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Just The Sports: There Are Other Baseball Players Besides Ruth

Just The Sports

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

There Are Other Baseball Players Besides Ruth

(Note: Further updated May 11. Scroll down to the bottom to see the additions.)

Bill Plaschke suffers from old sports analyst's syndrome. Old sports analyst's syndrome is a condition that afflicts many sports analysts across the country who have realized their youth is but a distant memory. It manifests itself in the following symptoms: assuming that the longer ago a player played the better he is, becoming indignant when someone suggests a present-day player is better than some old player who the sports analyst probably never saw play, railing continually about how the players of the present generation just doesn't "get it," and an inability to do actual research.

The puffball reliever will lay the juiced ball on a tee. The padded hitter will use his bloated biceps to smash it deep into the stands. The puffball reliever will lay the juiced ball on a tee. The padded hitter will use his bloated biceps to smash it deep into the stands.

Barry Bonds passes Babe Ruth.

He does not.

Yes, he does. If Barry Bonds hit two more home runs, then he will have passed Babe Ruth on the home-run list. You may not like it, but it will still have happened.

Now, Bonds will still have a ways to go to have contributed as many runs to his teams as Ruth did for his, but I'm pretty sure that's not what you are talking about.

Saying Barry Bonds passes Babe Ruth is like saying the Escalade passes the Mustang.

I have a problem with this simile. When I think Mustang, I think sleek and fast, sort of like how Barry Bonds was in the early part of his career when he was a great baserunner. When I think Mustang, I do not think this...

But a home run is not a personality trait, and statistics cannot measure impact.

Measuring a player's impact is exactly what statistics do. If you truly believe statistics cannot measure impact, and I sincerely hope you do not, then you are in effect undermining your entire argument. The only reason you are even writing this article is because Ruth hit 714 home runs. Therefore, you think he had a large impact on the game of baseball. And home runs, at the time of my writing this post, is a statistic.

Ruth played before the invention of steroids. Ruth played before the invention of batter's body armor. Ruth played before the dilution of pitching staffs.

Wrong. Steroids were invented in the 1930s; Ruth's career did not end until 1935.

But this is a fun game to play. Let's see what else Ruth played before.

Ruth played before improved childhood nutrition resulted in taller and faster adults. Ruth played before lifting weights became a staple for professional athletes. Ruth played before pitchers began taking steroids. Ruth played before the racial integration of baseball. Ruth played before Hank Aaron broke his career home run record.

If you have any more things that Ruth played before, leave them as a comment.

"When I pitched, I owned the plate," Auker said. "Today, batters can stand inside and wear all that stuff on their bodies. Everybody is afraid to throw knockdown pitches. The batter owns the plate."

Since Elden Auker is 95 now, perhaps he has forgotten what his career was really like so I will remind him. When Elden Auker played baseball, he did not own the plate. In fact, he was barely an average pitcher. Auker has a career ERA+ of 101, where 100 is average and the higher above 100 a player is, the more above average his ERA was (above average ERA=lower ERA than league average). His Pitching Runs Above Average adjusted for all-time was -9, meaning for Auker's career he allowed nine more runs than an average pitcher did during the same time frame.

And, yes, well, Ruth competed while taking an illegal substance — he drank alcohol during Prohibition.

Once and for all, it was not illegal to drink alcohol during Prohibition. What was illegal during the Prohibition era was to sell and distribute alcohol. No country, not even America, would be foolish enough to make it a crime to drink alcohol.

Because while Barry Bonds played baseball, Babe Ruth was baseball.

The fact that Barry Bond is the only one baseball player who all sports writers across the nation consistently write about demonstrates that he is baseball in this day and age. Otherwise, he would be ignored like Esteban Yan.

• Bonds has had four sacrifice bunts in his 20-year career.

• Ruth once had 10 sacrifice bunts in one season.

Unless all ten of Ruth's sacrifice bunts came when the scored was tied in the ninth inning, then he was decreasing his team's win expectation.

• Ruth once showed up late and dirty for a Yankee team dinner because he had been playing with kids on a sandlot.

In between innings, Ruth regularly brokered world peace and saved cute kittens that were trapped in trees.

• Ruth inspired the word "Ruthian" and the phrase "out in left field," which referred to children too clueless to sit behind him in the right field bleachers.

Ruth invented English. Before he did so, people communicated by clapping their hands and jumping about wildly. The birth of Ruth rid the world of that ineffective method of communication.

• During the 1934 World Series, Ruth became media, writing for a wire service, breaking every story except the one, written by competitors, that he was retiring.

Ruth developed Morse code, sign language, and the Internet. All in a single day.

• Ruth called everyone "Kid."

Ruth could levitate on command.

• After all-night Yankee parties, Ruth was known to stop by church and drop $50 into the collection plate.

Ruth was turning water into wine waaaaay before anyone had ever heard of Jesus.


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