Sunday, August 15, 2010

A-Rod Joins the 600-HR Club

I finally got around to writing up something for Alex Rodriguez hitting his 600th homerun.  It took me about as long to get to writing this post as it did for him to hit number 601, so I don't feel so bad.  Anyway, I figured I would do a run down of the 600-HR club and some of the notable homeruns the members hit.

Alex Rodriguez: 604 Career HR as of 8/15/10

2009 Topps Chrome XFractor

First Homerun: 6/12/1995 off Kansas City Royals pitcher Tom Gordon, in Seattle, as a Mariner.
600th Homerun: 8/4/2010 off Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum, in New York, as a Yankee.

A-Rod has a great shot at pushing the Major League record with a few more good seasons, but it remains to be seen if he'll stay healthy and productive enough to make it.  After A-Rod, Manny Ramirez seems to be the only 600-clubber possible in the next few years, until Pujols reaches the plateau.  Realistically, Pujols could be the all-time leader when it's all said and done.

Sammy Sosa: 609 Career HR

1999 Invincible

First Homerun: 6/21/1989 off Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens, in Boston, as a Ranger.
600th Homerun: 6/20/2007 off Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis, in Texas, as a Ranger.
Last Homerun: 9/26/2007 off LA Angels pitcher Joe Saunders, in Texas, as a Ranger.

Sammy will always be one of the most argued 600-HR club members as he had so many performance-enhancement issues toward the end of his career.  Those issues aside, Sammy started with a bang off of also-conflicted Roger Clemens in 1989, and ended with a jack against former Virginia Tech pitcher Joe Saunders.  As history builds, Sammy will most be remembered for his consecutive 60-HR seasons, and how he and Mark McGwire saved baseball with an epic race to pass Roger Maris' 61.

Ken Griffey Jr.: 630 Career HR

2009 Goudey Sport Royalty

First Homerun: 4/10/1989 off Chicago White Sox pitcher Eric King, in Seattle, as a Mariner.
600th Homerun: 6/9/2008 off Florida Marlins pitcher Mark Hendrickson, in Florida, as a Red.
Last Homerun: 10/3/2009 off Texas Rangers pitcher Tommy Hunter, in Seattle, as a Mariner.

If not for injuries, Ken Griffey Jr. might have put himself in the running for the greatest player of all time.  I fully believe he is the best player I have ever seen play, and think that if he could have avoided so many injuries, he easily could have pushed to be the charter member of the 800-HR club.  Appropriately, Griffey returned to the Mariners to finish out his career, including hitting his final homerun in Seattle.

Willie Mays: 660 Career HR

1993 Ted Williams

First Homerun: 5/28/1951 off Boston Braves pitcher Warren Spahn, in New York, as a Giant.
600th Homerun: 9/22/1969 off San Diego Padres pitcher Mike Corkins, in San Diego, as a Giant.
Last Homerun: 8/17/1973 off Cincinnati Reds pitcher Don Gullett, in Cincinatti, as a Met.

The Say Hey Kid is considered to be the best all-around player to play the game.  He was the original All-Tool talent that could hit for average, hit for power, speed around the bases, and dominate the outfield on defense.

And now we step up to the 700-HR plateau

Babe Ruth: 714 Career HR

2010 Topps Vintage Legends Collection

First Homerun: 5/6/1915 off New York Yankees pitcher Jack Warhop, in New York, as a Red Sox.
600th Homerun: 8/21/1931 off St. Louis Browns pitcher George Blaeholder, in St. Louis, as a Yankee.
700th Homerun: 7/13/1934 off Detroit Tigers pitcher Tommy Bridges, in Detroit, as a Yankee. 
Last Homerun: 5/25/1935 off Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Guy Bush, in Pittsburgh, as a Yankee.

The Bambino was the original homerun king as he invented the power hitter.  Ruth's trade from the Red Sox to the Yankees was the beginning of a curse that lasted several decades.

Hank Aaron: 755 Career HR

1991 Upper Deck Heroes

First Homerun: 4/23/1954 off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Vic Raschi, in St. Louis, as a Milwaukee Brave.
600th Homerun: 4/27/1971 off San Francisco Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry, in Atlanta, as a Brave.
700th Homerun: 7/21/1973 off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Ken Brett, in Philadelphia, as a Brave.
715th Homerun: 4/8/1974 off LA Dodgers pitcher Al Downing, in Atlanta, as a Brave. 
Last Homerun: 7/20/1976 off California Angels pitcher Dick Drago, in Milwaukee, as a Brewer.

Hammerin' Hank Aaron started and ended his career in Milwaukee, though the bulk of his destruction of opposing pitchers took place in Atlanta.  Many baseball purists that black out the Steroid Era hold Aaron's 715th homerun as the greatest, most iconic moment in Major League history. 

Barry Bonds: 762 Career HR

2006 Topps Barry Bonds

First Homerun: 6/4/1986 off Atlanta Braves pitcher Craig McMurtry, in Atlanta, as a Pirate.
600th Homerun: 8/9/2002 off Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Kip Wells, in San Francisco, as a Giant.
700th Homerun: 9/17/2004 off San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy, in San Francisco, as a Giant.
756th Homerun: 8/7/2007 off Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik, in San Francisco, as a Giant. 
Last Homerun: 9/5/2007 off Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, in Colorado, as a Giant.

Barry Bonds will be the most argued player in the history of Major League Baseball for a long time.  My personal feeling is that as long as he has not been proved guilty of anything, he should be given all the graces of those that came before him.  Steroids or not, his homerun total is a function of how sweet his swing was throughout his career.

Of course, no homerun argument would be complete without mentioning Negro Leagues star Josh Gibson, who hit more than 800 career homeruns, though the argument says it was against lesser pitching.  And don't forget Sadaharu Oh, the Japanese-League legend who hit 868 homeruns.

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