December 7, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Sunday, December 23, 2012
40,000 days ago, one of the greatest baseball players in history was born—the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig.
His career is so well known to be hardly worth recapping. He belted 493 homers and drove in 1,995 runs. Hitting behind Babe Ruth, Gehrig led the league in RBIs five times. Heck, he led the league in damn near every category at least one time—batting average, slugging percentage, OBP, doubles, triples, home runs, plate appearances, walks, total bases, games played. Everything but steals, strikeouts and at-bats.
It’s a good question: What would his career looked like had it not been for ALS? As great as his career stats were, you have to assume they would’ve been quite a bit better. Though 1937, Gehrig’s production was seemingly unaffected. It was only in 1938 that his numbers dropped considerably and in 1939 he had to pull out.
In 1937, Gehrig was 34 years old. Some drop-off should be expected. (That said, many of the all-time greats, like Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth or Willie Mays, do age fairly well, just as Gehrig had been doing).
Through age 34, Gehrig had 464 homers. That’s the 14th most ever though that age. Of the 13 in front of him, one is Albert Pujols, who hasn’t had an age-35 season yet. Half of the remaining dozen topped 600 homers: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.
Of the other half-dozen, Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew got near 600 homers (with 586 and 573 respectively). Manny Ramirez is a little behind, with 555.
Three guys really fell off: Mickey Mantle (536 homers), Jimmie Foxx (534), and Eddie Mathews (511). Two of those were major drinkers—Foxx and Mantle—and that hurt their aging. Mantle also suffered through some leg injuries in his career. Mathews could be a roughneck.
Gehrig was always known as man who lived cleanly. You can’t play 2,130 games in a row otherwise. So he very likely would’ve passed the three guys lower on the list and made it over 550 homers. How far over 500 homers he got would depend on things beyond his control, like his health.
Other factors would make it tricky for Gehrig. First, he benefited from his era. The 1930s AL was a golden age for hitting, but in 1940 run-scoring dropped notably. That’s not what Gehrig would need in his late 1930s. Then came World War II, and many aging players were drafted in the war.
Gehrig would likely fall between 550-600 homers, but more likely to end up over 600 than under 550. Regardless, Gehrig never got to have a normal decline phase due to ALS. His career and life were cut short. The latter began 40,000 days ago with his birth.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
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