This past weekend Barry Bonds tied the home run record of Hank Aaron at 755. It appears that he will break Hank’s record; this is tarnished by the assumption that Barry used steroids from about 2000 until MLB started testing for steroids in 2005. I posted something on this on March 9, 2006.
It is interesting to look at the home runs over the careers of both players. One of the things that many of us notice is that Barry’s production of home runs increased at a time when they tend to slow down for other players. Here are the numbers:
|Babe Ruth (age)||Year||HR’s||Hank Aaron (age)||Year||HR’s||Barry Bonds (age)||Year||HRs|
Ruth’s most productive year was 1927 (age 32); Aaron’s was 1971 (age 36); Bond’s was 2001 (age 37). That seems to argue that Barry isn’t that unusual but on closer observation I’ve noticed a few things. In the years when we assume he was juiced (2000-2004) he hit 258 home runs. In the five years before (1995-1999) he hit 186 home runs. It’s hard to imagine that his body was strongest in his early late 30s and early 40s. Most hitters start off slowly either because they aren’t yet playing every day or because they are still learning the craft of hitting. Barry did very well for the first 10 years, hitting 292 home runs (Ruth hit 238 in his first 10 years and Aaron hit 342). For whatever reason he decided that wasn’t enough.
Since Babe Ruth, home run statistics have become the “gold standard” of baseball and power was king. Since this statistic has become tainted, perhaps other records will gain more popularity. There are records that would not be helped by steroids (and even hurt by them). I’m thinking of Cal Ripkin’s 2,632 consecutive game streak or Joe DiMaggio’s 56 consecutive games with a hit. There is also Cy Young’s 511 games won as a pitcher. This is just a guess but I’m hoping that endurance will unseat power. It would, in a sense, be the ultimate penalty for Barry: he abuses his body and the game to reach a record that garners less respect because of the way he went about it.