Stops on the Grissom Trail: Montreal (6 seasons), Atlanta (2 seasons), Cleveland (1 season), Milwaukee (3 seasons), Los Angeles (2 seasons), and San Francisco (2+ seasons).
The trail has been a long and winding one for Marquis Grissom.
Oh yeah, and productive.
The two-time All-Star and four time Gold Glove winner returns to the city by the bay for his third season with the Giants, his seventeenth overall.
Marquis Deon Grissom, one of fifteen children, was born on April 17, 1967 in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Florida A&M where he excelled as both a pitcher (9-2 with a 2.40 earned run average) and outfielder (.448 batting average and 12 homers). In his sophomore year, he finished the Division I batting race 38 points ahead of another future major leaguer, the Astros Jeff Bagwell. That same year, the Montreal Expos drafted Grissom in the third round of the 1998 draft. With the same speed he used to run the base paths or snag a fly in the outfield, Grissom quickly ascended the Expos organizational ladder. Only a season after being drafted he was playing in his first major league game.
In his first two full major league seasons, Grissom swiped 154 bases (leading the National League both years) while being thrown out only 30 times. This would be just a hint of his future eminence on the base paths. Despite back-to-back All-Star seasons in 1993 and 1994, the cost-conscious Expos dealt Grissom to his hometown team, the Atlanta Braves.
The pressures of playing in his own backyard and in front of family and friends every night showed. In his first season with the Braves, Grissom struggled.
In 1995 and 1996 with the Braves and in 1997 with the Indians, Grissom thrived on Fall Ball and excelled on the October stage. In 1997, he won the American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player award. In 52 post season games, he owns a .317 batting average with 34 runs, seven doubles, three triples, five homers, 20 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases. In 19 World Series games, he batted .390. Grissom also holds the National League record with a 15 game hitting streak.
After losing the World Series in seven games to the Florida Marlins, the Indians sent Grissom to the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1999, Grissom joined Tommy Harper, Robin Yount, and Jeromy Burnitz as the only members of the Blue Crew to ever smack 20 or more homers and swipe 20 or more bases in the same season.
Grissom joined the Giants in 2003 after the previous two with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The later of the two seasons had Grissom, accustomed to playing every day, platooning, and only appearing in 111 games, one game more than his career low set back in the strike shortened season of 1994.
In 2003, Grissom joined an elite fraternity. He is one of six players in Major League history to record 2,000 hits (2003), hit 200 homers (2003), and swipe 400 bases (2000 with Milwaukee). The other members include: Roberto Alomar, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, and Joe Morgan.
Returning to every day status, Grissom has compiled impressive numbers in back-to-back seasons for the orange and black. His combined numbers for the past two seasons include - .290 batting average, 42 homers, 169 runs batted in while appearing in 294 games.
With 165 strikeouts and only 57 free passes in the past two seasons support his hitting philosophy-that of a free swinger. Well known to chase balls out of the strike zone and swing at breaking pitches off the plate, the right-handed pull hitter is most aggressive against lefties.
While he may have lost a step or two in the field and on the base paths, he is still one of the games smartest players. The stellar gloveman boasts a lifetime .988 fielding percentage and has only committed 60 errors in 4,969 total chances. In 2004, he made only two defense miscues in 346 total chances. With the miscue on September 26th versus his former team the Dodgers, Grissom snapped an errorless streak that started on August 12, 2003. Knowing where to position himself in the field, while getting superior jumps and reads on balls, makes his declining speed barely noticeable.
Currently he is tied for 55th all-time (and fifth among active players) with 428 career stolen bases. While his stolen base season totals have declined sharply over the last few seasons, he is still a smart base runner and always a threat whenever on base.
Numbers dont lie. Grissom has proven that he is most productive as an everyday player. Grissom turns 38 this spring and while his numbers dont reflect that he is a player that should be on the downside of his career, Alou should avoid burning out his aging veteran. By resting him and giving him more days off, Alou should be able to keep Grissom at his most productive.
Wendy J Sotos is a Cleveland based writer who loves nothing more than a Jim Thome blast and an Omar Vizquel barehanded scoop. Both of which, she believes, will be Hall of Famers when their playing days are over.
Wendy can be reached at: designatedwriter@yahoo. com
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