Remember when the Reds traded for Ken Griffey Jr.?
It was 17 years ago today.
But no, I don’t mean do you recall that it happened.
The records are available for anyone to see. The highlights are still on YouTube and so on and so forth.
But remember the feeling of Feb. 10, 2000?
Has there ever been a better time to be a Reds fan since the World Series win in 1990?
I’m having a hard time thinking of one.
HAL MCCOY: Ken Griffey Jr. a Hall of Fame person
As the Cincinnati native and son of a Big Red Machine member took over the game in the ‘90s, I remember fantasizing about how he would look in a wishbone ‘C’ cap.
There were occasional reports it might happen, but it always seemed like an impossible dream.
Then when it finally did come to pass, it was almost too good to be true.
Coming off a surprise 96-win season, Cincinnati added the coolest, most popular active player in baseball — if not sports — at the time.
As a bonus, they gave up surprisingly little to get a 30-year-old with 398 home runs and 10 Gold Gloves, but most importantly he wanted to be here.
He called Southwest Ohio home without prompting. (You know we love that here.)
How could things possibly look any, well, rosier then or in the immediate future?
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
Everything looked great until the actual games started. That pretty much ruined everything.
It’s a testament to The Kid’s greatness in Seattle that his 210 homers, 602 RBIs and three All-Star appearances as a Red are pretty much universally remembered as a disappointment.
Griffey couldn’t stay healthy, and team management failed to put enough good players around him.
The Reds won 11 fewer games in 2000 than in that magical ’99 season, and it pretty much only got worse from there.
To add insult to injury, the Mariners went on to four straight winning seasons despite losing a future Hall of Famer in what should have been his prime.
The storybook had some high points — home runs No. 400, 500 and 600 — but not the ending anyone wanted, at least not in Cincinnati.
He was traded to the White Sox at the deadline in 2008 for two more forgettable players before finishing his career as a mostly ceremonial piece of two more Mariners teams.
And yet… remember that day 17 years ago?
What promise it held.
What joy it brought.
Since then sometimes it feels like hope is the best a small-market baseball fan can reasonably expect.
There have been winning seasons since and playoff appearances.
Lots of great players and personalities.
Two no-hitters and an All-Star Game.
But nothing quite like the day The Kid come home.