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A-Rod, MLB, and The Record Books     Share

01 Aug 2010

Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) of the New York Yankees has hit 599 career home runs.  Since July 22, has been stuck on that number, unable to hit the ever-elusive 600th.  In the history of baseball, there have only been 6 players hit 600 career home runs.  Two of those players (Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa) did it under a cloud of suspicion that they used “performance enhancing drugs.”  Alex Rodriguez will fit right in, only there is no suspicion.  A-Rod admitted to using steroids for a 3-year period.  As he approaches the 600 home run mark, many people have suggested that this feat is tainted and that his name should have an asterisk next to it in the record books.  They may have a good point, but at what point do we stop?
 
Admittedly, the record books are littered with amazing baseball players, but many names are left out.  The most significant, in my opinion, is Josh Gibson.  Most people are saying, “Who the hell is Josh Gibson?”  If you fit into that category, you just proved my point.  Josh Gibson hit nearly 800 home runs in 17 seasons, averaging one home run for every 10.6 at bats, had a career batting average of .359, and died at the age of 35.  Why haven’t you heard of him?  Because he was black.  He spent most of his career in the Negro League.
 
Jackie Robinson was the first black player in Major League Baseball.  He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.  Even with that barrier-shattering signing, there were still only 26 African-American baseball players to step foot on a MLB baseball field prior to 1960.
 
My point is this, we tend to look at the “good ol’ days” as being just that…good.  Should there be an asterisk next to Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs?  Maybe, but I’ve never heard any old people talking about it.  Many talented players, such as Josh Gibson, played in that same era, but they weren’t even allowed in the league because of the color of their skin.  I’m not trying to justify Alex Rodriguez’s decision to take performance-enhancing drugs.  I just feel like we should look at all records with a critical eye.  Peel back a couple layers of the onion and you’ll see the real story behind the record.

Send comments to: Lee@notasportsguy.com

The Basics

-Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has hit 599 home runs.

-There have only been 6 players in MLB history to hit 600 home runs (Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa)

Terminology:

Win (for a pitcher):  A pitcher must complete five innings of pitching and his team must be leading when he exits for him to get a win.  A pitcher with 15 wins in a season is doing well; 20 wins is the recognized plateau of excellence.

ERA:  Earned Run Average.  A statistic which measures how many runs a pitcher averages surrendering to opposing teams based on pitching nine innings.  For instance, a pitcher with an ERA of 2.00 would on average give up 2 runs over the course of 9 innings.  ERA’s are always measured to the hundredths.  An ERA of under 3.00 is considered good.  An ERA under 2.00 is excellent and only a handful of pitchers are able to sustain an ERA under 2.00 for an entire season.

Pinch Hit:  when a player that did not start the game comes in to bat for a player that did start the game. 

Batting Average:   How often a player gets a hit.  Batting average is calculated by dividing the number of hits by total chances to hit.   If a player walks or is hit by a pitch, such actions are not counted as a chance to hit in calculating the batting average.  A .300 batting average (getting a hit 30% of the time) is considered to be above average for a MLB player.

Mendoza Line:  A euphemism for a .200 batting average.  The term came from a reference to Mario Mendoza, a light hitting infielder in the 1970s that usually batted around .200.  A player that is hitting around the Mendoza Line is lucky to still have a job in the Major Leagues.