It’s no secret that in an age of social distancing, working from home and keeping a six-foot distance, people are going a little bit stir crazy.
In lieu of actual baseball, the ability to tune in to games and check out box scores because the game has been put on hold by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, some of my colleagues at Sports Illustrated got together this week to get in the baseball spirit by projecting which player will, once the season resumes, hit the most home runs.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, and it’s probably even-money that everybody is wrong.
Of the six contributors to the poll – I was not one of them – there were some pretty standard answers. There was the old guard – Joey Gallo, Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz and Bryce Harper all got mentions. A pair of 22-year-olds, Eloy Jiménez and Roland Acuña Jr., were singled out, too.
To be clear, see all of these guys with great homer potential, although only two have ever won a home run title, and both of those – Cruz in 2014 and Harper in 2015 – did it half a decade ago.
It’s hard for me to see how two members of the A’s didn’t get mentioned. Two years ago, DH Khris Davis led the American League with 48 homers. True, after three straight seasons of 40 or more homers he fell off to 23 last year. But he was injured. It’s happened before and players have come back. And while Davis only hit three singles in 17 spring training at-bats, a healthy Davis could reinsert himself back into the conversation.
And then there’s first baseman Matt Olson. He missed the first five weeks of the season, but he was a destroyer after he returned, hitting 36 homers, a new career best by seven, in just 127 games.
Assuming the season resumes, will Davis or Olson win the homer title? Probably not. Only four times in half a century have the A’s won an outright MLB homer title. Jose Canseco did it twice with 42 in 1988 and 44 in 1991, McGwire did it once with 52 in 1998 and Davis did it in 2018. As a rookie in 1987, McGwire did tie for the MLB lead with the Cubs’ Andre Dawson, both hitting 49.
The Oakland Coliseum isn’t the most homer-friendly place on the planet, and in the last 24 years, only Davis has won the MLB title.
So, the odds aren’t necessarily in their favor. Even so, you would think Davis and Olson would need to be in the conversation once the season starts and for ever how long it lasts.
And lest you think I’m being too A’s-centric, I’d point out someone else who wasn’t mentioned in the conversation – Pete Alonso of the Mets, whose 53 homers last year were five more than anyone else in baseball.
Well, everybody’s got an opinion.