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.
Apr 21, 2015, 12:40 AM EDT
The future is now in Chicago.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy landed on the disabled list after exiting his season debut on April 9 with a mild left hamstring strain, but he’s on track to return Saturday against the Dodgers.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:35 PM EDT
Things are quickly going from bad to worse for the Brewers.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT
This from Reds manager Bryan Price is not a good look at all.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:49 PM EDT
Tonight’s Cubs-Pirates game was delayed for 23 minutes after a woman was hit in the back of the head by a foul ball in the top of the second inning.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT
The Rockies are calling him day-to-day.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:55 PM EDT
Ben Zobrist left Sunday’s game due to left knee soreness and he’s now slated to miss at least another couple of days after receiving a cortisone shot.
Apr 20, 2015, 7:29 PM EDT
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander had to cut a simulated game short last Wednesday and he’s currently in shutdown mode due to continued soreness in his throwing arm.
Apr 20, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
The Mets won their eighth straight game Sunday against the Marlins to improve to 10-3 on the year, but it came as a cost, as catcher Travis d’Arnaud and left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins were forced to leave the game due to injuries. Today we learned a little bit more about how long they’ll be sidelined.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT
It’s been a facility in flux since the Dodgers left in 2008, but it has a new life under new management.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
It was bad enough that he needed stitches.
Apr 20, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
Last season he threw 184 innings with a 4.11 ERA and 139/67 K/BB ratio.
Apr 20, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
And he actually owns up to taking stuff. None of that “I have no idea how that got in my system” rebop from him.
Apr 20, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
People from El Paso are still mad about that. Oh well.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
Allen Craig replaced him in left field against the Orioles.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Beachy is 28 years old with a 3.23 ERA and 275 strikeouts in 268 career innings.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
The greatest trick baseball columnists ever pulled was convincing the world that the way they frame a topic is the only way to approach the topic.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
“You can’t do anything to fix it.”
Apr 20, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
His health is a huge key to the Angels’ success this season.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:52 AM EDT
If you hate in-game interviews of managers, just wait for in-game interviews of players.
- Report: Cubs calling up prospect infielder Addison Russell 0
- Jonathan Lucroy headed to disabled list with broken toe 5
- Reds manager Bryan Price goes on profanity-laden tirade against media 44
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 75
- Report: Marlins manager Mike Redmond is on the hot seat 40
- Five Royals ejected in Sunday’s series finale against the Athletics 88
- White Sox will promote Carlos Rodon on Monday 14
- Another one bites the dust: Mets lose young catcher Travis d’Arnaud to fractured right hand 14
- The Commissioner’s Office thinks that the Angels could indeed go after Josh Hamilton under his contract (153)
- “We no longer need the terrorists. We’re now so good at terrorizing ourselves.” (143)
- Another argument in favor of making the DH universal (129)
- When it comes to Josh Hamilton, Arte Moreno is a craven opportunist, not a “smart businessman” (116)
- Joe Buck has a truly awful suggestion about how to improve MLB broadcasts (109)