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The 42-year-old ageless wonder, who turns 43 on Christmas Day (according to his bio), doesn’t plan to go out quietly into the night either, even if that means bringing a ball club down with him. It’s a no brainer then that Henderson made our ModernEra Punks list (see ModernEra Punks under the “Articles Archives” link).
The reality is this: Henderson has no business playing Major League Baseball, and if it were not for the records he’s chasing no team in their right mind would employ his services. All this season, the only known player to speak in the third person (and to himself often) has batted in the low 200’s for the San Diego Padres – in the leadoff position.
The sad truth is that Henderson should have captured the runs scored record and eclipsed 3,000 hits years ago.
But, of course, in true Rickey fashion, that’s didn’t happen because – well - the always articulate, poetic, accommodating and caring-beyond-self Henderson spent years with the Yankees hot-dogging it because another fellow “original,” Bronx Bombers owner George Steinbrenner, failed to pay “the greatest” the kind of money he felt was deserved of his services (who can forget Henderson’s lazy “snap back” catches, which are still taught religiously to little leaguers around the world today!)
Today, in 2001, Henderson’s teammates and coaches are hesitant to discuss the All-time stolen base leaders checkered past. It’s the same karma teammates and coaches use to protect the other idiots that have permeated the game – Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and so forth.
“There’s a misconception about him,” says Padres first base coach Alan Trammell of Henderson. “He’s a good man.”
That may be so, but words are words. Actions are another item, so you be the judge.
Who was it that stole second base in late July of this year as the Padres were beating the snot out of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in the late innings just to chase some records?
Who was it that was calling Major League Baseball general managers this off-season (because no one was calling him) after being waived by the Mariners claiming, “Rickey thinks he wants to play for you”?
Who was it that could not be “located” after the Padres – believe it or not – actually wanted to bring him into spring training during the last month of the season?
Who was it that was trotting slowly down the first base line last season after hitting a ball into fair territory, much to the chagrin of his teammates and fans at Shea Stadium?
Who was it that was alleging playing cards during a playoff game in 1999?
It was Rickey Henderson, the enigma or enigmas. The anomaly of anomalies.
Henderson is the best base stealer ever to play the game, yet he is probably the slowest to get into the batters box and he’s never in a rush to step back in after a pitch, if need be.
Henderson is defended by current players and coaches as being a “good man,” yet for someone who is “the greatest” has never used this fame for endorsements or public service announcements to help the needy or less fortunate.
Henderson is labeled “a good guy in the clubhouse” that “loves to share stories about his game and things that have helped him,” but this is the same player who – truth or fiction – is also labeled with asking John Olerud who he was last season while with Seattle.
“I played with a guy in Toronto who had a helmet just like you,” Henderson – truth or fiction – is alleged to have said.
“That was me, you idiot,” Olerud is alleged to have responded – truth or fiction.
Certainly Henderson – as a ballplayer – is deserved of his accomplishments. While blessed with talent, he worked and continues to work at perfecting his craft.
One could make the argument that Henderson is, in fact, “the greatest” player ever to play the game. And there’s no argument whatsoever that Henderson is indeed “the greatest” player ever when it comes to conditioning and being in shape to play every day. It’s perhaps just as equally remarkable as his statistical accomplishments.
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Mar 25 2002, 17:49:30
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