Selig won’t take Barry Bonds’ name out of the record books – not that it matters

Former San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds leaves the Federal Court House after his perjury trial at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California April 8, 2011. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES – Tags: CRIME LAW SPORT BASEBALL HEADSHOT)

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told the media on Thursday that he won’t consider taking Barry Bonds’ name out of the record books in wake of the slugger’s conviction of obstruction of justice last week. This will make a lot of fans angry, but it shouldn’t.

There was a huge outcry from fans that wanted to see an asterisk next to Bonds’ name in the record books when he broke Hammerin’ Hank’s home run mark in 2006. But that was never going to happen, and neither was Selig striking Bonds’ name from the record books altogether.

But the fact that Bonds hit 762 home runs in his career only has meaning because we as fans give it meaning. If we refer to Bonds as the current home run champ, then that 762 becomes much more than a number. But if we refer to Bonds as the cheater that pumped himself full of drugs in efforts to break Aaron’s record, then that 762 holds about as much weight as the needle that Greg Anderson used to inject the former slugger.

Don’t get it twisted: What Bonds did, matters. How he accomplished what he did, matters. The fact that he cheated, matters. But that 762 number? Means nothing. It’s a question at someone’s trivia night. In fact, I didn’t even know the exact number before I started writing this piece. I had to look it up, which should tell you how much it means to me.

Do true baseball fans wish that Aaron’s number were still at the top of the record books? Yes, but in some ways, it still is. Nobody refers to Bonds as baseball’s all-time home run leader unless they follow it up with a “But…steroids.” And there’s a large contingent that refuse to even mention Bonds’ name when the record is mentioned. They’ll still refer to Hank Aaron as the all-time home run champ and will continue to do so until they take their last breath.

It would be nice if Selig stepped to the plate and made a statement for once. It would be nice if he gave Bonds his middle finger and said: “Not in my record books, buddy.” But he wasn’t and isn’t going to do that. Baseball is run by conservative men who make conservative decisions. Selig wasn’t going to rock the boat with something like this, just like he will never allow someone as flamboyant and aggressive as Mark Cuban to come in and purchase one of his ball clubs.

But as long as we the fans don’t allow Bonds’ 762 to have meaning, then Hank Aaron will always live on as the true all-time home run champion.

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A-Rod finally overcomes a nasty case of unclutchitis to hit No. 600

Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 600 home runs when he launched a Shaun Marcum 2-0 pitch over the centerfield wall during the Yankees’ game with the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon.

Excuse me while I wet myself.

The blast broke a string of 12 games in which A-Rod was so overcome with pressure that he managed to hit only .177 with no home runs. While I can’t prove that pressure was the thing that was holding him back, rumor has it he hasn’t slept in nearly 10 nights and has often been seen shaking uncontrollably at the mere mention that he has to perform. (All right, so I can’t prove that either.)

A-Rod now joins an elite club that includes Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609) to have accomplished the feat.

Too bad only four of those seven players didn’t need to enlist the help of performance-enhancing drugs in order to reach the milestone.

So way to go, A-HoleRod. Congratulations, or something.

Top 10 active RBI leaders

You want a telling statistic in baseball? How about the good ol’ run batted in (RBI)? This is a stat usually dominated by home run hitters, but it’s also a good indicator of productivity at the plate. The guys on this list have been doing it over time, as well, whether they have been chemically enhanced or not, and to qualify, they must be currently on a major league roster:

1. Ken Griffey, Seattle Mariners (1774)—I can’t think of a classier player in the last 20 years. And how about these numbers….from 1996 to 1999, the last four years of Griffey’s first tenure with Seattle, he had 567 RBI. That’s an AVERAGE of 142 per season. Just sick.

2. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (1738)—For all the fun we poke at Man Ram for being a goofy, lazy, eccentric superstar, we always temper our joking with “but the guy sure can rake.” You want sick numbers? From 1995 when Manny began playing regularly (okay, it was technically 1994 but that season was cut way short) through 2008, he has averaged 111 RBI per season. Think about that.

3. Gary Sheffield, New York Mets (1634)—It’s hard to believe this guy has been in the big leagues longer than Griffey. And unlike some of the other guys on this list, Sheffield’s 1634 RBI is more about longevity, as his career high is only 132.

4. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (1606)—A-Rod is almost a lock to pass 2000 RBI, and when you hear the other three names that have done that, it will blow your mind….Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Cap Anson.

5. Carlos Delgado, New York Mets (1504)—Another guy with a nice, long career, and he’s topped 100 RBI nine times….so far.

6. Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox (1498)—38 years old and he’s still mashing. I know I’ve written this before, but it’s hard to believe the Indians had Thome and Man Ram in the lineup as well as Albert Belle and Eddie Murray, and didn’t win like five titles.

7. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (1378)—Come to think of it, it’s hard to believe the Braves didn’t win more than one World Series after winning fourteen straight division crowns. But don’t blame Chipper.

8. Garret Anderson, Atlanta Braves (1292)—He’s lost some pop the last few seasons, but still a solid, productive player.

9. Jason Giambi, Oakland Athletics (1285)—He juiced, he admitted it, and everyone still loves this guy. Maybe that’s because he didn’t lie about it. And Giambi’s 32 homers and 96 RBI last year at the age of 37 proves he didn’t need the juice to begin with.

10. Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels (1271)—Another freak of nature type hitter who has averaged 117 RBI per season over the course of his career. And Vlad is still only 34.

P.S. Did anyone else notice there are no Red Sox players on this list?

Source: Baseball Reference

Selig to reinstate Hank Aaron as home run king?

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig apparently isn’t ruling out the idea of stripping Barry Bonds of the home run record and giving it back to Hank Aaron.

For the first time Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has said he would consider a move to strip Barry Bonds of his record for all-time home runs, according to a report.

Christine Brennan of USA Today called on Selig to alter baseball’s record book and reinstate Aaron as the official record-holder for the most career home runs. Aaron hit 755 in 23 seasons. Bonds broke Aaron’s record in 2007, and with his career seemingly over, he has 762 in 22 seasons.

In a telephone interview with Brennan on Wednesday, Selig said of altering the record book: “Once you start tinkering, you can create more problems. But I’m not dismissing it. I’m concerned. I’d like to get more evidence.”

Attempts to reach Selig and Aaron on Thursday evening were unsuccessful.

Not to rain on anyone’s parade here because there’s nothing I’d love to see more than the home run title go back to its rightful owner, but Selig can’t do anything to the record with Bonds never officially being tied to steroids. We can speculate all we want, but Bonds has never officially tested positive for any performance-enhancing drug and even if he did, there was no penalty against players using steroids until 2004. (We can all thank the previously mentioned Bud Selig for that.)

That said, if Selig were able to reinstate Hammerin’ Hank as the rightful owner of the home run record, then maybe it would be a small step in bringing purity back to the game of baseball, which has been dragged through the mud over the past decade. Then again, with this seemingly daunting task left in Selig’s hands, we can probably forget about the record ever going back under Aaron’s name.

Remembering Fred Merkle’s Boner

Baseball has always been a superstitious game. It contains a novelistic past of hoaxes, jinxes, theories, and rituals. No other sport contains such fantastical fables as the curses of the Bambino, Black Sox, and Billy Goat. As with baseball, numbers are closely tied to superstitions—the phrases “seven years bad luck,” “seventh son of a seventh son,” and “three times a charm” come to mind. As the season winds down, it’s interesting that analysts refer to the “magic number” that a division-leading team needs to reach before clinching a playoff birth.

The number “100” typically signifies something of importance, particularly milestones like birthdays or anniversaries. It’s no secret that this year will be the 100th anniversary of the Cubs’ last World Series championship. Since then the Cubs have experienced Billy Sianis and his goat, Leo Durocher and his impromptu vacation, and Steve Bartman’s web gem. However, in 1908, the Cubs were granted a rare stroke of luck. Two days ago marked the 100th anniversary of what’s known as “Merkle’s Boner.” On September 23, 1908, New York Giants first baseman Fred Merkle obliviously committed a blunder that helped the Chicago Cubs win the pennant, and subsequently, the World Series.

On that Wednesday in 1908, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, 19 year-old Fred Merkle knocked a single into right field, advancing teammate Moose McCormick to third. Al Birdwell followed with a single of his own, allowing McCormick to score what appeared to be the winning run. In the thrill of victory, Merkle joined his fellow Giants in celebration. Unfortunately, he did not touch second base. This mistake was labeled “Merkle’s Boner” (when “boner” was synonymous with “bonehead,” instead of today’s more comedic definition). Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers quickly noticed what had transpired. Evers was an ardent student of the game and knew the rulebook back to front. Although accounts vary, Evers supposedly retrieved the game ball and stepped on second base. Since Merkle had gone directly to the Giants clubhouse, his failure to advance from first to second technically kept play alive. Therefore, Evers forced him out by touching the bag. Of course, nobody noticed. As was custom, Giants fans swarmed the old Polo Grounds after every victory. Soon, Umpire Hank O’Day and the National League’s board of directors came to the decision that Merkle was indeed out. Taking the game into extra innings was rendered impossible, and the game was ruled a tie.

The following game, which determined who would play the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, took place on October 8th. Fans flooded Coogan’s Bluff above the Polo Grounds and climbed atop the grandstands, barricading the sellout crowd. The scene was rife for a riot of epic proportions—certainly the most perilous the sport had seen at that time. Though the Giants brought out their ace Christy Mathewson, he was pitching with a dead arm. After the Cubs secured a 4-2 victory, they immediately rushed to their clubhouse. Pandemonium quickly ensued. Trying to exit, various Cubs players felt the wrath of the New York fans. Pitcher Jack Pfiester was knifed in the shoulder while Frank Chance sustained injuries after a punch to the throat. It took an entire police squad with guns drawn to quell the mayhem.

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a ball game this out of control, with both fans and players contributing to this level of violence. With all that was riding on this game (and the fact that baseball was then the most popular sport in the country), it reduces the Pistons/Pacers fiasco to crying over spilt milk. The relationship between fans and players has always been fascinating, and it’s been displayed in dramatically different ways over the years. From this near bloodbath at the Polo Grounds, to Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron’s struggles, to the syringes thrown at Barry Bonds, fans have always made their presence felt. I’ve heard some of the nastiest things ever said at ball games and I’m always struck by two things. First is the often unexpected creativity involved, and second is the players’ ability to tune these insults out. Granted, today’s games are heavily monitored by security and there is only a slight chance of witnessing a violent altercation between a fan and player. (During the game I went to last Friday, stadium personnel guarded the entire field barrier when the teams switched sides.) Nevertheless, outlets such as chucking beer bottles, sending hate mail and email, and even blogging allow sports enthusiasts to place (or misplace) their anger. In examining this game from 1908, it’s unbelievable what used to happen instead.

The Cubs went on to defeat the Tigers in stride, capturing their second and last World Series championship. Now, a century later, it looks like the Rays, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Phillies, Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers will make the postseason. Of these teams, the Cubbies are the only one with a famous curse looming over their heads. It would be fitting to put it to rest on the 100th anniversary of their last championship. I don’t want to say anything else that could jinx their chances, so I’ll just leave it at that.

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