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Heyman: “Straight thinkers” consider Maris the single-season HR king

Jul 7, 2013, 9:45 PM EDT

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

Never shy to share a controversial opinion, Jon Heyman wrote in today’s column at CBS Sports that “most straight thinkers consider [Roger Maris] the legitimate single-season home-run record holder for his hallowed 61 home runs in 1961”. With 33 home runs through his team’s first 89 games, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is on pace for 60 over 162 games.

Barry Bonds currently holds the actual single-season home run record at 73. Mark McGwire had two seasons in which he surpassed the 61 home runs of Maris (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sosa had three (66 in 1998, 64 in 2001, and 63 in 1999). All three have been implicated in some fashion with participating in the drug culture that permeated baseball throughout the late 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s.

The rewriting of steroid era history only goes as far as the offense, however. Writers are happy to whitewash the accomplishments of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and others, but don’t to the extra mile in abdicating their teams of regular season and post-season wins, their pitchers of individual wins, the batters who hit in front of them of runs and the batters behind them of runs batted in. Nor do they recognize that Maris hit his 61 home runs to claim the record in 161 games, ten more than Babe Ruth needed when he hit 60 1927.

I don’t have an issue with creating your own narrative, since baseball fandom is ultimately creating a personal narrative. But if you’re a writer attempting to influence public opinion and affect the trajectory of players’ places in history, you have to be consistent and fair with your ultimately arbitrary criteria.

The real crime here, however, is the continued marriage by writers of Davis and performance-enhancing moralizing and speculation. Davis has passed every drug test he has taken and has never been accused of cheating by anyone with any credibility. To continue to use him as a jumping-off point to impugn Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and others is extremely unfair to Davis, who has worked incredibly hard to improve from a below-average hitter to baseball’s best hitter through 55 percent of the season.

  1. thebadguyswon - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Baseball’s best hitter in Miguel Cabrera, hands down. One full season worth of games of this new Chris Davis doesn’t elevate him to the top of the mountain.

    • quintjs - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:09 PM

      does it elevate him to the status of baseball’s best hitter through 55 percent of the season?

      • thebadguyswon - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:12 PM

        Chris Davis =/= Miguel Cabrera

        Not even close.

      • eightyraw - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:15 PM

        Well actually, no.

        wOBA: Miggy – .466; Crush – .461
        wRC+: Miggy – 200; Crush – 195

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:21 PM

        @eightyraw Didn’t you know most HR = best player dude?

  2. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:20 PM

    “the drug culture that permeated baseball throughout the late 1980′s, 1990′s, and early 2000′s.”

    I think you are missing a few decades, Bill. At the very least 60s and 70s, and by some accounts drug culture has been a part of baseball (and all other professional sports) since the 1890s.

  3. thebadguyswon - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    Davis still whiffs 27% of the time compared to Miggy’s 15%. Again, there is no comparison. Davis has been doing this for one calendar year. Miggy for years.

    • timburns116 - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      The horse is dead. Will you please stop hitting it

    • mercyflush - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      thebadguyswon, you are totally missing the point of the thread. Who cares if Cabrera is better than Davis, numbnuts.

  4. wonkypenguin - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    Excellent take on this issue. I hereby call you a “circular thinker” or “squiggly thinker” – whichever works best.

  5. Sean Boulton - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    Most interesting thing about this article to me? The piece that was quoted above – “most straight thinkers consider…” – is an edit of the piece. I clicked on the link when Heyman originally tweeted it, and it read “most right-thinkers consider…”. It was very Tea Partyish language – struck me right away. Wonder why it was changed?

  6. Walk - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    I wish maris was the single season leader. Until bonds numbers are removed from the books 73 is still greater than 61. Baseball will never be an even playing field. Changes are constantly made, new medical treatments such as tommy john allow players to resurrect careers, amphetamines allowed players to play at a higher level when they would have otherwise been too tired to focus, changes in mound height and other rules, expansion years when pitching and hitting is diluted, newer ballparks that are smaller than high school parks, and even pitching changes to dedicated relief specialists. The game is a living evolving thing, I believe it is possible to celebrate the past and current achievements if we just take it with a grain of salt.

    • Old Gator - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      Bonds’ records, I take with a tablespoon of Ipecac.

      • armadaservices - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        Because the pitchers throwing to Bonds and McGwire were clean, right? A middle reliever called upon to pitch 80 times in a season benefits more from these types of PED’s than hitters.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 9, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        How do you get an Alpaca on a spoon? Furthermore, how do you break down an Alpaca into tablespoon form?

  7. soxpower - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    Lol why u guys arguing who is a better hitter MIggy of Crush? Miggy of course but Crush is having his breathrough year can’t we enjoy that?

    Maris is the True record holder. Mgriod of course is guilty. Bonds no duh. Sosa probably but also had a corked bat.

  8. jonrox - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    If Roger Maris had his career in the recent years, all the same people who suspect (suggest?) Chris Davis of using PEDs would also suspect Maris. He had a massive jump (39 to 61) and then was a big flameout, which fits our steroid anecdotes pretty well (think Brady Anderson).

    Of course, there used to be (still is?) a debate about whether Babe Ruth deserves the home run crown since he did 60 in 154 games while Maris did 61 in 162. Then again, Maybe Ruth doesn’t deserve it since MLB was segregated back then and he didn’t have to play against the best players in the world.

    In conclusion, Mike Trout for MVP, I think.

  9. louhudson23 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:30 AM

    False equivalency,however rampant,remains false….

  10. jfk69 - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    The best quote back in the day was Ruth’s when asked if he could have hit more home runs without the late nights.
    Ruth replied…”It was all those weiners I stuffed in my mouth that didn’t help.”
    WHO KNEW…lol
    Bonds,Sosa,McGwire Equal JUICERS.While they all are legitimate 40 plus home run hitters. Sixty and beyond strain credibility once we saw what happened to the home run totals after the crack down.

  11. tomtravis76 - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    I hope Davis is clean, but baseball is forever tainted, every player whom the fans have gotten behind ends up disappointing everyone because we ultimately find out they were doing something illegal. Until some player is willing to take the beating he will get from the union and take drug tests for media outlets, and passing, basically holding up the results saying , this is my hard work not drugs, nobody can be trusted in baseball.

    • rarson - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      The dirty little secret is that this “taint” you speak of was created by the media.

      Who was making such a big deal about home run numbers in the first place? Who was comparing records from decades earlier during the steroid era? Who turned around and smeared the record-setting players simply because they, like pretty much everyone else at the time, were using steroids?

      The media set you up to put value in a largely meaningless record, then tore it down when it “came out” that players who were obviously on steroids were on steroids. Anyone with half a brain is enjoying baseball right now instead of giving a crap about this.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 9, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Hahaha! Rarson said “taint.”

  12. largebill - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    So, to Jon Heyman “straight thinkers” believe that higher numbers are not higher. Alrighty then, is it any surprise he is a sports writer instead of an engineer? Nonsense like that is why I’m not surprised that some sports writers are dismissive of advanced statistics because like math is hard, dude.

  13. cohnjusack - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    You know….this is the kind of shit children do. “Well, I don’t like that steroid users hit home runs, so I refuse to acknowledge it!”

  14. anxovies - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Under either the “right-thinking” or “straight-thinking” method Ruth was by far the most powerful hitter of all time, and the greatest hitter. His 1927 numbers of .356/60/137 and his lifetime .342/.690/1,164 eclipse the PED pretenders, and with all due respect, Maris and his 161 games.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:21 PM

      His 1927 numbers of .356/60/137 and his lifetime .342/.690/1,164 eclipse the PED pretenders, and with all due respect,

      What a strange collection of numbers, it actually took me a few minutes to figure out what you were writing.

      1927 Ruth – .356 BA, 60 HR, 137 BB
      2001 Bonds – .328 BA, 73 HR, 177 BB

      Bonds > Ruth (Bonds had the better OBP and SLG as well, .515/.863 to .486/.772)

      Yes Ruth has the best career numbers, but don’t use unadjusted numbers. And why are you quoting BA/SLG/OPS?

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 9, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        “And why are you quoting BA/SLG/OPS?”

        Because he likes them?

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