It's a little strange to say of a guy who just joined one of the most exclusive groups in baseball history, "What if," but that's exactly the case concerning Ken Griffey Jr., who hit his 600th career home run yesterday against Florida.
Griffey's feat puts him with just Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa as players who have hit 600. For many fans who discount Bonds and Sosa, the legitimate club is smaller. And there is lots of room to speculate what Griffey would have accomplished had he not been slowed by injuries earlier this decade.
Four seasons, from 2001 through 2004, Griffey averaged just 80 games a year which, in turn, slowed his home run pace to just an average of 16 a season. In that way, Griffey is reminiscent of Ted Williams, who lost nearly five full seasons to military service. Williams finished his career with 521 homers and baseball fans have debated in the nearly five decades since he finished his career with a home run whether he would have passed Babe Ruth.
It's difficult to say how many home runs Griffey will finish with. Last year, he played in more games (144) than he had in seven years. But although he has stayed healthy and has appeared in 61 games in 2008, he has just seven homers this season. Right now, he projects to an 18-homer, .260 season as a 38-year-old outfielder. There are many in baseball who, in hindsight, would have much preferred that it was this son of a major leaguer rather than Bonds who had scaled the mountain that is Aaron's home run totals. This much is clear, though, while Bonds' Hall of Fame fate may hinge on the outcome of a federal indictment related to performance enhancing drugs, Griffey's path to Cooperstown will be an easy home run trot.