Those guys make Big Papi seem downright puny. David Ortiz has only 46 home runs so far this year, and the end of August is approaching fast.
At least he has an outside shot at 50. No one else in the American League has even hit 40, and things aren’t much better in the National League where Ryan Howard (45) and Alfonso Soriano (41) are the only ones over that mark.
The fact is, no one is hitting home runs anywhere near like they did in a five-year stretch from 1998 to 2002 when a handful of players with Incredible Hulk physiques made a mockery of one of baseball’s most hallowed marks.
Andruw Jones is the only player in the last three years to hit more than 50 home runs and he barely did it, finishing with 51. Two years ago, Adrian Beltre led all players with 48 home runs, 25 less than Bonds hit only a few years earlier.
The ballparks didn’t suddenly get bigger. And the pitching didn’t suddenly get better.
The interesting part, in fact, is that the average home runs hit per game has been fairly constant over the years. There’s no huge difference between 1998 and 2006 when it comes to total home runs hit in the major leagues.
The huge individual numbers, though, haven’t been seen since Alex Rodriguez threatened the old Maris mark with 57 home runs for the Texas Rangers in 2002.
Baseball players don’t look nearly so bloated anymore. And neither do their home run totals.
Unfortunately, the records remain to remind us that chemistry in the clubhouse isn’t always such a good thing. The numbers may be suspect, but as long as they’re allowed to stay in the record books, clean players won’t have a chance of matching them and fans won’t have a chance to enjoy a home run race.
So maybe it’s time 61 means something again.
Let’s begin by taking the bulked-up records and wrapping them in a giant asterisk. Maris had to live the rest of his life with the stigma of one, even though it was never actually in the record book.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Bud Selig and his multimillionaire owners should lead the way. They owe it to baseball to restore order because they looked the other way and pretended everything was fair and square when they knew that it wasn’t.
The folks in Fargo would certainly be happy. Business would pick up at the Roger Maris museum.
And, who knows? There might be a real home run race once again.
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