Tonight, Barry Bonds will try again to break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record of 755. I will be watching at least his first few at-bats, as I did last night when Bonds made his first attempt to move past 755. However, I’ll be watching only because his Giants are playing against my home team, the Washington Nationals. That’s a far cry from 1974 when I wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to see Aaron break Babe Ruth’s record for anything.
One of the great things about being a sports fans is that, in this role, we have no obligation to become excited about anything. The home run record is a big deal only to the extent we choose to become excited about it. The number of total bases a batter hits for is much more telling in assessing his contribution to his team’s offense than the number of home runs he hits. The same is probably true for the number of times a batter reaches base through hits, walks and being hit by the pitch. But not one fan in 100,000 is likely to know the career record for total bases or for combined hits, walks, and being hit by the pitch. Similarly, fans pay much more attention to the number of batters a pitcher strikes out than to the number of total batters a pitcher retires during his career, although the latter statistics is more objectively important.
The home record matters to baseball fans largely because most fans think home runs are really cool. But many of us don’t think the idea of using steroids in order to hit extra home runs is cool.
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