Professional baseball has been dealing with its dirty secret of performance enhancing drugs for what feels like eternity, leaving behind an inescapable shadow.
Perhaps no player is more important in this discussion than Barry Bonds, who is either Mr. Home Run or Mr. Run Home Because He Was Juiced depending on who you talk to. Bonds owns both the all-time record (762 home runs) and single-season record (73), but depending on who you ask, those records are either rock solid or deserving of an asterisk.
Enter Giancarlo Stanton, MLB’s current home run king. Stanton leads the majors with 44 dingers, on track to hit 60 balls out of the park. That would put him in line to flirt with at least 61 home runs, the “old” record once held by Roger Maris.
Some still consider Maris’ record as the holy grail, despite Mark McGwire (70), Sammy Sosa (66) and Bonds (73) crushing it. The problem? All three men have been tainted by steroids scandals, leaving Maris with some room for a legitimate claim to the record.
“Considering some things, I do, but at the same time it doesn’t matter. The record is the record. But, personally, I do [think 61 is the record],” Stanton said when asked if he feels Maris’ 61 is still the record to beat, reports Dave Hyde of the Miami Sun Sentinel.
“You grow up watching ‘Sandlot.’ You grow up watching those films of Babe Ruth and [Mickey] Mantle and these guys and 61 always been that printed number as a kid,” Stanton said, before backing up to repeat the fact that the record in the books, belonging to Bonds, is still the record.
There’s still significance in Stanton making a charge at 61, a historical number of home runs that still holds weight to baseball fans. Even those who acknowledge Bonds’ 73 would agree that Maris’ 61 is a huge milestone, and there is some importance to it being reached or even passed by a player that has absolutely no history with PED use.
If Stanton does break Maris’ record it will surely be celebrated, but ultimately it will not be the record. Bonds’ 73 is set to stand at the top for the foreseeable future, and while steroid use may have juiced his performance, there was more to Bonds’ ability to crush baseballs than that.
Stanton is in a win-win situation, though. If he reaches the 61 he’ll be celebrated, and even if he doesn’t come close to Bonds’ 73 it’s not going to matter.