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…. Isn’t it ironic?

John Harper writes about Junior Griffey today, in a piece that is as ridiculous as it is sanctimonious.

He is the only active member of the 500 home run club who was neither part of the recent congressional hearing on steroids or linked to the BALCO investigation. The cruel irony, of course, is that Ken Griffey Jr. did the right thing by refusing to use steroids, only to have his body repeatedly break down on him.

Only in today’s climate of sanctimony could you find an article that celebrates an athlete’s injuries as evidence of his purity. Let me get this straight; if Griffey had managed to stay healthy these last five seasons, he would have been suspected of cheating. But, because he’s been injured, he’s not only free from suspicion; he’s a bastion of all that’s right in the sport.

Here’s another way of looking at it (one that is doubtless going to get me about a thousand nasty emails, I’m sure); Griffey didn’t take care of himself; and the end result was that he cheated himself, his teammates, his fans, and the owners of the teams he played for. Had he kept himself injury-free, his teams would have done better, he would have given himself and everyone involved in his teams’ fortunes a better chance to get that ring, and his career would have been filled with more accomplishment, fun, and excitement, and he would have avoided years of pain, surgeries, rehab and missed time.

In fact, you could argue that Griffey let his fans and teammates down by missing so much time. Cincinnatti fans certainly had to have felt let down, after trading away key members of the team to get him, and then signing him to a huge contract that limited the team’s ability to deal with his missing substantial time.

Griffey’s been in a Reds uniform since 2000, and has played a full season but once, his first with the team. Since that first year, he has hit a total of 63 home runs while playing 317 games out of a possible 648, less than half. And yet, his Baseball Reference page is sponsored by Poisk, who writes, “500+ ‘All Natural’ Home Runs…. Now that’s something to be proud of.”

Something to be proud of apparently doesn’t include being there for your teammates, or the fans, or being able to do your job every day. Why is that a good thing? How do you come to that conclusion? One way would be to take at face value the ramblings of someone like Sally Jenkins:

A week ago, the emerald chessboard crowd predicted the congressional hearing into steroid use in Major League Baseball would be a pointless farce. A week later, we’re still talking about them. The hearings are far from over, and here are some of the things we’ve already learned: Not only do steroids shrink your organs into onions and induce suicide, but they turn heroes into cowards, and baseball officials into worms.

Jenkins isn’t the only sports columnist to believe everything they heard during the dog and pony show. She’s just the one I’ve chosen to spotlight today.

I’m not saying that Griffey should have used steroids. I’m saying that I don’t care what he did or didn’t do. As a baseball fan, I think it sucks that a stupendous talent has had to spend most of the peak years of his career swinging at tennis balls and running on a treadmill or in the recovery room instead of making history. As a baseball fan, I wish he could be neck and neck with Bonds as they both take aim at Ruth and Aaron. And if Griffey would have used steroids, or creatine, or andro or HGH or monkeys brains to stay on the field these last five seasons, I wouldn’t have begrudged him one precious minute of it. It’s his life, his career, and his choice.

He chose the path he chose, and he’s paid the price he’s paid. To say he’s right, that he’s to be celebrated for not taking advantage of every modern medical and physical training advance available to get the most out of his talent, is as absurd as telling us that Bonds has hurt the game of baseball for doing so.


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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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