Monday, July 23, 2007

Different Baseball Numbers Rule

Growing up, there were several magic numbers I recall pertaining to baseball. Probably the biggest was 714.
Of course, it was the number of career home runs Babe Ruth hit. It was a record that stood for decades. Then it became 755 - after Hank Aaron broke Ruth’s record. Aaron’s record, too, stood for decades.
There were others, most relating to home runs. 61 - for Rogers Maris’ single-season homer record. 500 - for the milepost that separated truly elite power hitters from others.
But, to me, the prestige of home run records is falling by the wayside. I just don’t see magic numbers when it comes to home runs anymore. When somebody hits 50 in a season now, for example, I just kind of shrug my shoulders. It’s like if Brady Anderson can hit 50 home runs in a season, does it really matter any more? When Frank Thomas hit his 500th home run this season, it was celebrated. Same with Sammy Sosa at 600. But it was a false hurrah.
To me, the biggest numbers in baseball are different. I think the top one is 56 - for Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive-game hitting streak. It is followed by 7 - for the number of no-hitters Nolan Ryan threw during his career. Then it’s .400 - will another hitter ever get there again? Same for 30 - as in a pitcher winning that many games in a season.
I like all those numbers for this reason: It is possible they can be reached - unlike something ridiculous like Cy Young’s 511 victories set during a skewed era. It is, however, highly improbable any player can get to those levels. That would make it very special if a player reaches those heights. I am not so sure the same can be said for when Barry Bonds breaks Aaron’s record. Whatever Bonds’ final total, it will kind of be like 73 - his single-season mark. It will be a record, but not THE RECORD. Not anymore.

Random Thoughts

- I do think an on-court official involved in gambling is a crisis for the NBA. I do not, however, feel it will have a long-term bearing on the public’s perception of the league. That is, of course, unless it proves not to be an isolated incident. Only if multiple officials are involved will all you-know-what break loose.

- Craig Monroe has a history of heating up this time of the year. Seems like he is doing so again.

- The Yankees are taking advantage of a weak schedule. They are only 7.5 games behind the Tigers and Red Sox for the best record in the American League. Watch out.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Marty said...

The number I really want to see in baseball is someone to hit .400 again. I only know two people who did so: Ty Cobb, and Ted Williams. (I just looked it up and a few more people have done so as well, with Roger Hornsby probably the most famous.)

As for the NBA crisis, it doesn't surprise me at all. It is entertainment, but it has been difficult for me to call it a real sport. I like basketball, but when I watch the NBA, it doesn't seem real. It has never seemed real, like the officials just make up what they will call as the game goes on. It is hard to watch a sport where it seems like some players are given an advantage before the game even begins. These allegations just reinforce my opinion that the NBA isn't real basketball.

2:05 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Pat,

I just don’t think baseball is the same game it was in 1973.

The balls are wrapped tighter.
The gloves are better designed.
The mound is lower (basically a circle in the middle of the field – not even a mound)

I was watching the Cards play the Braves last night. The catcher was wearing the newest equipment from Mizuno. This stuff looked ultra-light, and ulta-tough. Johnny Bench didn’t get to wear stuff like that. He wore the heavy stuff. It cut you and bound you.

Juice or no juice, the equipment is different.

They might even be spiking Verlander’s Big-League Chew for all we know.

Nah.

Funny though, Bonds has the opportunity to break Aaron’s record against Atlanta in San Fran. And like you said last week, taters come in streaks.

--

Craig Monroe – welcome back – keep it up!

--

The Yanks are amazing. It’s like buoyancy; they just float to the top of the standings. We need to win AL Central cleanly this year.

--

And little Joey’s cousin won the British Open. Over Sergio. I thought that was a great match.

And ya gotta like Boo Weekly.

2:43 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Marty,
The question about that is whether a player can withstand the mental strain of something like that. If never goes away with all the attention on players these days. It has just overwhelmed the couple who have come the closest that I can remember (Brett, Carew, Gwynn). And they were all very strong-minded.
Caputo

3:06 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
It is different from the power stand point. It meant something in 1973 to hit 40 home runs. Does it anymore? Adam Dunn does it every year - and he isn't even a good player.
Caputo

3:07 PM 
Anonymous Marty said...

Fred,

I saw the headline in the paper "Harrington beats Garcia" and I instantly thought of the quarterback controversies in Detroit between Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia. It was kind of funny that we probably had a similar headline years ago when Joey Harrington beat out Garcia for the starting job before Garcia got injured.

-Marty

4:04 PM 
Blogger Eric Chase said...

Pat - to echo your final sentence, Barry Bonds can hit a thousand homeruns, but Hank will always be the homerun King.

An interesting stat on Fox baseball on Saturday that speaks to Aaron's greatness...if you took away all Aaron's homers, he'd still have 3,000 hits. AWESOMENESS!

4:07 PM 
Anonymous Marty said...

I agree that the mental strain is what makes it so difficult. The stretch run has to be completely draining on you, after going through that pressure everyday for months. I still would love to see someone hit .400 again though. I have never seen it, and that accomplishment means much more to me than a hitting streak, because it encompasses the whole year and shows a players consistancy and mental toughness.

4:08 PM 
Anonymous Danny said...

Pat, as you know, records have always been a more integral part of the game of baseball than any other sport.

DiMaggio's record is untouchable. And with the pitch-count philosophy 30 wins is probably impossible today. Funny that with all the hitting improvements/lower mound etc. that the averages aren't higher. You would think someone would approach .400.

Home run records are just silly now - the big media builds them up, but they don't mean anything. Maybe A-Rod will hit 800 and then we can forget about Bonds, the 90’s, and all the rest of it.

Baseball is a great game. It has survived a lot, and will get past this.

Danny

5:37 PM 
Blogger Alex said...

Pat-

(slightly off topic)

I was pleasantly surprised after seeing your posting on soccer the other day. Yes, I know you're not a big fan, but I would suggest you go to a soccer-friendly bar and strike up a conversation with someone knowledgable about the game. In talking with people who are just getting into the game past high school, there's a moment where everything clicks - and you won't see it the same away again.

You mentioned on your show today that you liked writing about people who overcome adversity - take a closer look at Beckham. If you look beyond the Hollywood hype (and I could do without it myself), he is really an admirable guy. Look into what happened after he was kicked off the England National team after the World Cup and Real Madrid after he signed with MLS. Great story, and not the first time in his career either.

After the Bonds and Selig circus, Michael Vick and now NBA refereeing, David Beckham (and MLS) may have impeccable timing. I'm actually cautiously optimistic about the whole MLS venture.

8:33 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Marty,
LOL on the Harrington-Garcia headline. I didn't think about that.
Caputo

12:59 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Eric Chase,
Aaron was so consistent it was incredible. And when he was on a great team during the late 1950s, he delivered. He was brilliant in '57 when the Braves won it all. They probably should have won another pennant in 1959. Check out Aaron's stats in 1959 sometime.
Caputo

1:04 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Marty,
Agreed .400 would be as good as it gets. I don't see a current player capable of doing it, though. I thought Ichiro might be capable of it at some point, but not anymore.
Caputo

1:06 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Danny,
I think what hurts the 30-win thing more than anything else is that clubs use a five-man rotation instead of a four-man rotation. Throughout much of baseball history, the top starters would get into the high 30s in terms of number of starts. Now it is in the low 30s.
Caputo

1:08 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Alex,
I am trying to get into it more. The star players like Beckham usually have interesting backgrounds. And there is a lot going on during a soccer match at the elite levels. I have just started to understand some of the nuance.
Caputo

1:11 AM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

I agree with you book on a lot of things. I think the .400 would be an extremely interesting feat and one that would be hard to do. I also agree that the one I'd put money on is Ichiro. HTough as he gets older I see it not happening cause his speed will go as well, but he'd have to be your pick.

I tell you the guy that has me excited the most about baseball currently is Granderson. He is one guy that can make the lost fan become a fan again. He is legit. Look at his numbers he is good in every single aspect. When was the last time a Tiger put in the overall type of numbers he is putting up. He may hit .300 25 homer runs, 80 plus RBI's, have 20 plus Triples, 30 plus doubles, 20 plus stolen bases, 200 plus hits. Its unreal. yeah Mags is having a highlight year, but the fact granderson may even be a gold glove (cause he has been that good) this guy is in my mind the Tigers MVP.

As far as the basketball. Its a shame just a real shame. Especially if it turns out he has affected important games likei n the playoffs. Is sports starting to become more and more like politics and being a Crooked world? or has it always been that way?

12:02 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
The Vick thing and all else that is happening in the NFL, this NBA issue and the Bonds steroid thing in baseball...it is getting out of control. You're right on target about Granderson. He is rapidly becoming a great player and someday will be the face of the Tigers franchise.
Caputo

2:13 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

That is why I don't have any problems what so ever with what Godell is doing in the NFL. GUys like Packman and Henry should get suspended for the whole year if not booted out of the NFL. Do you think the oakland press would keep you as a beat rider and or wxyt and others allow u to continue to cover the Tigers like u do if you did the stuff they did. You'd be exciled like most. I think that is why the Paris Hilton thing was a good example in some ways. As a nation we have to start cracking down. Cause it is trickling down to the youth and that is bad thing.

2:57 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Marty,

This year it looks like "our pal Joey" will be starting for Vick with the Falcons.

Maybe they can talk him into being a Joe instead of a Joey. I know I am in the minority, but I liked Harrington, and I rooted for him to do better. I hope it works out in Atlanta. I enjoyed last Thanksgiving a ton.

4:04 PM 

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