Fri Jun 04 04:10pm EDT
It seems like this week has been an emotional roller coaster for fans, players, coaches and the leaders of baseball. The moment that affected me the most was Wednesday's retirement of Ken Griffey, Jr., my favorite player of all time.
Griffey seemed to be on most, if not all, the baseball highlights almost every time I watched TV and that's how I became a fan. When I was a kid, it was his baseball card that I wanted so bad. The only one I never collected was his Upper Deck rookie card. I also never received his Nike baseball shoes, though I really wanted those, too.
I also played his video games, and I think most video game fans would agree: the first one was better than the second.
It seemed to me as if Griffey was always either robbing home runs or hitting them. There was also this span where it seemed like he would have a consecutive homer streak of 5-6 games each year, whether it be in Seattle or Cincinnati. It's one thing to hit a lot of homers over 162 games, but when you consistently have those kinds of streaks, it puts you in another category. Offensively and defensively, he was such a complete player.
One thing I learned from watching Griffey as a kid was that just because you go 0-for-4 at the plate, it doesn't mean you had a bad game. You can still contribute on the defensive end in many ways. Maybe one of those hitless at-bats was a force out on another player. Maybe you walked, stole a base and came around to score.
Another reason I think I liked him so much was that he was a left-handed hitter like myself. When you are a young baseball player, you are always trying to copy someone's swing. When he hit, his follow-through looked amazing. It was so smooth. Of course, I was 12 years old trying to copy that swing, so I didn't hit many home runs.
I watched Griffey's at-bats a lot, plus he had a little swagger almost as if he was just the coolest dude put out there to play, yet he never came across as arrogant.
He still always seemed humble when he made great plays.
There should be no doubt that Griffey will be in the Hall of Fame after a spectacular 22-year career. The biggest debate will be where he falls on the all-time list. For me personally, it's hard to put guys I've never seen play before on my all-time best player lists because all I have are there stats and the stories from people who watched them back in the day.
1. Barry Bonds(notes) — If you can hit 70 homers, bat over .300 in a season and also have over 100 plus walks, that's amazing. Not to mention the years he was stealing a lot of bases. Take out the power numbers, and in 2004 he walked 232 times! He got on base over 60 percent of the time that year. Four times in his career, his on-base percentage was over .500. That is just unbelievable.
2. Alex Rodriguez(notes) — He has stolen bases, he has proven he can hit for average and, with just a few more homers he will be the youngest to 600. Now that I have the chance to play alongside him and watch how hard he works, it is easy to see why he is so great.
3. Ken Griffey, Jr. — In my opinion, if he didn't have some tough injuries in the middle of his prime, he would have hit 800 home runs and been an easy No. 1 on my list.
4. Ichiro(notes) — To have 200 hits each of your first 10 years in the majors is astounding. No one has ever done this before and he's always a threat to steal as well. A lot of people may not have him as high because he hits a ton of singles, but I will take a leadoff guy that gets on base this much any time.
5. Albert Pujols(notes) — He does it all. He hits for average, power, gets walked a ton and drives in runs. When you walk that much, it's hard to not miss the one good pitch you may get in an at bat. Yet he seems to hit it way more often than not, and he usually does a lot of damage when he does hit it.
I know we could debate this list back and forth for a number of reasons. But just simply from what I've observed in my career, those are my top-5 players.
• I also want to mention the situation with Armando Galarraga(notes), my former teammate in Detroit, and umpire Jim Joyce. All opinions of the final resolution of the game aside, I think those two, along with my former manager Jim Leyland, showed why good sportsmanship can be such a powerful tool. All parties involved show pure class in how they handled the situation and all of them should be applauded.
Perfect game or not, what we saw was people putting the emotions and feelings of others first. Situations like that can make the world a better place, and it definitely made me proud to be a Major League Baseball player.
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Curtis Granderson plays for the New York Yankees and his blog will appear regularly on Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew during the 2010 season. Make sure to check out and support his Grand Kids Foundation.
Read his previous posts here.