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

  • Judge, Bird among top Baseball America’s top 20 Eastern League prospects October 6, 2015
    Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued earlier today with the Double-A Eastern League. As always, the list is free but the scouting reports are not. Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito claims the top spot and is followed by Phillies SS J.P. Crawford and Mets OF Michael Conforto. The Yankees […] The post Judge, Bird among top B […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Monday Night Open Thread October 5, 2015
    Your browser does not support iframes.Today was the calm before the postseason storm. Except it wasn’t calm. The CC Sabathia rehab news sure was an unexpected development. Hopefully Sabathia beats this thing. This isn’t like getting a tooth pulled. Sabathia couldn’t delay this until after the postseason or something like that. He wants to go […] The post Mon […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Workout Day Notes: Eovaldi, Capuano, Shreve, Beltran October 5, 2015
    Your browser does not support iframes.Your browser does not support iframes.Today is an off-day around baseball, but both the Yankees and Astros held a workout at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Needless to say, CC Sabathia checking into rehab was the big story. Everyone in the organization stood behind him, from Brian Cashman to Joe Girardi […] The post Work […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Thoughts following the end of the 2015 regular season October 5, 2015
    The regular season is over and for the first time in three years, the Yankees are going to the postseason. They finished 87-75 and clinched a wildcard berth. Under the old setup, the Yankees would be playing the Royals in the ALDS as the wildcard team. Under the current system, they have to play the […] The post Thoughts following the end of the 2015 regular […]
    Mike Axisa
  • CC Sabathia checks into alcohol rehab center, will not be available for postseason October 5, 2015
    Monday afternoon the Yankees announced CC Sabathia has checked himself into an alcohol rehab center and will not be available this postseason. Here’s the statement Sabathia released: “Today I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center to receive the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease. “I love baseball and I love […] The […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankeemetrics: Stumbling to the finish line (Oct. 3-4) October 5, 2015
    Double Trouble The Yankees had two chances to clinch homefield advantage in Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles … and two losses later, they had wasted both of them. Ivan Nova started the opener and capped off his disappointing campaign with another dud. Following the game, Nova summed up his season with one word: “Bad.” Yup, […] The post Yankeemetri […]
    Katie Sharp
  • Fan Confidence Poll: October 5th, 2015 October 5, 2015
    Record Last Week: 1-6 (23 RS, 47 RA) Season Record: 87-75 (764 RS, 698 RA, 88-74 pythag. record) won first wildcard spot Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Astros (Tuesday in wildcard game) Top stories from last week: The week started with four games against the Red Sox. Ivan Nova got roughed up in Monday’s […] The post Fan Confidence Poll: October 5th, 2015 […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees drop season finale 9-4 to O’s, clinch home field in wildcard game anyway October 5, 2015
    The Yankees have successfully backed into the postseason. They closed out their 2015 season with a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday, though thanks to the Diamondbacks, they were still able to secure home field advantage in the wildcard game anyway. The Yankees went 1-6 in their final seven regular season games and finished […] The post Yankees drop season f […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Angels name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler new GM October 5, 2015
    According to Bill Shaikin, the Angels are expected to name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler their new GM on Monday. The team has since announced the hire. Eppler was said to be the front-runner for several weeks now. He interviewed for the job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Joel […] The post Angels name Yankees assistant GM B […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Sunday Night Open Thread October 4, 2015
    Your browser does not support iframes.The 2015 regular season is over and thanks to the Diamondbacks, the Yankees will host the Astros in the wildcard game Tuesday night. Paul Goldschmidt achieved True Yankee™ status with his two-run go-ahead home run off former Yankee Chad Qualls in the seventh inning. Biggest hit of the Yankees season, […] The post Sunday […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 61,110 hits


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.