Is Barry Bonds going to break the record? Did he already? Whatever, I don”t really care. Wake me when someone hits 80. I”m going to go take a nap.
I have not been able to pinpoint the reason for my indifference toward this year”s attack on the homerun record. I”m sure it is the result of several factors Bonds has been branded as a bad guy, the media “frenzy” isn”t half as feverish as in 1998 or maybe it”s just that I”m becoming a more apathetic person in general each passing day.
Three years ago, the chase was exciting. The 1998 season served as a fantastic backdrop for the McGwire-Sosa horserace. The homerun record was the centerpiece of a year filled with unparalleled accomplishments such as the Yankees” 125 victories, Kerry Wood”s 20-strikeout game as a rookie and Roger Clemens” fifth Cy Young award.
The fact that two sluggers emerged that year to compete against history as well as each other made for a fascinating storyline. But unless Sosa busts out with eight or nine home runs today (or if Deivi Cruz hits about 62 to get back in the chase), Bonds will continue as the sole challenger.
What”s more is that in 1998, it was new, it was different, it was something that hadn”t really been seen in 37 years. Now the novelty has worn off. Bonds is just a Johnny-come-lately. I saw this act already.
In 1998, the number 61 was sacred, just as 60 had been for 34 years before 1961. When McGwire cranked out 70, that was supposed to be the number fans were going to be looking at for another 30 years.
But Bonds has obliterated Mark McGwire”s homerun pace of 1998. The only thing that has stopped him from destroying the record itself are games like Sunday”s when the Padres threw him one strike in 11 pitches. Whether he breaks the record or not, the worst fears for McGwire fans have already been confirmed. The number 70 is not untouchable.
Now there is a palpable fear among many baseball fans that if Bonds surpasses 70, the homerun record will be cheapened. The excitement of 1998 was suddenly all for naught and the record is at risk every year.
Babe Ruth”s record of 60 in 1927 came under siege before too long. Jimmie Foxx hit 58 home runs in 1932. Hank Greenberg equaled Foxx”s feat in 1938. The number 60 looked vulnerable even before Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and a 162-game schedule, but no one said the sky was falling.
I don”t find myself actively rooting for or against Bonds (such a move would ruin my whole apathy phase), but I certainly won”t be bothered by seeing McGwire”s record passed. This does not mean that every three years we should come to expect a new homerun mark. Eventually, an impossibly high standard will be set and will last for another 20 or 30 years.
The number might be established this year, or maybe a few years from now. The number might be 75, or 80, or it”s still possible it could stay at 70. But some day in the future, we”re going to go through this homerun chase again, and marvel at such high numbers that were once only attained by legendary names such as Sosa, McGwire and Bonds. And Deivi Cruz.
But not enough years have passed since the last time I saw 70 homers hit for me to be bewildered and captivated by seeing it done again. I can”t say exactly how many years must go by before a homerun chase will be exciting again. I guess whenever I get up from my nap.
Benjamin Singer would be more excited if Cal Ripken had 70 homeruns. He can be reached at email@example.com.