Tag: Hank Aaron

Burglar Receives 50-Year Sentence After Breaking into Hank Aaron’s Home

Two rules to live by: Don’t mess with Georgia and don’t steal from Hank Aaron.

A Georgia man will be on probation for the next half-century after pleading guilty to breaking into the Hall of Famer’s house and taking several of the former pro’s prized baseball possessions.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Steve Visser (h/t Scooby Axson of Sports Illustrated) reports that Fulton County superior court judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua sentenced 24-year-old Isiah Slaton to eight years in prison and 42 years of probation after he and two alleged accomplices broke into Aaron’s home on July 14, 2013, and ransacked the premises for valuables. 

Visser reports that Aaron and his wife were in New York for the MLB All-Star Game when the burglary occurred. The thieves stole the former All-Star’s baseball rings (presumably including his 1957 World Series championship ring), which Visser reports were destined to end up on display in the Hall of Fame. 

Other items listed among those stolen were Aaron’s two BMWs, which the burglars ditched after failing to disarm their “LoJack” satellite positioning systems. 

Authorities managed to lift fingerprints off at least one of the vehicles, according to Visser, which led to the arrests of Slaton and two other men. 

Ostensibly hoping for lenience, Slaton pleaded guilty and found no quarter with the judge. This is what happens when you mess with Georgia’s legends—it bites you square in the perineum.

It’s unclear if Slaton committed prior offenses warranting such a heavy-handed punishment, but I prefer a reality where sentencing Judge LaGrua is the biggest Hank Aaron fan in the county—that she spent her childhood attending Braves games with her dad and catching the right fielder’s home run balls—and this is the justice meted out by a righteous defender of baseball’s old guard.

Would that be an outrageous abuse of power? Yes, but this is my reality, where baseball bandits sweat through their sheets every night fearing the crack of the gavel.

Also, remember this is 80-year-old Hank Aaron who these burglars purposely targeted. The poor man stated in his witness impact statement that he felt “violated” after his “priceless” possessions were stolen. 

Georgia doesn’t take kindly to people violating its living monuments.


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Will MLB Ever See Another 700-Home Run Career in PED-Testing Era?

This season brings the 40-year anniversary of the legendary Hank Aaron breaking fellow Hall of Famer Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. In fact, April 8, 1974—40 years ago today—is the exact date on which Aaron hit No. 715 to pass The Babe.

Since that fateful day, only one other player has reached that lofty plateau: Barry Bonds, whose 762 career homers are the new mark, seven ahead of Aaron’s final tally. In other words, in the 100-plus years of Major League Baseball history, exactly three players have achieved a home run total that is three digits and begins with a “7.”

That got us wondering: Will there ever be another 700-home run career, especially now that performance-enhancing drug testing exists in baseball and the penalties continue to get harsher?

PED testing with penalties for positive results began in 2004. Incidentally, that’s the same year Bonds—who later was convicted in federal court on one count of obstruction of justice in a trial that focused on his alleged steroid use—hit the 700th long ball of his career, becoming that third (and perhaps final) player to get there.

Before we examine the role power has played in the sport over that period of time, let’s put this fantastical possibility into context with some actual names and their current home run totals (entering Tuesday games).

Here are the active home run leaders, along with the number of homers per season each would need to average in order to get to No. 700 by age 40.

First of all, it should be pointed out that Alex Rodriguez, the active leader and No. 5 all time with 654, stood a fighting chance of getting to 700 before the big 4-0. Within striking distance of the 500 club at age 30, Rodriguez already had Bonds’ vote of confidence, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today: “He’ll be there. And there’ll be others. It ain’t like I’ll be the last one.”

Of course, that was long before A-Rod was suspended for the entire 2014 season as a result of the Biogenesis investigation.

Secondly, it should be pretty obvious that the only two current players from this batch who might have any sort of teeny-tiny shot at pulling this off are Albert Pujols (492), who needs to average just under 30 homers per season, and Miguel Cabrera (366), who is the youngest in the top 10 but still needs to manage—get this—more than 33 a year for the next 10 years to reach 700.

Yes, even the dominant, uber-consistent Cabrera is only barely halfway there!

Now that we’ve laid out how all-but-impossible this feat is for the best sluggers of today, specifically, let’s widen the scope and take a look at how much power has been in decline in recent seasons in the entire sport, due in no small part to the policing of PEDs.

In trying to fathom what it might look like for an individual player to even approach the possibility of a 700-homer career, figure that it would require an average of 40 home runs a season for 17 seasons—and even that would leave the slugger short by 20, since 40 x 17 = 680.

Using that 40-homer campaign as a somewhat realistic standard, then, here’s how many of those have occurred per season since 2003, the year before testing began:

Notice the downward trend, right? And if you want to put the numbers into perspective, consider this: The past seven seasons’ worth of 40-homer campaigns (23 from 2007-13) are a little more than half of the total from the four seasons prior (39 from 2003-06).

That’s a clunky way of saying that fewer 40-home run seasons are happening every year.

But what about going even more macro? The graph below shows the number of home runs in all of MLB per season over the same time frame (since 2003):

Again, the decline is plain as day. Whereas a year with at least 5,200 total homers was once the norm (see: 2003, 2004, 2006), that total hasn’t been touched since 2006, and even 5,000 home runs has happened only once in the past seven years—and that was back in 2009.

Conclusion? Fewer and fewer home runs are being hit overall.

Beyond the home run figures, there’s the fact that players are showing much more typical aging and performance curves over the past decade, which to some immeasurable but certainly noticeable extent can be attributed to the ban on PEDs.

In other words, not only are players able to play less while getting older, they’re also simultaneously playing at a decreased rate of performance. None of this should be surprising, but seeing the numbers proves as much.

Here’s a table that breaks down the number of players ages 35 and older who reached the 300-plate appearance threshold—about half a full season—as well as a look at their isolated power (ISO) since 2003:

As you can see, back in 2007—only seven years ago—38 players managed to compile at least 300 plate appearances in their age-35 (or older) season. In the past two seasons, 36 players have done so—combined. What’s more, that total (36) is the lowest in back-to-back years since 1995-1996 (also 36), which is almost 20 years ago.

As for the ISO column, which essentially measures a hitter’s raw power, the story is similar. For players at least 35 years old, the metric peaked during this period of time at .170 in 2004 and remained north of .150 through 2008, keeping it right in line with—if not above—the league-wide average. From 2009 on, though, the 35-and-up ISO has settled in the .135-.140 range, which is slightly below the MLB average in recent years.

The point here? To even fathom coming close to 700 career home runs, a player must be able to play and hit for power into his late 30s and early 40s—Bonds, Aaron and Ruth all got to 7-0-0 in their age-39 seasons—and that’s just not happening as much in the past handful of seasons as it was in the previous decade now that PED testing has become a part of the game.

Above all else, there remains one simple, undeniable fact: Hitting 700 home runs is freaking difficult, darn near impossible even. In case you forgot while looking through all the graphs and tables above, only three—T-H-R-E-E!—players in 100-plus years of MLB have done so. You know them as Barry, Hank and The Babe.

Will someone get to 700 homers ever again? Never say never, because it’s not out of the question that one of Rodriguez, Pujols or Cabrera could get there given what they’ve accomplished to this point in their careers.

There’s also no way of knowing how or when things will change in baseball in the years and decades ahead, including advancements in medicine, technology and training (legal or otherwise). Heck, in the early 1900s, few would have expected a player to hit even 40 home runs in any season, and then Ruth smashed that “barrier” with 54 in 1920 on his way to totaling 714 for his career.

But factor in the aging and production curves, which we’re already seeing take a toll on Pujols, and it’s looking like baseball’s best—and perhaps last—chance to see 700 home runs again in the immediate future might be Rodriguez. 

We already know that would be tainted in more ways than one if it were to happen at all once—or is that if?—he returns from his season-long suspension in 2015. If not, well, 700 still could be reached again by someone at some point—for only the fourth time ever—but it’ll be a good, long while. After all, Ruth hit No. 700 in 1934, Aaron did so in 1973 and Bonds got there in 2004.

By that math, this comes along about every 30 to 40 years or so. If that holds true, then the next 700-home run hitter has already been born.


Statistics come from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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Hank Aaron’s League-Leading .328 BA Wasn’t Worth Duke Snider’s .292

In 2011, baseball experts know the importance of on-base percentage, which is of greater significance than batting average, yet there is no award for the on-base percentage leader.

It is difficult to assess individual achievements since the 1994 strike-shortened season. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens and, yes, even Andy Pettitte are among those who have introduced an uncontrollable variable into the game.

Therefore, let’s return to the 1950s, which many fans consider a golden age of baseball, and examine the National League. 

The following table lists each league’s batting champion and on-base percentage leader:  Batting average is the first number and on-base average is the second number.

YEAR    Batting Leader    OBP Leader      
1950    Musial .346, .437    Stanky ..300, .460    

1951    Musial .355, .449    Kiner .309, .452     

1952    Musial .336, .432    Robinson .308, .440   

1953    Furillo .344, .393    Musial .337, 437

1954    Mays .345, .411    Ashburn .313, .441      

1955    Ashburn .338, .449    Ashburn .338, .449  

1956    Aaron .328, .365    Snider .292, .399     

1957    Musial .351, .422    Musial .351, .422      

1958    Ashburn .350, .440    Ashburn .350, .440      

1959    Aaron .355, .401    Cunningham .345, .453     

Narrowing the analysis, Richie Ashburn led the league in both categories in 1955 and 1958.  Stan Musial led in both categories in 1957.

The only 1950s batting champion not in the Hall of Fame is Carl Furillo.  The only on-base leaders not in the Hall are Eddie Stanky and Joe Cunningham.

Admittedly, to paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, although old batting champions never die, they just fade away.  On-base leaders don’t even fade away because they are never honored properly.

Duke Snider is a prime example based upon his 1956 season.  Snider batted under .300, which in those days was the artificial cutoff point between average and good hitters.  Even today, a certain amount of prestige accompanies a .300 batting average.

It is a rare fan that knows Snider led the league in on-base percentage in 1956, which didn’t become an official statistic until 1984.

Snider’s on-base percentage was .399. Batting champion Hank Aaron‘s was .365.

Simple arithmetic reveals that Snider had an OBP 107 points higher than his batting average while Aaron had an OBP a mere 37 points greater than his batting average.

Want to start a rally?  How about the Duke of Flatbush.

In 1950, Eddie Stanky’s OBP average was 160 points greater than his batting average. His lifetime OBP was .410 to go along with a mediocre .268 batting average.  Stanky deserves recognition for having reached base more often than anyone in the league, including the batting champ.

Hank Greenberg was one of the most feared sluggers of all time. Pitchers would often prefer to walk him rather than give him a pitch he could drive.  Greenberg has a .412 OBP.  Stanky’s OBP is .410.

The player who leads his league in on-base average deserves to be awarded.

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MLB Opening Day: Bob Feller and the 10 Most Amazing Opening Day Performances

On Thursday, March 31, baseball will make its long-awaited return with its traditional Opening Day.  It will be a day when fans just sit back, relax and enjoy the game before the divisional rivalries cause battles in the bleachers.  With the epic pitching matchup of CC Sabathia vs. Justin Verlander kicking off the season, it’s sure to be a great 2011.

In other games, careers will be made while others may end due to injury.  Fans will laugh, cry and cheer as their favorite players have (hopefully), amazing first games.

Some Opening Day performances have been good enough to be marked in the annals forever, including one notable one by Bob Feller (pictured at left).  To celebrate this long-standing tradition as well as Feller’s accomplishment, here are the top 10 most amazing Opening Day performances in history!

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This Day in Black Sports History: February 5, 1934

On today’s edition of This Day in Black Sports History, the 77th birthday of the man who is still widely recognized as Major League Baseball’s home run king is celebrated.

Born in Mobile, AL on Feb. 5, 1934, Henry Louis Aaron grew up in relatively poor surroundings, picking cotton on a farm and hitting bottle caps with sticks because his family couldn’t afford baseball equipment.

Aaron’s early fascination with the national pastime would also be evidenced through the creation of his own bats and balls, made from materials he found on the streets.

Thus, it came as no surprise when Aaron excelled on the diamond in high school, leading his team to the Mobile Negro High School Championship as a freshman and a sophomore.

During this period, in addition to flourishing as a third baseman and outfielder for Central High School, Aaron proved to be equally adept on the gridiron, which earned him several football scholarship offers. However, Aaron would turn his back on these tempting offers to doggedly pursue a career in professional baseball.

Batting cross-handed, as a right-hander with his left hand above his right, Aaron’s power-hitting exploits would garner him a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949, at the tender age of 15.

Although Aaron didn’t make the team, he signed to a minor league contract only two years later, with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League, where his impact would be felt immediately.

As an 18-year-old standout, Aaron would play a crucial role in helping the Clowns win the 1952 Negro League World Series. As a result, after playing in only 26 official Negro League games, Aaron received offers from two MLB teams, the Boston Braves and the New York Giants.

“I had the Giants’ contract in my hand. But the Braves offered 50 dollars a month more,” Aaron recalled years later. “That’s the only thing that kept Willie Mays and me from being teammates—50 dollars.”

Despite maintaining an extremely high standard of play with the Braves’ minor league affiliates, winning the Rookie of the Year Award and the Most Valuable Player Award in successive years, Aaron, like many African-American baseball players of his time, was an undeserved victim of racism and segregation.

Traveling through the southeastern portion of the country, particularly around Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron was frequently separated from his team because of the Jim Crow laws. As a result, he often had to make his own housing and meal arrangements when the team shouldered the responsibility for his white teammates.

Encouraged by his brother, Herbert Jr., Aaron remained steadfast in his pursuit of playing in the major leagues, an opportunity he received on April 13, 1954. Aaron went hitless in five at-bats against the Cincinnati Reds.

In his rookie season, Aaron hit .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI’s. Aaron wouldn’t match or fall below these totals, in all three categories, until 1975, his 22nd season in the majors.

From 1955-1975, Aaron made a record-tying 21 All-Star appearances and won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards (1958-1960), while winning the National League MVP Award and a World Series Championship in the same year (1957).

Throughout this span, Aaron’s home run hitting prowess would gradually inch him closer to shattering the most hallowed record in professional sports, MLB’s all-time home run record held by Babe Ruth since 1935.

With Aaron one homer short of tying Ruth’s record leading into the offseason in 1973, a growing contingent emerged who didn’t want to see the day a black man surpass “The Babe” on the all-time home run list.

In the winter of 1973, Aaron was the unfortunate recipient of a cavalcade of hate mail and death threats. Even media members who provided positive coverage weren’t spared, called “nigger lovers” for chronicling Aaron’s chase.

But much like his experiences growing up in Alabama and playing in the minor leagues, Aaron pressed forward, and on April 8, 1974, in front of a 53,775 people in Atlanta, Aaron hit career home run number 715 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully captured the moment eloquently and poignantly:

“What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron…and for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months.”

“Hammerin’ Hank” would retire two seasons later with a .305 batting average, 755 home runs, 2,297 RBI’s, and 3,771 hits on his ledger, clearly warranting induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility on August 1, 1982.

In 1999, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Aaron surpassing Babe Ruth’s career home run mark, and to honor Aaron’s contributions to baseball, MLB created the “Hank Aaron Award,” an annual award given to the hitters voted the most effective in each respective league. That same year, baseball fans named Aaron to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Not bad for a kid born on this day, February 5, in 1934.

Happy birthday, Mr. Aaron.

Click here to read the original article at SportsHaze.com.

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MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Smartest Hitters in Baseball History

More than anything else, what makes baseball America’s pastime is its rich history and tradition of legendary names, all bound together across decades by a beautiful game.

That same history also lends itself to all manner of debate, from whether there will ever be another 300-game winner to what the standing of alleged steroid users like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Manny Ramirez should be included in the annals of Cooperstown, given how many great players in past eras got by, more or less, on their given talents alone.

When it comes to determining the “best” or the “greatest” in a particular category, the debate tends to get more heated, even if the terms of the discussion are more vague. One such debate, which doesn’t get as much love as that of “best hitter” or “most dominant pitcher”, is that of smartest hitter.

What makes a hitter smart, you ask?

It’s tough to define it too clearly, otherwise the debate would be too closed and skew too far in one direction or another. However, in general terms, a smart hitter is one who hits for a high average, gets on base often and doesn’t strike out all that much.

One could add more dimensions, like a hitter’s ability to recognize a particular pitch or a hitter’s “sense” of time and situation, but such factors are nearly impossible to measure, especially for the ones, like Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, who few today would ever remember seeing in person.

With all of that said, let the debate begin!

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Martin Luther King Day: The MLB’s All-Time African American Lineup

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, and to honor African American players in the major leagues, I have compiled a nine player lineup of the greatest African American players in baseball history.

There were a number of tough decisions in naming the team, and the likes of Ken Griffey Jr, Joe Morgan, and Frank Thomas, among many others didn’t make the cut.

So here it is, the starting nine African American players in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

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25 Best Small-Market Stars in MLB History

Small-market stars are few and far between in today’s modern MLB. Sure there are plenty of players who come up with the league’s have-nots: Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Milwaukee.

But they don’t seem to stay there for very long. Do we really expect Prince Fielder to stay in Milwaukee forever? Or Zack Grienke in Kansas City? We just saw Dan Uggla shipped to Atlanta for very little in return, partly because the Marlins didn’t want to pay him a huge, long-term deal.

It hasn’t always been like that. Plenty of great, future Hall of Famers spent the bulk (if not all) of their careers with a team outside of the “big markets.” And they make the top of this list.

But first, a loose definition of “small market.”

Obviously, the big cities, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston don’t count. St. Louis and San Francisco have to be on the list too.

So do certain franchises, no matter how large or small, that broke the bank to win a championship. Oakland may be “small market,” but when Charlie Finley was running the club in the early 1970s, they shouldn’t be lumped in with today’s Pittsburgh Pirates as “small market.”

The same goes for the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks or 1997 Florida Marlins who were not shy about spending tens of millions of dollars to secure a pennant.

And since there were only eight teams in each league before 1961, it’s hard to say that any of those clubs were “small market”, to be on this list, you have to have played the bulk of your career AFTER the majors started expanding and markets became more watered down.

Let the debate begin…

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World Series 2010: Power Ranking the Top 40 Hitters in World Series History

With the World Series wrapped up and the Giants taking home baseball’s ultimate prize, now is a good time to look back at some of the best performers in the history of the Fall Classic.

Some of the best players in baseball history were either ineffective when it mattered most or never got the chance to play in the World Series. While at the same time, one of the most memorable moments in baseball history was given to us by a light-hitting second baseman named Bill Mazeroski.

So without further ado, here are the 40 greatest hitters in the history of the World Series.

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Derek Jeter May Be Seeking a Seven-Year Deal in Order To Break Hits Record

With the 2010 season ending for the New York Yankees after Friday night’s Game 6 loss to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS, the focus has quickly shifted to the off season and what moves the Bombers will make in order to win a 28th World Series championship in 2011.

One of the pressing items on the Yankees’ to-do list this winter is to re-sign captain and soon-to-be free agent Derek Jeter.

It has been reported that Jeter may be seeking a seven-year contract that will keep him playing baseball until the age of 43, which may put him in a position to break Pete Rose’s all-time hits record.

In a recent article for ESPNNewYork.com, Ian O’Connor wrote:

“In statements he’s made in recent years to Yankee executive Gene Michael and to his own personal trainer, Jason Riley, Jeter has indicated he wants to play until he’s about 43. He has also indicated a willingness to change positions, if necessary, for his final few seasons.”

If Jeter, who turned 36 this past June, really does have aspirations to play until he is 43, then his next contract would have to be for seven years.  With 2,926 career hits, it is very likely that he is seeking to break Pete Rose’s all-time career hits record of 4,256.

This is a quest that is not impossible as Jeter and Rose have had very similar career numbers up until the age of 36.

From his first full season in 1963 until 1977, between the ages of 22 and 36, Pete Rose amassed 2,966 hits in 2,346 games played, which is an average of 198 hits per year over 156 games played.

From his first full season in 1996 until 2010, between the same ages of 22 and 36, Derek Jeter has amassed 2,914 hits in 2,280 games played which is an average of 194 hits per year over 152 games played (for age and season average comparison purposes, I have left out Jeter’s 1995 season in which he gathered 12 hits over 15 games as a 21-year-old).

The biggest challenge for Jeter will be matching Charlie Hustle’s performance over the later years in his career.

From 1978-1984, between the ages of 37 and 43 (which will be the comparison to Jeter’s next contract), Pete Rose racked up 1,131 hits in 1,025 games played which is an average of 162 hits per year over 146 games played.

It is important to note that Rose did not retire after the 1984 season as he tacked on 107 hits in 1985 as a 44-year-old and 52 hits in 1986 as a 45-year-old for a total of 159 hits after the age of 43.

For Jeter to get the 1,331 more hits needed to break Pete Rose’s record over this reportedly desired seven-year contract, he will need to average slightly over 190 hits per year.  This is not an easy task considering that Mr. November will be in the twilight of his career where there typically is a steady decline in production and the ever-present concern with injuries.

The seven-year contract may still be beneficial to Jeter, however as he will need to average just over 180 hits per year to pass Ty Cobb for second place on the all-time hits list and average a very conceivable 121 hits per season to pass Hank Aaron for third place, which is certainly nothing to scoff at.

As if the five World Series championships weren’t enough, grabbing the third place slot on the all-time hits list will surely cement Derek Jeter’s place as one of the greatest hitters in the history of Major League Baseball.

If Jeter is indeed looking for a seven-year deal and he gets it, he will begin his ascent up baseball’s all-time hits list.  If he does not finish his career at the top of this list, there is a strong possibility that he will be very close to it.

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