Wednesday, August 08, 2007


756 doesn't mean anything to me because I know that there is more to baseball than hitting home runs. Even if you take away the ugly pall of steroids you're still left with Barry Bonds, a player who has chosen to define his career as a testament to himself. It's fitting that his greatest feats are individual achievements. Not only has he failed to win a World Series, Bonds has been a big part of the reason none of his teams could win it all, alienating players and coaches who could have helped him. He's never played the game the right way...steroids or not.

To be fair, I also don't hold Babe Ruth's numbers in high esteem. Some of the best baseball players of his era were forbidden from playing major league baseball. Ruth set himself apart because he chose to swing for the fences when his contemporaries kept the ball in the park but in the Negro Leagues players were already exploiting the long ball. Would Babe Ruth's record mean anything if he'd faced a pitcher like Satchel Paige or if Josh Gibson had been allowed to compete in the Majors? We'll never know but the very question puts 714 in doubt. It's not Babe's fault but understanding the context of that record makes it hard to honor.

It's subjective but 755 means the most to me. Hank Aaron was a class act who proved himself to be a model of consistency. He was also a true champion batting .393 in the 1957 World Series and leading the way to an important Braves victory. He managed to stay on track in spite of dealing with racial hostility the likes of which Barry Bonds can't begin to comprehend. Aaron actually endured being segregated from his team when he went on the road and maintained his focus in spite of receiving death threats in an era where it seemed much more likely they would be carried out.

Numbers are meaningless without context. No matter how many home runs Barry Bonds finishes his career with, he'll never surpass what Aaron accomplished.

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