Its doors have been opened to only 20 sluggers in baseball history. However, this season, as many as five players may hit their 500th homer.
Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas is the closest as he has
487 while Chicago White Sox DH Jim Thome has 472, Boston Red Sox left
fielder Manny Ramirez has 470, New York Yankees third baseman Alex
Rodriguez has 464, and Detroit Tigers DH Gary Sheffield has 455.
However, two questions arise when it comes to the 500-homer club: do all
the recent additions cheapen the honor, and is it tainted because of the
steroid allegations that have swirled around the game in recent years?
Thome certainly doesn’t think so and looks forward to reaching the
milestone at some point this season.
“You understand how hard the work is to get where you’re at,” Thome told
the Chicago Tribune. “It’s not easy. It’s definitely kind of neat. What’s
neat is the guys mentioned and the guys in that club. You know what good
players they are. To be that close to an elite club like that is an honor
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko says there is no question that Thome
will be remembered as a legitimate power hitter who did not cheat.
“Jimmy’s reputation around the league when he came here (last season in a
trade from Philadelphia) was that there was nothing bad about him, that
he was the best teammate, a great guy,” Konerko said. “A lot of
times you hear that stuff about guys, and you get let down when you play
with them. He’s better than advertised.”
PECOTA advises the White Sox not to make too many grand plans for
a 500 celebration this season, as it projects Thome to hit only 25 home
runs in 2007. That would leave him three short–but PECOTA projects him to
hit 34 homers next season.
PECOTA has Thomas and Ramirez joining the club this year with projections
of 34 homers for Thomas and 33 for Ramirez. However, PECOTA expects
Alex Rodriguez, like Thome, to come up just short this year with 34 homers, two
shy of 500.
Finally, PECOTA doesn’t like Sheffield’s chance of ever hitting the 45
homers needed for 500. It projects him for 11 this season, followed by
eight, nine and seven before being out of baseball in 2011 when he would
finish his career at 490.
Most baseball people believe they mean little in predicting regular-season
performance. John Dewan, founder of STATS, Inc. has found that a
spike in slugging percentage during exhibition play can be an indicator
for a potential breakout seasons by hitters.
Yet it still is jarring to see St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert
Pujols hitting just .263 with no home runs in 57 at bats going into the
final week of spring training. After all, he has hit .332/.419/.629 in his
“I don’t look at the statistics,” Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I look at quality at-bats and the balls I’ve hit hard.”
“Obviously, I don’t feel good what I’m hitting. I don’t feel I’m where I
want to be. But I’m happy the way I’m swinging the bat because I’m driving
the ball the other way when they’re pitching me away. I’m staying back on
the off-speed pitches.”
Pujols has generally had productive springs. He has batted over .400 twice and .300 twice in the last five exhibition seasons and hit six homers twice in that span.
“It’s always great to be over .300 because it gives you a little
confidence in yourself,” Pujols said. “The results could have been better.
I know I could have had a couple of more hits here and there and there
were a couple of balls that the wind has brought back. I could have been
hitting .450 or .400.
“Now, if I’m like this at the end of April, then I worry about it. And,
even in April, I won’t worry about it because it’s a long season.”
A special instructor in the Mets‘ camp this spring, Henderson suggested
earlier in the month that New York shortstop Jose Reyes could be the man
to break his single-season record of 130 steals set in 1982 with Oakland.
Now, Henderson wants Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran to run more often.
“He needs to be aggressive,” Henderson told the Newark Star-Ledger. “His
percentage is real great. I think he just doesn’t run enough. He has to
put it in his mind when he gets out there, ‘If I get a good jump, just
Beltran has been successful on 227 of his 259 career steal attempts. The
.876 percentage is the best in history among players with 200 tries.
“I want to steal more bases,” Beltran said. “But it’s not about me trying
to go out there and steal every single base. It’s about when I have the
opportunity to help the team, I would like to steal more. It’s as basic as
“I don’t want to go out there and steal bases just because I want to steal
50 bases and get thrown out 30 times.”
Henderson, who had an .808 success rate on 1,406 of 1,741, has a different
way of thinking.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you get thrown out,” Henderson said. “A
lot of times, when you steal a base, you’re going to score a run. And the
most important thing is how many times we can come across that plate and give the team an opportunity to win a ballgame.”
have gone for extra base during his six-year career. He has 198 home runs,
151 doubles, six triples and 340 singles.
However, Dunn says he has a new role model this year
“I’m going to be Ichiro,” Dunn told the Dayton Daily News, referring to
the Seattle Mariners superstar center fielder. “I’m going to have 216
hits, 177 of them singles, six homers and steal 77 bags.”
Dunn is exaggerating but has spent the majority of spring training working
on hitting the ball up the middle and to the opposite field in an effort
to improve upon his .234 batting averages of last season. While Dunn has
never been a high average hitter, with a .245 lifetime mark, he has made up
for it with a .380 OBP and .513 slugging percentage.
Reds General Manager Wayne Krivsky enjoys watching Dunn’s new approach.
“I love seeing those singles and the ball going to all fields,” Krivsky
said. “He’s positive about it, too. I hope he stays positive because
sometimes he is his own toughest critic.”
Dunn wants to be known as a complete hitter and has spent hours with new
Reds hitting coach Brook Jacoby throughout spring training in an attempt
to make it work.
“I know I’m a good hitter because I’ve done it before,” Dunn said. “It’s
down inside of me somewhere and I’m going to get it out of there.”
hyped as much as any in the game.
The Rangers traded Danks to the White Sox for Brandon
McCarthy over the winter. Diamond underwent reconstructive elbow surgery
March 20 and will miss the entire season.
Just how bad is that?
According to research by the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant, of the 3,019
pitchers who have started at least 10 games since 1900, the only one with
a higher ERA is Hayden Penn, who has gone 3-6 with a 9.31 ERA in 14 starts
for the Baltimore Orioles over the past two seasons.
The all-time worst pitcher in that category was Charlie Strecher, who went
0-10 with a 10.32 ERA in 10 starts for the 1890 Philadelphia Athletics.
Rounding out the bottom five are two modern-day pitchers: Andy Larkin, who
was 3-11, 8.86 in 39 games, 15 starts, for the Florida Marlins (1996-98),
Cincinnati (2000) and Kansas City (2000); and Eric Ludwick, who was 2-10,
8.35 in 35 games, 12 starts, for St. Louis (1996-97), the Oakland
Athletics (1997), Florida (1998) and Toronto (1999).
$3.6 million salary…Texas continues to look for a backup catcher and has
targeted the Los Angeles Angels‘ Jose Molina and Philadelphia’s Chris
Coste and Carlos Ruiz in trade talks. The Phillies could be a partner as
they need relief help and the Rangers would consider dealing Rick Bauer,
Scott Feldman or Wes Littleton…San Diego could release infielder Todd
Walker after losing to him in a salary arbitration hearing last month. If
the Padres cut Walker by Friday, they would only have to pay one-fourth of
his $3.9 million salary in severance pay, which works out to $975,000… Pittsburgh, apparently not entirely convinced that Salomon Torres can step up from set-up man to closer, has been scouting San Francisco’s Armando
Benitez for a possible trade.