MIAMI — Wryly, Clayton Kershaw noted that Monday’s topic of the day seemed to be MLB’s advertising scheme for young stars, or the league’s lack thereof.
“I’m not a marketing whiz,” Kershaw said. “I don’t really know how to do it. … Put ‘em on commercials. Wheaties boxes.”
In baseball’s cyclic (and cynical) world, Aaron Judge could revive what was essentially the greatest draw baseball has seen in the modern era: the home run.
Everyone, deep down, digs the long ball. And it’s been long enough since a real home-run chase took hold.
You can easily argue the last couple, in 1998 and 2001, weren’t actually real. But the draw they provided were.
Judge’s Home Run Derby win Monday was a minor victory for MLB. The Marlins park atmosphere was enjoyable, and Judge took a big stage.
What if he marches on?
Judge has 30 home runs through 84 games of the season (the Yankees have played 86 overall), and a chance to close in on a number that was forever sacred ground, then became desecrated, before turning quietly, once again, a reach.
Sixty will never be what it once was.
Consider, however, that a 17-year-old today knows who Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were, because they’ve seen tape and read about the scandal. The generation of baseball fans MLB wants to capture has no memory of a 60-home run season, of chasing Babe Ruth.
Our hypothetical 17-year-old would have been about 6 years old when Ryan Howard hit 58 in 2006.
Only one player has cracked 50 this decade, Chris Davis with 53. That was already four years ago.
Everyone lately has seen 101 mph fastballs and even a few 103 mph fastballs. The limits of the human arm have been tested and more regularly pushed. It’s strange, but watching Aroldis Chapman is dampened just a tad because of people like Joe Kelly. Triple digit heat is amazing, but there’s simply more of it.
Home runs are on the rise everywhere, but the individual limit isn’t exactly being pushed. Forty’s the big number these days, and Judge could get to 40 in say, early August.
The boundaries of a hitter’s power were artificially pushed nearly two decades ago. If they were to be pushed again — naturally, let’s emphasize — the frenzy would not be what it once was.
But a New York Yankee slugger making a march on 60 and 61? That’s not something that would be taken lightly.
“A lot of this stuff happens in New York,” Kershaw said of baseball’s marketing efforts. “And LA Is obviously one of the biggest markets in the game, but you don’t see it out on the East Coast.”
What individual accomplishment would compare, would be more alluring, than someone assaulting the home-run record again — this time, with a more restrained and cautious presumption that it can be believed?