On Saturday, Albert Pujols hit a grand slam, becoming just the ninth player in Major League Baseball history to hit 600 home runs in his career.
While the achievement is certainly notable, it has been even more notable just how little buzz the achievement has created. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that baseball had a huge celebration every time a player reached the even less-exclusive club of 500 home runs.
MLB insider Buster Olney of ESPN was a guest on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show Monday and explained why it feels like people have stopped caring about home run milestones. Olney feels that the club has become “watered down” by both the recent surge in members and by who has joined the club recently.
“I think it is because the number has been diminished by all the players who have reached it, really, in the last 15 years,” Olney said on ESPN Radio. “If you think about it, for decades, the 600-home run club included three people: Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. And year after year after year it was those three guys. Then in 2002, Barry Bonds became the fourth and five others have joined since then. And so I think it got watered down. “
Olney also feels that who the newest members include has played a factor.
“Certainly the fact that some of the players who have joined the 600-home run club since — Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds — have been linked to steroids, I think have hurt that number as well,” Olney said. “And everybody who has joined that club now, it is not as exclusive as it once was.”
What is interesting about the lack of buzz is that the 500-home run club got its ninth member in 1970, and baseball fans still cared about that club for another 30 years afterwards.
Olney does think there is still time, noting that Pujols has a good shot to become just the fourth member of the 700-home run club, joining Bonds, Aaron, and Ruth.
“I think he has a real shot at 700 home runs. That will be the exclusive club. Think about this number: through his age-36 season, Hank Aaron had 592 homers. Albert Pujols, through his age-36 season, 591.”