Known as "The Kid" when he crashed into the majors with precocious ability and blinding potential, Ken Griffey Jr. says he's retiring after 22 seasons. His spot in the Hall of Fame is all but guaranteed, but there will always be a "what if?" that surrounds his long career.
As a little boy in the 1970s, the young Griffey would follow his professional baseball-playing father -- Ken Sr. -- into the clubhouse of the famed Cincinnati Reds' Big Red Machine.
A brush with such greats as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Dave Concepcion (not to mention his own talented father) must have rubbed off on young Griffey when he joined the Seattle Mariners in the late 1980s and manned the same outfield as his father. Right from the start, there was something special about Griffey Jr., who had a left-handed swing handed down from the baseball gods and the ability to rob home runs with circus catches over the center field wall.
For a good four or five year stretch, Griffey Jr. was on top of the baseball world and many wondered if he'd become the first ballplayer to hit 800 home runs in a career. He was that good.
Yet such greatness wasn't meant to be, and that's what makes Ken Griffey Jr. such a hard guy to figure out. He's surely a Hall of Famer -- with his more than 600 home runs -- but he never realized his full potential. That was mostly due to injuries, but "The Kid" seemed to harden later in his career. He famously backed out of an All-Star Game's home-run contest in Denver, to the dismay of many fans who wanted to see his amazing talents.
He never enjoyed a good relationship with the media and there was a sense that he wasn't always enjoying himself on the diamond. There were nights where playing baseball seemed like a job to Ken Griffey Jr. He bounced around from team to team, including his father's Reds, but will always be remembered for his early days in Seattle when the Mariners were a moribund franchise that played in an indoor dump known as the Kingdome.
Thanks to Griffey, the M's have moved up and out.
Griffey will be missed, but the "what ifs?" will follow him... always.