I'm sure anyone with even the slightest interest in baseball is aware of the headline-grabbing milestone this past week by a phenomenal, 20-year veteran player. An accomplishment which may well never be equalled again.
Of course, I'm referring to the 300th career win by pitcher Tom Glavine of the New York Mets.
And oh yes, there was a home run barrier or two broken; Barry Bonds hitting his 756th to capture the career record held by Hank Aaron for the past 33 years, and Alex Rodriguez entering the once-exclusive 500+ homer club.
I won't comment much on Bonds' achievement, since there is little I could say that hasn't been repeated in every possible permutation these last few weeks by numerous sports commentators. It's obvious to me that Bonds is a great player, and just as obvious that his "alleged" use of steroids in past years was at least one factor in his ability to set this record. How you harmonize those two disjoint facts is up to you, but you can't in all fairness ignore either. 'Nuff said.
I remember like yesterday that thrilling day in 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his 715th homer, taking the record from Babe Ruth, since this occurred in the timeframe when I was just growing an interest in baseball myself. Aaron had his own detractors, some baseball purists who felt no modern player should be compared with those of past eras, others simply small-minded racists uncomfortable with a black man capturing a record in a sport from which they had been altogether banned less than a generation earlier. And I recall the pundits - marveling at Aaron's achievement and perhaps trying to bolster it in the face of those very detractors - rattling off other records that they felt would be nearly unbreakable.
Invariably, nearly all those listed related to hitting: Ty Cobb's 4191 career hits and 2245 runs, Lou Gehrig's 2130 consecutive games, Roger Maris's 61 single-season homers, Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Well, since then, all but the last have already been overtaken, three times for the seasonal home run record. And I am quite sure that Dimaggio's streak will one day be beaten as well - much as that will cause a pang for this devout Yankee fan. Just as I have no doubt whatsoever that Bonds' tenure as the career home run record-holder will be over within the decade. He will be surpassed, quite likely by someone playing the game already - perhaps even A-Rod himself.
The one baseball record which, I would stake my blog, will stand for all time - and which gets back to my opening statement about Glavine - is career wins by a pitcher. This record shall forevermore be owned by the man whose very name is now synonymous with pitching excellence: Cy Young, with an unbelievable 511 victories. To put this in perspective, that's an average of over 20 wins a season, year after year, for a quarter century. To put it further in perspective, the 2nd-most winning pitcher, Walter Johnson, has almost 100 fewer wins than Young, and the 3rd-place pitcher is another 40+ behind him, well down in the 300s. Of active pitchers besides Glavine, only the rapidly deteriorating Randy Johnson is even close to 300, with 400, let alone 500, unthinkably out of reach. For anybody, ever.
Back in the day, a starting pitcher being yanked for a reliever was considered shameful... sort of like being on that other kind of "relief", as it was called then. But in today's era of middle inning relievers, setup men, and closers, when even the best pitchers rarely finish a game, 500 career wins by a pitcher is about as unrealistic as a perfect 162-win season by a team - perhaps more so.
Let's just say that Cy Young can rest easy. There is no chance that his record will ever be overtaken, or the award that immortalizes him renamed.