Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Last Known Address

A transaction listed in the local paper caught my eye the other day. It referred to a ballplayer as “most recently with” such-and-such a team.

A few days later Eric Milton, most recently with the Phillies, signed a $25 million, three-year deal with Cincinnati, underscoring once again that money, not winning, is the primary reason free agents move on. All along Milton, who is 29, professed determination to sign only with a club that had a real shot at a title. So naturally he signed with Cincinnati, who will be hard-pressed to come in fourth in its own division. The Reds, by the way, will be Milton’s third club in three years, and he may not be done traveling. Apparently an unusual clause in his contract allows him to escape in the third year if the club isn’t winning to his satisfaction.

Readers of this blog are familiar with my lament that free agency in its current state is inexorably undermining fan loyalty by continually turning over personnel. Mine is admittedly an emotional response with two simple questions at its core: how does one root for a team when its roster is churned from year-to-year and how can clubs with limited resources compete with the wealthy teams to sign let alone keep their stars?

Statistics on fan loyalty may not bear me out…yet. MLB set an overall attendance record last year with the average pushing past the magic 30,000 figure per game. Baseball’s popularity clearly seems to have rebounded from the disastrous strike year of 1994, but new stadiums in many cities have had something to do with these totals and such novelty wears off in short order and the on-field product must produce. The guess here is that eventually more and more fans will tire of the endless turnover and the inability of a majority of small-market clubs to compete for high-priced talent and thus a championship. Only in the few places where there are winners will the fans tolerate wholesale change; and even in those cities their loyalty can be fickle.

Fans of the Angels, Marlins, Diamondback, Yankees and Red Sox would overwhelmingly disagree with me that turnover is detrimental. But for Arizona and Florida, whose financial conditions are precarious at best, their championships have been a Faustian bargain more often than not. Generally, the rental of free agents or soon-to-be ones in order to bring home a championship has resulted in the demise of the winners within one or two seasons and a concomitant decline in attendance. The Marlins have ridden the steepest roller coaster having succeeded in winning two championships in six years only to see many of the players responsible for their success take a hike or be let go. In between those titles, the Marlins finished out of the playoffs altogether and saw their attendance decline dramatically. Miami cannot even work out a new stadium deal and has been forced to share woefully inadequate Pro Players’ Stadium with the Dolphins for years. Recently, the Marlins were told they will be evicted from that venue after 2010. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the moving vans kept right on going all the way to Las Vegas.

Arizona went from a World Series title in 2001 to one of the worst seasons in major league history within three years as its fiscally reckless ownership drove the team literally to the brink of insolvency. So what happened next? They let players go, traded others and then, inexplicably spent big money this off-season on free agents. Randy Johnson will be sure to go if for no other reason than management’s need to get rid of his huge salary. It isn’t as if he can’t still pitch!

Only George Steinbrenner’s endlessly deep pockets have prevented the Yankees from suffering a decline. And school is still out on how the slightly less rich Red Sox will fare in the coming seasons as they continue to spend liberally in assembling their roster. It is hardly a coincidence that Anaheim, New York and Boston are the only teams required to pay the luxury tax this season.

Finally, legions of Oakland GM Billy Beane’s admirers should take note that while he fielded a highly competitive team for several seasons by keeping a very tight reign on expenses, he never made it to the Series. Now, in three successive seasons he has lost his MVP shortstop (via free agency) and two of his top three starters through trades, at least one of which was “forced” through impending free agency. Some have argued that Oakland’s success in recent years owed more to the pre-Beane development and drafting of these key players than to his shrewd management of finances. Now, small-market Oakland is faced with the same problems teams in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and other small market franchises confront; namely, how to pay for the talent necessary to compete with the wealthy clubs. Satellite radio deals may swell the coffers for everyone in the short term, but a longer term fix is needed to achieve more parity.

The free agency pendulum swings from charges of collusion to utter fiscal irresponsibility and back again. As long as wealth and the wielding of economic muscle determine who wins and who doesn’t, the small market teams might as well hire alchemists if they want to compete. Until then, we can expect another individual player statistic to enter baseball: last known address.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Local product Ben Davis (Malvern Prep) signed a one million dollar one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox yesterday. Davis, a 27-year old catcher, hit .207 in 68 games with Seattle and the Sox last season. His contract typifies the state of the game today when a player flirts with the Mendoza line and still signs a one million dollar contract.

* * * * * * *

The Braves are a little less formidable today than they were yesterday when outfielder J.D. Drew signed a five-year deal with the Dodgers. Drew spent a single season in Atlanta before moving on. Being a client of Steve Boras, I assume Drew rented rather than bought real estate in Georgia.

* * * * * * *

Poor Randy Johnson. He’s still a Diamondback. It’s hard enough when two teams try and negotiate a trade in the era of free agency let alone three, but that apparently was the hang-up in Johnson’s anticipated escape. At the eleventh hour the Dodgers decided they should look out for themselves rather than facilitate George Steinbrenner’s dreams. Rumors have it the Yankees are undeterred and will figure out a way to get their man. Money does that.

* * * * * * *

Quick. Who has the best team in each division in the National League? How about the American League? Don’t know. Why not? Because most of us don’t even know who is on each team any more. The dead ball era was followed by the live ball era was followed by the juiced ballplayer era was followed by the fungible team era.

Some day all players will automatically become free agents at the end of each season. Then, GM’s will gather in some warm location and stand in a circle while someone tosses a bat in the air. After someone catches it each GM will take a turn placing one hand over the other up to the nub of the bat until no one else can get a whole hand on it. Last man gripping the bat chooses first. (We will eliminate the part where someone who can still get his fingertips around the lip of the nub starts a second round.)

Instead of posting our favorite team’s upcoming schedule on the refrigerator door, we will post the team’s roster instead to remind ourselves whom precisely we are rooting for.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Left Out

Maybe it’s the GM. After all, he will never be mistaken for John Schuerholz. Perhaps it was the former manager. He had several known issues with players. Or maybe it’s the city’s exaggerated reputation as a hard-bitten town. But no one has thrown a chair here or charged into the stands. More recently it just might be the ballpark itself. Flyball pitchers beware. Or it could just be the money. In the final analysis it usually does come down to dollars and cents.

Whatever the reasons, the Phillies cannot lure a top-of-the-line starter to Philadelphia. Nor have they been able to work out a deal for one, some of whom have no-trade clauses or veto power regarding which clubs they would be willing to pitch for.

Indeed, ever since the Jim Thome signing of a few years ago the Phils have been unable to attract any marquee free agent.

In Wade’s defense, the list of free agent pitchers available this year included Pedro Martinez, whose labrum is damaged and whose ego is out of control; Carl Pavano, who has exactly one excellent year to his credit thus far; David Wells, who could break down any pitch now; Eric Milton, who was ill-suited to this park and who made it clear he didn't intend to re-sign; and a host of other mediocre hurlers.

It is on the trade front that Wade leaves much to be desired. In the past he hasn’t hesitated to trade young prospects at the July 31 deadline for second-rate pitchers such as Todd Jones. But he has made it abundantly clear he is unwilling to give up any of his top young talent for an established number one or two starter. So, the Phils stand by and watch the Tim Hudsons and Mark Mulders take up residency in other National League cities.

* * * * * *

The most surprising off-season development for the Phillies thus far was Placido Polanco’s eleventh-hour decision to accept salary arbitration. This means Polanco will likely sign a one-year contract. Where is Placido going to play? Had this decision come a week earlier, speculation that Chase Utley would be packaged in a deal for either Hudson or Mulders would have been rampant. Polanco is too good a player to be the occasional utility fill-in. More surprising is the failure of a number of teams in need of second baseman to make him an offer. He only fielded his position magnificently while hitting .298 with 17 homers and 55 RBI’s. Polanco has had injuries the last two seasons, but he returned from them showing no ill-effects.

The Phillies’ decision to offer Polanco arbitration may be part of plan to deal him later, but by that point there won’t be any pitchers of great worth available.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Rental Market

Never count the Braves out, at least not as long as GM John Schuerholz is running the show. Yesterday Atlanta acquired prized starter Tim Hudson from Oakland and in the process re-established themselves as serious contenders in the NL East. But before anyone hands the Braves their 13th straight divisional title, a few words of caution are in order.

The acquisition last week of closer Dan Kolb from Milwaukee enabled Atlanta to move closer John Smoltz back into the starting rotation, a spot he has actively lobbied for. Kolb, an All-Star selection last season, is two years removed from rotator cuff surgery. The 37 year-old Smoltz has had four surgeries himself and has not been a starter since 1999. Naturally, their continued health is crucial to Atlanta’s success.

In acquiring Kolb and Hudson the Braves have given up a lot of good young players already on their major league roster including Eli Marrero and Charles Thomas as well as several prized pitching prospects. The message is clear: the future is now. And while gaining Hudson was certainly a coup, on balance school is out as to whether or not it will compensate for the departures of Russ Ortiz, Paul Byrd and Jaret Wright and the new role for Smoltz. No matter what the conclusion, offensively the Braves appear much weaker. At a minimum they must re-sign outfielder J.D. Drew if they harbor any hopes of winning the division this year. How long Hudson remains will also likely hinge on next year’s success. He is eligible for free agency at the end 0f 2005.

Even Schuerholz has to enter the rental market every now and then

Thursday, December 16, 2004


The Nats are staying put in Washington. The current brouhaha is over money, what else?! The public trough may run deep in the District, as insiders love to call their converted swamp, but some folks want to make sure the people who own the franchise actually spend some of their own money to build a new stadium. Seems fair enough. So what’s in it for the politicians on the City Council who have taken this stand? Well, there’s political capital for one thing. And then there is construction capital, real estate capital and licensing and inspection capital. Late noises out of Las Vegas are nothing more than that. Suspension by the Nats of marketing and promotion efforts are also just ploys. Rumors that the Orioles’ Peter Angelos has somehow infiltrated the City Council should also be dismissed. MLB let alone the Expos/Nets’ players can ill afford another year or two in limbo.

* * * * * * *

Ed Wade may have convinced himself a starting rotation of Wolfe, Lieber, Myers, Padilla and Lidle can carry the Phils to a divisional title in the weakened NL East, but that quintet isn’t likely to advance the cause beyond the first round. The Phils still need a frontline starter and, as luck would have it, a few are still on the market. Is help on the way? Not unless Wade is willing to part with some youngsters including Ryan Howard and at least one pitcher from among Wolfe, Myers or Ryan Madson. Even then, he may have to sweeten the pot further if he is to entice Oakland’s Billy Beane to part with Tim Hudson. From Oakland’s standpoint, the Phillies’ youngsters represent the sort of money ball philosophy that has driven their franchise under Beane. None, except Wolfe, would cost him much money nor be near free agency, which makes the likelihood that the hurler would be either Myers or Madson that much stronger. The one sticking point, and it is a huge one, would be signing Hudson to a minimum of two to three years. No more one-year rentals.

* * * * * * *

Boston improved themselves significantly with the signing of Edgar Renteria. If they manage to sign Placido Polanco to play second base they will be extraordinarily strong up the middle. The biggest question mark at this stage is their starting rotation, which figures to lose Pedro Martinez pending his physical with the Mets and Derek Lowe, whose post-season heroics won’t redeem his otherwise mediocre season. The acquisition of old, fat, out-of-shape and ornery David Wells doesn’t impress this observer.

* * * * * * *

The Yankees have improved their starting rotation as long as Jaret Wright holds up, but there are still question marks. What are they going to do with Kevin Brown and El Duque? How much does Mike Mussina have left? They also have a number of holes in the rest of their lineup. Centerfield and first base are two spots that remain question marks and right field will be one if Gary Sheffield doesn’t fully recover from his surgery. The Yankees middle relief isn’t particularly impressive either. They are far from being a dominating lineup at this juncture.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


The Phillies may be treading water at the moment, but their divisional rivals have been taking some on.

If the Mets’ sign Pedro Martinez to a four-year contract it should come as good news to the Phils. Martinez is hardly the same pitcher he was when last seen in the National League in 1997. Moreover, the Mets are inexplicably tying up a lot of money in guaranteeing Martinez four years. Many pundits are already likening this deal to the disastrous Mo Vaughn signing of a few years ago. The one saving grace for the Mets? The deal isn’t official yet.

Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, the Braves are hardly the same club they were last year having already lost starters Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd and Russ Ortiz. John Smoltz, one of the game’s dominant closers, will return to the starting rotation which is also good news for the Phillies. Instead of the possibility of facing him twice in a four-game series, Smoltz will be limited to one appearance, albeit a long one.

Further south, in Florida, the Marlins have failed to re-sign Carl Pavano. They have, however, picked up Todd Jones from the Phillies. This can only be classified as terrific news for the Phils. Their likely chief rivals for the NL East title lose their best starting pitcher from last season (based on won-lost records) while picking up a guy who gave up 35 hits in 25.1 innings of “relief” work in Philadelphia and blew just about every save opportunity he was handed.

Along the banks of the Potomac, the Nats (catchy it ain't) are still trying to decide how to fund a new stadium, a stumbling block that some say could squelch the entire move. The likelihood of the Nats picking up and moving again is more than remote but it must be more than a little disconcerting to the good folks inside the Beltway to read stories about their new team that still refer to them as the Expos. Before the ink dries on the birth certificate it isn’t too late to change the name.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The City That Loves You Back

I see where Todd Jones ripped Phillies fans after signing with the Marlins last week, describing his brief tenure in the City of Brotherly Love this way: I just hated it. That was a very confrontational place. They [some fans] came to the game to hate on [sic] you somehow. They came looking for a fight. It's every night. It's hundreds of fans. It's ridiculous.

Bad move, Todd. Not only will you be returning to Citizens Bank Park next season with your new mates, but lest you forgot, when you warm up you will no longer be standing in the relative safety of the home team’s lower level bullpen; instead, you will find yourself in the visitors’ upper level berth, the one that is so close to the fans you adore even Phillies relievers asked that it be switched soon after the park opened. If you think the faithful were tough last season, Todd, may I suggest you take any signing bonus you might have received and invest either in some Kevlar or a suit of armor prior to your return. Earplugs would be nice, too.

* * * * * * *

Tom G. over at Balls Sticks and Stuff sent me an email noting the inside back cover of ESPN magazine shows a “screen shot” of a page from bpay [sic] that looks remarkably similar to a well-known online auction company. The search results for “free agent scott boras” yielded sixteen items found in all categories. I guess the folks at ESPN like the suggestions I made in yesterday’s post as well as this past summer.

Monday, December 13, 2004

No Reserves

Ah, free agency. Players and their agents love it. Owners and their GM’s make the most of it out of necessity. Fans must endure it.

Steve Finley is my nominee for this year’s Free Agent Poster Child. Soon to be forty years old, Finley will be playing for his third team in less than a year when he suits up for Anaheim next Spring. Traded by the Diamondbacks to LA at last year’s July 31 deadline as a player on the verge of free agency, he was essentially rented by the Dodgers for their pennant drive and then, declaring himself an official free agent, signed a two-year contract with the Angels, his sixth team in a fifteen year career.

The free movement of those players who don’t sign mega-hundred million dollar ten-year contracts, that is, the majority of players eligible for free agency, is the norm in baseball today. Two or three year stays and it’s off again to greener pastures, indoors or out. I am hardly advocating a return to indentured servitude, but I cannot help feeling this revolving door scenario undermines any feeling of continuity and connection between fans and their home teams and makes the off-season a endless series of notable dates: declaring, tendering, signing and compensating.

I still believe a better system is already in place. At the end of each season, all eligible players should list themselves on Ebay, auctioning themselves off to the highest bidder. Think of the beauty of it. No rumors. No playing one team off another. The current bid available at a click for all to see. Just two rules should apply: no reserves and the players pay the shipping

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Meanwhile, Back at the Division

While the Phillies tread water their competition in the NL East hasn’t improved much either. The difference is the Phils appear to be done altering their lineup save a minor tweak here and there while some of their divisional rivals are likely to remain very active in the market.

Atlanta may undergo its most drastic transformation in more than a decade. The Braves have already lost Jaret Wright and may very well lose Paul Byrd, Russ Ortiz and/or J.D. Drew. Look for them to sign one if not two of this trio if for no other reason than they will have to or face a devastating transformation. Still, it would be hard to bet against John Schuerholz, one of the shrewdest GM’s in the game.

The Mets haven’t improved their starting pitching pending their wooing of a few prime free agents including Pedro Martinez and Carl Pavano. The addition of Richie Sexson would solve a number of their problems including the Mike Piazza experiment at first base. The trouble is there are eight teams vying for Pavano’s services, and at least two, heck, the two, who are serious contenders for Pedro’s services. Several clubs would like to land Sexson despite the fact that the Diamondbacks offered him arbitration. The Mets could come up empty-handed, which wouldn’t bode well.

The Nationals haven’t improved much if at all. No surprise there. A team that cannot even come up with an original name for itself is hardly likely to mount much of a threat on the field.

The Marlins remain a formidable foe. Their starting pitching is already very good with Beckett, Burnett and Willis and the addition of wily veteran Al Leiter won’t hurt. They are also attempting to re-sign Carl Pavano; if they do, they will have a potent rotation. The trouble will start once they get into the late innings. The departure of Armando Benitez was a serious blow. The Marlins could also use a few position players, but they have a great nucleus in Lowell, Cabrera, Pierre and Castillo.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Older, Wiser and What?

The Phillies starting rotation appears to be set for 2005, at least in the eyes of Ed Wade. It would be fair to say it is a staff built largely on hope: that Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers find their composure; that Randy Wolf finds his fastball; that Cory Lidle keeps the ball down; and that John Lieber’s Tommy John arm holds up for the entire season.

This is not a rotation that should strike fear in opposing batters.

How the Phillies came up with a three year, $21 million contract for Lieber is beyond me. With the $20 million they saved letting Eric Milton and Kevin Millwood walk, they should have done better. There is nothing wrong with shrinking the team’s overall payroll, but not at the expense of treading water.

The Phils have not improved themselves. Indeed, they have signed two guys, Kenney Lofton and Rheal Cormier, who will be 38 years old in April and May, and Lieber, who will be 35 in April. The club has gotten older, perhaps even wiser, but not better.

Room to Improve

The complex rules and dates regarding free agency, compensation draft picks and arbitration offers have temporarily dampened signings up to now. December 7 was the most significant date in this process; having passed, expect the pace of signings to accelerate.

Teams had until midnight last night to offer their free agents arbitration. If they declined to make the offer they lost negotiating rights with them until May 1. In addition, to receive compensation for a player that signs with another team, the team must offer the player salary arbitration. Needless to say, this is a delicate balancing act, especially if a team wants to hold onto draft picks while not getting stuck with a potentially inflationary arbitration situation or worse, as was the case with the Phillies and Kevin Millwood last year.

Thus far the Phillies have re-signed two of their own free agent pitchers, Cory Lidle and Rheal Cormier. They still seek another starter and are rumored to be very interested in signing one of the following: John Lieber, Carl Pavano, David Wells, Eric Milton, Woody Williams, Al Leiter. Of this group Lieber appears to be the most likely candidate and the biggest gamble. Lieber, who will be 35 years old in April, is two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery. Last year he was 14 – 8 with the Yankees with a 4.33 ERA, both good numbers in this juiced era. The potential problems with Lieber are not only his health and durability; scouting reports indicate left-handers feast on his mediocre fastball and change-up. The Phils would do much better seeking a left-hander such as Odalis Perez; otherwise, their rotation will feature only one southpaw, Randy Wolf, who will be coming back from arm problems that shelved him at the end of last season.

It is too early to assess the Phillies’ off-season moves, but as of this date one can hardly say they have improved themselves much if at all.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Trades, Ballots and Drugs

So long, Felix, we hardly knew ya’.

The Phillies completed a trade for Kenny Lofton, sending reliever Felix Rodriguez to the Yankees. The acquisition of Lofton reunites the centerfielder with his former manager, Charlie Manuel, and temporarily addresses at least one of the Phils’ off-season needs. Lofton, who will be 38 in May, will get most of the playing time in center, sharing it presumably with Jason Michaels, who can be expected to start especially when day games follow night games. The odd man out is Marlon Byrd, whom the Phillies gave up on awfully quickly. I would expect the Phillies to try and move Byrd this off-season, but he won’t bring much in return.

* * * * * * *

This year’s Hall of Fame ballot contains the usual mix of greats, near greats and never were greats. There are certain to be many arguments over the final selections especially since a number of near greats are again listed.

Any argument against the election of Wade Boggs would be regrettable. Not only did he have a .328 career average and 3010 hits, fans are likely to forget he also won two Gold Gloves.

The more difficult choices involve Willie McGee, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Alan Trammel and Ryne Sandberg among position players and Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage and Lee Smith among pitchers.

McGee was an excellent hitter and base runner who always managed to upset defenses. Dawson, before injuries took their toll, was a feared hitter and excellent outfielder. Rice was a mediocre outfielder but one of the most feared hitters of his era. Parker had 2712 hits and 339 home runs. He also won two batting titles and three Gold Gloves, but his drug problems haven’t helped his cause. Mattingly was a superb all-around player, hitting for average and fielding superbly. Trammel was a six-time all-star and four-time Gold Glove winner who had the misfortune to play in the era of Cal Ripken. He finished his long career with 2365 hits. Sandberg was a ten-time all-star, the league MVP in 1984, a nine-time Gold Glover winner and a second baseman who had 282 home runs among his 2386 hits.

Among all these players Sandberg would appear to have the best chance to be elected based on his overall offensive and defensive superiority. Second basemen of lesser combined skills have been elected, some recently, including Bill Mazeroski. Mattingly, too, was an extraordinary all-around performer winning nine Gold Gloves to go along with a career .307 batting average. He didn’t have the power numbers often expected of a first baseman though 222 home runs and over a thousand RBI’s are nothing to sneeze at. His candidacy, now in its fifth year, may be suffering from some anti-Yankee backlash.

Blylevn and Johns won 287 and 288 games respectively while losing 250 and 231. Their ERA’s were 3.31 and 3.34. Those numbers were normally generate a lot of support, but this is Blyleven’s eight year on the ballot and Johns’ eleventh. Their winning percentages aren’t that impressive, which may be one reason their prospects don’t look good.

Sutter, Gossage and Smith were all relief specialists who helped to define the roll of closer. Each had over 300 saves (Smith is the all-time leader with 478) and each had an ERA around 3.00. Of the three, Smith would get my vote.

In conclusion, my unofficial ballot consists of Boggs, Sandberg, Mattingly and Smith.

* * * * * * *

Back in the era when the East Germans were winning all those Olympic medals rumors of doping were rife but went largely ignored and unchallenged. Finally, the Olympic Committee had enough and implemented what they believed to be stringent drug-testing policies. Critics complain the policies remain woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, athletes are tested periodically throughout each season and, more significantly, immediately following each Olympic event. Those found with illegal substances in their bodies are either banned for a certain period of time or, worse, summarily stripped of their medals and sent home in disgrace.

We may never know the extent of drug abuse in Major League Baseball up to now, especially involving steroids. The lords of baseball and the players’ union have failed to call for the kind of draconian measures found in, say, the NFL or NBA, where suspensions for use of illegal substances are fairly common. Until management and labor come to such an agreement, the court of public opinion will run strongly against them, as it has done in the aftermath of the Giambi and Bonds revelations of last week.

There is no question the home run records of Barry Bonds have been tainted, but calls that he be stripped of them or that they be accompanied by an asterisk are inappropriate and impractical. At what date should the line be drawn? His punishment, if that is the ultimate judgment here, is that his reputation, no matter how many home runs he tallies before retiring, will be tarnished.

Friday, December 03, 2004


The taint is in.

Barry Bonds has admitted using steroids, sort of. He acknowledges using a cream provided by his personal trainer but denies knowing it contained steroids. The likelihood of Bonds, as disciplined and determined a player as ever pulled on a baseball uniform, using a substance without knowing what it contained seems remote at best.

As I wrote in this space a month ago, “the popular argument is that performance-enhancing drugs may increase strength but they don’t do anything for hand-eye coordination. Less popular is the inescapable reality that hitting home runs is a combination of both.”

Bonds is unquestionably one of the game’s greatest players, but these revelations diminish his greatness somewhat. The whispers of yesterday have become the reality of today and will inevitably attach themselves to his legacy in the future.

Henry Aaron remains the greatest home run hitter of all time, final numbers notwithstanding. Aaron faced much tougher pitching consistently and hit his home runs without the aid of anything other than great eyes and strong wrists.