The White Sox' acquisition of Ken Griffey, Jr. was by any reasonable account a strange one. If the 2008 Sox were too deep at any position, it was at the all-important aging-power-hitting-
definitely-be-DH'ing spot. Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and then Ken Griffey, Jr. None of the three can play a lick of outfield defense, but there they were. Someone had to do it.
So the Sox signed Griffey, Jr., a bad corner outfielder even on his best day, and stuck him in center. The problems were immediate and obvious: Late jumps, ugly dives, weak throws, missed cutoffs -- it was a panoply of bad defense from a formerly legendary outfield genius. It was occasionally funny, but mostly it was just sad.
Fortunately, White Sox fans won't have to fight back the melancholy anymore: The Sox are declining their option to keep Griffey for 2009.
Griffey's year was thoroughly mediocre, and it didn't pick up much after the trade from Cincinnati. In 131 at-bats, Griffey had 34 hits and just three home runs, with 17 walks. His splits were .260/.347/.405, which is actually not horrible. It's basically average. But combine average offense with horrible, no-way-he-just-did-that defense, and Griffey was less a help to the surging White Sox than a hindrance.
Such is the peril of trading for a player so far past his prime. The memories of Griffey are less from his Cincinnati days than the halcyon Seattle days, when Griffey climbed walls and stretch for everything and crushed the ball. He was amazing, the player of his generation, and he did it cleanly. For that, he deserves credit, and a spot in the Hall of Fame.
He doesn't, however, deserve to be grandfathered in to the 2009 White Sox lineup. Kenny Williams and crew got this one right.