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Baltimore's Chris Davis follows through on a two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Yankees last Saturday in New York.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Home runs grab attention, and Chris Davis is having an attention-grabbing season.
Davis, the Baltimore Orioles’ first baseman, is on pace to challenge the American League record of 61 homes runs in a season, set by Roger Maris of the New York Yankees in 1961.
Davis, however, insists he’s on pace to set an even bigger record.
If he hits 62 home runs this season, Davis says he will hold not just the American League record, he will have the Major League Baseball record.
In Davis’ opinion, Maris’ 61 is the MLB record for home runs in a single season.
Maris, Davis has said, is the last man to surpass Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs in 1927 without the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Maris did it clean, Davis says, and that means the record belongs to him.
Given the times in which we live, questions naturally arise concerning Davis’ blood chemistry. He adamantly denies the use of PEDs. He points to the frequent testing major leaguers now undergo as proof that cheating is hard, perhaps even impossible.
That’s a discussion for another day.
We’ll take Davis at his word and closely watch his record pursuit.
But as much as we’d like to, we can’t agree that Maris holds the “real” major league, single-season home-run record.
Maris’ record has been broken six times by three players — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Bonds is in the record book as the single-season champion with 73 home runs in 2001.
Few believe Bonds was “clean” in 2001.
It was difficult to look at Bonds late in his career and not wonder why his muscles were miraculously getting bigger as he got older.
His power at 36 was prodigious when he should have been happy with enough base hits to keep his average in the neighborhood of .300.
In 1999, at the age of 34, Bonds hit 34 home runs. In 2000, that figure jumped to 49. In 2001, his home-run total catapulted to 73.
But Bonds never failed a drug test. He never admitted to using PEDs. He was convicted of obstruction of justice for a long, rambling answer he gave to a question from a grand jury in 2003 concerning his use of PEDs.
The conviction came in 2007. His appeal of that conviction, believe it or not, is pending.
What we suspect and what we know are different matters.
Many suspect Bonds used steroids. There probably are people who know for sure, particularly his personal trainer, Greg Anderson.
Anderson has refused to testify against Bonds, even while serving more than a year in jail for his failure to cooperate with federal authorities.
We also don’t know what pitchers were using in that dark period now known as the Steroids Era.
A few undoubtedly were on the “juice.”
Andy Pettitte, still pitching for the New York Yankees, admitted he used human-growth hormone in 2002. HGH was placed on baseball’s banned list in 2005.
Roger Clemens, a pitcher widely suspected of using PEDs, was found not guilty of lying to the United States Congress when he denied PED use in testimony in 2008.
From the ages of 30 to 33, Clemens’ record was 40-39. At the ages of 34 and 35, Clemens had a combined record of 41-13.
He was 20-3 at the age of 38, won 17 games when he was 40 and 18 at the age of 41.
And we thought only sports writers got better with age.
Davis has a chance to break Maris’ record. Despite Davis’ insistence otherwise, that would give him only the American League single-season home run record, not the major league mark.
That belongs to Bonds.
What is suspected about Bonds might keep voters from putting him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
At this moment, nothing we know for certain about Bonds can keep him out of the record book.
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