Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Those Who Hit 50 or More v2.0



Last night, the 27-year-old Chris Davis belted his 50th home run of the season for the Baltimore Orioles. That blast tied him with Brady Anderson for the franchise's single-season record. Anderson established the record during the 1996 season. With two full weeks left in the regular season, Davis will likely establish a new franchise record before the end of the September. During his first two seasons, he hit 17 (2008) and 21 (2009) with the Texas Rangers. He hit a total of 11 during the next two seasons with time split between Texas and Baltimore. In 2012, he hit 33. Now I don't want to sound cynical, but Davis' feat triggers an alarm for me.

Ever since Major League Baseball instituted a drug program during the 2005 season, fans have been told the game has moved into the post-steroids era. Hmmm, that's not entirely accurate. Just this season, eight years after MLB's drug testing program, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Texas' Nelson Cruz were suspended for drug violations. New York's Alex Rodriguez was suspended too, but somehow was able to appeal his suspension.

But what does this have to do with Davis' 50th home run?

I've always used 50 home runs as the litmus test indicating a potential chemistry experiment. A few years ago, I posted a blog about this topic, but I think it's fair to look at the numbers again. Between the years of 1920 and 1989, players reached the 50-plus homer mark a total of 17 times. That timeframe spans from the "Black Sox" trial to the World Series earthquake. From 1990 through most of the 2013 season, that feat was accomplished 26 times.

The game was different during the early years of baseball. Ballparks were quirky and the technology to develop performance-enhancing drugs didn't exist. There is the issue of amphetamines, but those players didn't add explosive power. I don't question the first 17 times this feat was accomplished.

Babe Ruth - 54 (1920), 59 (1921), 60 (1927), 54 (1928)
Hack Wilson - 56 (1930)
Jimmie Fox - 58 (1932), 50 (1938)
Hank Greenberg - 58 (1938)
Johnny Mize - 51 (1947)
Ralph Kiner - 51 (1947), 54 (1949)
Willie Mays - 51 (1955), 52 (1962)
Mickey Mantle - 52 (1956), 54 (1961)
Roger Maris - 61 (1961)
George Foster - 52 (1977)

Here's the list that I question:

Cecil Fielder - 51 (1990)
Albert Belle - 50 (1995)
Brady Anderson - 50 (1996)
Mark McGwire - 52 (1996), 58 (1997), 70 (1998), 65 (1999)
Ken Griffey, Jr. - 56 (1997), 56 (1998)
Greg Vaughn - 50 (1998)
Sammy Sosa - 66 (1998), 63 (1999), 50 (2000), 64 (2001)
Alex Rodriguez - 52 (2001), 57 (2002), 54 (2007)
Luis Gonzalez - 57 (2001)
Barry Bonds - 73 (2001)
Jim Thome - 52 (2002)
Andruw Jones - 51 (2005)
Ryan Howard - 58 (2006)
David Ortiz - 54 (2006)
Prince Fielder - 50 (2007)
Jose Bautista - 54 (2010)
Chris Davis - 50 (as of 9/13/2013)

Just because a player made my list, it doesn't mean they have used, or have admitted to using. It just means I think there is reason to believe they have.

Photo courtesy of Orioles Insider / The Baltimore Sun


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