I recently had the opportunity to speak with a pretty significant voice in the game about baseball records, accomplishments, history, legacy and that sort of thing. During our conversation, the idea of who “The real home run king” truly is came up. While we didn’t agree on all of the issues that went into that — the impact of steroids, the virtues of the modern era vs. Golden Era, etc. — we did agree that the qualitative notion of who was “the best” or whose feats, in one’s own subjective view, was greater, doesn’t have to match up with the record book.
For example, I can say, even as a noted Barry Bonds apologist, that I consider Hank Aaron’s accomplishments to have been more impressive than Bonds’. I can do this by weighing, subjectively, the eras in which they played, what I think I know about their drug use, the pitching environment in which they tried to hit, their background and all of that. At the end of that I can say that I think Aaron was the more impressive player and man. My personal taste would not be to call him “the true home run king,” because such titles are loaded, but I can place him higher in my personal hierarchy than Barry Bonds, regardless of what the record book says because — as I argued a couple of weeks ago — the record book merely records, it doesn’t value.
But even if you engage in that kind of subjective exercise — which you should, because a fixation on the record book makes you lose sight of a lot of great baseball stuff — you can take this line of thinking too far.
For example, you can take it as far as Terence Moore took it in his MLB.com column yesterday when he said that not only does he consider Hank Aaron the Home Run King, but he won’t acknowledge Alex Rodriguez as the all-time grand slam leader when he passes Lou Gehrig. Or that — and this is the most controversial — that he doesn’t recognize Cal Ripken’s consecutive games-played streak.
Why? Because, Moore argues. They don’t have “it”:
This goes beyond the fact that A-Rod joins Bonds as one of the primary faces of the Steroid Era. This is about the following: Gehrig and Aaron just have “it” when it comes to those records. You can’t describe “it,” but you can feel “it.” … You may recall that Gehrig also earned his nickname as “The Iron Horse” by playing in a record 2,130 games before succumbing to a bizarre muscular disease that eventually was named in his honor. His record for that playing streak lasted 56 years until Cal Ripken Jr., kept going and going before snapping it in 1995.
Nothing against Ripken Jr., but Gehrig remains the standard bearer for that record, too.
There’s a difference between making a historical assessment as to the impressiveness of given accomplishments on the one hand and denying the legitimacy of anything that happened since you were a kid on the other. Moore is doing the latter based on his calculation of “it.” And, later in his column, when he declares that the actual records lack “zing.” Whatever the hell those things are.
And this man draws a salary from Major League Baseball. And has a Hall of Fame vote. I find that rather depressing.