Home run records lose zest

By Josh Albrecht

When it comes to sports, sometimes statistics are just as important as winning.

And so goes the tale of the home run race.

Barry Bonds, the San Fransico treat, is resting rather comfortably right now with 69 dingers on the season and likely will break the record today or tomorrow.

The feat of knocking out home runs at a pace worthy of being taken directly from a video game has become commonplace in the past few years, but the thrill of a home run hasn’t diminished at all.

But for some reason, I’m just not excited about Bonds breaking the record.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t seem to be very excited, or maybe because it’s too early after St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire hit 70, but I think that it is mainly because a home run just isn’t that impressive anymore.

The day Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutierrez became a power threat was the day I no longer cared about home run records. I still care about home runs and love it when Sammy Sosa hits one, but I really like to see a triple or two as well.

The worst part of Bonds breaking the record comes when in a few years, someone else comes along and hits 80 in one year. That is just too many home runs, and too much of anything is never a good thing.

The other annoying part of the single season home run record is that sports writers continually interview other players about Bonds breaking the home run mark.

Take for instance, the number of times that San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn has been quoted to give the Bonds chase some validity. In actuality, Gwynn should be giving quotes about his own career.

Sure, Bonds and McGwire can hit the long ball with ease, but Gwynn is a man who has spent 19 years on the same team and during those years steadily has remained an all-star always in the batting title race.

Although Gwynn isn’t known as a home run hitter, I would guess that there are not too many managers out there who would rather face Gwynn than Bonds when the game is on the line.

Plus, out of his 19 years in the big leagues, Gwynn has batted below .300 only once & his rookie season when he batted .289. Bonds, on the other hand, has played 16 years, has broken .300 eight times and likely will end up on the third team of his career next year.

Along with Gwynn, another Hall of Fame caliber player who is being overlooked is San Diego Padre Rickey Henderson.

Yes, Henderson has been on more teams than you can shake a stick at, but he has provided baseball fans with one of the best career performances ever.

Seventy home runs in one season is tough, but producing enough runs over a 22-year career to have pulled within one of tying Ty Cobb’s record of 2,245 is unbelievable. That record is as equally impressive as Cal Ripken topping Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played.

Not only that, but Henderson is zeroing in on 3,000 hits, too. He soon will have two great accomplishments in the same week.

I will agree that Bonds has put up outstanding numbers over the course of his career, especially in the home run department. But unlike Sosa, Bonds hasn’t hit more than 60 home runs in three seasons & a feat that Sosa will accomplish with one more this season.

I am in no way trying to lessen Bonds’ pursuit of one of America’s most cherished sports records, and in no way am I trying to do to Bonds what people did to Roger Maris when he

hit 61, breaking Babe Ruth’s mark of 60.

What I’m trying to show is that maybe home runs appear more impressive, because when someone hits one there are fireworks and they get to trot around the bases. But, there is the same excitement in baseball when a person is able to leg out a triple or even an inside-the-park home run.

And there is something special about a suicide squeeze, a double steal and a triple play.

There is definitely more to the game than home runs, and maybe fans are starting to realize that Bonds’ quest for immortality has come with less fanfare than usual, and even Bonds himself doesn’t seem overly excited about breaking the record & although I am sure all that will change when number 71 sails out of Houston’s Enron Field.

And at the end of the day, everyone chasing a record says the same thing: they care about winning more than the records.

Of course, the records are what gets a person to Cooperstown and a plaque on the wall.