Fearless Predictions for the Distant Future of Baseballby Eben Askins
Let's talk milestones, folks. We know Griffey, we know Mark McGwire. Each will break Hank Aaron's magical number of 755 in due time. But among today's younger stars, who has a chance to eclipse the Ruth's, Aaron's and soon enough Griffey's?
Before we get to the phenoms, here are some numbers to throw around:
The records: As we all know by now, Hammerin' Hank Aaron holds the home run and runs batted in records with 755 and 2297, respectively. Aaron is also second in runs with 2174. The Babe ranks second in all three categories with 714 dingers, 2213 ribbies and 2174 runs (tied for second with Aaron). Tyrus Raymond Cobb holds the career record for runs with 2245.
At age 25 (by which I mean playing a full season at 25 or turning 25 during the season) Babe Ruth had 103 home runs, 367 RBI and 360 runs. Now take a look at Aaron's at the same age: 219 dongs, 743 ribbies and 714 runs scored. Yes, those numbers are quite ridiculous.
For you traditionalists, here are two more hall of famers: Cobb, at age 25, had 738 runs and 684 RBI. "The Georgia Peach" was not known for his mighty blasts. "Say-Hey" Willie Mays produced 162 dingers, 419 runs and 412 runs batted in by the same age.
Bored enough? How about Griffey and Big Mac's line at age 25: Junior - 189 jacks, 585 ribbies 518 runs, Mac - 84 round-trippers and 226 r.b.i.s. Confused? So am I.
Interestingly enough, the Babe and Big Mac look disturbingly alike at 25. Take into account McGwire's injuries and the fact that Ruth did not begin hitting full time until he was 24 and the numbers begin to make more sense. On a side note, Ruth was 90-43 as a pitcher at 25, meaning had he remained on the hill, he would surely have reached 300 victories, truly making him the most complete player in baseball history.
Let's turn our attention to the stars of today - here are the candidates:
Derek Jeter - the GQ shortstop from the Bronx turns 26 on June 26, but already boasts an impressive resume. Along with his three World Series rings, Jeter has 63 homers, 486 runs and 341 RBI. He's not a long-ball hitter per se, but has developed his stroke significantly over the past few years. In that lineup, Jeter can score 120+ runs year in and year out.
Ben Grieve - the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year suffered from a sophomore jinx, but has developed a nice stroke through April of this year. The kid turns 24 next week, sporting 49 jacks, 199 ribbies and 186 runs scored. More of a line-drive hitter, but in the age of "mallparks" and Andro, line drives turn into souvenirs.
Vladimir Guerrero - Ladies and gentlemen, what's not to like about Vlad? Though he needs a little help judging fly balls, the 24-year old is a five-tool player. A joy to watch, the Expos' franchise player has elevated his game the two years. Already boasting 256 runs, 92 homers and 281 RBI, he has a legitimate shot at 500 dongs - let's not forget the best arm in the game. He keeps getting better, this year Guerrero has struck out just three times in 73 at bats.
Andruw Jones - the Kid from Curacao has matured in the last two years - to a ripe, old age of 23. With a ring from his rookie year on his finger, Jones has begun to fulfill his potential. A true five-tool player, if the Braves centerfielder can stay healthy and remain in a productive lineup, there no telling how dangerous Jones can become.
Alex Rodriguez - it's a joy to watch A-Rod effortlessly hit fly-ball home runs and dive in the hole and gun the ball across the diamond. He turns 25 July 27, yet has accumulated 148 round-trippers, 493 runs and 463 runs batted in. These are impressive numbers, considering the shortstop missed 30 games last year and yet somehow managed to still hit 40 homers and steal 20 bases. He is the current front-runner at these three records.
So what's the secret? Andruw Jones came into the league at 19 and, though it took years of adjustment, has finally established himself. Hank Aaron never hit more than 50 homers in a year, a sign of superior resiliency, something that Junior has mastered and A-Rod appears to achieve. Big Mac was hurt in the mid-'90s but went on an insane workout regime that has helped the slugger achieve five consecutive 50 homer seasons in his late 30s.
Nothing is more special than watching young players hit their prime at such an early age and make the necessary adjustments throughout their careers to stay on top. Pay no attention to the so-called small-market big market divide, we are witnessing a golden agein young talent.
The following are the home-run leaders in both leagues through games played Thursday night. The years a player has been in the league (including the 2000 season) are shown in parentheses next to their name.
Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
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