Juan Francisco's Home Run Distance Isn't The Point

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 12: Juan Francisco #52 of the Cincinnati Reds connects for a 502 ft. home run during the game against the Chicago Cubs on September 12, 2011 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cubs defeated the Reds 12-8. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Did Juan Francisco's Monday moonshot have a distance of 502 feet, or 482 feet? The answer is that it really doesn't matter.

You probably weren't watching the Chicago Cubs play the Cincinnati Reds Monday night. You'd have to really, really love baseball to have watched the Chicago Cubs play the Cincinnati Reds Monday night. But something significant happened during the game. Maybe you caught it on SportsCenter. Maybe you caught it on the Internet. Maybe you're catching it right now!

In the bottom of the second inning, Juan Francisco, who is a baseball player, stepped in to face Rodrigo Lopez, who is still a baseball player. Behind in the count 1-and-0, Lopez came inside with a slider, and this was the result:

Franciscolopez_medium

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You can't see the baseball against the backdrop of the breathtaking Ohio (ed. note: Kentucky!) sky, but the images make it pretty clear what took place: Lopez threw a pitch, and Francisco beat the living crap out of it.

Okay, so Juan Francisco hit a home run. Lots of players hit home runs. But what immediately began to circulate was the estimated distance. From Mark Sheldon:

Francisco's 502-foot home run left Great American Ball Park, but there are no extra runs given for superior distance. The Reds hit a total of four long balls and still were handed a 12-8 loss by the Cubs.

From Hal McCoy:

And Juan Francisco nearly knocked down a full moon with a 502-foot blast, the first baseball to clear the right field stands. It landed close to the Ohio River, on the south sidewalk of Mehring Way, the street behind the ballpark.

From David Brown:

Just check out the muscles on Francisco, who connected for a titanically mammoth home run that went 502 feet* and over the right-field bleachers.

A home run that traveled 502 feet! That's amazing! That's the longest home run of the season, and it exceeds the 500-foot barrier that separates ordinary home runs from legendary home runs. The distance was so astonishing that the stadium PA guy made note of it over the speakers prior to Francisco's next at bat.

But was the 502 estimate correct? Here to play the role of wet blanket is mathematics, via the ESPN Home Run Tracker. Hours after the end of the game, Greg Rybarczyk's precise and reliable system gave Francisco's dinger a distance of 482 feet (boosted seven feet by environmental conditions). Very long, obviously, but less long, and not the longest home run of the year, as Prince Fielder went 486 feet on April 29. Additionally, 482 is less than 500, and people love when home-run distances begin with a 5. Those are like feats of myth.

So now there's some debate over which estimate is more meaningful. Were the Reds right with their 502, or is the Home Run Tracker more accurate? Our own Reds blog sides with the former.

Personally, though, I think focusing on the distance kind of misses the point. Because you might have noticed that Francisco's home run LEFT THE @#%&ING STADIUM!

Greatamericanballpark_2011_4074_medium

(Home Run Tracker)

Juan Francisco hit a home run that landed on a street. There are no streets inside Cincinnati's baseball stadium. There are only streets beyond Cincinnati's baseball stadium. That's where Juan Francisco put a baseball.

Gabp_medium

Obviously, there are some stadiums that allow baseballs to leave the premises more commonly than others. Fenway Park. AT&T Park. Wrigley Field. Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park is not one of those stadiums. It requires considerable force to hit a ball clear out of the GABP, and that's what Juan Francisco did.

And I think that's more significant than the exact number of feet the ball might have traveled. As adults, we care about numbers and distances and facts. As children, we imagine home runs that leave stadiums. Francisco's home run is one we can watch with a childlike sense of wonder, and I don't think the numbers should heighten or deflate the experience.

Whether Francisco's dinger flew 482 feet, 502 feet, or some number of feet in between - in the end, I don't think it matters. People won't remember Juan Francisco's home run for the number of feet that it flew. People will remember Juan Francisco's home run for giving a baseball a new address.

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