Tag Archives: Cincinnati Reds

Ken Griffey Jr. is Living Proof That Nice Guys Finish First

15 Jan

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If a sportswriter or columnist like myself said that he or she didn’t have athletes they really liked to talk to or really disliked talking to throughout their careers, they’d be lying to you.

While as a journalist you’re not supposed to let your personal admiration or dislike for an athlete cloud how you cover their accomplishments on the field, we are human. We just have to work harder in those cases.

But sometimes, there’s an athlete so universally respected that you find yourself pulling for them…and you don’t care who knows it.

Ken Griffey Jr., one of the newest members of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame is one of those guys. The former Seattle Mariners/Cincinnati Reds centerfielder was just three votes shy of being an unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers of America, breaking New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver’s record. Los Angeles Dodgers/New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza will be joining him in the Hall’s Class of 2016.

Not only did Griffey deserve that honor, he is living proof that you can be a great player without being a self-centered jerk. As a player, Griffey was one of the game’s best center fielders and played with the outfield with the ferocity of a Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente and a Pete Rose.

And I’m not ashamed to say that I genuinely liked him.

For a “nice guy”, Griffey put up some fierce numbers on the field. In a 22-year career, he hit 630 career home runs, ranking sixth on the all-time list. He ranks 15th all-time in runs batted in with 1,836 and had a .284 lifetime batting average. Defensively, Griffey was a 10-time Gold Glove winner who could run down any ball hit in the outfield even if it meant crashing into an outfield wall which he did on numerous occasions.

Unfortunately, it was those injuries from crashing into outfield walls that probably kept Griffey from threatening the all-time home-run record the way that Barry Bonds did.

From 1993 to 2000, Griffey averaged 43 home runs per year. But from 2001 to 2007, he spent a considerable amount on the disabled list with injuries. Had he been healthy and was hitting home runs at the same pace he did from 1993-2000, he would have easily surpassed both Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. ‘

Had Griffey been the one to surpass Aaron, I believe that we’d have a completely different view of the home run record. A combination of Griffey’s “nice guy” persona and the absence of the cloud of steroid suspicion that still follows Bonds would have made his pursuit of the Home Run record a cause for celebration instead of consternation.

Back in 2008, when he was playing with the Cincinnati Reds, I caught up with Griffey at Citizens Bank Park and spoke to him about his career shortly before he reached the 600-home run milestone. He was nice enough to give me about 10 or 15 minutes of his time for a one-on-one after a game in the Reds clubhouse, something that rarely happens.

I asked him about his thoughts about hitting 600 home runs and he seemed almost embarrassed to talk about it. He was at peace with himself about his career and had no regrets about his injuries keeping him from being a part of the all-time home run race.

“Everything I did, I did for the good of the team,” Griffey said. “I went out there and played as hard as I could and that’s the most important thing. I can go in there and look at myself in the mirror and go, ‘you got hurt, but that’s part of the game.’

“If I did it jump roping, then you can say something. Everything I did, I did in front of people doing the thing that I love.”

I still can hear the standing ovation he received when he came out to pinch hit during that series at Citizens Bank Park. It’s rare that a player not wearing a Phillies uniform gets that kind of love from Philly sports fans.

At the time, Griffey said he wanted to be remembered for his defense and giving his best every time he stepped on the field. which is why he will have a statue in Cooperstown.

“That’s the one thing I try to teach my kids, don’t be a what-if,” Griffey said. “I can care less if you win or lose at that age; as long as you give me the effort. I know you’re going to give me that effort whether it’s on the field or off the field.”

At a time where ball playing knuckleheads and their antics rule the headlines, it’s a good to see a nice guy like Ken Griffey Jr. get his accolades.

Phillies Bats Smash Reds Again in Support of Cliff Lee

18 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cody Asche ha been swinging a hot bat for the Phillies.

Cody Asche has been swinging a hot bat for the Phillies.

PHILADELPHIA—Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has been saying all season that he wanted to see his team to score early in the game, the middle and late.

In Sunday’s 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Citizen’s Bank, the Phillies did just that and they did it with the long-ball while getting a solid pitching performance from starter Cliff Lee (4-4, 3.18). The game was a showcase of the team’s offensive potential if they can do it on a consistent basis.

“I think you just saw in the last two days what can happen when we all put together all three phases of the game— pitching, defense and our offense,” said third baseman Cody Asche, whose three-run homer in the seventh sealed the Phillies win. “We’ve been missing a piece or two here or there in a couple games and dropped a couple of tough ones. I think you saw the potential of the team not just our offense.”

Lee wasn’t his usual dominating self, but he was tough enough to keep the Reds off the board after they scored two in the first inning. For the game, he allowed just two runs on nine hits with three strikeouts with just one walk.

“Cliff Lee, with his 116 pitches, got off to a bit of a slow start in the first inning with his velocity, but picked it up and it was solved,” Sandberg said. “He competed out there and he mixed his pitches well.”

Just as important as his effort on the mound, Lee got some run support from the Phillies offense, especially in the Phillies half of the first inning when they got back-to-back home runs from lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins and catcher Wil Nieves.

“It was definitely good for our team because it put us back in the game,” Lee said. “For us to answer back that quick was definitely nice. It was nice for us to answer back right there. It’s definitely easier to pitch with the lead and it’s easier to attack the strike zone.”

Nieves said answering the Reds in their half of the first inning with home runs was a huge boost in momentum for a team that has struggle to hit at times throughout the year.

“We got the talent. It’s happy to see all of the guys getting hot at the same time,” Nieves said. “Hitting is contagious. … I know we’re a team capable of doing this day in and day. Us coming back from two runs down was just huge and Cliff Lee kept them there until we busted it open late in the game. It was huge.”

The Phillies took the lead for good in the fifth inning on an RBI ground out to first by second baseman Chase Utley that scored Lee, who singled to lead off the inning. The Phillies got a solo homer from right fielder Marlon Byrd in the sixth.

In the seventh inning, the Phillies put the game away for good on an RBI single by Byrd and Asche’s three-run homer. It was his fourth of the season. During the month of May, Asche is batting .333 with a .418 on-base percentage and has a .625 slugging percentage.

“I’m swinging at more strikes I would say,” Asche said. “The more strikes you swing at, the more chances you’re going to have to put the ball in play hard. You have to be more precise in what you’re looking and go from there.”

Notes-With his 46th career lead-off home run, Rollins has the fourth most leadoff home runs in Major League history behind Ricky Henderson (81), Alfonso Soriano (54) and Craig Biggio (53).