Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Uh, Barry? You missed something.

Let's allow bygones to be bygones. There's a reason that I hadn't addressed the home run debacle until it was absolutely necessary- other than fervently praying that Barry Bonds would blow out his knee playing a game of pickup street hockey. The situation's just too complicated. The extenuating circumstances involved in this whole scenario are too numerous to list, and I'm sure you've heard them all reiterated ad naueseum.
What's done is done. Henry Aaron can no longer be officially associated with the home run crown, and It's a damn shame.
But all of the flaxseed oil in the world, all the brilliant chemists in San Fransisco, and every strength trainer lodging in Federal Correctional Facilities is insufficient to bring Barry Bonds a title just as respectable, just as admirable, and even more impactful than the one he now holds.
2297.Get used to seeing this number at the top of the list, folks. Henry Aaron played 23 major league seasons, and was the very embodiment of integrity, of passion, of perseverance.
And a tremendous hitter in every sense of the word. And that collection of numerals is his career RBI total, a number which Bonds cannot hope to approach.
A home run is a wonderful thing. With one swing of the bat a player can completely change the current of a game. The inherent greatness, of course, of the mightiest of blasts is the fact that not only the hitter but everyone who may have occupied the basepaths at the time of the shot comes around on the play.
But how is one to gauge the player's run production as a whole?
OK, that was a rhetorical. We all know the answer. But I'll repeat it anyway, just in case Alfonso Soriano is wondering what it is that's missing from his stat sheet. We call them 'Runs Batted In'.
See, this is the thing. Certain players, like the aforementioned once-reluctant Left Fielder, put up very gaudy longball numbers but manage to steer their teams mysteriously clear of the win column. Why? They launch what we like to call meaningless home runs. Solo shots, Drives when the game's outcome is preordained. And they fail to bring runners in any other way. Michael Young, for instance, has had two guys named Clarence from the guitar store hitting in front of him all season long. In addition, he's hit only five home runs throughout the entirety of this year. How many RBI is he on pace for? 90. Because the man knows when he needs to hit, when is team truly needs him to punch out another liner to left field. And he comes through in those desperate situations.
Barry Bonds, in contrast has 22 home runs and a league-leading on-base+slugging percentage (OPS, for baseball geeks like me) of 1.064. And how many runs is the famed slugger on pace to drive in?
Try 75.
There's a reason that people like to perpetually launch insults at Barry, while simply oozing with respect and adulation for Hank Aaron. And it has nothing to do with hat size or media receptivity.Aaron was simply a better player.
If you're not convinced by the plain RBI numbers, compare playoff statistics. Henry Aaron has a world series ring. He has a .363 postseason average, with 6 home runs, 16 RBI, and a .705 slugging percentage in 17 games.
One need only look at one stat to gauge our chemically augmented friend's struggles in prime time. Batting average in 48 postseason matches: .245.
The man of cream is hitting .250 in that most crucial of situations. So for all my kin, all ye like minded, all who look beyond the abstract and waste hours a day on, Pay heed. For we no longer need to resort to the overused steroid arguement.
2296, people. A record that will stand a little while longer.
And the elusive world series ring? True champions only, Barry. End of the line.

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