In the past few years baseball has seen a sharp increase in the number of home runs hit. Either pitchers are starting to suck, or batters are learning to hit the ball better. Or steroid use is making players bulkier. Regardless what the cause, the ball is flying out of the ball park. And yet, no matter how many home runs are hit, isn’t baseball about winning games?
Last night the Phillies played the Diamondbacks at Arizona. Jim Thome lifted two home runs and Pat Burrell hit one. Three home runs for the Phillies. And yet, the only thing that matters in the end is how the Diamonbacks won 6 to 5 in extra innings. Sure, next year on Thome’s baseball card those 2 home runs will look really swell. Maybe those 2 home runs will enable him to reach the honorable 50 home runs in a season mark. But in the end, the Phillies lost the game. So if hitting 3 home runs in a game doesn’t guarentee success, why are they so coveted?
Smart base running and a timely sacrifice fly ball can do more to win a game than a random home run here and there. Yet, it’s still the home run, in the end, that gets all the focus. After the Phillies lost last night, fans like me cry for a few minutes because of the heartbreaking loss. Then spend an hour watching the home run replays on tv or the internet.
But then, on the other side, home runs can win ball games. Because there are more factors in winning than just the end score. Two nights ago when Philly faced the Diamondbacks the baseball was jumping out of the park again. In the first inning it took just one quick swing of the bat from Matt Williams to send a ball over the fence. And instead of just being a calm one run homer, it was a nasty grand slam. In the blink of an eye the score went from a do-able zero/zero to an intimidating 4-nothing. Other than the end score (10-1) that home run damaged the Phillie’s confidence so that they never had a chance to get back in the game. They were already beat.
So while home runs are just one way to score, with the on-paper effect in the win-loss column, they can deal major psychological blows to the opposition. But should that give home runs a legendary, god-like status? Logically, no. However, the backbone of baseball is the fans. And most fans want action. Without the tackles of football or the blood of hockey, baseball needs it’s own spice and home runs deliver that charge of energy.
Just remember that all the home runs in the world will not buy a win. But they will help find them.