Remember when Ken Griffey Jr. was considered baseball's best player and Nike made ads about him running for president? Back then, if someone had written during Spring Training that he was looking slow in the field and clueless at the plate, we might have said, "We'll believe it when I see it."
Now that he's a week shy of 39 and has been looking slow in the field and clueless at the plate, we have the same reaction to the opposite news. Still, hopeful fans--which is most fans this time of year--may take some small comfort in this:
Just as important, Griffey looked like a left fielder today and not a shadow of one.
He did lose a fly in the sun in the second inning, but everybody does that down here. Really. He broke well on balls to his right, an indication that his surgically repaired left knee is doing well, charged the base hits dumped into shallow left and, on one play, showed that he's still got a strong left arm.
Andruw Jones lined a double into the left-field corner and Josh Hamilton charged around second, then around third and toward the plate (remind anyone of a certain memorable moment from the 1995 playoffs?).
Griffey played the ball well in the corner and, with Hamilton not stopping, scooped it up and wheeled with a chest-high throw to relay man Reegie Corona at the edge of the outfield grass. All Corona had to do was turn and throw to the plate to get Hamilton. Corona double-clutched, first pumping toward second before realzing there might be a play at the plate. There wasn't; his throw was too late.
Still, the play offered the best example yet that Griffey might be OK in left field. He's no burner anymore but, for one day, he did the job well.
To review, Jr. charged balls that had already landed and made one throw that could possibly have been relayed for an out. Still, he did hit a couple doubles, which we look forward to seeing more of when he returns to his rightful spot as the DH against right-handed pitching.