With five home runs in three games to start the season, Adrian Gonzalez has suddenly done what no other major-leaguer in MLB history has accomplished. Not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Roger Maris, not Mark McGwire, and not even Barry Bonds.
Kudos to him, but this is where the slugging stops, right? After all, the steroid-era is over, correct?
The 32-year-old first baseman for the Dodgers has never hit more than 40 home runs in a season (2009) and since we are firmly entrenched in the new dead-ball era, where pitching and defense are what win games, we can rule out the possibility of Gonzalez even approaching Bonds’s 73 home run mark of 2001—or McGwire’s 70, set three years earlier. Right?
McGwire’s run in that fateful summer of 1998 started with a similar bang. The former bash brother, who more resembled Paul Bunyan at the time, started the season with a similar burst to Gonzalez, hitting home runs in each of his first four games. Ten days later, he hit a trio of homers in a game against Arizona and had 11 by the end of April. And with that he was off—as was Sammy Sosa, who “only” hit six in the same month.
Of course, McGwire was coming off back-to-back 50-plus home run seasons and the excitement of someone possibly challenging Roger Maris’s 61 mark was enough to blind fans, like myself, to his ridiculously Herculean physique.
Three years later Barry Bonds, and his incredible growing head (and sudden career peek at the “prime” age of 37), started the season off with a home run in the opener. Twelve days later he began a streak of home runs in six consecutive games and seven in an eight-game span. He too had 11 by the end of the month and was well on his way to passing McGwire’s mark.
All three of the McGwire-Bonds-Sosa trio have yet to set foot in Cooperstown, despite having the numbers to do so as rumors of performance enhancing drugs use has likely tainted their numbers forever, with many calling for asterisks next to their records.
Gonzalez is only three games into the season and it’s way too soon to think anyone’s tainted records are in jeopardy. Nor is there any reason to suspect anything the standup first-baseman for the Dodgers does would turn out to be tainted. So while he likely won’t end up going on to erase Bonds’s single-season record, whatever he does achieve won’t likely make us baseball purists want to mark it with an asterisks at the end.