clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Let's Change The Subject, Shall We?

New, 56 comments

... for a day, at least, till the official open season on free agents begins tomorrow (I'm reminded, for some reason, of the famous Bugs Bunny cartoon "Rabbit Fire", in which Bugs and Daffy each try to outdo the other in convincing the feckless hunter Elmer Fudd on whether it's "Duck season" or "Wabbit season".

Tomorrow, let us hope it's "Furcal Season".

Till then, I commend your attention to this article, in which the feckless hunter, er, commissioner, Bud Selig, says he "might" revisit allegedly steroid-tainted records in the wake of this:

Sen. Jim Bunning, a former pitcher who is in the Hall of Fame, introduced legislation along with Sen. John McCain that calls for a half-year suspension for an initial positive, a one-year ban for a second failed test and a lifetime ban for a third. The bill, which would apply to Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL and baseball's minor leagues, urges leagues to wipe out records achieved with the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

Well. While I agree with the respected Senators that some legislation may be needed because certain pro sports leagues haven't gone far enough in banning steroids, Sen. Bunning is way off base here when he talks about wiping out records.

Last year, Dan Heisman, a SABR member, compiled the following tongue-in-cheek list of how the record book for HR single-season leaders might look if we changed it for every change in the way the major leagues were composed:

Most HR in a single season dead ball era: 27, Ned Williamson, 1884
Most HR in a single season pre-color barrier: 60, Babe Ruth, 1927
Most HR in a single season 154 game season, baseball open to anyone: 54, Ralph Kiner, 1949 (this is an overlooked record!)
Most HR in a single season 162 game season, no questionable supplements: 61, Roger Maris, 1961
Most HR in a single season 162 game season, no questionable supplements and not an expansion year: 57, Luis Gonzalez, 2001, and Alex Rodriguez, 2002 (another overlooked record)
Most HR in a single season, legal human growth hormones allowed: 70, Mark McGwire, 1998
Most HR in a single season, any illegal or legal substance: 73, Barry Bonds, 2002.

You see the problem here, I am sure.

Further, when this list was first published on a SABR mailing list, Steve Gietscher, keeper of the Sporting News Complete Record Book, generally considered to be the authoritative word on such records, said (and I quoted these words on my old blog about a year ago):

As the person responsible for compiling and editing the Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book, I can say that we will not be adding asterisks to Barry Bonds' records or anyone else's. We did not put an asterisk next to Roger Maris's name for hitting his 61 home runs in a 162-game season, nor did we put an asterisk next to all the records made before 1947 to indicate that they had been achieved without the players having to test themselves against African American players.

I have discussed this question with our editor and my boss, John Rawlings, and we are in agreement. Baseball has had its highs and its lows. The records are the records. We will publish the numbers. Others can interpret them as they see fit.

And that's the way it should stand, I believe. Yes, many of the records set in the last ten years are tainted. I'll leave it to you to decide which ones you think are, and aren't. The point is, we'll know.

Say, Sen. Bunning -- maybe we ought to revisit whether or not your perfect game ought to be expunged from the record books. After all, it was pitched in an era when the pitcher's mound was higher than it is now, and the hitters had a tougher time than they do now. Maybe it was too easy for you.

You see the problem here again, I am sure.

There! A good subject for discussion, other than Neifi!