Baumann: The inimitable superstardom of Ken Griffey Jr.

From SABR member Michael J. Baumann at VICE Sports on November 17, 2015:

It’s tough to buy the idea that once something has been done in baseball it can’t be done again. The quality of play gets better as the talent pool increases, scouting and training methods improve, and human beings in general get bigger, stronger, and faster. If nobody dominates the game the way Babe Ruth or Sandy Koufax did, it’s mostly because there are now dozens of guys who have Ruth’s power or Koufax’s fastball, and so none of them stand out quite so much.

The exception to this is Ken Griffey, Jr.

What made Griffey such an iconic figure during his prime wasn’t just that he was good. Of course, he was good—he collected 2,781 hits, 630 of them home runs, and he was one of the best defensive outfielders of his day. Even after a decade-long, injury-ravaged hang-around phase, he retired with a 136 OPS+. He was the American League’s MVP in 1997 and led the league in wins above replacement three times. If the current Hall of Fame electorate were not going through its vigilante justice phase—or if Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling weren’t such grotesque human beings—Griffey would have had by far the best career on this Hall of Fame ballot. He would be that rare candidate—the Greg Maddux or Rickey Henderson or Tom Seaver—for whom there could be no credible argument that he is not a Hall of Famer.

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Originally published: November 18, 2015. Last Updated: November 18, 2015.