As Barry Bonds limps toward Hank Aaron’s major-league record of 755 career home runs, you’ll continue to hear of the chase as Bonds’ pursuit of “the most hallowed record in sports.”
Time to ditch that classification, don’t you think?
The most hallowed record in sports? No. Not anymore. Not in this extended era of smaller parks, tightly wound balls, expansion-diluted pitching staffs and, most important, performance-enhancing allegations.
For instance, there was a time not long ago when 500 career homers was your ticket to the Hall of Fame, no questions asked. Heck, 400 homers was a big damned deal back inthe day.
But now you’ve got folks such as Jim Thome and Gary Sheffield closing in on 500 and others including Juan Gonzalez and Carlos Delgado with 400 already in the books. Jim Edmonds, for god’s sake, will probably reach 400 career dingers if he puts together a couple more solid seasons.
Do any of them belong in Cooperstown? Probably not.
Bonds does, of course, no matter what you think he is or has done. But how can the career home run mark be considered the gold standard among all sports records when it appears as though Bonds might only be keeping it warm for six or seven years before Alex Rodriguez, who’s only 31, takes over?
And let’s not forget Ken Griffey Jr., who, were it not for his injuries, might already have passed Hammerin’ Hank.
Home run records just don’t hold the weight they used to, so it’s time to recognize that there are far more unattainable marks in baseball.
Start with Pete Rose’s hits record of 4,256. The active player closest to it is Craig Biggio, who will get No. 3,000 soon and likely retire at the end of the season — if not sooner. A-Rod, the only player in the top 25 among active hits leaders under 35, is barely halfway there.
And what about Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak? If you think anyone has an even remote chance of breaking that record, you need to back off the peace pipe and realize that the media scrutiny that dogs anyone who reaches 40 will make it impossible.
Let’s not forget Cy Young’s 511 wins. Or Nolan Ryan’s 5,715 strikeouts and seven no-hitters. Or Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 stolen bases. Nobody is going to challenge those marks, either.
What Bonds is going to do at some point this summer deserves celebration. It’s an amazing accomplishment and a testament to a once-in-a-generation talent who — somehow, some way — managed to marry his talent with health and longevity.
But it’s not the greatest thing we’ve seen in baseball history and it wouldn’t be even if Bonds were squeaky clean.
Mychael Urban hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).
What is the most unbreakable record in baseball?