Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Embrace This

Sorry we've been gone awhile, but we had someone on vacation and someone in mourning because his favorite basketball team lost (and, apparently, favourite soccer team). And we're too new for anyone to have an expectation about how much we'll post.

I thought I'd come back to the grind with a bit of a controversial idea. Of course, I'll start with a dopey article:

No buzz for a star in a city that rarely embraces them

Ken Griffey Jr. slow-dances toward 600 home runs to the beat of one hand clapping. Until the weekend just passed, when the bandwagon finally tilted from the weight, libraries held more energy than the stands at Great American Ball Park.

Idiotic meatphors/cliches anyone? And the last line makes no sense, other than Reds fans weren't excited enough for Mr. Daugherty. But does he mean that fans were finally onboard? Or does he mean that this past weekend the fans were on the bandwagon, but up until then they weren't? We're one paragraph in and already nonsensical.

(Great question to ask the 111,542 who went to the games Friday through Sunday: Did you go for the possibility of 600? Or to see Jay Bruce?)

That total represents an average attendance of more than 37,000/game, so I'm guessing he's not complaining about fan support. Though, admittedly, I'm not sure.

And are the only two possible reasons for going to a Reds game Junior's 600th home run and phenom Jay Bruce? Not that the weather was awesome? Not that people just may be Reds fans? Or Braves fans? Or baseball fans?!?!?!?!?

Why so little love for Junior?

Pick your poison:
Griffey symbolizes an era of Reds underachievement.

No, the Reds have sucked for awhile now.

Griffey has never embraced his hometown. Griffey doesn't run out ground balls or sprint around the outfield like Ryan Freel.

Oh, brother. Maybe Griffey doesn't run out routine grounders as hard as he used to, but the "little white guy plays with hustle and grit while the black superstar doesn't play hard or care" narrative is getting very old.

Griffey is an innocent victim of baseball's cynical Steroid Era.

We'll come back to this.

Six hundred is the new 500.

And 50 is the new 40.

Did we miss anything?

Yes. Ken Griffey Jr. is actually a Beta Unit. The real Ken Griffey Jr. is defending the Star League.

Here's what it really is. Here is why, even as Griffey was third nationally among National League outfielders in the most recent All Star balloting, he can't get a superstar's love in his own town: We don't love superstars. Name one that's been loved here.

I'll name 3: Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan. That was easy.

Oh, you were going to name some and tell us why they weren't loved. Sorry:

Eric Davis? He was as good as it gets. It took colon cancer and a cameo re-appearance in 1996 to get him on the local good side.

After the 1990 World Series win, any one of the Reds could have gone on a killing spree and Cincy fans would have still loved him. Eric Davis was very popular then, especially after his kidney injury and the Marge Schott won't-fly-him-home-because-she's-too-cheap controversy.

Barry Larkin was a hometown guy who will get considerable Hall of Fame consideration. Our last impressions of him were the money Carl Lindner gave him (too much) and the leadership he showed (not enough).

But, while he was playing, he was extremely popular in Cincy, right? Right? Hello?

Daugherty then goes on to mention Chad Johnson and Johnny Bench, saying that Johnson has not been loved because of his on-field behavior and Bench isn't loved because he's not always fan-accessible. He also mentions Anthony Munoz, who is loved, but not a superstar since he's an offensive tackle. No real issues here.

Nearly 20 years after Pete Rose departed, his stamp remains. We prefer our heroes wear dirty shirts and say nice things about our town.

That's logical--I can't imagine Cincy fans embracing a guy who says, "the best thing about Cincinnati is that radio station they used to have."

...Griffey has been a part of an empty nine seasons, largely because ownership never built a team around him, as promised. He hasn't embraced Cincinnati because the town wanted him to be someone he wasn't any longer: The Kid came here at age 30, married with two children. That said, Griffey hasn't helped himself with you. His reticence has been seen as indifference. You respect him. You don't love him.

Part of that is Cincinnati sucks as a sports town. At least, the fans do.

I realize that's not really fair, given that Cincy only has two major league teams, and they've been pretty weak for awhile. So there's not been a lot to cheer about. But for a city that calls itself "the birthplace of professional baseball" (which is bullshit, by the way), Cincy has a hard time supporting the Reds without the help of Dayton, Columbus, Louisville and Indianapolis--even when the team was doing well (I know attendance was down for everyone in 1995, but the games in Atlanta sold out).

Reds fans have always seemed to be the very definition of fair-weather fans, so I guess it makes sense they've not been big to embrace players as their own unless the team was especially good.

That doesn't explain why San Francisco stayed blindly loving to Barry Bonds, who allegedly cheated, and whose personality makes Griffey's seem giddy.

(Emphasis mine on "allegedly." Interesting to note that the print version of this story did not include that word).

I'm getting extremely tired of people saying Barry Bonds, among other alleged steroid users, cheated. They didn't cheat, because baseball had no rules prohibiting steroids until 2003, when testing began. So if there were no rules against it, was it really cheating? Of course not.

And don't give me this bullshit about the integrity of the game. First off, I'm probably one of the youngest baseball traditionalists around. I'm not a fan of the DH. I hate Interleague play. As nice as the new ball parks are, I think they're too small. I like the idea that the last player to hit .400 in a season was this guy. There are some days where I wish MLB would go back to non-divisional play. But you can't punish someone--or claim that he cheated--if there are no rules prohibiting what he did.

I'm not condoning the use of steroids. And I want the players to be clean, since there are now rules against using, and it's better for the game, and the players, etc. But this should be a dead issue. Columnists, TV talking heads, and sports radio dunderheaded hosts keep bringing it up--the typical fan is sick of hearing about it. We don't care--move on.

Besides, there is no way of knowing who was using during that time--the Mitchell Report has more than 90 names, and you can bet that doesn't cover everyone.

As for the Steroid Era dulling his achievement, that's crazy. Parents should be taking their impressionable kids to the ballpark now, pointing at Griffey and telling them that Junior restored some nobility to baseball greatness.

I gotta ask: how the hell do you know?

I think many reasonable people would agree we don't know exactly all of the baseball players who used steroids. So how do you know Ken Griffey Jr. didn't? Because he used to wear his cap backwards in batting practice? Because he's nice to the media, unlike a certain former left fielder whose name rhymes with "Ponds?"

Look, I know there's been no reasonable suspicion regarding Junior and steroid use. But part of that may be because no one investigated him. Obviously, there have been no stories linking Junior to any steroid or HGH dealers, but to assume that he "did it the right way" when you assume that everyone else didn't is wrong. One could make the argument--which was made in the case against Bonds, by the way--that many of Junior's injuries in the late 90s early 00s were consistent with steriod use--namely, torn tendons and ligaments.

Of course Junior isn't Bonds--Bonds was implicated in BALCO, after all--but how can you possibly know anyone has been clean in the last 10 years? My point is that you can't know, and Griffey gets a free pass in part because the sports media like him.

Ken Griffey Jr. likely will get No. 600 on the road, possibly during the next three days in Philly. Citizens Bank Park is almost as made-for-softball as GABP is. We'll applaud Griffey when he returns. We might even stand up, briefly. In Cincinnati, we're nothing if not polite.

You're also crappy sports fans.

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Blogger Zinglebert Bembledack said...

Nice article, Slut!

I just have a few comments to back up what Mr. Bunwalla wrote.

Cincinnati has been a suck-ass town for professional teams for too long. The Reds have only managed one winning season this decade and the Bengals may get moved to the California Penal League with the number of players arrested the past few years and have sucked for most of the last two decades.

It is interesting how Mr. Griffey is Mr. Nice Guy and gets a seemingly free pass on the steroid issue. Meanwhile, Mr. Bonds is a lying scumbag asshole who took steroids by the truckload and all his statistics require an asterisk.

Personally, I have never met Barry Bonds. I do not know if he is the prick and locker room cancer that the media make him out to be or just someone who does not like talking to the media and is therefore branded an asshole. But I am so fed up with everyone saying that he cheated. As Slut wrote, prior to 2003 steroids were not illegal. (And do not even think about using the "unwritten rules" line on me.) How are you cheating if there is no written rule you are breaking?

As far as Griffey not getting the love from Cinci fans, he has not really been an All-Star player since he arrived from Seattle. Since 2000, he has only played in 65% of the games with averages of .273/.363/.524. In Seattle, his averages were .299/.380/.569. Remember, he was 30 when he came to Reds, so it is not unreasonable to have see the average diminish over time.

Daugherty seems upset the Griffey only ranks third among NL outfielders. Without looking at the rest of the league's statistics, I am pretty sure that Griffey does not rank third among outfielders at this point. I could go on a rant regarding the All-Star voting, but we'll save that for another day.

I also like the list of superstars not loved Mr. Daugherty chose. Slut quite easily named three who have been loved by Reds fans. Are you trying to tell me, Mr. Daugherty, that Cinci did not show love to Dave Concepcion, Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Fred Hutchinson, or Tony Perez? You should know them as they have all had their numbers retired by the Reds! I am not a Reds fan or Reds historian, but I think it would be safe to say these players were superstars in their times and were quite loved by their fans.

The reason Griffey and the Reds have not gotten much love as of late is because (1) they've sucked for too long, (2) you built a lame-o stadium, and (3) Griffey has not been All-Star material since before my daughter was born.

To quote a line from Major League - "They're still shitty!"

June 5, 2008 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Zinglebert Bembledack said...

And maybe Ken Griffey Jr. could unleash the "Death Blossom" on the Yankee Empire and rid the world of the evil Lord Steinbrenner!

Or a good second choice would be unleash it on Paul Daugherty and the rest of the idiotic and moronic sports journalists who cannot seem to use that little muscle between their ears.

June 5, 2008 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Slut Bunwalla said...

Kudos on the Death Blossom reference. Well done, indeed.

June 5, 2008 at 3:18 PM  

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