Saturday, April 24, 2010

Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.

Just saying but when I was growing up people talked about the sadness of seeing Willie Mays play out his final couple of years as just a shadow of his former self. It seems to me that the same could be said of Ken Griffey Jr.

Last year Griffey Jr. hit just .214 with a .324 OBP and a .735 OPS. In Willie May's penultimate season he hit .250 with a .400 OBP and a .802 OPS (respectable numbers but not what people expected from a legend). In his final season with the Mets, Willie hit just .211 with a .303 OBP and .647 OPS. To put it another way - in his final season - his 22nd in the bigs - Willie Mays was cooked.

Ken Griffey Jr. is also in his 22nd season in the big leagues. Going into today he was hitting just .238 with a .289 OBP and a .551 OPS. He's cooked too.

The thing is - people won't criticize Griffey Jr. for hanging on too long like they did to Willie Mays. The reason? Junior will make $2.35 million this year. That's more than Willie Mays made in his career.

At some point a tipping point of pride versus cold hard cash was passed. Willie Mays was on one side of the line and Ken Griffey Jr. was on the other. That's why baseball fans will remember the ends of their careers in different lights.

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