HOW LONG IT'S STOOD:
Since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941
CLOSEST CALL SINCE:
.394, by Tony Gwynn in 1994
OK, we know what you're thinking: This isn't a record. Well, it's true. It isn't, technically. So we plead guilty. But let's consider the "actual" records.
Hugh Duffy hit .440 in 1894. That's the all-time record. Nap Lajoie batted .426 in 1901. That's the "modern" record. Rogers Hornsby hit .424 in 1924. That's the live-ball record. And nobody has gotten to .400 since Williams, who did it in Franklin D. Roosevelt's third term.
Has anything in baseball changed since then? Not much -- except for light bulbs, six expansions, globalization, and the invention of closers, televisions, computers and a little contraption called an airplane. In other words, everything has changed, except the shape of the ball.
So admit it. Don't we need to reshape the definition of "modern" records? Of course we do. And as we ponder how to do that, we've been convinced by our panelists that under any definition of what constitutes "modern" baseball, a .400 average represents some kind of record, even though technically, it's only a magic number.
But it's that magic we're looking for in the first place. And the buzz over a pursuit of .400 would blow away the pursuit of just about any record. If somebody wants to take a run at Ted and .406, even better.
"I think that the chase for .400 would out-buzz everything else on your list," says Keith Law, the Blue Jays' special assistant to the GM. "It's a day-in, day-out thing, and its only conclusion is the end of the season (not a single 0-fer), so it can stay in the news long enough to build interest. I would love for someone to chase it, because it would bring a lot of positive press to the game."
Again, we'll explore this issue in more detail down the road. In the meantime, if you want to get technical on us, we could live with listing .406 as The Record, or even .394. But in reality, it's that number, .400, that would start a million hearts thumping. So for now, we'll lay that one out there and figure out the details later.
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