The Yankees are one of sixteen teams in the major leagues currently on pace to hit more than 200 home runs as a team. A decade ago, the Yankees were one of only five teams to reach that plateau. What’s going on with home runs this year?
The Yankees have hit 114 home runs to date this season, putting them one behind the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays. Aaron Judge is on pace to have 30 home runs by the All-Star break, and with some luck, could find himself on the prowl for the team’s single-season home run record set by Babe Ruth or Roger Maris, whichever you prefer.
And when Jacob deGrom hits an opposite field 380 ft bomb off Clayton Kershaw, and that’s one of four home runs given up by the premier left-hander in the game today, you have to begin wondering if there isn’t something, shall we say “odd” going on in baseball today.
Immediately, there will be those who jump to, “There they go again, the guys are juicing themselves up again.” But that would be a real stretch this time because baseball tests regularly and often whenever suspicion is raised about a player, in addition to performing random tests every week.
And we can recall the refreshing image of Marcus Thames in the beginning of the season when he crushing baseball every day appearing on post-game interviews with a vial of what he claimed to be his blood, joking to Major League Baseball that “I’ve got plenty more of this in my body and you can have some anytime you want it.”
Tonight, when the Yankees take the field to face the Angels, they will have a remarkable six players with double figures in home runs, and two more (Didi Gregorius and Chris Carter) just behind that group with eight apiece.
The talk around the cage
The talk around the batting cage is that, if anything, the ball is “different” this year. Some even point to a change around the time of the All-Star game last year for when the ball changed. And still others, and I’m with this group, claim there’s nothing different except that players today are more athletic, stronger, and take better care of themselves than ever before.
Unlike the bat factory in Louisville, Kentucky, it takes an act of terrorism to get anywhere near the plant complex in Haiti where baseballs are manufactured.
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In Louisville, and I urge all fans to make the trip, you can stand there and watch an artisan spin an Aaron Judge model on his lathe, and then observe the same bat going through the various coating and stamping processes until you have the finished product, a game bat ready to be shipped to the Yankees.
So whatever they’re doing down there in Haiti, we’ll never know. But I’m wondering why we should even care. If the ball is juiced, so what?
As long as pitchers on both sides use the same baseballs from the same production lot, everything is even, and all that suffers is a pitcher’s earned run average.
Ba$eball team$ pay player$ who hit home run$. That, my friends, is the bottom line in baseball as it’s played today. And Earl Weaver, the Hall of Fame manager of the Baltimore Orioles, must be smiling up from his grave saying, “See, I told ya. There’s nothing that compares to a three-run home run.”
And the other caveat in baseball is that the home run is the 80-yard touchdown bomb in football, or the three-point shot from forty feet beyond the perimeter in the NBA, or the right hook that comes out of nowhere for a knockout in boxing.
Give the people what they want
Fans, whether purists like it or not, come to a game to hear that unmistakable sound that comes when a bat meets the ball in that sweet spot and all eyes gaze upward toward a sky that, for a moment, may or may not be able to hold that ball in the atmosphere of the earth as it arcs upward and the crowd gasps in awe at what they’ve just witnessed (a 495 ft. blast off the bat of Aaron Judge).
By any means, the Yankees are not in dire straits, regardless of what the half-full people say. But at the same time, they need to make some moves.
I don’t give a hoot what MLB has or hasn’t done to the baseball, as long as the playing field stays even. The suits will be coy about it if they have, for example, issued orders for a ball that wound just a wee bit tighter.
But if you believe that the game is owned by its fans, then there is little doubt that MLB is giving the fans what they want. And what’s so bad about that?