What good are records
Posted by mikelink45 , 30 November 2019 · 413 views
pitching home runs musial bombas aaron
When the Twins Bombas broke the MLB record for HRs there was elation - and rightfully so. It is fun to see records fall and even to have some marks like 56 straight game hitting streaks seem to be impossible to break. When I was young (1950s) I got hooked on baseball and my little transistor radio would sneak under my pillow at night so I could follow the Milwaukee Braves.
I loved the way baseball connected me with my dad and Grandpa, the way it related to the old town teams my relatives played on and the symmetry of the game. It just seemed to be one of the constants in a buzzing world of change. BUT...........
There is the juiced ball which periodically makes an appearance when baseball seems to need a boost or the juiced players like Sosa and McGwire who also came at a time when baseball needed a boost. Of course they cheated, just like the league itself and I would not put them in the HOF except in an exhibit - the Flawed Savoirs of Baseball.
So does the Bombas record mean as much as the HR record because of the ball? Or the record of 131 triples by the 1894 Phillies when the ball was bruised, cut, stained, softened? The record of 191 triples by Paul Waner hasn't been challenged since Musial retired with 177 in 1963 and no one remembers that amazing number by Stan as much as his hits 3630 and Home-runs 475.
Doubles are still important, but we seldom talk about - Stan Musial was also third all time with 725 doubles! Why is he so often forgotten in talks about the greats? Tris Speaker had 792 and Pete (tarnished) Rose had the second most - 746. Earl Webb is hardly a name that gets much air time, but he has the single season record of 67. The closest for a modern player is (HOF ballet) Todd Helton with 59 in 2000.
I loved the symmetry of 60, but I have no relationship to 73. I guess Mark McGwire caught my fancy with 70 because of the number, not the player. 61 had the same blah position as 73, but the year and the story are so compelling - Maris losing his hair versus Bond growing a bigger head. Then there was the fair-haired boy Mantle who everyone rooted for and the brooding boy from the plains that nobody in NY could understand - and he won.
I can hardly get started on pitching. My hero was Warren Spahn - despite missing multiple years in the military he still won 20+ games 13 times (don't even start on the wins don't mean anything) and he won 363 games in the era when Maris went for 60 and Mantle did multiple 50 HRs. He also finished his games - what a concept. The pitchers ahead of him played in the deadball era - Johnson, Matthewson, Young, Gavin or the emerging modern era - Alexander.
I know we cannot compare Radbourne's 48 and 59 win back to back seasons. They had 2 man rotations back then, but then we had four man rotations when Spahn pitched, then 5 man rotations and now we have bullpen games! So how do the records compare? Spitballs, batters asking for high or low pitches in 1867 - 1887, scuffed balls, cut balls - of course Perry belongs in the hall, he should be in the spitter wing - it was legal until 1920. The pitchers had to throw underhand until 1883 - and, no this was not softball.
So how do we measure our 5 inning starters, or the (yuck) openers?
Batters cork their bats - sometimes with hilarious results https://youtu.be/Ft-pWVaRnQ8, and for the seasons from 1885 - 1893 batters were allowed to flatten one side of their bats.
In 1887 11 players hit 400! Of course that was the only year that walks counted as hits. With the OPS emphasis maybe we should go back to that.
Up to 1864 balls caught on one bounce were outs and until 1883 foul balls caught on one bounce were outs.
Want a walk-off, you get a single, or double. It depends on how many bases you needed to score the winning run until 1920. No walk-off home runs. Of course you could make up the difference with a ground rule double that counted as a HR until 1930 - MLB was still chasing HR records. Then Babe Ruth showed them he did not need them, he had no ground rules in his 60.
So this long winded rant is because I have now lost faith in baseball records. All the changes that I list pale in comparison to the long history of excluding black players. Take out Brock and Gibson and what were the Cardinals in 1967? Remove Aaron from the Braves, Clemente from the Pirates, Mays from the Giants.
We have added teams and diluted the talent, we have added 8 games to the season and not accounted for it in the record book. We think we are so statistically smart that we no longer need SBs, but what would the Dodgers have done with Wills on the bases, of the Yankees and A's without the disruption of Rickey?
By the way, the unwritten rules are not part of this discussion, because I find them so stupid.
There have been greenies, alcohol, and PEDs and the records go on and on. We have added a short season of playoff games and continue to compare the current records with the past for post season statistics. Imagine what Yogi Berra would have had in his ten World Series years if he could have added at least 7 more games to each seasons end.
We lament the loss of a large percentage of young fans and I keep thinking that two things moved many of us - the minor leagues (which are now contracting) and baseball cards with what seemed like simple and biblical numbers. It is also the ability to recognize the player - NFL has an issue because they could swap numbers on the players and from the stands no one will know. It is like watching knights joust - without unique armor they were just riding robots. This is the appeal of soccer - same number of players and you can see their faces! Hockey has the same problem as NFL, compounded with the fact that we cannot see that little puck and they change lines so often no one who is not a fanatic really knows who is in the game.
The NBA has stolen the face recognition - fewer players, lots of close ups, an emphasis on personalities. This is what the MLB had, but they missed the connection and let it slip.
So I will keep watching and thinking about the game because I am too old to switch now so I will quit - I am sure I tweaked many of your ideas so take a shot at educating a 74 year old fan.