Chris Davis is having himself one heck of a season. The Baltimore Orioles first baseman already has 37 home runs, and it’s only the All-Star break.
His 37 home runs put him in elite company, as he is now tied with Mark McGwire and Reggie Jackson with the second-most homers at the break in MLB history. The only player to hit more home runs than “Crush Davis” before the break was Barry Bonds, with 39 in 2001.
Of course, Bonds would go on to set the single-season home run record with 73 that year, which means that Davis isn’t too far off from becoming the new all-time leader himself.
However, Bonds’ record has since been tainted due to alleged steroid use, which has led many to say that he is not deserving of his crown. The same goes for McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who are the only other players to hit more than 61 home runs in a season in their careers. McGwire did it twice — 70 homers in 1998 and 65 in 1999 — while Sosa did it three times — 66 homers in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001.
If Davis is going to set a new record, though, he will have to hit more than 73 home runs, not 61, which was the former record set by Roger Maris decades before the Steroid Era cast a dark cloud around the sport of baseball.
Why is this the case? Well, records aren’t free to interpretation. Either they exist or they don’t, and MLB can’t go back retroactively and pretend like 2001 or 1998 never happened. The fact is that Bonds hit more home runs in a single season than any other MLB player to ever live, and the league agrees. When you look at baseball’s record books, Bonds is still viewed as the single-season and all-time home run record-holder, with 73 and 762, respectively. If it makes you feel better, you can put an asterisk next to it, but you can’t take it away completely.
That’s because records aren’t subjective like, for example, the Hall of Fame voting process. If you don’t think that a cheater deserves to have a plaque in Cooperstown, then you don’t have to vote for them. But, their numbers still exist.
Let’s not forget that Maris’ record was seen as illegitimate at the time by many baseball fans, too. He hit 61 homers over the course of 162 games, while Babe Ruth, who was the first to reach 60 dingers, did it in only 154 games. This was seen as a big controversy at the time, but that wasn’t Maris’ fault, either. He wasn’t the one who changed the rules — he just played the game. The record book doesn’t see a difference between 154 or 162 games or what substances you may have taken. It simply adds up your home runs and places you where you belong without any bias.
Davis doesn’t seem to agree, though. When he was asked what he thinks is the home run record, he went with 61.
“It was obviously disheartening to find out down the road what came about in [the Steroid Era], but in my opinion, 61 is the record, and I think most fans agree with me about that,” Davis said.
Yes, many fans do agree with Davis’ assertion that 61 is the “natural” or “legitimate” record, because they were hurt more than anyone else by the Steroid Era. Children grew up idolizing players like McGwire and Bonds, and adults respected their accomplishments only to find out that they were cheating the whole time. And now, everyone sees the first player who isn’t linked to steroids and has a real shot at breaking the record, so they cling to hope that Davis could be that guy.
Davis could be that guy, but he is projected to hit 62 home runs for the season, which would put him well out of reach of Bonds’ record.
But fear not, “Crush Davis” — you can still hit more than 61, which would be an American League record.
However, Bonds is still the true home run record holder, and that’s who Davis needs to surpass to be crowned the new king.