E-mail Dan
 Radio affiliates
 Dan's bio
 Rob's bio
 Audio highlights
December 06, 2001

Some perspective on 70
By Dan Patrick

As Barry Bonds makes his final assault on the single-season home run record, I thought it would be a good time to compare his season to Mark McGwire's in 1998 -- the year Big Mac hit 70.

Take a look at this chart:

Home Run Chase Comparison
1998/Mark McGwire 2001/Barry Bonds
Pursued record along with Sammy Sosa Alone in his chase
Previous mark set 37 years prior Previous mark set 3 years prior
Previous home run high: 58 Previous home run high: 49
Friendly, gracious Stand-offish, a tad surly
Embraced by the Maris family Not the same fervor
Not in a pennant race In a pennant race
Did not win MVP Positioned to win MVP
Credited with Sosa for "saving baseball" No talk of this
In the company of: Sosa (66), Griffey (56) In the company of: Sosa, LuGo, A-Rod, Green, Thome, Helton
Andro controversy Nothing noted
Attributed to juiced balls and small parks No mention
Overshadowed Yankees' 114 wins Similar attention as Mariners' wins
Received a lot of support from his manager Not really helped by his manager
Followed and embraced by media Not

First things first. Hitting 70 home runs is amazing and brings with it a host of added pressure to any player's regular-season responsibilities. I would not be so bold to say that one guy's 70 was more impressive or harder than the other's. Still, it's remarkable to see how the feat in 1998 compares with that of 2001. McGwire and Bonds (OK, I know he's not there yet, stay with me anyway) achieved the same feat but in almost entirely different ways.

McGwire, though he did not win the league award, was the MVP of baseball in 1998. He united the country and we all watched his last 10 home runs together. (It would have been nice for such a unifying event to happen this year.) Given the interest and related coverage, McGwire was asked at least 70 questions for each home run, not counting the seemingly endless repetitive ones. That's pressure.

In contrast, Bonds is in a pennant race. He is trying to get his team to the playoffs while keeping his eye on the record -- though he won't admit it. That's pressure, too.

While McGwire never really got enough credit for the good he did for his game (how could he?), Bonds' big home run number obscures the tremendous all-around season he is having. Bonds is also setting a personal high for walks and will end up with a historic slugging percentage. And, again, he's doing it in a pennant race.

If Bonds gets to 71 or more, it will not diminish what McGwire did in 1998. Just as McGwire and Sosa did not lessen the achievements of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris when they finally joined them in the 60 home run club.

We will continue to break down and assess Bonds' season. We will continue to compare it to McGwire's if and when Bonds gets to 70 and beyond. But I think it's best to not try to declare a winner.

Right now, only one guy knows what it's like to hit 70 in a season. That alone ought to tell you how hard it is, in any year.

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories

Dan Patrick page: 2001 archive

Dan Patrick Archive


Could the San Francisco Giants afford to lose Barry Bonds? ESPN's Peter Gammons answers.
wav: 1614 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6