Archive for the 'Records' Category

Aaron’s 755 looks safe for now

Henry Aaron has been largely silent as Barry Bonds zeroes in on his home run record.

While he praised Selig for doing the right thing in appointing an investigation into steroids in baseball, he guardedly said he would congratulate Bonds if Barry were reach 756. “I wouldn’t say anything, just ‘God Bless You,'” Aaron said to the Associated Press. Can you really blame him for this reservation?

During his run at Ruth’s record in the 1970s, Aaron was on the receiving end of a lot of racist backlash. Now, thirty years later, Bonds is suffering in the eyes of the public but for vastly different reasons. Aaron’s treatment reflected the strain of race relations in the United States. Bonds’ treatment shows what happens in the court of public opinion to someone who may have cheated. While Bonds tries to play the race card, fans are hesitant at best to embrace his pursuit of the record because of his close ties to the BALCO court case and baseball’s current steroid scandal.

For Aaron, Bonds’ pursuit must be something to watch because these two players, while both immensely talented, have put together vastly different career profiles. Bonds, now famous for his late-career resurgence, has always been a flashy player. He made enemies in Pittsburgh with the Pirates’ management and took to calling Andy Van Slyke the Great White Hope because Slyke was better paid and more well-liked them him.

But for his attitude and talk, Bonds has been miles better than any other player in baseball even when you don’t consider his home runs. He won Gold Gloves seven times out of eight years in the 1990s. He won three MVP awards in the early 1990s and four so far in the twenty-first century. He’s topped 500 stolen bases and has over 2700 career hits.

While Bonds has put up gaudy totals in spurts while maintaining an overall level of excellence, Aaron was consistently at the top of his game from 1955 until 1973…

The hunt for 756 claims another casualty

Every baseball record is made to be broken. Cal Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig. Ichiro topped George Sisler. That’s one of the joys of watching baseball day in and day out.

But even so, some numbers seem more sacred than others. There’s Rogers Hornsby’s modern-era batting average record of .424. There’s Ted Williams’ .406. There’s Joe DiMaggio’s 56. And then there is Hank Aaron’s 755.

For 30 years, Aaron’s number has stood as a testament to longevity. Hammerin’ Hank played 23 seasons, averaging 37 home runs a year. On April 8, 1974, at the age of 40, Aaron hit home run number 715, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s previous record.

Aaron’s was a record that many thought would never be broken. The home run hitters of the late 1970s and 1980s were prolific but not nearly as consistent as Aaron. Reggie Jackson ended his career at 563. Mike Schmidt finished with 548. Certainly, these were impressive, Hall-of-Fame worthy numbers, but Aaron towered above these sluggers.

That is, he towered above these sluggers until what is now known as the Steroid Era of the 1990s when two players – Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa – captivated a nation and brought home baseball’s popularity. After the summer of 1998, the home run year, many baseball watchers thought that McGwire or Sosa would challenge Aaron. When the two topped 60 again in 1999, the hunt was on.

But it was not to be. McGwire, whose first missed significant time at ages 29 and 30, his peak offensive years, felt age rush upon him. By the time he turned 38, he had already retired from the game. Had he played until age 42, as Aaron did, he may well have reached the 700s. As it was, when he retired after the 2001 campaign, he still managed to hit a home run every 10 at bats. He had the strength; he had the eye; but the rest of his body wouldn’t let him keep going. Aaron was safe for a few more years.

Meanwhile, Slammin’ Sammy kept on truckin’. In the same year that McGwire retired, Sosa at age 32 became the first player to hit 60 home runs in three different seasons. The sky was the limit was the Cubs’ golden boy. Sosa continued his prolific home run mashing through the 2004 campaign. While slowed a little by injuries and a corked bat incident, he finished the year with 35 home runs in 126 games. Sitting on 574 career home runs, it seemed as though Sosa could have pulled off five more years of 35 home runs, putting him just a few short of Aaron.

But again, age caught up with Sosa at the end of the 2004 season. He missed significant time down the stretch and left Chicago on very bad terms. His arrival in Baltimore led many to believe a career resurgence was on deck. Playing in a cozy ballpark in the middle of a packed lineup, many predicted Sosa would challenge 40 home runs and maybe even 50 in 2005, vaulting him into the 600-club. Again though injury found its way into Sosa’s life. He played 102 pain-filled games, hitting just 14 home runs in the process, his lowest total since 1992.

Sosa with his career average of an astounding 42 home runs a season retired yesterday. He had one contract offer for the 2006 season: a non-guaranteed $500,000 offer from the Washington Nationals. Twelve home runs shy of 600, he opted to take the $123 million he has earned over his 17-year career and call it a day. He was just another slugger out of the game before reaching 38.

But while McGwire’s career was winding down and Sosa’s days of 60 home runs were coming to an end, another power hitter was ascending the throne. This one was no secret and no spring chicken. In 2001 at age 36, the year most sluggers think about hanging up the spikes, Barry Bonds mashed 73 home runs in what probably amounts to the best offensive season ever.

And he didn’t stop there. Bonds, who would eclipse 200 walks in 2004, hit 209 home runs between 2001 and 2004. At the end of 2004, his career total rested at 703, and in fact, Sosa had more home runs through age 36 than Bonds did. But no matter. He had showed no sign of slowing down, and at age 40, he had the Babe’s 714 in his sights and Aaron’s 755 looming on the horizon.

But then, like McGwire before him and Sosa after him, injury struck. He missed nearly all of the 2005 season due to a serious knee injury. When he played in September, though, it was clear that Bonds was still there, homering away. He hit 5 home runs in 42 at bats, bringing him even closer to the Babe.

Now, on the eve of Spring Training and just hours after Sammy Sosa’s retirement, the game is left with one slugger who can challenge Hank Aaron. Sure, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols will probably put up runs at 800 home runs within the decade. But the immediate attention is focused on Barry Bonds.

While future baseball historians (and Hall of Fame voters) will have to grapple with the legacy of the Steroid Era, for now, all eyes on the enigma that is Barry Bonds. He turns 42 in July and is already one of the top five oldest players in the game. Now it’s time to wonder if he can find the strength and stay injury-free over the next seven months. The last 47 home runs are the hardest ones, and for Bonds, it’s no sure thing. After all, Hank Aaron hit just 32 home runs after turning 41 and just 10 after hitting 42.

While many expect Bonds to reach record heights, Hank Aaron may just be a little more comfortable sitting atop his home run perch knowing that history and health is on his side.


RSS River Ave. Blues

  • DotF: Andujar’s big game leads Scranton to a win August 20, 2017
    Two quick notes to pass along: C Kyle Higashioka is on the disabled list with a shoulder problem, not a recurrence of his recent back injury, according to Conor Foley. He said his shoulder feels weak. No idea how long he’ll be sidelined, but with September call-ups right around the corner, you can bet Higashioka […] The post DotF: Andujar’s big game leads Sc […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Red Sox 5, Yankees 1: Bad offense, bad bullpen let a game slip away August 20, 2017
    Source: FanGraphs The Yankees are likely going to be a second place team this year and they looked every bit the part against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon. Out-hit, out-pitched, out-defended, out-managed. Pretty gross effort all around. The final score was 5-1. It’s Sunday, so I’m going to recap this mess of a game […] The post Red Sox 5, Yankees 1: Bad o […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 123: Sonny Sunday August 20, 2017
    Big game today. They’re all kinda big games at this point, but especially today because today’s the difference between three games back in the AL East and five games back in the AL East. The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow, so I imagine Joe Girardi won’t hold back with the bullpen. If he needs four […] The post Game 123: Sonny Sunday appeared first on River […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Full Strength–Or Something Like It August 20, 2017
    Like any full baseball season worth its salt, the second half for the Yankees has been an unpredictable series of ups and downs. At times, they’ve looked as dominant as they did in the early season; at other times, they’ve looked as hapless as they did in June. Overall, though, they’re holding the line and […] The post Full Strength–Or Something Like It appe […]
    Matt Imbrogno
  • Austin’s power gives the Yankees a 4-3 win over the Red Sox in Sabathia’s return from the DL August 20, 2017
    Was it easy? No. But a win is a win, and that was an impressive win considering the tough loss Friday night. The Yankees rebounded to beat Chris Sale and the Red Sox 4-3 on Saturday night. They’re 3-1 against Sale this year, you know. They’d be 4-0 if Aroldis Chapman could protect a one-run […] The post Austin’s power gives the Yankees a 4-3 win over the Red […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Bird stays hot on rehab assignment in Scranton’s loss August 20, 2017
    C Kyle Higashioka is back on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, reports Conor Foley. Not sure if the back issue flared up again, or if this is something new. I wonder what the Yankees will do about a third catcher in September if Higashioka doesn’t get healthy in time. I guess C Eddy Rodriguez by […] The post DotF: Bird stays hot on rehab assignment in Scr […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 122: Sabathia Returns August 19, 2017
    Tough loss last night. Another tough loss last night. The Yankees have made a habit of those lately. Pretty annoying. The best thing about baseball is that they play everyday, so tonight the Yankees have a chance to erase that memory and grab a win. There are still six weeks left in the season, but […] The post Game 122: Sabathia Returns appeared first on Ri […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Saturday Links: Judge, Playoffs, Cave, Automatic Strike Zone August 19, 2017
    The Yankees and Red Sox will continue their three-game weekend series later tonight at Fenway Park. That’s a 7pm ET start. Remember when they used to play baseball on Saturday afternoons? That was fun. Anyway, here are some links and notes to check out until first pitch. Yankees not considering moving Judge to first base […] The post Saturday Links: Judge, P […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Bullpen lets another game slip away in 9-6 loss to Red Sox August 19, 2017
    The Yankees have outdone themselves again. Another new Worst Loss of the Season. Why couldn’t it rain Friday like the forecast said it would? The final score was 9-6 Red Sox in the series opener. The Yankees are now five games back in the AL East. The Top of the Seventh For all intents and […] The post Bullpen lets another game slip away in 9-6 loss to Red S […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Castro and Holliday begin rehab assignments; Bird goes deep twice in Scranton’s loss August 19, 2017
    Two Yankees made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: RHP Juan De Paula (12th) and 3B Dermis Garcia (15th). “De Paula has a reputation as a strike-thrower but has not shown consistent control this season (4.28 walks per nine). He showed he can be almost unhittable when everything is working,” said the write-up. Triple-A Scranton (10-6 […] The post DotF: Castro an […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 62,522 hits