MIAMI — If I’m Giancarlo Stanton, I‘d feel conflicted about the Steroid Era, too. I’d think Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in a season is the legitimate record, too.
“Considering some things, I do,” he said Wednesday.
If I’m Stanton, I’d note the only three players to hit more than 61 home runs — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa — had more performance-enhancing drugs in them than an East German swim team.
“But at the same time it doesn’t matter,” Stanton said. “The record is the record. But, personally, I do (think 61 is the record).
If I’m Giancarlo Stanton, I‘d stick by those words and say to put an asterisk by my name if I reach No. 62. Just to note it’s a PED-free record. Even if it’s doesn’t reach Bonds’ 73 home runs.
Of course, Stanton is new to this complex conversation of PEDs, home runs and history. And he’s going to have to think it all through now that his home-run totals are stretching baseball imaginations.
So after saying he considered Maris’ record the real one, after saying 61 home runs always was the number he knew as a kid, he thought about it for a while in the Marlins’ clubhouse following their 8-1 win against San Francisco.
He wanted to clarify his thoughts some more. So he did something he rarely does. He walked back over to the group of reporters who left him 10 minutes earlier and took another stab at the question.
He admitted he’s “at a crossroads” in an internal debate over what to think about all this. If PED users like Bonds, McGwire and Sosa need an asterisk by their name, he said, so does Babe Ruth since he only faced white pitchers.
You’ve heard this argument. Each generation, Stanton was saying, has its own issue that doesn’t translate well to succeeding baseball generations. Maris and Hank Aaron, for instance, played in an era infested with “greenies,” or amphetamines to give a pre-game pep.
This isn’t quite as fun a discussion as listening to Stanton laugh and talk about having his home-run streak stopped Wednesday at six straight games.
“I ain’t gonna hit a homer 45 games straight,” he said.
And it’s not quite the fun topic like him wanting to catch former Yankee and Marlins manager Don Mattingly’s record of eight consecutive games with a home run.
“That would’ve been cool to mess with him a little bit,” Stanton said.
There are even other debates you can have. If Stanton hits 60 home runs, where would it rank in South Florida sports? Better than Dan Marino’s 48 touchdowns in 1984? Pavel Bure’s 59 goals?
But this discussion of home runs and history is what’s landed at Stanton’s locker now. He has 44 home runs. With 43 games left, he’s on course to hit 60 home runs. It doesn’t mean he will, of course. And he doesn’t even want to touch that one.
“Come back when I get to 59,” he said. “I’m taking it one at a time.”
Still, as much fun as this past month has been watching him clobber home runs, imagine what the next month would be like if the Steroid Era never happened. Or if Ruth (60) and Maris (61) were considered the legit kings by PED default.
It’s fantasy, of course. But it’s clear to Stanton that the old-school numbers carry significance.
“You grow up watching (the movie) ‘(The) Sandlot,’ ” he said. “You grow up watching those films of Babe Ruth and (Mickey) Mantle and these guys and 61 always been that printed number as a kid.”
Stanton realizes his thoughts that change nothing. It’s why he repeated, again, “The record is the record.”
Bonds has the record at 73. McGwire hit 70. Sosa hit 66.
Stanton, by any realistic measure, isn’t getting to those numbers this season. The fact he’s got to 45 with more than a month to go speaks of the torrid stretch he’s on.
Still, if he gets to 62, I say to put an asterisk by his name. And have the footnote read: “In the age of drug testing.” Just to say what the number really represents.
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