Ken Griffey Junior's retirement is similar to Michael Jackson's death.
I heard about Griffey's retirement at work, likewise, I heard about Jackson's death at work. After hearing about Griffey's retirement and Jackson's death, I immediately thought about how great they once were and how irrelevant they became later on in life.
Think about this: Griffey owned baseball in the 90s while Jackson owned music in the 80s. Look at the following stats.
Ken Griffey Jr. OPS+ throughout the 90s:
Then not much.
Michael Jackson number one hits:
1979 Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
1980 Rock With You
1983 Billie Jean
1983 Beat It
1987 I Just Can't Stop Loving You
1988 The Way You Make Me Feel
1988 Man In The Mirror
1988 Dirty Diana
1991 Black Or White
1995 You Are Not Alone
Then not much.
Griffey's irrelevance came mostly from injuries and then ineffectiveness due to age. Jackson's irrelevance came mostly from accusations, bizarre behavior, plastic surgery and not putting out much music. Griffey had an effective, healthy and all-star worthy 2007 season. His slash stats that year were .277/.372/.496 (119 OPS+). Jackson had a nice hit with You Rock My World in 2001, which reached to number 10. For the last 10 seasons, Griffey wasn't in the baseball spotlight--save for a couple all-star appearance, worthy or not. The talk was Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and other big names. Strange because Griffey was THE biggest name in the 90s. For the last 14 years, Jackson wasn't in the music spotlight--save for a few appearances at music shows and the 30th Anniversary Special. Usher, Eminem, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Beyonce and other musicians were featured at clubs. Jackson was THE biggest name in the 80s.
The talk about Griffey was the injuries. Was it shocking to see Griffey come up limping on the base paths or hurt himself while tracking down a fly ball? The talk about Jackson was the plastic surgery. Was it shocking to see Jackson with a new nose or facial bone structure for that matter?
Griffey also depicted cool. Who didn't want to wear the backwards hat after seeing him rock the style in batting practice? Jackson depicted cool. I know I wanted to wear the one glove while attempting to do the moon walk on the playground.
I thought about the two after Griffey announced his retirement, I thought about how he was my favorite player at one time and how I haven't thought about him much since his first season with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. It's not that I stopped liking him, but he wasn't around for me to enjoy. I recalled how much I loved him after watching some YouTube clips and sifting through my baseball cards. After Jackson's death, I started listening to some of his songs again on YouTube. I always had Man in the Mirror on my iTunes, but I forgot how much I loved Black or White, Will You Be There and Beat It.
I also started thinking about the two when I read the comments section from the Rob Neyer article. Neyer had a rational perspective on Griffey's career, and it contained a lot of praise. However, fan boys didn't see his point and didn't recognize the praise and attacked based on some of the negative comments. If you scour message boards (yes, guilty pleasure), you will see people attack any negative, fair or not, comment about Jackson.
For Griffey, the fan boy response is something like, "He saved baseball in Seattle, and he played like a kid and was a great 5-tool player."
For Jackson, the fan boy response is something like, "He was a misunderstood beautiful man who cared about his fans and did a lot of charity work. He was a great musician and a poet."
It's amazing how a retirement and a death can make people recall all the good that someone did and forget the not-so-good. I will conclude with my thoughts on each subject.
Ken Griffey Jr. was one of my favorite baseball players growing up: the others being Frank Thomas, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Kevin Appier. He and Bonds were the two best players of the 90s and absolutely owned their skills. Griffey could hit, run and field. That being said, after a nice, what I thought to be, farewell season in 2009, he came back for one more year. I don't blame him for taking the money. I blame Jack Z for offering the contract. Regardless, he accepted the contract, and this season was disastrous. He took a nap, couldn't hit and was ultimately benched. None of this will affect my childhood memories of him, but as an adult, it is a part of his profile.
Michael Jackson was one of my favorite musicians growing up: the others being MC Hammer, The Cars, B52s and Tom Petty. He and Prince were the two singers who owned it in the 80s. Jackson could sing, dance and write. That being said, he was extremely weird. His skin tone, plastic surgery and hanging his youngest son from a hotel balcony made me wonder what's in his mind. Of course I have failed to mention the big elephant in the room: the sexual allegations with kids. We'll never know the truth, and I won't even pontificate my thoughts on the situation. None of this will affect my childhood memories of him, but as an adult, it is a part of his profile.
I think really, at this point, all I can do is enjoy their skills. And for that, I'm going to find my old Walk Man and put in my Will You Be There cassette and pop in my Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. for the N64 and rock out. Don't worry, the N64 is already hooked up to my TV. Always.