Remember Ken Griffey, Jr.’s 1995 season with the Mariners? Man, that was awesome.
Remember Ken Griffey, Jr.’s 2008 season with the White Sox? Man, that was unspectacular.
Not that anyone expected much more than what he gave, and that certainly marked a huge improvement over what the Yankees’ current cleanup hitter ever contributed, but has any .260 hitter ever been more wildly embraced by their midseason destination’s fanbase than Griffey in 2008?
An army of spectators clad in black and white, t-shirts bearing the name and number of a man with the home run capability of Toby Hall and the run-scoring potential of Dewayne Wise. It would all otherwise be so pathetic, but in this case it wasn’t. In this case it was okay. It was right. It was Griffey.
When #24 (née #17) comes back to the South Side tomorrow, what should he expect from the White Sox faithful? Adulation? A standing ovation? A video montage? A statue? Sure, why not?
Whatever happens, it’ll say a lot, if you think about it. If you look at Griffey the Man or Griffey the Career, it’s hard not to at least tip your hat. Sure, he’s back in enemy colors (assuming anyone still holds a grudge against the Mariners over what happened in 2000) but dude, it’s Griffey.
But if you look at Griffey the Sox Outfielder, then what? An “upgrade” to a .260 hitter? Three years and still nobody in center? The K to end the playoffs? “Anderson would’ve had that”?
So which one is it? The Man or the Myth? The Player or the Performance? The Hall of Fame or the Half a Season? More than anything else, expect a great display of weird, understandable revisionist history:
You see that guy? That guy’s got 600 home runs. Ten Gold Gloves. An MVP they gave him and two more they stole from him. He might’ve been the best. Maybe ever. He used to play here, you know.
And in its own sad way, it’s the right thing to do, because it’s Griffey. Except it’s not.