Terence Moore thinks that …
Wait! Come back! I just wanted to write that Terence Moore thinks that the designated hitter cheapens all of the records pertaining to home runs.
Ruth and Mays never were DHs, because that option wasn't available to them when they played.
It was for Bonds.
Bombshell. Of Bonds' 762 homers, ten were hit as a DH. This apparently means something, even when you consider that Hank Aaron, the man Bonds passed, hit 22 home runs as a DH. Moore goes down through the list, removing home runs from modern players by the dozens -- usually just a dozen or two, really -- for no real discernible reason. Well, there's no reason at first.
You can picture Moore entering "all-time home run leaders" into HotBot and somehow finding Baseball Reference. Cut to the montage of him data mining. The clicking of the mouse. The furrowing of the brow. The hastily scribbled notes. At the end of his quest, he comes to an inescapable conclusion: 80% of the players in the top-ten list for home runs played after 1973, when the rules of baseball changed. You're more than welcome to take a sip of something and spit it out for effect.
But that's not what the article's really about. What the article turns into, what it's really about, is a screed against the possibility of Alex Rodriguez finishing his career as a DH. Rodriguez has eleventy-six years left on his contract, and he's already getting shot up with his own blood to help his knee problems, so the move to DH is inevitable. That might be one of the reasons the Yankees were willing to part with Jesus Montero.
If Moore's argument is that it's gross that Alex Rodriguez will eventually have the most career home runs in history, well, that's a perfectly acceptable argument. Because it's sort of gross that Alex Rodriguez could eventually have the most career home runs in history. The idea of Barry Bonds holding the title now is gross to a lot of folks, so I'm not sure what would change. But I can get behind the argument that Alex Rodriguez is a gross weirdo who is all weird and gross.
Leave the rules of baseball out of it, though. This doesn't just apply to Moore. Please, everybody, let's sign a contract or something and move on. There was pre-DH and post-DH, pre-expansion and post-expansion, pre-162-game seasons and post-162-game seasons, pre-integration and post-integration, some hitters got to hit at Coors Field before the humidor and some didn't, some hitters got to hit in the Baker Bowl and some didn't. It would appear -- and stop me if I'm getting weird -- that baseball changes. You'll have standards, like 60 ft., six inches, but the game is always, always evolving.
My favorite example of how baseball isn't static will always be Home Run Baker, who is in the Hall of Fame. Home Run Baker led his league in home runs in each year from 1911 to 1913. This was not an ironic nickname, like calling a large man "Tiny." Home Run Baker earned his name by hitting all sorts of home runs. And in 2002, Omar Vizquel hit more home runs in a single season than Home Run Baker had ever hit in a single season.
Somehow we went from "My word! This chap hits divers home runs! S'pose he should be known henceforth as 'Home Run' Baker, eh?" to a 35-year-old, 5'9" shortstop besting that player's single-season mark by flicking his wrists. Every record needs to be taken into context. There are so many factors. In the olden days, the baseball was just a bison skull that was filled with lead and wrapped in papier-mâché. It traveled three feet when shot out of a musket. Of course statistics from back then will look different. We just have to know this and adjust for it in our minds if we choose.
And if you don't know the context -- if you have no idea that there was a pre-integration/post-integration era, or a pre-DH/post-DH era -- well, you probably shouldn't care so much about these silly things. Let the nerds hash it out. But for the people who know the context, they should know that there's too much context to ever arrive at an indisputable, ironclad set of numbers. And in this morass of the context swamp, figuring who hit a score of home runs as a DH is pretty much the smallest worry we should have.