Apr 8, 2014, 8:29 AM EDT
40 years ago tonight Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. It’s a moment always worth re-visiting, so let’s:
I can never get enough of that video. Just how easy Aaron’s swing was, even 20 years into his career. Buckner climbing the outfield wall. Those wackos running onto the field and congratulating Aaron. I mean, the guy had death threats leading up to that moment and suddenly two dudes run up from behind you like that? If that happened today those two would be in Guantanamo or something.
One thing I love from the video is Al Downing’s recollection of it all. He gave up the homer and, unlike some other pitchers who would up on the other side of famous hits, he had absolutely no problem with it, acknowledging that, sometimes, the guy on the other side of things is going to get the best of you. And when it’s someone as insanely-talented as Hank Aaron, that’s going to be way more often.
My enjoyment of all of this stuff is unsurpassed. But it is just enjoyment.
One thing we’ve heard more and more of in the past few years is that Hank Aaron’s 715th home run remains — even to this day — the moment when baseball’s Home Run King was crowned. That when Aaron was passed by Barry Bonds in August of 2007 it somehow didn’t count. We heard it again just yesterday afternoon and I expect we’ll hear more of it today.
I understand this. From an enjoyment perspective I found Bonds hitting number 756 off Mike Bacsik to be far less moving. Indeed, it wasn’t particularly moving at all given all of the controversy surrounding Bonds by that time, the arguments it entailed and the fact that, unlike Aaron, Bonds was never anyone you rooted for, even if you admired his accomplishments. I appreciated his dominance, but I can’t say I found it aesthetically pleasing most of the time. Certainly not as pleasing as watching old video of Aaron. And, yes, even someone like me who has made a second career out of defending PED-users from excessive, counterfactual criticism, I can appreciate that Hank Aaron’s accomplishment is more impressive than Bonds’ on a qualitative level given Bonds’ drug use, the small parks he hit in, the equipment he had at his disposal and a host of other factors.
But with all respect to Mr. Aaron, I do draw the line at asserting the counterfactual. He is not baseball’s all-time home run leader. Or its “true” Home Run King or however people wish to characterize it. To say that is to go beyond expressing your enjoyment of his accomplishment and your appreciation of him as a player and claiming that those qualitative things — and whatever disdain one has for Barry Bonds — trump the actual record of history. The record of history — which is devoid of judgment and opinion — states that Barry Bonds hit more home runs than Hank Aaron did. Baseball recognizes this fact without qualification.
We should as well. To do otherwise is to invite chaos, as each of us brings our own values and assumptions into an assessment of the records. Maybe that’s easy to do with an Aaron-Bonds comparison, but what if I were to point out that the top five all-time pitching wins leaders had ridiculous advantages that Warren Spahn never had, thus rendering him the “True Wins Leader?” What if I were to note that Ty Cobb had similar disadvantages that Pete Rose never had and thus he was the True Hit King? We could do this with most records. Doing so would be silly in most instances and would render the idea of an actual record book — the thing people who call Hank Aaron the True Home Run King say they are trying to protect — and utterly meaningless thing.
So celebrate Hank Aaron. Hold him in higher esteem than you would Barry Bonds. Consider his accomplishments more impressive if you feel that way. But stop there. Don’t claim that black is white. Don’t claim that Hank Aaron is the real and true Home Run King. Because that’s just nonsense.
Mar 28, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Yordano Ventura was recently named as the Royals’ Opening Day starter and he had a heck of a tuneup in his latest Cactus League outing last night.
Mar 28, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon said last month that he would be interested in a trade to the Blue Jays and it appears that the possibility might still have some legs.
Mar 28, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT
Pelfrey owns an ugly 5.56 ERA in 34 starts dating back to 2013.
Mar 28, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
An MRI showed “something” in Christian Vazquez’s right elbow.
Mar 28, 2015, 8:57 AM EDT
This isn’t what you want to hear with the start of the season just one week away.
Mar 27, 2015, 11:55 PM EDT
Marcus Stroman will be a proud college graduate the next time he takes the mound for the Blue Jays.
Mar 27, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
The Mets are likely to open the regular season without Daniel Murphy at second base.
Mar 27, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT
Alex Rios says he’ll have to manage his thumb injury throughout the duration of the 2015 season.
Mar 27, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT
Jeff Francoeur threw out Alex Rodriguez at the plate. It’s 2015, not 2011.
Mar 27, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
The Twins reportedly have a bit of interest in free agent reliever Rafael Soriano.
Mar 27, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
Domonic Brown is battling an Achilles injury, leaving him unlikely to play on Opening Day.
Mar 27, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Brandon League isn’t likely to pitch for a couple of months according to manager Don Mattingly.
Mar 27, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
It doesn’t seem like the Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann will reach an agreement on a contract extension before the regular season begins.
Mar 27, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT
Drabek was once a top prospect and the Blue Jays acquired him from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade.
Mar 27, 2015, 4:13 PM EDT
The Rule 5 pick had a decent shot of making the Mariners’ pen out of camp.
Mar 27, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT
Should we be taking the rebuilt White Sox seriously as contenders?
Mar 27, 2015, 2:34 PM EDT
Verlander has continued to struggle this spring.
Mar 27, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT
There is only one reason a player should be tested for drugs as often as David Ortiz claims he has been: a previous positive test.
Mar 27, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT
Thanks to his mid-90s fastball and fantastic strikeout totals Salazar was a popular breakout pick for 2015.
Mar 27, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
No word on “yicketty.”
- 2015 Preview: Chicago White Sox 13
- Did David Ortiz admit to more than he realized with his Players’ Tribune editorial? 77
- 2015 Preview: Atlanta Braves 14
- David Ortiz: “Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me” 113
- 2015 Preview: Chicago Cubs 14
- Unsigned 2014 No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken undergoes Tommy John surgery 61
- 2015 Preview: Seattle Mariners 15
- Cardinals add “OT” patch for Oscar Taveras 76
- Ex-Cardinals outfielder Curt Ford was assaulted in St. Louis and told to “go back to Ferguson” (116)
- College baseball player cut after making offensive tweet about Mo’ne Davis (115)
- David Ortiz: “Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me” (114)
- Rob Manfred says it would be hard to reinstate Pete Rose in a limited way (89)