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Seven fifteen

Congratulations to Barry Bonds for hitting home run # 715 yesterday. Whatever you think of him today, and however you think he covered the last steps on this journey, that’s a hell of a feat for a truly outstanding player. Tim Kurkjian puts some of Bonds’ greatness in perspective.

He slugged .809 in a five-year period: Ruth is the only other player ever to slug .800 in any season. Bonds is the sole member of the 700-home run, 500-steal club; only four players are in the 300-300 club, and no one else is in the 400-400 club. Bonds is the first player since Williams in 1941 and ’42 to lead the major leagues in home runs one year and in batting the next (Bonds did so in 2001 and ’02). And he has done most of this playing his home games at AT&T Park, one of baseball’s most challenging ballparks for a hitter.

Of all his amazing numbers, his strikeouts might be the most amazing. In an era in which former Blue Jays shortstop Manny Lee once struck out 100 times in a season without hitting a home run, and in which Adam Dunn struck out 195 times (72 looking), Bonds rarely strikes out. In 2004, Bonds became the first player since George Brett in 1980 to have more home runs than strikeouts in a 20-homer season — Bonds hit 45 that season, with only 41 strikeouts. The Rangers’ Brad Wilkerson, for instance, struck out 37 times this April.

Bonds has been pitched to more cautiously than any player in history. He is the all-time walks leader; in 2004, he walked 232 times, more than Willie Mays’ two highest season walk totals combined, and 62 more than the Babe’s season high. Bonds has more intentional walks in this decade than anyone has in his career since the statistic became official in 1955. In 2004, he had more intentional walks — 120 — than any team in baseball history. That year, he was walked intentionally eight times with no one on base. In his career, he has been walked intentionally 69 times with first base occupied; the next four active players have 28 combined.

I don’t know if Bonds will make it to 755 or not, but I would not bet against it. After he hit Number 715 yesterday (Olivia and I were watching the Tennessee-Michigan softball game – she kept calling it “baseball”, which was close enough for me – when ESPN cut away to witness the historic blast; we were more fortunate than some radio listeners, even if we never did find out who won the softball game) Harold Reynolds suggested that Bonds would not take the logical step of playing as a DH in the American League next year just for the purpose of surpassing Aaron, because he would not be playing at a certain level of excellence. I’m skeptical of that reasoning because it didn’t stop Pete Rose from continuining his pursuit of Ty Cobb long after he stopped playing at a Pete Rose level. Other factors may enter the picture, but I think if Bonds can play next year, he will. I think he wants to be the home run king, and if he falls short of that goal it won’t be by his choice.

Be that as it may, whatever happens Bonds will forever be remembered for this feat. And don’t weep for The Babe, as his legacy is doing just fine, thank you very much. If and when Bonds hits #756, may Henry Aaron be celebrated as much for establishing the mark for Bonds to reach as Bonds is for reaching it.

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  1. Sue says:

    I’m fortunate enough to have Albert Pujols on my fantasy baseball team this year. I honestly don’t know why teams are still pitching to him when they won’t pitch to Bonds. The cynical part of me says that there’s a lot of people who would rather see Pujols, who appears to be a nice guy, pass Aaron than Bonds.

    I don’t think Bonds will pass Aaron. He gets walked too often and his back is likely to give him problems again this year, just as it has the past few years, so the chances are good he’ll miss some games at some point.

    He’d have had a better chance of passing Aaron if he’d been traded to an AL team and used as a DH for the last few years of his career.

  2. RedScare says:

    I offer no congratulations to Bonds. I have no sympathy for him either. His problems are of his own making. I change the channel when ESPN talks of him (which means I haven’t watched ESPN all weekend.) When Pujols gets close, I’ll root for him. Bonds…whatever.

  3. kevin whited says:

    Be that as it may, whatever happens Bonds will forever be remembered for this feat.

    He’ll be forever remembered as someone who would certainly have been remembered as a truly great player had he not screwed it all up by becoming a cheater.