Monday 2 July 2012

June 18th and June 29th, 2012

Baseball loves its records. We, the fans, are always exposed to a new record from Elias Sports Bureau (all those records in one desk!), or Stats Inc., or the local TV stats guy with google and a bunch of spare time on his hands. Records, were, at one time, pure things. For example, most home runs hit in one season. Ever. Period. When Babe Ruth hit 60 homers, that was a simple, pure record.

Not a lot of games had been played, so it was relatively easy to do something for the first time ever. Most hits in a season, most errors. First pitcher to throw 2 no-hitters, first hitter to get 6 hits in a game. As time has gone on, a whole lot of games have been played. It has become harder to set the definitive record. For example, Jose Bautista was having a very good month in June. He set a record for home runs in a month. He hit fourteen. Fourteen is a lot of home runs in one month. It is more home runs than any Blue Jay has ever hit in a month, and that makes it a record. It is not, however, the most home runs hit in the American League in one month. That record would be fifteen, held jointly by Babe Ruth, Bob Johnson and Roger Maris. It is also nowhere near the Major League record for homers in a month. Sammy Sosa had the discourtesy to hit twenty home runs in June of 1998, which means you will hear a lot about Ruth, Johnson, and Maris, and then a whole lot about Sosa, before you ever hear about anybody setting the record for homers in the month of June. In a way, I feel bad for Bautista, but it should be hard to have the best home run hitting month in history, and it is.

Which is why it's totally worth talking about this guy and what he did in the past week an a half.
Lying down on the job? Not exactly.
For those of you not familiar with the face, that's Aaron Hill, current Arizona Diamondbacks (and former Blue Jays) second baseman. He made himself a piece of baseball lore on June 29th 2012. He had a four hit game, and did something that is very unusual for a hitter. By collecting a single, double, triple, and home run, he did what is called 'hitting for the cycle'.

It isn't easy to hit for the cycle. It certainly doesn't represent the best night a batter can have, as I'm sure all of the players who have hit four home runs in one night will tell you. The funny thing about the cycle is that nobody is trying to do it. A hitter who has a homer and a triple in his first 2 at-bats can't stop at second base if he hits another homer. Hitters aren't really able to stretch a hard single into a double, even if they have the other three elements of the cycle already covered. So, the cycle is a curiosity, but stll requires the tools to hit the ball hard, and have good speed on the bases. Even the best hitters are at the mercy of Lady Luck when it comes to the cycle. Still, it is significant for its rarity.

As an example of the rarity of the cycle, I present the following: my favourite franchise is the Toronto Blue Jays. They have a 35 year history. They have played 5,267 games. Blue Jay players have hit for the cycle twice. That's once very 2633.5 games. Quite the wait if you wanted to see both. In all of MLB, the fraternity of cycle hitters has 246 members. Which, considering the number of plate appearances in baseball history, is a select group indeed.

Aaron Hill has hit for the cycle twice in his career, which represents some very intense negotiations with Lady Luck. Several players have hit for the cycle multiple times. This smaller brotherhood contains only 19 names, including Mr. Hill. He stands alone in one regard, however. He took only an 11 day pause between his two hit-for-the-cycle games. Since modern baseball began in 1901, with the American and National Leagues playing parrellel seasons, nobody has ever put their first and second cycle so close together.

When he retires, Hill can tell his kids that, yes, he does hold an all-time baseball record. He is the player who hit for the cycle twice, and took the shortest ever break between the two times he did it.

I think, in a watered down game, where we get told a team hasn't hit back to back homers "since 2010" ,(wow, 2 years, that's soooo rare), it's good to have a little of the wonder put back into things by a player doing something that has never been done before.

Baseball, you never know what you might see next.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see Aaron Hill doing well again, good guy and the change has done him good