Right now, on MLB.com,
October 4, 2001 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Right now, on MLB.com, you can watch Barry Bonds hit his 70th homerun of the season, Rickey Henderson tying Ty Cobb's career run record, Sammy Sosa hitting his 61st homerun of the season, Ichiro breaking Wade Bogg's record for singles in a season, and Tim Raines bat with his son Tim Raines Jr. on second. It's a good day to be a baseball fan.
posted by culberjo (57 comments total)
Unless you're a Royals baseball fan. Or any team with a budget that Ken Griffey makes in a day.
posted by geoff. at 8:58 PM on October 4, 2001

Or to be a Phillies fan. Having said that, if Larry Bowa doesn't get the NL Manager of the Year award mailed to his house there is no justice in this life. He definitely got everything out of his team this year, and then some.
posted by MAYORBOB at 9:04 PM on October 4, 2001

Or a redsox fan. Especially if you're a redsox fan.
posted by justgary at 9:27 PM on October 4, 2001

To join the chorus: or if you're an Expos fan. Looks like Loria has finally achieved his goal of completely running this team into the ground.
posted by clevershark at 9:44 PM on October 4, 2001

...Or a Brewers fan...
posted by mrbula at 9:51 PM on October 4, 2001

but a mets fan, the saddest of them all
posted by goneill at 9:52 PM on October 4, 2001

Actually, Henderson is a phenomenon. He just beat (not tied) Ty Cobb's career run record, he's the all time leading base stealer (by more than 400), and he recently beat Babe Ruth to set a new record for career walks. He's two short of 3000 career hits, which would make him only the 25th player in MLB history to do that. He's amazing.

Folks, none of you know grief. Now Miami, that's a sad team. Have you seen the attendance numbers for Marlins games? They're pathetic.

There's talk about a league contraction, of actually shutting down a few teams. If that happens, the Marlins will be top of the list.

(Oh, and there may be another player's strike.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:06 PM on October 4, 2001

Puh-leez! Is there anyone sincerely suggesting there exists something sadder than a Cubs fan? Especially after they got our hopes up through the break?

Also: There are baseball fans in Miami?
posted by sj at 10:46 PM on October 4, 2001

OK enough of the sob stories!

I'm a Giants fan, and I'd just like to say how happy I am for Barry Bonds.

I have recently been engrossed in the Ken Burns Baseball documentaries, and to see Bonds in that perspective is to truly realize his worth as a player. He deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest not just of this time, but of all time.

I am from the Bay Area and also got the chance to see Rickey back in his glory years, when they had Armas, Murphy and Henderson out there. He is something special too.

I am going to ask this question, though it might inspire some negative comments: Do you think racism played any role in Houston's treatment of Bonds in this series? My feeling is that for the decision to be made that (in effect) hurting your playoff chances so Bonds wouldn't get his HRs, it would have to be made from higher up than just the manager. I am just throwing this out there, but especially the Burns documentaries had brought the "Gentlemen's Agreement" to the forefront of my noggin. I felt that was a factor also in the way Sosa got maybe a tenth of the press of McGwire when they were in their race.

And the last point I want to make: I don't think the Astros agreed with their higher-ups' decree of how to pitch Barry. They looked to me like they were ashamed. I've never seen a team look so defeated. In effect, the pitchers were told "I don't think you can get Bonds out". I think they felt cheated. As a pitcher, you want to face the best and try to get him out. In the eyes of the Astros I saw disappointment. And I say this partly as wishful thinking (so we can get the wildcard) but I wouldn't be surpried if they get swept in St Louis too.

Here's to Barry! One of the best to grace the field.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:08 PM on October 4, 2001

Or an Orioles fan, they just don't have the mon... oh, wait never mind.

Was it just the other day I was watching the Marlins in the World Series, the team who's games on the radio took me through high school? The good old days of 1997.

Only one word can exorcise my baseball demons: CAL!
posted by owillis at 11:48 PM on October 4, 2001

Don't forget, the Mariners tied the American League record for most wins in a season, tonight. It's been a historic week in many ways.
posted by litlnemo at 12:12 AM on October 5, 2001

Last I checked, stros & giants were fighting for a playoff spot. Why do you pitch to the one guy who is sure to beat you. Too bad for Houston, they lost 3 of their top 5 pitchers in the last 4 weeks, but racists? NO. Anyway Go M's.
posted by poodlemouthe at 12:51 AM on October 5, 2001

Or a Red Sox fan, after yet another year blighted by injury and incompetence. The late season capitulation was just embarrassing.

Anyway, Bonds has been keeping me awake these past nights, courtesy of KNBR's commentary. And I just wonder whether Dierker finally decided to pitch to him late in the series to give him a PacBell 71st... not doing so certainly screwed over the Astros' run-in, given that Kent and Galarraga were on fire, and probably sowed enough seeds of discontent in the dressing room to make St Louis' life that bit easier over the weekend.
posted by holgate at 1:18 AM on October 5, 2001

It looked like the Astros pitcher grooved a couple of fastballs down the middle for Bond. Perhaps they felt bad for walking him so many times and still getting spanked. Anyway, this Cardinals fan definitely have some mixed feelings. I really feel for MM but also glad since we're in 1st!
posted by gyc at 2:33 AM on October 5, 2001

There's talk about a league contraction, of actually shutting down a few teams.

Thank christ.

The MLB's done a lot wrong in the past few years all in the name of making the game more exciting. But a horrible free agency policy and league have taken all of the fun out of it for me.

Whatever happened to the good old days, when you could root for a team...A team that was more than a different collection of players each year? IMHO, 'teams' should be made up of a similar group of people year to year. If not, what's the point? You're simply rooting for a city, for a uniform, for a mascot. But not for a team.

And as for league expansion--does anyone really think that making the talent pool so shallow was a good idea? Yes, it's good to watch the superstars play. But should inflated numbers come at the expense of watchable baseball? Is it better to make the superstars look better by putting them next to guys that wouldn't have a job if there weren't 30 teams in the league?
posted by dogmatic at 4:57 AM on October 5, 2001

Unless you're a Royals baseball fan. Or any team with a budget that Ken Griffey makes in a day.

Ah, but what if you're a fan of those young scrappers, the Oakland A's, with the second-best record in MLB, the hottest team in baseball right now, and bound to destroy the M's on the way to the World Series, though damn near the bottom of the payroll heap?

Ah yes...
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:29 AM on October 5, 2001

There are two reasons why pitchers have avoided throwing to Bonds in the last few games, and neither has to do with race. 1) Nobody wants to go in the record book as the guy who gave up the 70th or 71st homerun. 2)Since Albert Belle retired, Bonds is the consensus pick as biggest a-hole in baseball. (Here's a Sports Illustrated article by Rick Reilly, that rips him.) I hope Bonds doesn't hit anymore this year, or ever, and that Sammy or Griffey or Somebody who I can respect breaks the record next year.
posted by wsfinkel at 6:02 AM on October 5, 2001

But can you watch Armando Benitez spreading misery to many?
posted by ParisParamus at 6:08 AM on October 5, 2001

Uh.. go Indians?
posted by zempf at 6:33 AM on October 5, 2001

(touching on a few points)

There's talk about a league contraction, of actually shutting down a few teams.

Don't be fooled by the owners when they say that. They have no way of actually eliminating teams from the league without getting hammered by Congress (anti-trust laws) or the players union. Can you imagine the lawsuit if MLB called up Jeff Loria and said "Thanks for your time and money, but we're going to drop you from the league. No, we aren't going to let you move the team or sell the team for a profit. Thanks anyways." Do you think that the union would approve of a plan that would eliminate a MINIMUM of 40 jobs per team dissolved? That's not including all the minor league affiliates that would be left without a team to affiliate with.

There is no chance of any contraction. It's just a way for the owners to put the big scare into the players union and try to win over the support of the fans. It's just not going to happen.

does anyone really think that making the talent pool so shallow was a good idea?

Asfor the idea of a shallow talent pool, that's also a crock. There are more great players in the league today than at anytime in MLB history. As well, even the "bad" players of this day and age are better than at any time in history...imagine the "shallow talent pool" of the times before blacks, hispanics or playes outside of North America (Dominican Republic, Cuba, South America, Japan) were playing in the league. I guarantee you that the quality of players today is far superior to the quality of players than at any other time.

(Here's a Sports Illustrated article by Rick Reilly, that rips him.)

Sports Illustrated has been on a smear campaign against Barry Bonds from when he bailed out of an interview a couple of years ago. In fact, most of the media is writing negative pieces about him because he hasn't been accomodating for interviews for his entire career. Mark McGwire used to be the same way until 1998, but because he changed his mind that year with all the attention, he was called a great man. Just because Bonds hasn't caved into the media pressure and divulged all his private information, he's still seen as a bad man. The media is great at propping up playes for people to like and making players into "bad people". How soon we forget that Ken Griffey Jr. was a "bad person" for leaving Seattle for lots of money, and for refusing (for a while) to bat in the HR derby at the All-Star Game a while back.
Until someone shows me proof that Barry Bonds threw fire crackers at fans (Vince Coleman), had sex with an underage girl (Luis Polonia) or attacked a handicapped man in the stands (Ty Cobb), I'm not going be swayed into believing Barry Bonds is a "bad man".
posted by Grum at 6:35 AM on October 5, 2001

What Grum said about Bonds. Watching the ESPN doc on his early career, you can see how he watched his father's private life fuck up around baseball, and he's sure as damnit not going to emulate that. Wednesday night's press conference, he told reporters "you're not giving enough respect to my team-mates" -- the ones who'd driven him home all night. Thursday night, he gets the homer, he deals with the press. You look at him there with his kids, and he's obviously got his priorities dead straight.

Oh, Oakland for the series, bringing relief to lots of pundits, given that they predicted them in April but were looking pretty silly in July...
posted by holgate at 7:05 AM on October 5, 2001

Sorry holate and grum, but wsfinkel is right: Bonds is a bonehead. I'm also hoping that he somehow catches some horrible baseball curse and can't hit again. And I'm hoping that next year Sosa can do something great.

Well, honestly, I'm just hoping next year that Pedro will start to actually to be Pedro again, and that Nomar will start to be Nomar again... And that Duquette will be swallowed by a whale and never released.
posted by terceiro at 7:24 AM on October 5, 2001

Just as a guess, if a team was removed I suspect the other owners would buy it out, and its players would be absorbed through a draft.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:07 AM on October 5, 2001

(Here's a Sports Illustrated article by Rick Reilly, that rips him.)

Reilly would rip his own mother to maintain his "status" as King of the Sports Writing Worms. Bonds has gotten a bad rap. Is he the most personable guy in the game? No. If I met him in a bar might I think he's an asshole? Maybe. But he's hardly the biggest jerk in the game *cough* Roger Clemens. The treatment Bonds has gotten in the press is (as has been pointed out above) solely because he's been an asshole to the press, and they've been sticking it to him ever since.
posted by jpoulos at 9:21 AM on October 5, 2001

Also...I do think race plays a part in this. Arrogance is considered much more acceptable in white players and those of other shades. Guess what, gang: Mark McGwire was a total curmudgeon during most of the 1998 season. He was all "leave me alone! I haven't done anything yet!" (and not in a nice way) to the press, up until the end of August or so. But he wasn't called to the carpet for it.

Sosa was considered a happy-go-lucky "boy" who smiled a lot, and that was considered OK. He was neck-and-neck with McGwire from the end of June on, but only McGwire was considered a suitable challenger to Maris' record.

Remember too (and this is one my biggest pet peeves in sports) that Sosa was always "Sammy", McWire was never "Mark". Listen closely to a baseball game someday. The darker players are called by their first name much more often than the whiter ones. But now I'm going off-topic....
posted by jpoulos at 9:29 AM on October 5, 2001

No Bonds has been an asshole to everyone. Eddie Murray was an asshole to the press, but was good with the fans. Bonds talks down to the press, as I imagine he does to everyone. He has never been a team player, regardless of how he has portrayed publically. He has choked in every postseason he's played in. And regardless of what you think of Reilly (I personally consider his article the only valuable part of SI on a weekly basis, if a player (Kent) is willing to rip a teammate(Bonds) publically and out of character, then that teammate probably has it coming. I can't believe that I'm actually discussing this topic with Bonds apologists, I didn't think they existed.
As a Mets fan I hate Clemens, but I think only those of us who have been burned by him (Mets, BoSox) think so poorly of him. (Carl Everett could definitely give Bonds a run for his money, or is he just misunderstood also?)
posted by wsfinkel at 9:33 AM on October 5, 2001

I didn't say race doesn't play a role in sports, and I think that Sosa's characterization had as much to do with his foreigner status as with his race, yet being an jerk transcends color. McGwire tried his best to deal with the media, but he didn't want much to do with them. However, the public liked McGwire and they liked Sammy, (Sammy is a much more recognizable name than Mark) but nobody likes Bonds, and he probably doesn't care.
posted by wsfinkel at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2001

Nobody likes Bonds

I like Bonds. I think he is one of the greatest ever. He just wants to be a private individual. I understand that and respect him for it.


Bonds is a bonehead.

What exactly do you mean by that? I don't get it. Do you mean he is not intelligent? To me he seems sharp as a tack. He is well-spoken and I think he could be a good ambassador for the game. Bonds should be proud of his accomplishments and is under no obligation to be a media darling. He is a good role model because of his accomplishments on the field and his obvious care for his family.

As far as Bonds being an asshole to the fans.....I'm a fan and I never once have thought of him being an asshole. I am in awe of his achievements.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2001

I have to say that I, too, am in the "Bonds isn't so bad" camp. What sincerely worries me is that this man, who is having one of the best all-around seasons ever, might not win the MVP award. As for Carl Everett being on the same level as Bonds, I apparently must have missed Bonds' numerous suspensions over the past few years for fighting with his manager, showing up late, and making obscene gestures to opposing pitchers. Guess I wasn't paying attention or something.
posted by zempf at 10:19 AM on October 5, 2001

nobody likes Bonds, and he probably doesn't care.

As Kafkaesque says, that's just not true. From my perspective, it's a creation of the media. I've been doing informal surveys about Bonds all season long. Many I've talked to don't dislike him at all. From those who do, I often hear this:

"Do you like Bonds?"
"Why not?"
"He's an asshole"
"How? What has he done to be an asshole?"
"Ummm...err....I just heard that he is."

Perception is often reality, and I'm aware that there are plenty of fans who don't like the guy, but I don't think it's really deserved. He's not a kind of guy like Griffey or A-Rod or Pedro Martinez, who are pretty much universally liked and respected. He's much more appreciated by the fans of the team he's playing on. But he's got plenty of fans, and deserves a better treatment than he's been getting.
posted by jpoulos at 10:23 AM on October 5, 2001

What is your guys' problem with Bonds? He is probably within the top 5 players of all time. What is he too confident? You don't know what he eats for dinner or his daughter birthday? I'm sorry, he's an amazing baller.
I still haven't heard a good reason that people don't like him, except he's upset some geek with typewriter. I think it's racial. There is no other explanation.

I will now duck... ;-)
posted by thekorruptor at 10:31 AM on October 5, 2001

I'm sorry, he's an amazing baller.

No one said anything about his sexual prowess....
posted by jpoulos at 10:32 AM on October 5, 2001

I personally am something of a whiz with a melon baller, but that's beside the point.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:37 AM on October 5, 2001

Zurishaddai: hats off to the A's.

As for Bonds, one of the reason's he talks down the press might be because the press plastered his name all over the newspaper and television when he was going through a messy divorce trial a couple of years ago (At least here in the Bay Area).
posted by culberjo at 10:38 AM on October 5, 2001

I was one of the people saying the media was being too hard on Bonds, and they should just let him do his own thing. Then I saw a profile of him (CNN I think), and all I could think was "God, that guy is a miserable ass". I don't mean he has to be all "shuck and jive" (like Sosa) but considering he's such a great player on such a huge stage the least he could do is enjoy it and be nice to some of the fans. I mean, they pay his salary the least he could do was sign an autograph for a kid or two. You just shouldn't be a professional athelete and have that kind of attitude.

You get payed to play baseball, enjoy it - dammit!
posted by owillis at 11:40 AM on October 5, 2001

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Barry Bonds. He's aloof to fans, the media and teammates. He also tried to get his child-support payments reduced during the 1994 baseball strike, claiming that he couldn't make the $15,000 a month payments on a yearly salary of $4.75 million.

However, I don't watch sports to watch good citizens and nice people. So I'm rooting hard for Bonds to break the record -- I've never seen a baseball leave a park faster than when I saw Bonds hit one out of candlestick a few years ago.
posted by rcade at 11:50 AM on October 5, 2001

However, I don't watch sports to watch good citizens and nice people.

Exactly. Similarly, just because you may not like Bonds doesn't mean you should take the bat out of his hands for personal reasons. Close your eyes to your personal feelings and look at his numbers. Appreciate the amazing talent.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:10 PM on October 5, 2001



Blue Jays!

Blue Jays!

Let's! Let's! Play! Play! Ball!
posted by Succa at 12:30 PM on October 5, 2001

Puh-leez! Is there anyone sincerely suggesting there exists something sadder than a Cubs fan? Especially after they got our hopes up through the break?

Also: There are baseball fans in Miami?

sj: guess that makes me the saddest of the sad: a Cubby fan in Miami.

There are baseball fans here. Like myself, most of them have retained their "hometown" loyalties.

But what Huizenga did to the Marlins after winning the series in '97 soured everyone on the team, even though they are now under new management. Besides, who the hell wants to go to a football stadium to see a baseball game? Oh, for the Friendly Confines!
posted by groundhog at 12:30 PM on October 5, 2001

I gotta agree: Bonds "badness" is solely manufactured by the press- the press will sweep under the rug the extracurricular activities and personal shortcomings of those they adore like Babe Ruth or Joe Dimaggio, but if they don't like you- look out! The sports press are similar to movie critics, where they intermingle their own insecurities and personal likes/dislikes and then present that as "reporting". For example, note how many writers point to Bonds' 500th as an example of how much his team hates him, saying that only the batgirl greeted him at home. This is, in fact, an outright lie (page 2 of this link) that Rick "Speaking of Assholes" Reilly perpetuates:
When Bonds hit his 500th home run, in April, only one person came out of the dugout to greet him at the plate: the Giants' batgirl.

The batgirl (which, btw, shows how cool SF is that they have a batgirl) was the first to greet him, and a nice gesture at that, and then the rest of the players mobbed him mere seconds later.

And is Jeff Kent any better than Barry? He's just as gruff to the fans, certainly not a better player, but he's white and kisses the right sportswriter asses. So which is really more divisive: having a barcalounger inside the clubhouse, or ripping on your team's best player in the press during the heat of a pennant race?

Besides, if you wanna talk sports figures who deserve to get knocked down a peg, how about fawkin' Cal Ripken? What did this guy ever do to deserve such unabashed fellatio from the sports media? We hear he's a "class act" and even sometimes "bigger than baseball" (I thought no one was bigger than baseball) yet never really why we're supposed to believe that crap. Great, seminal shortstop? Yeah, sorta- basically, he was that rarity of a 3rd baseman moved to short instead of the other way around, which is why he stood out; had he stayed at 3rd like most 6'+ athletic infielders do, he wouldn't have been quite as remarkable. And the streak at a certain point was selfish, pure and simple. Great numbers, hall of famer, but a "great guy"? Never met him, never heard specific tales great selflessness or class- all I've ever heard is that sportswriters seem to like him for some vague, unspecified reason. Maybe he picks up dinner tabs, and that's all it takes. Bill Simmons, ESPN's resident Boston fan, sums it up as to why Cal leaves him feeling... just "eh". Me, I'd argue that Cal Ripken is baseball's Mother Teresa- glorified in the press, but upon close examination doesn't remotely live up to the hype...

Holgate's a red sox fan? Is it just me, or do the Red Sox have a disproportionate fan base overseas? It's just something I've noticed...I grew up in NH as a Boston fan, although I've had a much better time this year watching these local Mariner fellows romp through the season than another crumbling Red Sox team... :)
posted by hincandenza at 1:41 PM on October 5, 2001

I don't care if Barry Bonds is a jerk or not--you have to separate the person from the player, and he is having what could be the best individual season in the history of baseball (statistical analysis from early September shows that he was rivaling Babe Ruth's 1920 season; he's since passed 1920 Ruth in walks and slugging percentage, and had already hit more home runs by then). Ty Cobb one of of the best ballplayers ever; he was also a sociopath.

Re: Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, I agree that McGwire was favored by many people to break Ruth's record, but I don't think it was due to racism, but because McGwire is a big lunky Paul Bunyan of a man and fits the role of a legendary recordbreaker. Sosa has been very impressive and more consistent than McGwire since 1998.

Bonds' performance this year is more impressive to me than McGwire's in 1998, because he's doing it during a pennant race, and amid a lot of personal (death of a close friend) and public distractions (the one we all know about). I also admire how he was able to stay focused and hit #70 so quickly and so far after all the walks.

I agree with Joe Morgan: the Astros played scared by pitching around Bonds, and the rest of the Giants punished them. The Astro's strategy cost them the NL Central and possibly the wildcard.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:30 PM on October 5, 2001

Houston's Larry Dierker, however, deserves all the blame for the Astros' approach to Bonds because Dierker managed scared the entire series, the pitchers pitched scared, and in the end the team played scared. And the Astros got swept in their own ballpark. I know most of the Astros players; they all wanted to compete, but they weren't allowed to compete.

What he said. That was what I thought watching the games: The Astros really wanted the chance to compete, and were denied it.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:09 PM on October 5, 2001

Hincandenza: I'm from Maryland, and a slight against our hometown boy Cal is as good as a declaration of war. We duel at dawn. :)

And here's a totally unbiased look at Cal's legacy (homer!)
posted by owillis at 3:46 PM on October 5, 2001

Try being a BoSox fan in NYC.... I was hoping they'd get to the playoffs again this year - I mean - c'mon, how many CHampionships can the Yankees win?? ;-)

posted by niteHawk at 6:17 PM on October 5, 2001

As for the idea of a shallow talent pool, that's also a crock.

Thank God someone else realizes this commonly held cliche is rubbish. One of those opinions that is passed around because it sounds good, but with not factual backing, and often made by fans too young to even remember pre-eighties baseball.

The only backing evidence I ever hear is the loss of talent to other sports.

Well, the growth alone in population more than makes up for that. Add to that black players, followed by every other nationality, including now Asians.

Seriously, think about the best players in the game and many would not be playing as little as 20 years ago.

Then realize baseball players today are far better conditioned than at any other time in history. Baseball players use to hold second jobs during the offseason. Now they take two weeks off and then head straight into a weight lifting program.

The talent may be more concentrated to a few teams, but the talent level as a whole is far better than at any time in history.
posted by justgary at 8:04 PM on October 5, 2001

Well, Barry Bonds is the NEW home run king.
He just smacked number 71 a couple of minutes ago, and Vin Scully did his absolute best job of SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF IT by making sound like he was reading a phone book. Absolutely BRUTAL television call, with no emotion whatsoever. Now, I don't expect Vin to jump up and down and shout "Do you believe in miracles!?" at the top of his voice, but at least say SOMETHING with emotion. In fact, it sounded like he was upset that Barry hit the HR. Hopefully someone has already recorded the Giants radio call of the home run and converted it into an mp3 for downloading.

I still have the McGwire #62HR in mp3 form and it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it (since I can still visualize the event when I saw it on TV).
posted by Grum at 8:34 PM on October 5, 2001

I guess each to his own. I just hear Vin Scully's voice and I think of baseball.
posted by justgary at 8:58 PM on October 5, 2001

posted by justgary at 9:09 PM on October 5, 2001

I was walking down the street to my house from my car when all of the sudden, a huge fireworks display went off down by the Bay.

I'm thinking to myself, WTF? It's not Fourth of July...

And then some girl ran by me and said that she just saw him hit the 72nd homer on TV...

What syncronicity...
posted by fooljay at 9:27 PM on October 5, 2001

Ooops, I meant 71st...
posted by fooljay at 9:28 PM on October 5, 2001

The talent may be more concentrated to a few teams, but the talent level as a whole is far better than at any time in history.

ABSOLUTELY true- the talent pool to draw the very very very best players on the planet has gotten vastly larger since Ruth's time- due to population increase of the country, the removal of the color barrier, and then international scouting in this hemisphere and the other. Let me say it clearly: Babe Ruth was not the best player to ever play the game, he just had weaker opposition to beat up on and look better by comparison. If we put Barry Bonds into AA or AAA next season, he'd beat up on sub-par pitching and look far better than Ruth ever did. Oh sure, there'd be a few pitchers in AAA next season with major league ability- but today, they'd just be pulled to the next level. In Ruth's day, they were the Walter Johnsons and Christy Mathewsons.

The ability to not only draw from a much larger pool but also identify and maintain the most talented players is the key- in Ruth's day, people like him or Gehrig or Walter Johnson or Rogers Hornsby were the outliers- the genuinely talented players in what was otherwise beer league. Now, the outliers are the rule, not the exception, a little more so than 10 years ago and a LOT more so since 1920. Remember when a 7' center was something special on a basketball team? Remember when a 95mph fastball was some kinda heat, not the typical speed of half your bullpen? Remember when slugging centerfielder Willie Mays was 5'10", 180 pounds, yet today some shortstops are 6'3"/ 215? Somewhere in the heart of China or former Russia right now is a li'l kid who will grow up to throw regular 104mph gas and make his contemporaries look foolish. Fortunately, today's and yesterday's stars don't ever have to face him... :) Add in the fact that the entire sport has gotten better due to training, educational tools, and improving athleticism as a whole, and it's no stretch to say that today's players are both talentwise and in absolute terms far, far better across the board.
posted by hincandenza at 11:27 PM on October 5, 2001

What about the short porches at some of these parks . 315ft at Enron - many others less than 340, quite a difference from Bambino's day. No inside pitches, body armor... I thought the stros - cards game tonight was one of the best games this yr. Yeah. No Giants in the playoffs.
posted by poodlemouthe at 12:08 AM on October 6, 2001

picture if you will


at the bar

screaming my lungs out


There is no joy in Mudville.

I am a sad sad man.

Thanks for the memories Bonds. I sincerely hope we can keep you

pissed as a newt

posted by Kafkaesque at 12:59 AM on October 6, 2001

Well, Barry Bonds is the NEW home run king.

I missed hearing Vin Scully or seeing it on TV, but it's OK 'cause I was at the game.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:22 AM on October 6, 2001

Bonds, Barry Bonds. I'll have one vodka martini, knocked out of the park, not stirred.
posted by MAYORBOB at 6:40 AM on October 6, 2001

Let me say it clearly: Babe Ruth was not the best player to ever play the game

Well, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one, even though I'm the one that first attacked the idea of a modern day lack of great players.

Babe Ruth has to be considered the greatest baseball player of all time because he was one of the best HITTERS of all time (you don't absolutely destroy records like he did without being one of the best ever), and because he was one of the best PITCHERS of his time. While his time as a pitcher was short, he displayed an ability that would have put him in the top 5 at the time.

(to see his how good he was, check out his stats here)

For anyone to challenge Babe Ruth's historical greatness, they will have to be both an amazing hitter and an accomplished pitcher. John Olerud had a chance to do that when he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays years ago, but the Jays (rightly) decided to have him become just a hitter.
posted by Grum at 7:28 AM on October 6, 2001

Grum: Sure, a great hitter- but not the best of all time. He basically beat up on mediocre pitching with no relievers- what's that, one at bat a game in the 8th and 9th inning against a pitcher who racks up 300 innings a year? Sweeeet....

And I utterly dismiss the great pitcher part- I recall reading something by credible sports physiologists saying that what little film and photos exist of Walter Johnson's pitching motion suggests that he didn't throw 95-100mph but more likely 85-88mph- the speed of modern day finesse pitchers, like Jamie Moyer, basically. And this guy was called "The Big Train"?! Mark McGwire, like Olerud, had something like a 90mph fastball in college; Ichiro Suzuki had been clocked at 94-95 (and anyone who's seen him unleash a bullet from right-field to third base can believe that). Innumerable shortstops and right-fielders and other position players around the league can throw into the 90's, some with decent accuracy. But they aren't quite good enough to be pitchers- today. That tells you how good today's pitchers are, and thus how much harder it is to be a hitter. But against college players, I bet Olerud would look really good...

College tennis players put up scores similar to the finals at Wimbledon- [6-4, 4-6, 6-2]- but if Sampras or Agassi walked onto the court, they'd make them look foolish. The underlying point is that Ruth was a statistical outlier in a time of relatively mediocre talent, the same way the few really gifted kids stand out like supernovas in their high schools- until they get to a college like MIT where EVERYONE is the gifted kid in their class. So of COURSE Ruth seemed fantastic by comparison, as did Johnson, Cobb, etc. The greats of yesteryear were big fish in little ponds, making them look all the more titanic.

Let me reiterate the mental experiment: take the top 10 pitchers and the top 10 hitters of the 2001 season, and put them in AAA next year. While AAA as a whole looks, statistical, similar to the majors- 90 feet to first base and everything- the talent level isn't close- every AAA team has maybe 1 or 2 players with legitimate ML ability, while every ML team has at least 20 if not all 25 players at that level. Those 10 pitchers and 10 hitters will DESTROY the competition, not because they suddenly became better but because we put those big fish into a little pond.

This doesn't mean Ruth wasn't talented, or even supremely talented- rather, it means that his statistical accomplishments were made against a league that wasn't exactly the best of the best, and that has to be taken into consideration when discussing his greatness. Some of the greatest players in the game today are from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico; think Ruth in 1920 had to hit against his generation's Pedro Martinez? Nope... because MLB in 1920 wasn't scouting the globe to get the very very best- they weren't even completely scouring their OWN nation to get the best (Satchel Paige) of the best (Josh Gibson).
posted by hincandenza at 6:50 PM on October 6, 2001

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