Two Teams Became Winners Soon After Trading Ken Griffey
World Series fever has served as a much better infection to catch than that other virus causing so many deaths and so much suffering, so baseball's ultimate championship has assumed prominence in the media. Among all the articles written about the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the more interesting pieces mentioned neither of those two teams.
“Ranking of the Greatest Players To Not Win a World Series” is the title, written by Zachary Rymer for the 10-25-20 edition of Bleacher Report. As you can surmise from the headline, it is the reporter's take on Hall of Famers who never got a World Series ring.
After I became a bit miffed at the obvious omission of Rod Carew, the list made me recall all of the greats like Carew who never even reached the Fall Classic. Most prominent among them is the guy at the top of the Bleacher Report list, Ken Griffey, Jr.
What is especially mystifying about Griffey's failure to reach baseball's ultimate stage is the fact that he spent one decade with a team that would be dominant in the American League after his departure, and another decade with a team which would contend in the Senior Circuit after trading him away.
During all of his years in Seattle, the Mariners managed just one appearance in the postseason. Because of the team's general lack of success and another sub .500 record, Griffey demanded a trade after the 1997 season.
As soon as Junior left, the 2000 Mariners won 91 games. They swept the White Sox in the ALDS, coming to within just two wins of beating the Yankees for a trip to the World Series.
Then in 2001 Seattle won 116 games, more than any team had won in history. Again they dominated in the ALDS, only to fall to New York in the Championship.
While Seattle's fortunes were much improved after Griffey's departure, his new team got worse. The Reds had reached the postseason the year before Griffey arrived, and they heightened their expectations after trading for the native Cincinnatian.
Unfortunately, throughout his entire tenure with the Reds, Griffey never even reached the playoffs. He left after the 2008 season, leaving behind a team that finished fourteen games under .500.
Cincinnati, as Seattle had done nearly a decade earlier, surged without Griffey. A year after his departure, the Reds won 91 games and finished first in the NL Central.
They also won the division a year later, and made numerous playoff appearances in the aftermath of Griffey's departure. What had begun as a promising return of a hometown star in the prime of his career, resulted in the Reds having to suffer the longest playoff drought in the history of the club.
Some fabulous players have been stuck on poor teams, so their failure to reach the Fall Classic is understandable. When that club, or in this case two clubs, become perennial winners after the star player leaves, fans have to wonder if he in fact was part of the blame for the poor team performance.