Friday, June 1, 2012

Chasing History

By Robert Sherrard

So, it's 2012 and Josh Hamilton is off to one of the greatest offensive statistical starts in the history of the game. Through 35 games, Hamilton led the major leagues with a batting average of .404, 18 home runs, 45 RBI, and was tied with David Ortiz with 23 extra base hits.  While Josh has cooled off a bit statistically since, Hamilton still has the potential of  "Triple Crown" season if he maintains his current pace.  The Rangers have played 51 games as of this article's posting, and Hamilton's numbers are as follows:

Home runs - 21
RBI - 57
Average - .368
Hits - 67
Runs - 39

Hamilton has played in 47 of the 51 games played to date, and is somewhat injury prone given his style of play.  But, assuming he stays healthy and on pace and plays in 102 of the remaining 111 games in the season, and maintains his current pace, his numbers will look like this:

Home runs - 66
RBI - 179
Average - .368
Hits - 212
Runs - 123

Quite an impressive series of numbers.  The obvious questions surface when discussing records.  Can he maintain the pace? Will he stay healthy?  These are great questions and baseball junkies like me and my brother love to talk about this stuff.  The thing that makes it fun is the hope of seeing something spectacular occur.  We've all had moments in our lives when we've witnessed something great and baseball rarely disappoints.  Whether it's Henry Aaron breaking Babe's Home Run record in the early 1970's or a seeing Nolan Ryan's 7th no-hitter, these are moments that the baseball fan will carry with them forever.
So, can Josh give us one of those moments?  Hamilton is currently in a position to chase down the all time leaders in every major offensive category for a single season since the start of the Modern Era of Baseball in 1900.  He'd have to step up his pace to get the records, and likely no one will ever get close to Lajoie's batting average, but Josh could put up numbers that would bring him the Triple Crown, something not achieved since 1967 when Carl Yazstremski brought it home for the Red Sox.  That year, Yaz had 44 home runs, a .326 BA, and 121 RBI's.  Those numbers would clearly not win a Triple Crown today, but it was the last time one man held the title for all three areas.   As a comparison to the records individually, the Triple Crown category elements and the records follow:

2001...73 Homeruns, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants

1930...191 RBI, Hack Wilson of the Chicago Cubs

1901...426 BA, Nap Lajoie of the Philadelphia Athletics

The chances of breaking any of these records are unlikely. What his current pace does is give us something to dream about and to reflect on when previous players chased these records and fell short. Remember the chase of .400 from Tony Gwynn in 1994 when he hit .394 or George Brett in 1980 when he hit .390? Pete Rose''s 44 game hitting streak in 1978 when he was chasing Joe Dimaggio. Remember watching the exciting battle for the single season home run record of 61 established by Roger Maris in 1961 between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire where McGwire hit 70 in 1998?  Barry Bonds would later set the current mark of 73 in 2001.

So, here's another player with a chance to let us dream a little more.  Life changes our priorities as we get older. Establishing our careers, getting married, and raising our families take precedence each day and there is little time to go back and spend a day as if we were a kid again.

As the years have gone by, we are always reminded of our youth by sporting events that have happened. We do not share the same view point as adults as we did when we were kids looking at our heroes, but it's good to get some of that feeling back, even for just a little while

My point is this...put off work for a day or two, watch Field of Dreams, buy a ticket to the ballpark and listen to John Fogerty's Centerfield on the way. You might capture that feeling you had as a child watching a MLB game at your team's stadium. You might even watch history in the making as Josh Hamilton continues this season.  

There's nothing like baseball. Go Josh, go.  Make us middle age guys feel young again.

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