Apr 8, 2014, 8:29 AM EST
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.
Jan 24, 2015, 10:40 PM EST
Tommy Milone underwent neck surgery in December to remove a benign tumor, but he was able to resume throwing just over two weeks later.
Jan 24, 2015, 9:35 PM EST
Top prospect Byron Buxton could be wearing a Twins uniform in the major leagues at some point this season according to GM Terry Ryan.
Jan 24, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque avoided arbitration with a one-year deal on Saturday.
Jan 24, 2015, 7:25 PM EST
A Jonathan Papelbon trade to the Brewers may not be happening after all.
Jan 24, 2015, 6:20 PM EST
Franklin Gutierrez could make a return to the Mariners. The 31-year-old outfielder has had trouble staying healthy over the last few years.
Jan 24, 2015, 5:28 PM EST
Duensing he has been useful and durable as a middle reliever over the past two seasons, posting a 3.67 ERA (110 ERA+) in 115 1/3 innings over 135 appearances.
Jan 24, 2015, 4:53 PM EST
Beachy is currently making his way back from his second Tommy John surgery.
Jan 24, 2015, 4:01 PM EST
The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are among the teams showing strong interest in Olivera.
Jan 24, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
Check out this scouting report from when Banks was 22 years old.
Jan 24, 2015, 2:40 PM EST
From the start, even in those turbulent times, even though Chicago was finding its way in a changing America, people in Chicago did not see the color of his skin. From the start, Chicago loved Ernie Banks.
Ryan Vogelsong “really wasn’t comfortable with what was going on” with Astros before returning to Giants
Jan 24, 2015, 2:16 PM EST
Did something strange happen between Ryan Vogelsong and the Astros which led to his return to the Giants?
Jan 24, 2015, 1:11 PM EST
Coleman, who ranks sixth on MLB’s all-time list with 752 stolen bases, spent last the two seasons as a minor league outfield/baserunning coach with the Astros.
Jan 24, 2015, 12:05 PM EST
Abad, 29, posted an excellent 1.57 ERA and 51/15 K/BB ratio across 57 1/3 innings out of Oakland’s bullpen in 2014.
Jan 24, 2015, 11:11 AM EST
Reactions from a baseball world in mourning after the passing of Cubs legend Ernie Banks.
Jan 24, 2015, 10:02 AM EST
With Rob Manfred set to take over for Bud Selig as MLB commissioner on Sunday, Alex Rodriguez recently paid him a visit in an attempt to clear the air and turn the page on the drama surrounding the Biogenesis scandal.
Jan 24, 2015, 8:55 AM EST
Ernie Banks, 1931-2015.
Jan 23, 2015, 11:15 PM EST
There was only one Mr. Cub. And he was one of the greatest men in baseball history.
Jan 23, 2015, 10:55 PM EST
The Indians are considering bringing Nolan Reimold on board.
Jan 23, 2015, 9:50 PM EST
The Astros and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez avoided arbitration on Friday.
Jan 23, 2015, 8:45 PM EST
The Braves added some outfield depth on Friday, claiming Eury Perez off waivers from the Yankees.
- Joe Posnanski: Remembering ‘Mr. Cub,’ Ernie Banks 12
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- Alex Rodriguez recently met with incoming MLB commissioner Rob Manfred 15
- Ernie Banks, one of baseball’s greatest players and greatest ambassadors has died at age 83 75
- Sean Doolittle has a “slight” rotator cuff tear, won’t be ready for Opening Day 4
- Ryan Vogelsong re-signs with Giants after flirting with Astros 17
- Phillies and Brewers moving closer to Jonathan Papelbon trade 52
- Pete Rose will be at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati this year 29
- Bud Selig: The Greatest Commissioner in the History of Baseball (143)
- Max Scherzer’s seven-year deal with Nationals worth $210 million (119)
- Comments of the Day: some of you guys aren’t big Bud Selig fans (77)
- The 2015 Braves have “gravitas” and “veteran leadership” and will have dirty uniforms. Just kill me now. (76)
- Ernie Banks, one of baseball’s greatest players and greatest ambassadors has died at age 83 (75)