Heyman: “Straight thinkers” consider Maris the single-season HR king

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Never shy to share a controversial opinion, Jon Heyman wrote in today’s column at CBS Sports that “most straight thinkers consider [Roger Maris] the legitimate single-season home-run record holder for his hallowed 61 home runs in 1961”. With 33 home runs through his team’s first 89 games, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is on pace for 60 over 162 games.

Barry Bonds currently holds the actual single-season home run record at 73. Mark McGwire had two seasons in which he surpassed the 61 home runs of Maris (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sosa had three (66 in 1998, 64 in 2001, and 63 in 1999). All three have been implicated in some fashion with participating in the drug culture that permeated baseball throughout the late 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s.

The rewriting of steroid era history only goes as far as the offense, however. Writers are happy to whitewash the accomplishments of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and others, but don’t to the extra mile in abdicating their teams of regular season and post-season wins, their pitchers of individual wins, the batters who hit in front of them of runs and the batters behind them of runs batted in. Nor do they recognize that Maris hit his 61 home runs to claim the record in 161 games, ten more than Babe Ruth needed when he hit 60 1927.

I don’t have an issue with creating your own narrative, since baseball fandom is ultimately creating a personal narrative. But if you’re a writer attempting to influence public opinion and affect the trajectory of players’ places in history, you have to be consistent and fair with your ultimately arbitrary criteria.

The real crime here, however, is the continued marriage by writers of Davis and performance-enhancing moralizing and speculation. Davis has passed every drug test he has taken and has never been accused of cheating by anyone with any credibility. To continue to use him as a jumping-off point to impugn Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and others is extremely unfair to Davis, who has worked incredibly hard to improve from a below-average hitter to baseball’s best hitter through 55 percent of the season.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 5, Pirates 4: Austin Meadows continues to mash the ball, crushing his fourth home run of the season on a three-hit afternoon. The homer cut the Pirates’ deficit to one run against Amir Garrett in the top of the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough. Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez both went yard for the Reds. Suarez’s was a grand slam:

Angels 8, Blue Jays 1: The Angels chased Marco Estrada in the fifth inning, scoring four runs off of him, including one on a solo home run from Mike Trout that got the right bounce on top of the wall in left-center field.

Albert Pujols picked up a pair of hits, giving him 3,015 in his career. One of those hits was a solo homer, giving him 621 on the career. His next targets on the all-time list are Rafael Palmeiro for hits (28th; 3,020) and Ken Griffey, Jr. for homers (sixth, 630).

Orioles 9, White Sox 3: Dylan Bundy went the distance, giving up three runs on two hits and a walk with a career-high 14 strikeouts. Bundy threw 121 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since shutting out the Mariners on August 29 last year. All three runs scored on a home run by Jose Rondon in the fourth inning. Adam Jones homered on a three-hit afternoon. Manny Machado also picked up three hits of his own. Trey Mancini hit a solo shot of his own off of Lucas Giolito, who owns an ugly 7.53 ERA on the year.

Athletics 4, Mariners 3: The A’s scored all four of their runs against Felix Hernandez in the first inning. Hernandez settled down from there, but it proved to be just too much. He gave up the four runs on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts over six innings. The former Cy Young Award winner now owns a 5.58 ERA on the season. Jean Segura had three hits for the Mariners, raising his average to a lusty .317. This was essentially a bullpen day for the A’s, who used three pitchers to get through the first seven innings. Blake Treinen got the final four outs to seal the deal, staving off a series sweep in Seattle.

Astros 8, Indians 2: Alex Bregman was the star of this one, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning, then adding an RBI double in the Astros’ five-run sixth. George Springer reached base four times and Jake Marisnick had three RBI. Charlie Morton held the Indians to two runs over six innings, which caused his ERA to go all the way up to 2.04. That, by the way, is the third-worst ERA in the Astros’ rotation behind Justin Verlander (1.08) and Gerrit Cole (1.86).

Rays 6, Red Sox 3: Wilson Ramos returned to the lineup, contributing three hits and a pair of RBI. Blake Snell struck out eight Red Sox over six shutout innings, yielding only three hits and two walks. Rick Porcello had a rough night, failing to exit the fourth after surrendering six runs (four earned).

Royals 8, Rangers 1: Salvador Perez had a pair of run-scoring singles. Ramon Torres, appearing in his first major league game this season, scored a couple of runs for the Royals on this little league home run:

Danny Duffy limited the Rangers to one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings. The outing helped lower his ERA to 6.14.

Mets 5, Brewers 0: Steven Matz fired six shutout frames, limiting the Brewers to four hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Brandon Nimmo reached base five times, doubling twice with a walk and a triple. Adrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores picked up a pair of RBI each.