Remember back in June when NPB Commissioner Ryozo Kato was forced to admit that the league had altered the baseballs in order to increase offense? Yeah, well Kato now wants you to know that Wladimir Balentien’s imminent Japanese home run record has nothing to do with the doctored balls:
“I doubt the ball really has anything to do with it. He is hitting that many because he has become used to (Japanese pitchers),” Kato told reporters Monday. This season, Japanese baseball has seen a marked increase in the number of home runs hit using the livelier ball.
Like any other baseball league the NPB and its records are subject to context changes, be it park size, ball composition or what have you. Rogers Maris’ home run record in 1961 was no doubt aided by league expansion. The home run records of the 90s and 2000s were the product of PEDs, expansion, smaller ballparks and — I remain convinced though no one has ever admitted it — a new baseball introduced in 1993.
What I wonder, though, is whether Japanese baseball is covered by writers who, like their American counterparts, pick and choose which objective empirical feats to credit and which to reject. And if Balentien’s legacy in the NPB will suffer as a result.