Thursday, June 07, 2007

That Barry Bonds (he's at least as well-known as Jimmy Choo), as old, frail and cantankerous as he may be, will break Hank Aaron's record of 755 career home runs is not at all problematic. Aaron's record is, to many, the single most prestigious mark in all of baseball. That is certainly debatable, but I would argue that the significance of records is immensely overstated. Aaron hit 755 home runs, but is not generally considered to be the greatest power hitter in baseball history. That honour belongs, and likely always will belong, to Babe Ruth.

Of course, it is certainly problematic that a prestigious honour is held by a player who is most likely a cheater, but are records really that significant? Records, when measuring a career, reward longevity over proficiency. This may help to explain Pete Rose's 4,256 hits or Ron Francis' 1,798 points. Records, when measuring a single season, reward anomalies of absurd proportions. Consider Earl Webb's 67 doubles in 1931 or Herman Moore's 123 receptions in 1995. Broadening our spectrum, Sammy Korir has run the second-fastest marathon ever, but no one considers him to be one of the greatest marathoners in history.

Far more meaningful than records and statistics are, of course, true greatness. We know that Pete Rose wasn't as good as Ty Cobb, Ron Francis not as good as Mario Lemieux and Joe Montana was better than Dan Marino at just about everything. Worrying about who holds what record is moot, as moot as worrying that Charley Radbourn's 59 wins in 1884 overshadow Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux. Having seen a player perform over his career and being able to interpret the significance of his statistics are far more important than the records he may happen to hold. Records are made to be broken, but they certainly aren't made to be revered.

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