Harold Reynolds: Turf kept Ken Griffey Jr. from breaking HR record
Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. finished his MLB career sixth all-time in home runs with 630. But what might that total have looked like without all the injuries?
Former Mariners teammate Harold Reynolds told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton on Wednesday that Griffey’s time playing on the Kingdome’s notoriously unkind turf probably played a role in the recurring hamstring injuries that plagued the latter half of his career. Griffey hit 398 home runs during his first 11 seasons in Seattle and 232 as he struggled to stay on the field in his last 11, the majority of which he played with the Reds.
Had Griffey played the majority of his home games in a more forgiving venue, Reynolds said, his numbers would have been even more historic.
“If he doesn’t have that hamstring injury when he goes to Cincinnati, I think we’re looking at a guy who puts numbers so far out there that you wouldn’t have believed they were real,” said Reynolds, now an analyst for the MLB Network. “I think he’s hitting 750, 800 home runs. No telling what the doubles and RBIs are because by the time he went to Cincinnati – and that was a great home-run park – he was averaging 45, 50 home runs a year and he was just moving into his prime years when his injury hit him. So I think we’re looking at a guy that, no telling what the numbers might have been had he stayed healthy.”
Despite Griffey’s injury struggles, Reynolds said he still clearly belongs in the same breath as the elites in the all-time discussions.
“He’s clearly in the top five players,” Reynolds said.
Other highlights from the conversation:
Griffey put Seattle and his teammates on the map. “Having Junior come on the team almost validated everybody else’s talent. It’s like anything: when you have a great player, everybody wants to watch that team play and particularly watch him and then everybody else gets a little light shined on them. Having Junior on the team, not only did it put the Mariners on the map, but I think it made Randy Johnson popular, and it made Edgar (Martinez) popular and Jay Buhner. People recognized how great a player he was … Clearly, Junior put Seattle on the map big time.”
On the increasing number of injuries in baseball: “Last year I think we had one player who played 160 games in all of Major League Baseball. I think that we’re not conditioning guys to play a full season. You used to go to spring training and say, ‘I’m playing 162,’ and that’s how you conditioned. And if you’re going to condition to play 100 games, then you’re going to get injuries. I think we’re not conditioning guys right now to play for a long haul and we’re seeing injuries not just in Seattle but league-wide – a number of injuries that I just have never seen before.”
Could the injuries lead to shortening the season to 154 games? “I think we’re caught kind of in the middle. From a physical standpoint, they’d like to cut back, but economically the game is booming and you’re talking about giving away eight games, (which) is a lot of money when you start looking at eight gates and different nights you can draw from. I think it’s something that might come up in collective bargaining, but I don’t think it’s happening where they’re going to move those dates back.”