Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Spin the Record


Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies has hit 53 home runs this season. That puts him nine behind passing Roger Maris on the single season home run list. Of course that would only be the 7th highest single season total. Bonds, McGwire and Sosa have all passed Maris. McGwire did it twice, Sosa did it three times and Bonds is the all time leader with 73. Howard has no chance of catching Bonds, but the question becomes will he be recognized as the legitimate single season leader if the passes Maris?

Bonds, McGwire and Sosa have all been stung by steroid allegations. McGwire and Sosa both performed terribly at the Senate hearing investigating steroid use in Baseball and Bonds is under investigation by the government for tax evasion and drug use. He has become the poster boy for the steroids scandal. The commissioner has already said that he will not take any steps to change the record book as it now stands, so the single season record will continue to belong to Bonds for the foreseeable future.

In Roger Maris' home state of North Dakota there is proposed legislation that would recognize Maris' mark of 61 home runs as the single season record. I'm sure similar legislation would be brought up in Pennsylvania if Howard were to reach 61 home runs. Can we ever really know just how much steroids helped Bonds, McGwire and Sosa? The answer is a simple no. All three were exceptional players before their home run barrage. Bonds was a no doubt, first ballot hall-of-famer before he began his unprecedented surge. McGwire was an established power hitter who had hit as many as 49 home runs in a single season. Sosa had been a 30-30 man before his power went through the roof.

It's clear that the players received some benefit, but exactly how much is hard to quantify. It's also very clear that pitchers and a host of other players were taking performance enhancing drugs as well. The records established during the "steroids era" are no doubt tainted, but do we have the evidence that would allow us to wipe them off the books completely? I don't think so. If Howard breaks the 60 home run threshold it should be celebrated as a great event. He will be only the 6th person in the history of baseball to reach that exalted number. So while he may be recognized as the record holder in Philadelphia, the rest of us will have to happy with Barry "my head is so big now" Bonds as the single season and probably soon to be all time leader in home runs.

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