Year.
Until this season, the fans have only seen Griffey as a monumental failure. They couldn’t sympathize with the man who hadn’t lost any talent but who wasn’t able to display it.
But this season is proving to be magical for Griffey and the Reds, and Junior has returned to Seattle form. Through June 20, Griffey’s numbers read .260 average, 19 home runs and 54 RBI. Junior is again one of baseball’s most-beloved players, and the love overflowed on the 20th, when Griffey bashed his 500th career home run, making him only the 20th member of the club.
By all accounts, Griffey should have joined the club in 2001 or 2002, but the injuries delayed his chase. While he once was the favorite to break Aaron’s record – not some guy named Barry Bonds – the 34-year-old probably won’t come close to Aaron’s record 755 home runs, but by the end of his career, he’ll still be a Hall-of-Famer with a bundle of home runs.
It’s a shame that his career has been sidetracked the way it has, but fans should delight in watching the Junior of old this season. And they shouldn’t forget the player Griffey was in his heyday.
So while we celebrate Griffey’s entry into the 500 club, let’s take a look at his career numbers:
1989 – .264 AVG, 16 HR, 61 RBI
1990 – .300, 22, 80
1991 – .327, 22, 100
1992 – .308, 27, 103
1993 – .309, 45, 109
1994 – .323, 43, 90
1995 – .258, 17, 42
1996 – .303, 49, 140
1997 – .304, 56, 147
1998 – .284, 56, 146
1999 – .285, 48, 134
2000 – .271, 40, 118
2001 – .286, 22, 65
2002 – .264, 8, 23
2003 – .247, 13, 26

In other milestones:

On June 17, JOSE VIDRO collected hit No. 1,000. Playing in Montreal has earned Vidro little more than obscurity, but the second basemen is one of the finest hitters in the game. His career numbers are .303 average, 1,006 hits, 93 home runs, 494 runs and 442 RBI. This season Vidro’s numbers are down, perhaps due to Vladimir Guerrero’s absence, and he’s only hitting .268. He should bounce back over .300 by season’s end.

TODD HELTON pounded out his 300th double on June 18. Helton the hitting machine has put up some phenomenal doubles numbers over the year, hitting more than 50 twice. His best doubles seasons: 59, 54, 49, 39 and 37.

MANNY RAMIREZ scored his 1,000th run on June 18. Ramirez is best known for driving in runs rather than scoring them, but he has been a decent run-scorer despite his lack of speed. His best seasons are 131, 117 and 108. He’s on pace to top 100 again this season.

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