Friday, September 23, 2011

Who’s the Home Run King?

I know and I’ll tell you in a minute.

First, a friend tweeted this article about the women’s marathon record potentially being removed. Why? She was paced by men, and a new rule is in place to say world records can only be set in a single gender field.

Hmmm, I get the logic. Someone in front of you can motivate you, but you still have to run the speed to set the record. If you can do that, you ran the race at that time. I thought the records were about seeing what the human body can do, not worrying about motivation.

It’s silly to set this rule, or remove records. Every woman has the chance, well, every professional runner, has the chance to run in a particular race, and they call can race against the men. Maybe the top 10 women ought to run against the top 10 men, just so there’s even “pacing”.

What does this have to do with baseball and home runs? There’s a lot of debate over who the home run king is. Generally people look at three individuals: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds. There are others that might be in the discussion whose careers were cut short, but that’s the short list.

The argument against Babe is that he didn’t play against black or Hispanic opponents, owing to the wonderful “separation” implemented by the owners (and accepted by the populace and politicians). The argument against Barry is that he used performance enhancing drugs. Not completely proven, but quite a preponderance of evidence.

The numbers are:

  • Babe Ruth: 714
  • Hank Aaron: 755
  • Barry Bonds: 762

Who’s the king? It’s easy: you pick’em.

There’s no easy answer. If you truly believe that PED disregard the record, then I think you pick Aaron. Ruth’s argument is the weakest, though he did hit in a time when he didn’t have training, planes, pampering, that many athletes had later.

For me it’s Bonds. No matter what, he had to hit 762 balls over the fence. Pitchers used PEDs (as we now know) and he faced tons of pressure, controversy, and walks. He walked more than anyone else. I watched games where Bonds got walked, intentionally 2 or 3 times and then hit a home run on the first strike he saw late in the game. He might not have played as long, he might not have hit as many long balls, but so many of his hits were well beyond the fence. Not dropping balls close to the wall, but 50-60ft or more past the wall.

I don’t disregard PEDs, but they were part of an era, and plenty of other people had access to them. How many other people hit more than 714 in that era? Zero.

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