By now, it’s not news that Ken Griffey Jr. finally hit his 600th career home run Monday night in Miami.
Sadly, it was barely news before he launched Florida lefty Mark Hendrickson’s 3-1 pitch over the right-field fence.
A great deal has been written and discussed regarding Griffey’s pursuit of No. 600. There have been comparisons to Barry Bonds, his coronation as the generation’s greatest player, the bittersweet musings of “what might have been” had he not been injured for so much his time with the Cincinnati Reds.
But all of these insights, though valid, completely miss the point.
When we see Ken Griffey Jr., we may be looking at the first legitimate member of the 600 Home Run Club since 1971, when Hammerin’ Hank Aaron became just the third player in Major League Baseball history to amass 600 career home runs. I’m currently 31 years-old, and previous to Griffey, only Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa had managed to accomplish this feat in my lifetime.
Both players, either fairly or unfairly, have been linked to baseball’s Steroid Era. Bonds is currently facing 15 federal felony counts regarding his testimony before a grand jury. Sosa seemed to have completely disappeared from baseball. Until recently, that is, when he announced he would retire from baseball after the World Baseball Classic, where he will represent the Dominican Republic.
At this point, I want to be very clear that I have no proof that Bonds or Sosa ever used performance-enhancing drugs. No one does. MLB never tested for these drugs when Bonds and Sosa were in their heyday. But the cloud of questions surrounding steroid use will forever hang over their careers.
What’s sad is that baseball fans and the general public, burned by the specter of steroids and cheaters, can’t seem to embrace a legitmate accomplishment in light of an era that consisted of poor judgment and performance-enhanced excess.
The reason Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th home run is not news is because we no longer care. We’re tired. We’re burned out.
It’s not fair.
Griffey deserves his day. The fact that this wasn’t covered in the same manner as Bonds’ approach to No. 600is a shame.
As a culture, we should all be embarrassed.
Congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr., a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer. He did things the right way on the field and carried himself with dignity and class off of it.
This is a player we should be embracing. Not ignoring.