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To A-Rod, Griffey is best of bunch
06/20/2004  7:59 PM ET
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez has played with more than a half-dozen players in his career who will someday make their case for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. From Rafael Palmeiro to Juan Gonzalez, Derek Jeter to Edgar Martinez, A-Rod has shared a clubhouse with some of the game's great talents.

He'd take Ken Griffey Jr. over any one of them.

"He's the greatest player I've ever seen," Rodriguez said.

That's saying something, especially when you consider that A-Rod has played behind one of the most dominant left-handed pitchers (Randy Johnson), arguably the greatest closer (Mariano Rivera) and possibly the best all-around catcher (Ivan Rodriguez) in the history of the game.

Rodriguez and Griffey played together in Seattle for six seasons, leading the Mariners to the first two American League West titles in franchise history. When A-Rod was getting his first taste of the Majors in 1994 and '95, Griffey was firmly entrenched as the best player in the game.

"It was like watching Michelangelo on a daily basis," Rodriguez said. "It was the greatest show on earth, and I had the best seat for six years."

During the four seasons in which the pair played together every day, Griffey averaged 52 home runs and 141 RBIs, winning three home run titles and the 1987 AL MVP award.

"He'd hit 55 home runs, drive in 140, climb walls like Spider Man, playing recklessly," Rodriguez said, sounding like a child talking about his favorite player. "I'll always remember him for being in the lineup every day. It's not often that you see a superstar of that magnitude that wants to be out there like that."

Rodriguez has followed in Griffey's footsteps -- in more ways than one. While Griffey was the consensus "Player of the 1990s," that title this decade is firmly within reach for Rodriguez, who is coming off of three home run titles of his own and his first MVP award.

A-Rod also followed Griffey out of Seattle, though he took a different path. While Griffey demanded a trade, landing in Cincinnati before the 2000 season, Rodriguez bolted via free agency, taking a 10-year, $252-million deal from the Texas Rangers just 10 months and one day after Griffey's departure.

As Griffey continues to update his resume for Cooperstown by joining the 500-homer club, A-Rod wonders what could have been had his friend and former teammate not been hampered by injuries over the past three seasons.

"Hopefully when we look at his career, those three years will be just a blip of what he accomplished over 20 wonderful years," Rodriguez said. "He's had one of the greatest careers of all time. He's bounced back this year after some adversity, so hopefully he can continue and keep going from here."

As far as Rodriguez is concerned, he believes that had Griffey not missed 252 games since 2001, people would be talking about him and Barry Bonds as they pursued Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron together.

"They wouldn't have had a choice, because he'd probably have been around 600," Rodriguez said. "I think he has a chance to keep climbing the chart, because he's such a special player."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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