A Home Run Weekend
What a weekend for historic home runs. What a weekend for baseball.
You would have to be sleeping under a rock on Mars not to know that Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez reached important home run milestones on Saturday. Bonds tied Hank Aaron's major league record with his 755th HR while Rodriguez hit the 500th of his career.
Bonds is now one home run shy of becoming Major League Baseball's all-time home run king. Remarkably, the 43-year-old slugger has now hit 72 homers after his 40th birthday, tied with Carlton Fisk for the most among players in their fifth decade. Maybe Pudge knew something when he picked that uniform number.
After a 10-day drought, Rodriguez connected on the first pitch thrown to him on Saturday. At 32 years and 8 days, ARod became the youngest player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs, edging Jimmie Foxx (32 years, 338 days). He reached the milestone in the third-fewest games (1,855) ever with only Mark McGwire (1,639) and Babe Ruth (1,740) doing so in fewer contests.
Rodriguez is one of three players to have hit more than 100 HR with three teams. Darrell Evans (142 SF, 141 DET, 131 ATL) and Reggie Jackson (269 KC/OAK, 155 NYY, 123 CAL) are the other two. Reggie also hit 27 for the Orioles in his lone season in Baltimore in 1976.
Not on par with Bonds and Rodriguez for significance but Blue Jays DH Frank Thomas went yard twice on Saturday and passed Eddie Murray for 20th place on the all-time HR list with 505. Adam Dunn, who may be on his way to 500, ripped his 30th HR and is an odds-on favorite to go yard 40 times for the fourth consecutive year. Ryan Howard, the quickest player in terms of games to reach 100 career homers, blasted his 30th and now is nipping at NL leader Prince Fielder's heels. While far from historic, Fielder slugged his 32nd HR off Philadelphia's Tom Gordon in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Milwaukee Brewers a 6-5 come-from-behind win over the Phillies on Saturday.
Hideki Matsui hit his 100th HR as a member of the New York Yankees on Sunday, the first Japanese-born player to reach that mark in the history of MLB. When breaking for a commercial at the end of the inning, YES analyst Bobby Murcer reported that Matsui had hit his "100th of the year." If that were the case, Hideki should have received a lot more publicity than he did. Matsui slugged 332 in Japan and could wind up with more than 500 HR for his combined career by 2010.
It's difficult to discuss home runs this past weekend without mentioning Padres left fielder Scott Hairston, who hit three consecutive dingers over two games. On Friday night, he hit one in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game and another in the 12th to end the game. His third was accomplished the following day when he went deep leading off the bottom of the first inning.
With the addition of Rodriguez, the 500 HR Club now has 22 members.
T1 Hank Aaron 755
T1 Barry Bonds 755
3 Babe Ruth 714
4 Willie Mays 660
5 Sammy Sosa 604
6 Ken Griffey Jr. 589
7 Frank Robinson 586
8 Mark McGwire 583
9 Harmon Killebrew 573
10 Rafael Palmeiro 569
11 Reggie Jackson 563
12 Mike Schmidt 548
13 Mickey Mantle 536
14 Jimmie Foxx 534
T15 Willie McCovey 521
T15 Ted Williams 521
T17 Ernie Banks 512
T17 Eddie Mathews 512
19 Mel Ott 511
20 Frank Thomas 505
21 Eddie Murray 504
22 Alex Rodriguez 500
Jim Thome (490) and Manny Ramirez (488) have an outside chance of joining the 500 HR Club this season. Gary Sheffield (478) is a good bet to make it next year. The Top 1000 All-Time HR Leaders can be found at Baseball-Reference.com. You can also view single-season, year-by-year, active, and progressive leaders.
In addition to becoming the youngest to hit 500, ARod is arguably one of only four players who can claim that they were also the best player in the game at the time of achieving that milestone. Ruth slugged his 500th in 1929 when he hit .345/.430/.697 and led the AL in HR (46), SLG, OPS (1.127), and OPS+ (194). Willie Mays jacked his 500th in 1965 when he produced a .317/.398/.645 season and led the league in HR (52), TB (360), OBP, SLG, OPS (1.043), and OPS+ (185) while earning Gold Glove honors and winning his second MVP award. Bonds hit his 500th in 2001 when he posted a .328/.515/.863 line while breaking McGwire's single-season record and earning the fourth of seven MVP awards.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is hitting .301/.408/.632 in 2007 while leading the AL in HR (36), TOB (200), TB (256), R (101), RBI (108), SLG, OPS (1.040), and OPS+ (176). He appears to be on the way to winning his third MVP in the past five seasons.
Is it a coincidence that Ruth, Mays, Bonds, and Rodriguez are perhaps the four best players in the history of baseball?
Aaron was one of the top players in the game when he hit his 500th in 1968. Hammerin' Hank achieved his milestone during "The Year of the Pitcher" so his rate stats (.287/.354/.498) aren't comparable to any of the others. Aaron finished 12th in the NL MVP voting that season and still had two more campaigns ahead of him when he ended up third in the MVP race. Hank may have been the most dangerous hitter in the league through 1971, but it would be a stretch to argue that he was the best player.
Although Ted Williams didn't crank No. 500 until the final season of his career, he lost about 157 HR by my estimation due to serving nearly five years in World War II and the Korean War. Had he hit 37 HR (the average of his 1942 and 1946 seasons) each year from 1943-45 and 30 (the average of his 1951 and 1954 seasons) in both 1952-53 (rather than a total of 14), Teddy Ballgame would have reached 500 in 1954. Like Aaron, he probably wasn't the best player in the game at that point but may have been the most productive hitter.
In addition to the home run feats, all of us at Baseball Analysts salute Tom Glavine, who won his 300th game against the Chicago Cubs on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Unless Randy Johnson returns from back surgery at the age of 44 and wins 16 more games, Glavine just may be the last 300-game winner for at least a decade, if not ever.
Our hats go off to Bonds, Rodriguez, and Glavine, and all the other greats who have hit 500 home runs or won 300 games. Congratulations.