Lost in the chatter about Miguel Cabrera’s pursuit of an unprecedented repeat Triple Crown, looming suspensions for Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun and baseball’s amorphous “midway point” is one very interesting statistic: Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is on pace to hit 62 home runs this season, which would be the most ever by a player not suspected of steroid use.
This should be a huge deal. Davis is on pace for a number only Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have reached. And unlike the the Three Slugging Stooges of the Steroid Era, Davis is doing this without the help of banned performance enhancers.
Which begs the question: If Davis reaches 62 homers, is he the new home run king? The question prods at the still lingering, largely unanswered Steroid Question which continues to give baseball a black eye. Do all the numbers printed into the record books over the Steroid Era, Barry Bonds’ 73 homers in 2001 included, really count? Or should they be separate? In a league that claims to be so committed to its history and tradition, the “comparing different eras doesn’t make sense” argument holds no water.
As ESPN’s David Schoenfield writes, Davis himself considers Maris to be the real home run king:
“Telling ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” in early July that “the reason being, he was the last guy to do it clean. There’s a lot of things that have been said about the guys who have come after him and have achieved the record, but I think as far as the fans are concerned they still view Maris as being the all-time home run record [holder] and I think you have to. There’s no doubt that Barry [Bonds] and Mark [McGwire] and any of those guys had ridiculous seasons and had some great years, but I think when you get to the root of the record, I still think it’s Roger Maris.'”
Davis is right on pace. Through 95 games Davis has belted 37 home runs, which SB Nation’s Marc Normandin notes is one behind Maris’ 38 homers through 95 games in his 1961 season in which he hit a then-record 61 home runs. However, Davis’ current pace of home runs per game is slightly higher than the rate Maris finished 1961 with, which means if Davis can play every game for the rest of the year and maintain his exact pace of productivity, he will beat Maris by a nose.
The 2013 season could go down as one of the weirdest, most exciting seasons in the history of baseball. Davis’ 62 homers could come in a year where multiple former MVPs are suspended for triple-digit games. With 78-year-old commissioner Bud Selig working hard to restore his and his game’s image before retiring after next season, you can bet Davis has a big fan in the league office.