This weekend turned out to be the biggest milestone weekend in years with Tom Glavine getting his 300th win, Alex Rodriguez hitting his 500th home run, and Barry Bonds tying Hank Aaron’s home record. Hideki Matsui even became the first Japanese player to hit 100 home runs, but that was completely overshadowed by the other achievements. With all of these amazing accomplishments come big questions. How does Glavine rank with the game’s best pitchers? Will A-Rod eventually break Bonds’ home run record? What will be the reaction to Bonds’ breaking Aaron’s record?
Let’s begin with Glavine, where he is only the 23rd pitcher and 5th lefty to win 300 games. When you think of great pitchers, Glavine isn’t the person who comes to mind, but should he be? His 3.41 career ERA is excellent and 300 wins makes him a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but if you are picking the best ten pitchers of all time, is he in it? I’d say no, but it is not Glavine’s fault. In this era, pitchers pitch fewer innings, giving them less chance to pick up victories and complete games. That makes 300 wins even that more astounding. Here is my list of top ten pitchers of all time:
1. Cy Young – 511 wins, 2.63 ERA, and 749 complete games
2. Walter Johnson – 417 wins, 2.17 ERA, and 531 complete games
3. Roger Clemens – 351 wins, 3.12 ERA, and 4647 strikeouts
4. Christy Mathewson – 373 wins, 2.13 ERA, and 434 complete games
5. Grover Alexander – 373 wins, 2.56 ERA, and 437 complete games
6. Warren Spahn – 363 wins, 3.09 ERA, and 2583 strikeouts
7. Nolan Ryan – 324 wins, 3.19 ERA, and 5714 strikeouts
8. Tom Seaver – 311 wins, 2.86 ERA, and 3640 strikeouts
9. Steve Carlton – 329 wins, 3.22 ERA, and 4136 strikeouts
10. Don Sutton – 324 wins, 3.26 ERA, and 3574 strikeouts
Now this is a very tentative list and I could easily have missed someone, but these pitchers’ stats are remarkable. I also tried to limit pitchers from the 19th century (how legitimate were the games?), though some I had to include (see Cy Young).
On to A-Rod, who became the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs, but the real question is, whether he has a real chance to break Barry Bonds’s eventual home run record. If he continues to hit 50 homers a year until he is 45 years old, then he will clearly take the home run crown. Yet, few batters have continued to hit 40 homers a year after age 40 and the few that have are suspected of steroid use. More than steroid use, I think that the lack of amphetamines are going to get to A-Rod. To my understanding, amphetamines were used universally by players during the last decade or two. They may have had more of an impact then steroids did, because they were designed to help players bounce back after a hard day of baseball. That’s what kept most players as fresh in September as they were in May. No longer will that be able to happen (if you believe the drug testing works) and that you will see A-Rod’s home runs drop significantly after his 35th birthday. Injuries can create an even bigger problem for A-Rod. Expect around 650-700 homers, but don’t get your sights set on 800 any time soon.
Oh yea. To the Yankee fan who has Alex Rodriguez’s 500th home run ball, make some money off of it. If A-Rod wants it so much, make him bid with the rest of the world. Better yet, put a ridiculous “Buy it Now” price on Ebay so that bidders have to use “Best Offer”. When A-Rod comes with his offer, make him include lifetime tickets, memorabilia, plus a boatload of cash.
On to the main story, Barry Bonds’ record tying home run. Not a ton of questions surrounding this, but the reaction was different than I expected. Instead of boos, the crowd seemed to be mixed. Giants’ fans were clapping and cheering. The loud mouthed opponent fans booed profusely, making sure to yell steroid-based remarks in between profanities. But most of the fans were silent, unsure of how to react. Commissioner Bud Selig just stood up and watched, not wanting to give justification to the record, but at the same time acknowledging that it is legitimate. When he hits 756, the place will be going crazy (since it will likely be at home) and it will be a moment that no one will forget. Baseball’s greatest record falling to a cheater. Yet no one can do anything about it. How will the baseball community react? The same as with 755, unsure and wishing it hadn’t happened. All of this anticipation for the big home run, yet few people know how to respond. They want to boo or look away, but can’t, because they know that the homer counts and booing isn’t going to change that. Fans can only hope that a lovable guy comes along and becomes the new Home Run King, without any whisperings of steroid use. Until then, fans must accept that the records, statistics, and awards of this baseball generation will forever be plagued by uncertainty and confusion.