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

  • Open Thread: 2/26 Camp Notes February 27, 2015
    Another day of Spring Training workouts is in the books. We’re only five days away from the first Grapefruit League game now. Here is the latest from Tampa: The big story of the day was Masahiro Tanaka‘s third bullpen session of the spring. He threw 40 pitches with increased intensity and had no issues. “I [...] Open Thread: 2/26 Camp Notes is a post from: R […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Mark Teixeira is not going to focus on beating the shift and that’s okay February 26, 2015
    Position players reported to Spring Training yesterday and one of the first to talk was Mark Teixeira, who is now entering his seventh year as the team’s first baseman. Teixeira went into the winter saying he needed to get stronger following his first full year after wrist surgery, and he claims to have done that [...] Mark Teixeira is not going to focus on […]
    Michael Axisa
  • New pace of play rules mean several Yankees will have to make adjustments in Spring Training February 26, 2015
    Late last week, MLB and the MLBPA announced a series of rule modifications designed to improve baseball’s pace of play. A few league executives were quoted as saying they aren’t necessarily trying to shorten games, they’re trying to eliminate some of the downtime within games. They don’t want players standing around and fans reaching for [...] New pace of pl […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Heyman: Yankees are “confident” they can void A-Rod’s home run milestone bonuses February 26, 2015
    As much as they wish they could, the Yankees are unable to avoid the three years and $64M left on Alex Rodriguez‘s contract following last year’s suspension. They are attempting to void the $30M in historic home run milestone bonuses however, and Jon Heyman reports the team is “confident” they will be able to get [...] Heyman: Yankees are “confident” they ca […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Only wrong answer at top of the lineup is one that doesn’t include Ellsbury and Gardner February 26, 2015
    On the very first day of camp last week, Joe Girardi held his annual start of Spring Training press conference and discussed the importance of settling on a lineup, among other things. “Figuring out our batting order I think is something important, because there are some people we don’t know exactly where they are at, [...] Only wrong answer at top of the li […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Open Thread: 2/25 Camp Notes February 26, 2015
    Position players reported to Spring Training today — everyone arrived on time and everyone passed their physicals, no issues this year — and a special guest instructor showed up as well: Mariano Rivera. “I’ve decided to come back,” he joked. He’ll be in camp for ten days or so. The odds Rivera could come back [...] Open Thread: 2/25 Camp Notes is a post from […]
    Michael Axisa
  • The easy to forget but still really important Ivan Nova February 25, 2015
    Since Spring Training officially opened last week, all eyes have been on Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Well, at least the eyes that weren’t glued to Alex Rodriguez‘s every step. Tanaka and Sabathia are by far the biggest pitching stories in camp since they are both being counted on as rotation anchors and are coming [...] The easy to forget but still real […]
    Michael Axisa
  • For Nathan Eovaldi, not all adjustments will be physical February 25, 2015
    Earlier this week in our little poll, RAB readers voted right-hander Nathan Eovaldi as the Yankees’ most important pickup of the offseason. (He received 40% of the 2,500+ votes.) He beat out the likes of Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, and various relievers because he’s a hard-throwing starter with obvious upside and three full years of [...] For Nathan Eoval […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Thoughts before position players report to Spring Training February 25, 2015
    Pitchers and catchers have been in camp since last Friday, and today position players officially join them in Spring Training. Many of them — including Alex Rodriguez! — have already been in Tampa for a few days now. I’ve already said what I had to say about Yoan Moncada. Let’s move on to some Spring [...] Thoughts before position players report to Spring Tr […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Open Thread: 2/24 Camp Notes February 25, 2015
    One week from today, the Yankees will open their Grapefruit League schedule against the Phillies in Clearwater. Actual baseball games are right around the corner. Here are the day’s notes from Tampa: Chris Capuano, David Carpenter, Chase Whitley, and Bryan Mitchell all threw live batting practice while CC Sabathia, Andrew Bailey, Dellin Betances, Scott Baker […]
    Michael Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 60,706 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.