Are Bonds’ 73 as Safe as DiMaggio’s 56?
You don’t need a jury, a judge, or an LBS writer to tell you that Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record of 73 is a product of steroids. Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and the other poster boys of Major League Baseball’s steroid era shattered records that we all know they wouldn’t have touched if they weren’t juicing. Many believe that the steroid era is behind us. After looking at the numbers and considering the amount of no-hitters that have been thrown already this year, I must say I’m starting to become a believer as well.
When the topic of untouchable baseball records arises, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is always the first one that comes to mind. That’s completely understandable and I’m a firm believer that no player will ever surpass Joltin’ Joe’s record, but I think it’s about time we started including 73 home runs in that discussion.
Since Bonds’ record-breaking year in 2001, no American or National League player has eclipsed the 60 home run mark. Ryan Howard came closest when he belted 58 in 2006, but that’s still a whopping 15 homers shy of Bonds’ record. I think people underestimate how far off the record that actually is. The last two seasons — when the perception has been that Major League Baseball is really cracking down on the use of performance-enhancing substances — home run totals have been way down. In 2008, Ryan Howard led the NL with 47 long balls while Miguel Cabrera led the AL with only 37. In 2009, Albert Pujols led the NL with 47 while Mark Teixeira and Carlos Pena tied for the AL lead with 39.
Sensing any type of trend? Not only are guys not challenging Barry Bonds’ illegitimate single-season home run record — they aren’t even coming close. Could some sort of new drug or technology come along that causes the baseballs to start flying out of the park at an astronomical pace once again? Of course. I’m not trying to rule that out completely, but at the moment baseball is trending toward becoming a pitcher’s game again.
The fact that steroids are becoming less of an issue is obviously a good thing. However, it’s unfortunate that the game is changing in a way that may allow a phony record to stand. Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak will probably never be touched, but at least he earned it. Don’t expect anyone to ever break Barry Bonds’ home run record. Don’t expect Bud Selig to take it away from him, either.