Heirs to the throne? (cont.)
Posted: Saturday August 4, 2007 10:39PM; Updated: Saturday August 4, 2007 10:39PM
9. Ken Griffey Jr.
Top Comparables: Dave Parker, Andre Dawson, Eddie Murray, Fred Lynn, McGriff.
Griffey has rehabilitated his image as one of the all-time greats with a fine season, but he hasn't hit 40 home runs in a season since 2000, and he'd need several such seasons to make a serious run at Bonds or Aaron. Perhaps my least favorite question is whether Griffey, now 37, would pose a more serious threat at the record if he'd never been injured. Although the answer to that question is obviously "yes," you can construct a similar contingency for just about any player in history. How many more home runs would Babe Ruth have hit if the Red Sox hadn't fiddled around with him as a pitcher? How many longballs have the swirling winds of San Francisco robbed from Bonds? Would everyone be chasing Josh Gibson if baseball had integrated sooner?
8. Ryan Howard
Top Comparables: Travis Hafner, Jim Gentile, Mike Epstein, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn.
Howard is the guy you want up there if your life depends on getting a home run in the next at-bat -- unless the opposing pitcher is a lefty. But he's doomed by the late start to his big league career, and players who are this big and cumbersome (think Vaughn) tend not to age well into their 30s -- the late-starting Howard is already 27. Howard does have one or two comps that are going berserk for him, giving him some trivial chance of challenging the record, but we'd have to be talking about something unprecedented like his averaging 50 home runs per year over his next 10 seasons.
7. Andruw Jones
Top Comparables: Griffey Jr., Sosa, Johnny Bench, Dale Murphy, Tom Brunansky.
Jones was a serious sleeper candidate for 755 heading into the year, having cracked the big league lineup as a teenager and staying healthy ever since. But look what's happened now ... not only does he suffer the indignity of drawing Brunansky as a comparable, but we also have the precedent of Murphy, another once-great Braves center fielder who fell off a cliff in his early 30s. That's not to say that Jones, 30, is done, but the record chase does not permit much margin for error.
6. Miguel Cabrera
Top Comparables: Ron Santo, Murray, Alex Rodriguez, Del Ennis, Frank Robinson.
Cabrera's comparables tell an interesting story: He could be an early-peak guy like Ennis, a merely good player like Santo, a slow-and-steady force along the lines of Murray, or an all-time great like A-Rod or Robinson. The longball isn't Cabrera's only strength -- he nearly won the NL batting title last season -- but only about two dozen players in history had more home runs at a comparable age.
5. Manny Ramirez
Top Comparables: Robinson, Sosa, Mantle, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield.
I was mildly surprised to see Manny here, but he's always been a player who manages to be both over-hyped and overlooked at the same time. For record-chasing purposes, he would actually be helped by moving out of Boston. Although the Green Monster turns routine flyballs into doubles, the problem is that it does the same thing with potential home runs.
4. Adam Dunn
Top Comparables: Troy Glaus, Mark McGwire, John Mayberry, Jose Canseco, Harmon Killebrew.
Depending on who you talk to, Dunn is either one of the most overrated or the most underrated players in the game. What's more certain is he's surprisingly well positioned to make a run at the record books. Dunn broke into the big leagues relatively early, he's hit for power in good times and bad, and he's stayed healthy, playing in all but seven of his team's games in the past four seasons. One disadvantage is he'll probably be hitting about .210 by the time he hits his early 30s. He could have trouble finding a sympathetic GM at that stage, especially if Billy Beane has moved on to soccer or NASCAR.