Why baseball’s Hank Aaron still matters.

If you follow baseball at all, you understand the importance and significance that stats and records hold in baseball and how we measure players in history in this sport. At the end of a career if they are a pitcher we ask how many wins, strike-outs, complete games etc. For batters, we ask how many home runs, runs batted in, how many chucktoddhits, lifetime batting average. We measure players on how well they do on those areas. We also try to use those numbers to match up players from different eras to the age old question who is the best player ever? But all of that has come into some question with the problems that steroids have caused in baseball in the last 10 or 15 years or so. Which brings us to this quote from the article Rodriguez’s Chase Offers Chance to Re-examine Aaron – NYTimes.com.

Re-examined in the light of subsequent steroid revelations and admissions, Aaron’s assault on Ruth becomes more impressive than anything ever seen during the recent era of lying eyes.

Very true, now that we are exiting the high point of the steroid era in baseball, we can start to reflect a little and remember what an achievement Hank Aaron accomplished when he passed Babe Ruth for the all time home run record. How Aaron sustained his home run hitting well into the latter half of his career as the numbers and quote shows below.

Actually, Aaron broke the mold, hitting 203 home runs in the five seasons after his 35th birthday and 245 over all, second in that category behind the presumed-to-be-chemically-enhanced Bonds. By comparison, Willie Mays hit 37 at age 35 and never again topped 28. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 35 at 35 and went steadily downhill. Reggie Jackson hit 39 at 36 and faded like a California sunset.

Even as his slugging indicators have dipped, Rodriguez is still among the leaders this season in runs batted in. But if the coming act, post-35, looks more like the aging Mays than the amazing Aaron, the lingering question will be this: just how much of his prime-career performance was improperly enhanced?

Aaron, meanwhile, will remain baseball’s prime example of how to age with a pure and potent grace.

via News Analysis – Rodriguez’s Chase Offers Chance to Re-examine Aaron – NYTimes.com.

The ultimate points for me that I take away from this article are several. One, given the damage steroids have done to the history of the game and the importance of stats in baseball, we can see how truly great Hank Aaron was and he still deserves a lot of respect and wonder for what he did. The second thing is that no matter what happens with any player who has a taint of steroids or surrounded in scandal from it, like Bonds, McGwire, or Rodriguez, there will always be some question as to the credibility of their numbers or if they truly deserve the rankings in all time numbers that they end up with. With all of that in consideration I certainly think there will be people who still consider Roger Maris for single season and Hank Aaron for career home runs, as the true record holders until some one with a truly clean record breaks either or both of those records. Whether that may be Albert Pujols or maybe it will be some player who currently is only 10 years old and yet to come on the radar, it is hard to say.

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