In the news...
The story has gotten a little attention, but not nearly as much as I would have expected.
I mean, we’re exactly a third of the way through the season, and Chipper Jones is hitting .420 for Pete’s sake!
It’s been 67 years since Ted Williams hit .406. No man alive has hit .400 in a complete season of Major League Baseball.
And, I know, it’s very early to start counting chickens, but if the guy keeps swinging the bat way he has been, there’s no telling what could happen.
Even if the chances are slim, it is, without a doubt, the best story of the season so far. Heck, it would be the best baseball story since the race between McGwire and Sosa... In hindsight, of course, I’d have to go back to the Cal Ripken streak for something a little less tarnished.
Chipper’s an easy guy to get behind, too. Although he’s struggled with injuries, he’s always been a hard-nosed, throwback type of player. He’s the kind of guy you saw in the league before the era of super-inflated salaries, and more importantly, steroid-inflated biceps.
...And that leads me to consider the deeper meaning of a guy like Chipper hitting .400 in 2008.
If the steroid era has, presumably, just come to an end, than what are the implications of a player immediately hitting .400?
For me, I wonder what we may have missed while a good portion of the players in the league were taking the needle. What if Tony Gwynn had faced a few less “enhanced” pitchers in 1994, when he hit .394? How many wins did juiced-up bats cost Pedro in 1999, when he had 23?
Sure, we probably would have never seen a 73-homerun season, but how many legitimate players lost their chance to do something special? Athletes are naturally becoming bigger, stronger and faster, and training in today’s game is beyond comparison with anything they had back in the days of the “Splendid Splinter”.
Basically, would the great clean players of this generation have been some of the best of all-time? Would players, like Chipper and Frank Thomas, have ascended to become the superstar players of the league?
It’s impossible to say for sure, but if Chipper hits .400 on the most even playing field in quite some time, I think we can pretty much throw away every statistic from 1990 to present.
Of course, some people will say that it all evened out in the end. Hitters are juicing; pitchers are juicing... so it’s all square, right?
That’s argument’s fine, unless you’re clean. A clean pitcher faced the double-whammy of trying to keep pace with cheating pitchers, and compete against cheating batters. The same goes for a hitter.
Chipper’s done well despite that challenge. He’s been consistently good without any extra help, and I hope he can keep his bat hot enough to do what a lot of us thought might never be done again.