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October 5, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Greatness

by Joe Sheehan

Superlatives are beginning to lose their meaning. Memories are being made nearly every single moment by some of the greatest players in history. Teams are battling desperately to become a great story, or to avoid becoming one. Is it possible that we're seeing the greatest week in baseball history?

Consider:

  • From a team perspective: no National League squads have clinched a postseason berth yet, this with three days to go. The top teams in the three divisions are separated by a total of six games. Great stories abound: the Giants' defiant stand in Houston, the Astros' slide from league bully to possible playoff outsider, the Cardinals' six-week run to the best record in the league, the Diamondbacks' ability to confound wiseass Internet baseball writers.

  • In the AL, even a lack of pennant races doesn't preclude a potentially bigger story than any NL team can provide. The Seattle Mariners have tied the AL record for wins, and can break the major-league record for wins by running the table against the Rangers this weekend. Doing so would enable them to set the AL mark for winning percentage as well.

    I'm the first to admit that I didn't see this coming in March, and as recently as three weeks ago I said the Mariners would fall shy of the AL mark, never mind the major-league record. Their ability to succeed down the stretch--they've lost one game to a non-A's team since September 4--while preparing for the playoffs has been remarkable. This is one of the best single-season teams in baseball history.

  • The individual stories stretch forever, starting in Baltimore and San Diego, where two enormously popular Hall of Famers, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, will end their careers in front on hometown crowds. A third Hall of Famer--if I say it enough, maybe it will become true--Tim Raines, is becoming just the second man to play major-league baseball alongside his son this week.

  • Other active Hall of Famers are having pretty good weeks as well. One, Rickey Henderson, just set the all-time record for runs scored in a career, as significant a record as there is. Henderson should get his 3,000th sometime in the next couple of days as well, at which time he'll hold three major career records (runs, walks, steals) and be a member of one of the game's more storied circles.

  • Henderson, though, isn't even the biggest story among Hall of Fame left fielders on California teams. Barry Lamar Bonds is having one of the two or three greatest seasons in baseball history. He tied the game's most significant single-season record this week with his 70th home run, setting the single-season record for walks along the way. With three games to go, Bonds has a chance to break the home-run record, the slugging percentage record, and he will be the first player to have a .500 OBP since 1957.

    He's doing all of this for a team scrambling desperately for its playoff life. Since September 1, Bonds--reviled in some quarters as a choker, MVP credentials questioned daily--is hitting .394/.590/1.000. If that's not the greatest stretch drive ever, it damn sure makes the final cut.

I've spent an inordinate amount of time gazing at my television in awe this week. It seems as if each day has brought more great baseball into my life than the day before, and I expect that to continue into the weekend. Being a baseball fan is always enjoyable, but sometimes it's rewarding in a way that stretches the limits of expression.

So I ask again: is this the greatest week in baseball history?

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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