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Who Cares About Bonds?
Posted by Chris Liss at 5/29/2006 10:45:00 AM
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The problem with the steroid contoversy and the current home run era of which it's a part is that it makes me not care much about whether Bonds passes Ruth or Aaron or not. The 60 home run seasons by Sosa, the 70 ones by Bonds and McGwire - it's all just a bunch of numbers now without any real significance - the way 61 was significant or 714 or 755 were significant.

For something to have value, it's usually needs to be in scarce supply. $100 bills wouldn't have value if the government printed 10 million new ones a day. The baseball card industry fell apart when the companies overprinted them, and now the home run is losing value as MLB permits conditions that make it too common. The Sosa-McGwire HR chase brought interest to the game in the short term and perhaps helped it recover from the 1994 strike, but in the end, I think it's going to be a big net loss. Baseball printed too many home runs, and now the currency is devalued.

Seeing a player chase Ruth or Aaron should be a hugely compelling story, and now I couldn't care less. Andruw Jones could finish with 600-700 HRs, ARod might have 800. Pujols could have 700-800 as well. A lot of current major leaguers - Thome, Jones, ARod, Pujols, Delgado, Sheffield, Manny Ramirez (even Shawn Green and Chipper Jones) should wind up with more than 500 - which was once a significant number and an exclusive club. Now it means very little. If Rafael Palmeiro can hit more home runs than Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt, then who cares anymore?

If people become indifferent to baseball's big records and statistics, it's going to be a big blow because the stats are so heavily intertwined with the game. I think the league should do whatever it did after the offensive explosion of the early 1930s and get home runs closer in line with historical averages. Maybe they could deaden the ball a little bit or raise the mounds again. Whatever they need to do. Because you don't want the single-season HR record broken every five years. Every 25-30 years is a good pace to let the mark become important first and the chase become meaningful. And the record-breaker to become legendary. And you definitely don't want two guys breaking it in the same year a la McGwire-Sosa (sure it made for dramatic TV), but that really cheapens the accomplishment.

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