August 22, 2002

755? Now that he has his money, Bonds doubts himself.:
Come on, someone is going to do it this decade. I think I'd prefer A-rod to Bonds, but 755 will fall.'s progressive leader charts (HRs, OPS) give us some historical perspective. If they played today, would Lip Pike or Levi Meyerle have a shot?

posted by djacobs to baseball at 10:38 PM - 15 comments

All I have to say is go A-Rod! He better earn every penny of his salary :) Thanks for the interesting link to those charts.

posted by insomnyuk at 11:22 PM on August 22, 2002

It's also amazing to see that Babe Ruth held the home run lead for 50 years. It really does put things in perspective.

posted by insomnyuk at 11:25 PM on August 22, 2002

Sosa should break it first. I doubt Arod's motivation to play all those years. He's not going to be worrying about money, and it doesn't like winning is going to happen anytime soon on the rangers, what is to keep him around long enough to break it?

posted by corpse at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2002

corpse: what is to keep him around long enough to break it? Two things, related to one another. One is EGO, two is LEGACY. If Jeter continues to garner all the hardware (shit that dude's gonna run out of fingers pretty soon) then A-Rod's only chance to be remembered in the same breath is to put up the gawdiest of gawdy numbers. Home run king of all time would accomplish that.

posted by vito90 at 01:44 PM on August 23, 2002

Bonds has an amazingly good chance- exactly 40 HR for 3 more seasons will leave him right at the doorstep of 755, and with his condition he should be capable of playing the half season or so necessary to pass Aaron, if he wants. And if he gets that close, I can't see why he wouldn't... Sosa has probably an equal chance, statistically- at the pace these guys hit, he's only about 2.5 years behind Bonds in HR while 4+ years younger. While he's not missed many games, he's hitting that age where the injuries, muscle pulls, and other maladies will start to come into play. Who knows what will have happened to Sammy in 3 years, when he gets to be about Bonds' age now and has a comparable number of HR? He might be having hamstring problems like Griffey has been (and Ken Griffey Jr., don't forget, is still quite young- he's actually a year younger than Sammy, with only about 30 less homers. If he can get healthy again, he'd be well ahead of Sammy's pace at the same age...). And if Bonds does stick it out, Sosa et al may be chasing 770+ instead of 755... As for A-Rod: he doesn't miss games and is unquestionably the best player in baseball right now, and quite possibly of all time. He'll be at 300 HR before season's end most likely, and that means he'd be hitting the 500 mark at about the age that Griffey would have if he hadn't lost a lot of at-bats in Cincy with those hamstring problems. However, unlike Griffey- who used to boast about never lifting weights (and is paying the price for his lack of great conditioning now)- A-Rod takes conditioning seriously. I like his chances, but of course we've been down this road before; no matter how fast you hit them while you're young, it doesn't start to matter till you reach 500 and look to be running on more than just fumes. Vlad Guerrero has some phenomenal numbers and is younger than A-Rod, yet there's still too long to go before we can seriously discuss these guys. But they stand a better chance than a drunken carouser like Mickey Mantle ultimately did... Interesting story: when I first arrived in Seattle back in '94 or so, I met a woman who taught yoga, and said she was hired to do a few Yoga classes for the Mariners, because the brass/coaching staff probably thought it would help with limberness and reducing injuries. This yoga instructor said two players stood out as the best and worst students, by far: Griffey was the worst (still being quite young at the time), always cracking jokes and not taking it seriously. The best is even more instructive: she said Randy Johnson was her best student, attentive and involved. Many wondered how Randy Johnson got through that back injury a few years ago to become one of hte most workman-like and reliable pitchers in the game; knowing this story, I've often wondered if it's because Randy incorporated disciplines like yoga into his regimen that he's remained a Rock of a pitcher. All of which is to suggest that unlike players of yesterday with names like Hal "Shitty Drunk" McCoy, today's multi-millionaire superstars more often than not take extra-fine care of their bodies; playing into Rickey Henderson or Nolan Ryan years may become more common than it used to be, resulting in further shattering of some of the biggest records in baseball.

posted by hincandenza at 03:20 PM on August 23, 2002

Hal Incandenza:As for A-Rod: he doesn't miss games and is unquestionably the best player in baseball right now, and quite possibly of all time. Until he wins 20 games in back-to-back seasons as a pitcher and has a lifetime ERA of under 2.50, he won't be the best ever. That said, he's definitely one of the best combinations of hitting and fielding prowess (considering he's a shortstop) in the majors right now. If he can keep up this pace until he's 30, he'll definitely be in the top 5 of all time.

posted by grum@work at 03:57 PM on August 23, 2002

Can a guy be considered the best of all time if he never takes his team to the promised land? It is a team sport after all.

posted by vito90 at 04:27 PM on August 23, 2002

Hal: what happened to your old SpoFi username?

posted by insomnyuk at 04:39 PM on August 23, 2002

It is NOT A TEAM SPORT. A-rod can't pitch, can only field one position, can only hit once every nine trips to the plate. He could have 'CHRIST' in big letters on the back of his jersey and still not win a world series ring if his bullpen fails him in the bottom of the ninth. People who think championships are relevant to individual greatness irritate me a great deal, especially in baseball.

posted by tieguy at 12:58 AM on August 24, 2002

Okay tieguy, I will explain my statement about having to win the big one. How does a player get bonus points for his play in the clutch? If the only opportunities A-Rod gets to shine are the ostensibly meaningless 162 games per regular season and maybe a wild card series or Championship series every now and then then how can you gauge his ability to play in the clutch? Watching the things Jeter has done on the big stage over the last several years gives him an edge over A-Rod in my opinion. And because you're talking about the best ever, the really truly best, not best of era or decade or something, then I think post-season performance is a legit criterion, because baseball is a sport where failure at bat is the rule rather than the exception, and excellence so fleeting that its acceptable to hold the candidates to a huge standard.

posted by vito90 at 11:49 PM on August 24, 2002

there's no such thing as clutch.

posted by djacobs at 09:55 AM on August 25, 2002

And ARod HAS been in the post season: .340AVG, .375OBP, .566SLG Which is actually a better set of numbers than Jeter has put up in the post season. Jeter just has guadier counting numbers because he's played for better teams more often.

posted by grum@work at 11:48 AM on August 25, 2002

insomnyuk: Hal: what happened to your old SpoFi username? Not sure- haven't posted in a while, been busy with work etc (same goes for metafilter as well). Tried to post a week or so ago on a different topic, couldn't do so with my password, nor did it recognize my email as valid to have the password emailed to me in case I mis-remembered it. However, the account is still there since I couldn't re-sign up as hincandenza either. If any SpoFi admins want to check on my old account, that'd be cool- same email as at mefi and here as Hal Incandenza... grum@work, vito90: I've said it before, but Babe Ruth simply wasn't the best ever- he was a great player immersed in mediocre competition; Ruth put up numbers that would pale in comparison to the numbers produced by today's future Hall of Famers if they went against whites-only, un-scouted, undeveloped drunken AA level talent. People like Ichiro, Nomar, even 1st basemen like Olerud or McGwire pitched in college, supposedly possessing ~90mph fastballs. Walter "417 wins" Johnson didn't even throw 90mph- but did hit a respectable .235 over his career. The modern players don't stick with it because the specialization of the game has made it such that to be good enough to succeed as a pitcher or hitter requires a single-minded devotion to one or the other craft, but not both; in their cases, hitting was a better path for their skills. I have little doubts that some of the best athletes in the game today who pitched in college or even A-ball could have put up Ruthian numbers as hurlers if the competition was as watered down as Ruth faced, and not in fact a top-to-bottom lineup of muscle-bound, scientifically engineered diet, exercise, and training undergoing, videotape and data mining analyzing, hitting gods. These phenoms who play every position well including pitching through the college years are forced simply by the competitiveness of the game to discard one of the disciplines in order to become good enough at the other to actually make the big leagues. So: are we really supposed to believe that Cy Young won 511 games, but that no athlete since has been a better physical specimen, that some how these early Titans were all worlds ahead of their modern counterparts, against all objective evidence? Are we really supposed to believe that Ruth, Johnson, Cobb, and others weren't just garden-variety Hall-of-Famers who stuck out like gaudy-numbered sore thumbs among the other 95% of the players who wouldn't even make triple-AAA ball in today's game? That if Barry Bonds played in 1920 he wouldn't have made Babe Ruth look like Derek Bell, or if Cobb had 1/5 of his at-bats in the late innings not against "Rummy" Johanssen, whose pitch count was nearing 200, but instead against a fresh-armed 98mph hurler with the wickedest slider you ever saw, he'd have gotten nearly as many hits? We know in every other athletic endeavor where objectivity can be found, such as track and field or even golf, that the players have gotten markedly better than ever before- bigger, stronger, faster, better trained. Why then is it so improbably that Babe Ruth and his few genuinely capable cohorts among the otherwise sparsely talented landscape of 20's baseball weren't enjoying a number-skewing benefit that would make Larry Walker green with envy? The point is not that Ruth wasn't great- he'd probably be an All-Star in today's game (assuming he didn't become Darryl Strawberry or Doc Gooden)- but that he seemed even better because of who he played against.

posted by hincandenza at 06:12 PM on August 25, 2002

So then Barry really is the greatest player ever, Hal? :)

posted by tieguy at 08:24 PM on August 25, 2002

tieguy: So then Barry really is the greatest player ever, Hal? :) Close to it... who else has ever been better? Possibly Willie Mays, and maybe A-Rod someday if he keeps going like this. It hasn't been mentioned on this board, but Barry is a mere 11 stolen bases from 500! With his leg issues, that'll be tough- but not impossible, since he's a *smart* baserunner too. Think of it: 602 HR, 489SB, and counting. That's something George Herman "Fat Bastard" Ruth couldn't dream of doing... combining that kind of power, with that kind of speed, gold glove defense, hitting for average and reaching base... other than pitching, there isn't anything Barry could do better to be more valuable, and pitching is the unrealistic expectation: there will never be another Jim Thorpe, but no one really thinks he was the greatest physical athlete in the past 100 years, do they? It's about inflation, really- the closer to the modern day you get, the better the players are- better trained, physically superior, and specialized. Compared to each other, the numbers don't fluctuate too much, but that's because everyone is getting better- which, I might add, makes the sheer insanity of the statistical outlier that is Barry Bonds all the more amazing. Barry is bettering numbers that Ruth put up, and doing it against competition that's immeaurably better than anything Ruth ever faced.

posted by hincandenza at 01:16 AM on August 26, 2002

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