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.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Mets rookie right-hander Jacob deGrom threw all of his pitches in a bullpen session Tuesday in Oakland without experiencing any discomfort in his shoulder and has been cleared to return to the starting rotation Saturday night against the Dodgers.
Aug 19, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
The Nationals are the hottest team in the majors. Stephen Strasburg yielded just three hits over eight inning of one-run ball and shortstop Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 with four RBI in an 8-1 stomping of the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
The Orioles’ four-year, $50 million deal with starter Ubaldo Jimenez is already looking like a disaster. Jimenez registered a 4.83 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over his first 20 outings this season and now MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli reports that the right-hander has been demoted to the bullpen for the stretch run.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Tuesday morning that the Diamondbacks “currently plan to bring back” manager Kirk Gibson next season. But the club’s new chief baseball officer — Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa — is now denying that anything has been decided on the Gibson front.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:57 PM EDT
Jesse Hahn has been optioned to the minor leagues as part of a planned-out strategy to limit the rookie’s innings total in 2014.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT
Great news here for the second-place Cardinals. Injured catcher Yadier Molina told Jim Hayes of FOX Sports Midwest on Tuesday afternoon that he is hoping to be cleared to begin swinging a bat on Wednesday or Thursday.
Aug 19, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT
Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant sent a scare through the organization on Saturday when he had to leave a game at Triple-A Iowa with pain in his left big toe. But all is well with the budding superstar.
Aug 19, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT
Ryan Raburn’s disappointing season for the Indians now includes a trip to the disabled list with a sore right wrist.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
St. Louis infielder Mark Ellis is headed to the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, which tends to sideline players for more than the minimum 15 days.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
McLouth played just 79 games and hit .173 for the Nationals in the first season of a two-year, $10.75 million deal.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT
McCutchen was having another MVP-caliber season at the time of the injury, ranking among the NL’s top five in batting average (.311), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.536), and OPS (.947).
Aug 19, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Cespedes said he almost cried when he found out he was traded. But he wishes everyone the best.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
The silly NL West wild card race may actually favor the team playing the worst baseball right now.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT
Before being shut down Cashner had a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:40 PM EDT
A small move for the Indians, but a nice move all the same.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
“I’m not a 22-year-old single guy anymore. There are a lot of things that play into coming back and your decision.”
Aug 19, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT
Other than underachieving, alienating certain players and ordering pitchers to throw at guys, Gibson has been fantastic.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Baseball wound up the career path of choice for the A’s right-hander, but football will always be in Samardzija’s blood.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT
But I suppose someone — two someones, actually — has to win this ugly thing.
Aug 19, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
“It looked really close to what we normally would see when he’s out there.”
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- Pirates activate Andrew McCutchen from the disabled list 1
- HBT Daily: They’ve dropped six straight, but the Pirates may be the Wild Card favorites 2
- The Diamondbacks plan to bring back Kirk Gibson for some reason 30
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 32
- Numbers game: Tigers fall victim to baseball’s speed obsession 45
- Twins prospect Byron Buxton done for season after concussion 3
- Let’s speed up the pace of play. But let’s not be gimmicky about it. Let’s just enforce the rules. 74
- Mike Matheny addresses turmoil in Ferguson: “It’s a sad situation. It’s a tough situation for our city” (125)
- Jayson Werth clocked at 105 m.p.h. in a 55 zone, is charged with reckless driving (88)
- Here’s today’s dose of barfy Derek Jeter sentiment (82)
- Baseball is dying, you guys (78)
- A vote for Tom Werner for commissioner is a vote to return to the dark ages (78)