Lou Gehrig. Willie Mays. Mike Schmidt.
What do they have in common? All of them, of course, are in the Hall of Fame.
Pat Seerey. Bob Horner. Mark Whiten.
What do they have in common? None of them are in the Hall of Fame.
Lou Gehrig. Willie Mays. Mike Schmidt. Pat Seerey. Bob Horner. Mark Whiten. Seven others.
What do they have in common? All of them hit four home runs in one game.
Most of them were, if not Hall of Famers, outstanding players for at least a stretch.
Where does Josh Hamilton fit in the continuum? At this point, we just can't say. Yes, Hamilton's got an MVP Award on his mantel. Only Schmidt, Mays, Gehrig, and Chuck Klein could say the same; not coincidentally, all four have plaques in Cooperstown. By that measure, you might argue that Hamilton's four-homer game was less fluky than many of the others.
In fact, I would absolutely argue that exact thing.
You all know the details of Hamilton's career, following his first-round draft selection by Tampa Bay (first overall) in 1999. Since he became an everyday regular after his trade to the Rangers before the 2008 season, he's been injured too often to pile up the counting stats that might have him headed toward comparisons with the Hall of Famers on the four-homer-game list. He hasn't played more than 133 games in a season for Texas since his first year there.
His 133-game season, in 2010, was the one that got Hamilton the MVP hardware, even though he missed 29 games. He got a seventh-place finish in MVP voting in 2008, when he led the American League in total bases. Had he not missed a quarter of the 2011 season with various maladies, he might have finished higher than 22nd place in that balloting.
Hamilton will turn 31 in less than two weeks. Had he been on a normal career progression for someone drafted in his spot, he'd probably be in his ninth or 10th major league season by now; he could have already hit 300 or more home runs. Instead, he's got fewer than half as many, 132 of them, including Tuesday night's game -- where he might have set an all-time record with five; Hamilton's double, which gave him the American League record for total bases in a game with 18, didn't miss being a home run by much:
It's probably too early in the season to talk Triple Crown, but Hamilton currently leads in all those categories: a Ted-Williamsesque .406 BA, 14 home runs and 36 RBI, not to mention leading the American League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases, and with an OPS+ of 238, which would be tied for sixth all-time on the single-season list if he could keep it up for an entire year.
Which he just might. Despite Hamilton's slow career start, he could still wind up with more than 300 home runs; the career average of the post-1900 four-homer game hitters is 350. He won't be a 500- or 600-homer man like Mays or Schmidt, but he surely will fit in on the list with sluggers like Gil Hodges, Rocky Colavito and Joe Adcock.