|Thursday, July 17
Updated: July 19, 7:34 PM ET
Reds center fielder out for season -- again
For the fourth year in a row, the show was cut short.
Griffey had surgery Friday to repair a shredded tendon in his right ankle, his sixth major injury since he joined his hometown team in 2000.
Griffey also is expected to have surgery in the next few weeks to repair his right shoulder, which he dislocated while trying to make a diving catch April 5. Both injuries should be fully healed by the start of spring training, said Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who performed the surgery.
There's growing concern that Griffey, 33, may never be the same player again. The All-Star center fielder was perhaps the best in the game in the '90s, but he has been little more than a curiosity since coming home in a trade with Seattle.
Even Griffey's most ardent supporters have to wonder whether they'll ever see the old Junior.
"I think it's a possibility he could come back and be close to the player he was when we acquired him," said general manager Jim Bowden, who had a sleepless night after the latest setback. "In the five games prior to the All-Star break, we all saw what a special player he is when he's healthy."
Griffey homered in five consecutive starts, an indication he was starting to regain his stroke after missing more than a month with a dislocated shoulder. He was running out a double Thursday night when his season abruptly ended.
Griffey completely tore one of the two tendons on the outside of his right ankle as he rounded first base during a 5-4 loss to Houston.
"This is a very rare injury," Kremchek said. "Junior is very depressed. The operation went well. The tendon is repaired.
"He's very down. The realization that the season's over is just kind of hitting him now. It's tough to take."
It's bitter for the Reds, as well. They expected Griffey to pack the ballpark, put up big numbers and chase Hank Aaron's home run record during his nine-year, $116.5 million contract.
Instead, Griffey's body has betrayed him and the Reds have been left with a major drag on a small-market payroll. They tried to cut their losses by trading him to San Diego in the offseason, but Phil Nevin blocked the deal by invoking his no-trade clause.
Griffey was an 11-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove outfielder, AL Most Valuable Player and All-Century player with the Mariners. He had hardly unpacked in Cincinnati when the injuries began, however.
He tore his left hamstring late during his first season with Cincinnati, then tore it again during spring training in 2001. He tore a ligament in his knee during the first week of the 2002 season, then tore the other hamstring later in the season.
Griffey separated his shoulder while trying to make a diving catch during the first weekend of this season but returned after 5 1/2 weeks even though the shoulder wasn't completely healed.
In his four seasons with the Reds, Griffey has started an average of only 82 games, an abrupt departure from his 11 sterling seasons in Seattle. First baseman Sean Casey noticed during spring training that Griffey had a little extra determination to prove himself.
"I don't know if it was to show the people," Casey said Friday. "I think it was more to show himself. He had such a great spring. It was really impressive. He was at a different level, one of the premier players in the league."
Just like the last three seasons, Griffey couldn't sustain it for long. He has only 43 homers in the past three seasons, leaving him with 481 career.
Instead of chasing Aaron's home run mark, Griffey is having trouble just getting to 500. Shortstop Barry Larkin, his closest friend on the team, thinks it's partly a matter of age and wear and tear catching up.
Larkin noted that Griffey played his first 11 seasons on artificial turf in Seattle.
"That has a way of beating your body up, as well," Larkin said. "Eventually, you continue to wear parts on the machine, and the parts are going to wear out."
Griffey's welcome wore out a few injuries ago. Fans who flooded the Reds' offices with ticket requests in February 2000 are now convinced that they'd be better off without their most celebrated -- and most expensive -- player.
"One man can't do it all," construction worker Marcus Powell said Friday. "He ain't no Pete Rose."