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600 Home Runs?  Whatever.     Share

24 July 2010

The New York Yankee’s Alex Rodriguez is just one of those guys you love to hate.  He is a great athlete. He is rich.  He has dated Kate Hudson.  And he’s also a jackass.  Rodriguez is approaching a pretty incredible baseball milestone—600 career home runs.  Only six other players have accomplished that feat—Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds.  

The crazy part of it is that no one really cares. So why isn’t anyone—even most Yankees fans—celebrating this fact?  Well, to understand baseball’s record book when it comes to home runs, you have to understand the “steroid era” and what it did to the sport.  It is widely speculated that the first and last players on the above list—Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds—took steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.  Barry Bonds was indicted in 2007 by Federal prosecutors for perjury relating to his use of steroids and Sammy Sosa reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

So Alex Rodriguez was supposed to be baseball’s savior.  Everyone knew that Barry Bonds was going to break Hank Aaron’s home run record a few years ago.  But most baseball fans, while unhappy about it, could stomach it.  There was this great young home run hitter named Alex Rodriguez who was going to break Bond’s record and return the title of Home Run King to someone who was not mixed up in the “steroid era” controversy.  That is, until Rodriguez was forced to admit that he used steroids from 2001-2003, not so surprisingly some of his most productive years as a player.

Here is where the jackass part comes in.  In 2007, amid controversy that he had taken steroids, Rodriguez told Katie Couric on 60 Minutes that he had never taken steroids.  He was forced to retract that statement and admit to taking steroids after further evidence surfaced in 2009.  Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees and Rodriguez, said in his book that Rodriguez ( whose nickname is A-Rod) was called A-Fraud by his teammates.  So A-Rod will likely hit his 600th home run over the next few days, but sadly for him and for the sport, no one will really care.

Good One Liner:  “Rodriguez’s 600th home run is really more like his 500th.”  This quote references the fact that A-Rod probably would not have hit 600 home runs at this point without his steroid use.

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The Basics

Baseball Regular Season:

Major League Baseball (MLB) is divided into two leagues, the American League (AL) and the National League (NL).  Each league is further divided into three divisions, west, central, and east.  The regular season lasts from early April through early October.  While NL teams mostly play other NL teams and vice versa with the AL, there are occasional times in the regular season that NL teams will play AL teams.  During the regular season, each team plays 162 games.   These games determine who will go to the playoffs—each division winner and one “wild card” team from each league.   
Baseball is a statistics crazy game—true fans will quote batting averages, fielding percentages, slugging percentages, and just about any stat that you could think of for their favorite teams or players.  We’ll explain the ones that you need to know throughout the season. 


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.