Giancarlo Stanton mashed homers number 58 and 59 on Thursday, leaving him one shy of a threshold that only a handful of players have ever reached in the history of Major League Baseball. Stanton's next homer would make him just the sixth different player to ever go deep at least 60 times in a season, and would be just the ninth such season in history, as well.
Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001. Mark McGwire hit 70 in 1998. Sammy Sosa reached 66 dingers that same summer, and McGwire made it to 65 the following year. Sosa also crushed 63 long balls in 1999 and another 64 in 2001, while Roger Maris went deep 61 times back in 1961 to break Babe Ruth's then-longstanding record of 60, set in 1927. Stanton, with three games left, has a chance to homer his way into the middle-third of that group, but even if he just goes deep one more time, he'll get that shiny round number that history remembers.
Stanton's season will still be plenty memorable even if he goes sans homer the rest of 2017; however: Ruth's 1921, in which he hit 59 homers, is the only 59-homer season besides Stanton's current one. So as is, Stanton is already having one of the top-10 seasons ever for dingers, with Thursday's two-homer night moving him into a tie with and then ahead of Ryan Howard's 2006, McGwire's 1997, Hank Greenberg's 1938, and Jimmie Foxx's 1932: All four stopped at 58 homers.
You might think less of Stanton's push because of the supposed changes to the baseball that's causing all these extra taters, but think about it for a second: There is some kind of asterisk attached to basically every major performance you can think of.
Babe Ruth and his peers played with the original live ball and in a smaller league without nearly the level of competition. Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa played in an era of steroids, sure, but also smaller ballparks, multiple expansion efforts, and, you guessed it, a changed baseball. Maris got to chase 60 homers while playing in a longer season than Ruth did: There's always something.
Pitchers have also received benefits like this over the years, and things eventually even out and are replaced with a new issue: MLB lowered the mound in 1969 after Carl Yastrzemski won a batting title with a .301 average the year before, for instance. And let's not pretend hitters were the only ones using PEDs back in the day, either.
None of these numbers or seasons is necessarily tainted: The playing field is always changing, and there is always something to consider, and remembering who outperformed their peers is the constant that applies to every era. Stanton, right now, is the only one with a shot at 60 homers: Even with the changed baseball, even with hitters gunning to go yard, Stanton is the only one here. And that's worth remembering.
- The Cubs defeated the Cardinals in 11 innings, ending St. Louis' hopes of making it to the postseason. It's not just that Chicago ended those dreams either, but how: The Cardinals hit a game-tying homer in the 11th inning... except, Leonys Martin reached over the wall and caught it for the third out.
- It should be pointed out that even though they've been mathematically eliminated, the Cardinals have more meaningful ball in front of them: They take on the Brewers in a season-closing series, while the Rockies face the playing-for-home-field Dodgers.
- Here's where the postseason picture stands today, as we enter said final weekend.
- Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon are vying for MLB's stolen base crown, and would you believe me if I told you that Hamilton has never led the league in steals before?
- Here's how the Minnesota Twins went from 103 losses to the postseason.
- Albert Pujols used to be a quality all-around player, even if it's hard to remember that in his "slowest player in the game" days.
- The NFL gets the concussion headlines, but MLB has its own such issues, and R.J. Anderson explored its battle with catcher concussions in a feature at CBS Sports.
- The Phillies have so much to cheer for in September. Rhys Hoskins hitting dingers! Promising youth! And the 10-year anniversary of the Mets absolutely falling on their face mid-pennant race.
- Women have been writing about baseball for much longer than you think, writes Rachael McDaniel at Hardball Times.
- The A's have used the last three trade deadlines to build a foundation, and that foundation is winning baseball games in September.
- Lindsey Adler asked an important question: Derek Jeter officially has the keys to the Marlins, so.... now what?