Have all the heroes disappeared in the world of baseball? In case you missed it, and how could you, the New York Times has reported that Sammy Sosa tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003 as one of the 104 major leaguers who failed the “confidential” drug testing that led to Major League Baseball instituting a sport wide steroid testing policy that they continue to follow until this day. Do we have proof that this accusation is true? Of course we don’t since the records that are being reported on are secret and that the “source” for the story is anonymous fearing a potentially stiff legal penalty for divulging privileged information. Much like Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, Sosa never officially failed a major league drug test (the 2003 tests weren’t “official,” that didn’t happen until the following year of 2004 after a high enough percentage of players failed the first test in 2003 to kick in official sanctions), but that certainly won’t help to remove the tarnish that has set in with regards to their legacy.
This whole performance enhancing mess has been discussed ad nauseam, and I have no intention of repeating what has been said in so many corners. I would however like to pose the following question:
Who is the greatest home run hitter in baseball the past 25 years?
Barry Bonds is widely regarded to have cheated during the second half of his career, so he is out.
Sammy Sosa? From a 175 lbs rookie to the cover of Muscle and Fitness magazine with biceps bigger than my thighs. Shocking that he likely cheated.
Mark McGwire? Next.
Rafael Palmeiro? The biggest hypocrite on Earth? I never liked that guy anyway, especially after he did those Viagra commercials and then claimed he didn’t take the product. Yeah, right.
A-Rod? Please. That guy is so phony that he would stand out in a room of fake money in a Secret Service vault (for those of you that don’t know the Secret Service, those folks that run along next to the presidential motorcade with dark glasses an ear microphones, are the branch of government that investigates phony money).
Manny Ramirez? Thought he apparently made it out of the initial barrage clean, his recent test failure certainly casts a huge pale of suspicion over everything he did previously.
So amongst guys who have played the bulk of their careers since 1980, we are left with two names – Jim Thome and Ken Griffey Jr.
As of this writing Thome has 553 home runs, the 13th best mark in baseball history. As for Griffey, his number is 617, so he becomes the king of the modern day home run hitters. In fact, If not for a series of injury filled campaigns from 2001-04, Griffey likely would be closing in on 700-home runs instead of 620. Think I’m full of it?
Consider that Griffey had hit at least 40-home runs each year from 1996-2000. Even if we posit that he would slow a bit with age, let’s cut that number all the way down to a very conservative 30 a season (after all he hit 35 in 2005 when he returned to health), how many extra home runs would he have hit during his four injury filled seasons? In those four seasons Griffey had 1,027 ABs, an average of 257 a year. Given that he averaged 582 the previous five seasons when he was blasting 40 homer a year, let’s again play it conservative and give him 550 at-bats a season at the rate of 30 homers a year. That equates to one home run per 18.33 ABs. If we add an extra 300 at-bats a season, remember he averaged 257 in that time and we are positing 550 a year, that would given him an extra 16.4 home runs a season. 16.4 times four years equals an additional 66 home runs, which when added to his total of 617 brings The Kid up to 683 in his career. Like I said, within shouting distance of becoming just the fourth man in history to record 700 big flies without the aide of artificial stimulants in his career.
We’ll likely never know the truth of who did what, when, but for my money, and face my opinion is the one that counts given that I’m the one penning this article, here is my top-10 list of home run hitters who have ever played the game.
755 – Hank Aaron
714 – Babe Ruth
660 – Willie Mays
617 – Ken Griffey Jr.
586 – Frank Robinson
573 – Harmon Killebrew
563 – Reggie Jackson
553 – Jim Thome
548 – Mike Schmidt
536 – Mickey Mantle
Long live Ken Griffey Jr., truly one of the most complete players, steroid enhanced or otherwise for that matter, who ever played the game of baseball.
By Ray Flowers