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All-Time Home Run List Revised: Who Was Left Off?

For years the all-time home run leaders list kept by Major League Baseball has been under fire for trying to compare different generations of hitters. Finally somebody came up with a solution, but at whose expense?

In the July 12th edition of ESPN the Magazine featured an article entitled “If We Had A Hammer …”, in which the sports media mogul examined the much criticized home run list. In addition to providing the current disputed list, ESPN created the Player Era-to-Era Translation (PEET) for all-time home run list.

First off let’s begin with the list as it stands in Cooperstown:

  1. Barry Bonds (762)
  2. Hank Aaron (755)
  3. Babe Ruth (714)
  4. Willie Mays (660)
  5. Ken Griffey Jr. (630)
  6. Sammy Sosa (609)
  7. Alex Rodriquez (599) *
  8. Frank Robinson (586)
  9. Mark McGwire (583)
  10. Harmon Killebrew (573)

All players except for New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriquez are retired, making this list much easier to keep track of than other records. However the home run record has taken an enormous amount of criticism for the differences in the game of baseball from the time of Babe Ruth to Barry Bonds. In that spirit the PEET list goes as follows:

  1. Hank Aaron (724)
  2. Babe Ruth (663)
  3. Barry Bonds (660)
  4. Mel Ott (650)
  5. Willie Mays (628)
  6. Reggie Jackson (578)
  7. Frank Robinson (578)
  8. Ted Williams (568)
  9. Mike Schmidt (557)
  10. Harmon Killebrew (552)

Obviously with any theoretical adjustment of a record book somebody will not be happy with the changes. In this case that ball falls into the court of modern sluggers like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Alex Rodriquez. For these sluggers, steroids have been a largely unproven (or proven in Rodriquez’s case) cloud hanging over head. Logically these sluggers would have been left off when factoring in the live-ball era of baseball.

However one modern hitter was left off rather unjustly in this writer’s opinion. Long time Seattle Mariner Ken Griffey Jr, ranked fifth on the current home run leaders list, fails to grace the top ten in the PEET list. Granted, Griffey hit his 630 home runs during the live-ball era. However Griffey has never been associated with steroids or any other performance enhancing drug.

In general the dead-ball era hitters have been favored, which is how it should be given the nature of the game at that time. However the steroid bias of the live-ball era has clearly impacted even the presumably clean hitters.

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Steroids, Umpires, and Video Replay, Oh My!

Of all the major sports in the United States, Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig has been under the gun more than any other commissioner. But is he starting to crack under pressure and perhaps even starting to lose control of his own league?

First it was the steroids. In 1998, slugger Mark McGuire was discovered to have taken a performance enhancing drug (PED) called androstenedione.

That season McGuire went on to hit a record 70 home runs, but was not subject to punishment because MLB had no policy for steroids or PED’s.

It wasn’t until three years later that a randomized drug testing program and penalties for minor league players caught doping was implemented.

Despite the new penalties to minor league players, the 40-man active rosters in the major league was untouchable. Congress had enough and stepped in 2002 and mandated to MLB and the Player’s Association that a strict drug testing program be implemented.

It wasn’t until a nearly year later that a drug testing program was created for the major league with stricter penalties to drug users.

Since 2003, the battle for control of banned substances has raged on and taken many big names with it.

To this day baseball players, including Mark McGuire, come out publicly to their steroid use during the period of weak or no testing.

Although the testing has gotten harder to beat, Selig still has a long way to go before he rids our national past time of steroids and PED’s.

Another major issue Selig has had to deal with has been the individualization of umpires. Theoretically the official in any sport should remain neutral and in the background.

Naturally different umpires will develop different styles or personalities, but that is simply a matter of human nature and cannot be changed.

However, some umpires have developed personalities caustic to the game.

Most recently, umpire and aspiring country singer Joe West got into hot water for having his publicist announce where he would be working so that he could sell his music and sign autographs.

Besides mixing personal interests and business, which is quite frankly inappropriate in any job, this cross of careers hurts the game of baseball.

Think for a moment if you were the manager of your favorite major league team and you knew in advance who your umpires were going to be.

Now you know about how big to expect the strike zone to be, how much you can argue before being ejected and other elements of the game based on the umpire’s style.

Beyond that, knowing who the official will be would likely fuel sports gambling, a fire most sports have been trying to stomp out for years.

The introduction of video replay was both a blessing and a curse for the league and Selig.

On one hand, the reviewing of home run distance hits has proved to be a great tool for determining those crucial few inches between a double off the wall and a homer.

On the other hand though, video replay has led some, including this writer, to believe that Selig is losing grip of his own league.

What should be reviewable? What shouldn’t? How many reviews should be allowed per game? Can managers request reviews of certain plays?

These are just some questions floating around the debate. These questions were even more intensified when Detroit Tiger’s pitcher Armando Galarraga was denied a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians recently due to a blown call at first base.

The umpire in question apologized to Galarraga, Tiger’s manager Jim Leyland, and the Tiger’s fans after watching the replay in the clubhouse following the game.

Please take special care to notice that I don’t lay any blame on the umpire himself. Yes the call was messed up, but the umpire is only human and bound to make mistakes from time to time.

The fact that he came out and manned up in public to his mistake gives him a great respect in this writer’s eyes.

After being chided by baseball fans all over the country and especially in Michigan to overturn the umpire’s call and grant Galarraga the perfect game, Selig refused to do so, citing the fact that all previous near perfect games would have to be amended then.

Selig also commented that he would look into expanding the use of video replay.

Perhaps it is too late. The general public doesn’t care about steroids anymore after being bombarded with constant news of players doping.

A fair number of baseball fans are still very much interested, due to the direct relevance to the game.

Although the Joe West fiasco blew over relatively easily the same cannot be said for the perfect game that almost was. On June 3, 2010, featured a poll asking their viewers whether Selig should overturn the bad call and give Galarraga the perfect game or leave it as is.

An overwhelming 75 percent said the perfect game should have been granted. The closest margin belonged to the state of Minnesota which voted in favor of the perfect game 65 percent.

Interestingly enough the state of Ohio voted in favor of the perfect game 72 percent, despite being on the wrong side of the near perfection.

If one were to take these polls as a sign of Bud Selig’s approval rating, then a cardboard box should probably be kept handy in Selig’s office.

Fortunately for Selig these polls are not a complete reflection upon his tenure so far as the commish. However, Selig must turn things around in the league soon or face more and more criticism from the league’s fans, players and coaches.

Too much criticism leads to a bad PR image and ultimately packing up said cardboard box.

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Baseball Crystal Ball: 2010 National League All-Stars

The crystal ball has been unpacked from it’s travel case and is now setup in Major League Baseball’s National League. So who deserves to represent the NL in the upcoming festivities? Let’s peer into the crystal ball …

Pictured: San Fransisco Giants Pitcher Tim Lincecum (2009 All-Star)

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