Has the 500-club been diminished?

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The conventional wisdom these days is that the 500 home-run club is not what it used to be.  Some have even suggested — not unreasonably, I’ll grant — that merely hitting 500 home runs is not the automatic ticket to Cooperstown it once was.  I mean, after all, 10 dudes have entered the 500-club in roughly the last decade.

But as Matt Carruth notes over at FanGraphs notes, this isn’t the first time a large number of guys entered that club in a short period of time. To wit, between September 13th, 1965 and September 13th, 1971 seven players hit number 500: Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Matthews, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew, and Frank Robinson.  As Matt notes:

This era is largely being remembered for it lessening the importance of the 500 home run club. That is understandable in the sense that we now view most everything from the 1990s and 2000s with an air of suspicion and that the list of members did grow from 15 to its present 25 in just ten years. However, looking back to the 1965-71 period, does ten new members in ten years look much different than seven in six years?

Sure, there are differences. The guys who joined the 500 club between 1965 and 1971 were facing much, much more difficult conditions in which to hit than were the guys from the 1990s. The parks were bigger, the mounds were higher, and the strikezone was much larger in the 1960s than it was today.  And that’s before you even get into the PED issue.

But Matt’s observation does suggest, however, that in assessing the value of 500 home runs today, we have to do a little more work than to merely note, as some do, that the milestone is not all that special anymore, because there was a previous time when it wasn’t all that special too, relatively speaking.  The why’s of it all matter. 

Orioles signed Tommy Hunter to a major league contract

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 12:  Pitcher Tommy Hunter #48 of the Cleveland Indians pitches in the ninth inning during the MLB game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 12, 2016 in Anaheim, California. The Indians defeated the Angels 8-3. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced, prior to Sunday’s game against the Yankees, that the club signed pitcher Tommy Hunter to a major league contract. In related roster moves, the club recalled pitcher Oliver Drake from Triple-A Norfolk and designated pitcher T.J. McFarland and outfielder Julio Borbon for assignment.

The Indians released Hunter on Thursday after he struggled in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus. Hunter was recovering from a non-displaced fracture in his lower back. The right-hander put up a respectable 3.74 ERA with a 17/5 K/BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings for the Indians.

This will be Hunter’s second stint with the Orioles. The O’s had acquired him along with first baseman Chris Davis at the trade deadline from the Rangers in 2011 in the Koji Uehara trade.

The Orioles are only responsible for paying Hunter the prorated major league minimum.

Orioles’ Mark Trumbo becomes the first to 40 home runs this season

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 28: Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a home run during the eighth inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 28, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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Orioles DH Mark Trumbo drilled a two-run home run to left-center field off of reliever Ben Heller in the eighth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Yankees. In doing so, he became the first player to reach the 40-homer plateau this season.

Trumbo finished 1-for-4 on the afternoon. Along with the 40 dingers, he’s hitting .257/.317/.541 with 96 RBI. He has already set a career-high in homers and is four RBI away from tying his career high in that regard.

Trumbo is eligible for free agency after the season. Needless to say, his performance in 2016 bodes well for his ability to secure a hefty contract.