500 is Still Special (Video)
Five-hundred home runs used to be the gold standard.
Along with 3,000 hits and 300 wins, 500 homers represented some sort of Holy Trinity of baseball statistical lore.
Any of the three milestones almost guaranteed you enshrinement into the Hall of Fame and an enduring legacy.
Last night, Albert Pujols hit career home runs number 499 and 500. And yet, no one is talking about it.
People say that 500 has become cheapened. That the steroid era has made us all numb to statistical achievement, especially at the plate.
On one hand, the argument exists that since you never know who's clean and who's not, we shouldn't celebrate. The other is that, originally one of baseball's most prestigious clubs, the 500 Club now has too many members joining it to be relevant.
Ten of its 26 members have gained entrance since 2000. So what? It's still just 26 people in the history of the game. More than 100 years.
I can't get on board with this train of thought. Those of us who appreciate the game know just how hard it is to hit a baseball. Especially a baseball thrown at 95 miles per hour. Especially a baseball with extreme movement.
I think hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. And not one person will convince me otherwise. And hopefully this Sports Science video can convince you too.
Five-hundred is still special. It's an easy answer to blame steroids for the increased home runs totals of the 1990s and 2000s, but there's so many other factors now that make 500 "easier," or more common.
Don't just blame steroids. Blame the ballparks that are smaller now than 40 years ago. Blame the umpires who have reduced the strike zone, allowing hitters to sit dead red and get in hitters counts.
Blame the fact that a new baseball is brought out for seemingly every pitch, allowing hitters a fresh baseball to see and crush. Remember the term "Dead Ball Era?" At that time, baseballs were used until they were so dirty they couldn't even be seen; so worn out that they couldn't travel great distances.
Blame the dome stadiums that allowed hitters to always hit in ideal comfort. Blame the pitch count phenomena that causes top-flight starters to be taken out earlier and earlier and allows hitters to hit off bullpen arms more often.
I don't care what people say. The game has changed for many reasons other than steroids.
The one thing that's still constant? Five-hundred is a big deal.
Congrats, Albert. I'll say it if no one else will.