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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

May 7, 2010 at 9:17 AM

You want Mariner excitement? M’s on pace to challenge Ruth, Maris home-run standards!

baberuth.jpg

Hold on to your hats, Mariner fans. It could get pretty crazy this summer.

I’ve crunched some numbers, and it turns out the M’s are headed toward some lofty company when it comes to knocking the ball out of the ballpark. I’m sure you sensed that something special was going on in the power department this season, but I’ll bet you didn’t know how special.

If they keep up their current pace, the M’s will enter September with a chance to take aim at the greatest home-run hitters of all-time. It’s only a matter of time before the national media catches wind of this potentially historic homer chase, of course, and then Safeco Field could well be the focus of the baseball world as the season winds down.

It’s only May 7, but the Mariners have already blasted 10 dingers through 28 games. That puts them on pace for 57.8 for a 162-game season, which I’ll round up to 58. And that would put the Mariners on a par with such power legends as Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Mark McGwire, not to mention current Phillies’ star Ryan Howard.

And if they can get hit 58 homers, there’s absolutely no reason they can’t really catch fire and reach 60, or — dare I even say it? — 70. And that’s when Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds will start to get a little nervous.

Here are the single-season home run leaders:

1, Barry Bonds, Giants, 73 (2001)

2, Mark McGwire, Cardinals, 70 (1998)

3, Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 66 (1998)

4, Mark McGwire, Cardinals, 65 (1999)

5, Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 64 (2001)

6, Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 63 (1999)

7, Roger Maris, Yankees, 61 (1961)

8, Babe Ruth, Yankees, 60 (1927)

9, Babe Ruth, Yankees, 59 (1921)

10, Jimmie Foxx, A’s, 58 (1932)

10, Hank Greenberg, Tigers, 58 (1938)

10, Ryan Howard, Phillies, 58 (2006)

10, Mark McGwire, A’s/Cards, 58 (1997)

10,*Seattle Mariners, 58 (2010)*

14, Luis Gonzalez, D’backs, 57 (2001)

14, Alex Rodriguez, Rangers, 57 (2002)

16, Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners, 56 (1998)

16, Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners, 56 (1997)

16, Hack Wilson, Cubs, 56 (1930)

*Projected total

Of course, Ken Griffey Jr. has to have some mixed emotions right now. I’m sure he’s pulling for his current team, but it would have to be bittersweet to see his team record of 56 homers shattered. Oh, well, that’s baseball.

You might notice that the Top 6 home-run seasons were attained by three players — Bonds, McGwire and Sammy Sosa — who have been suspected of, or admitted to, using performance-enhancing drugs. Many people staunchly believe that Maris is still the legitimate record holder. If you fall into that camp, then the Mariners’ magic number will be 62 — the same number that hitters targeted for 37 years, from 1961 until McGwire hit 70 in 1998.

In the wake of more stringent drug testing, power totals have diminished markedly. Since 2002, there have been only five 50-homer seasons: Howard’s 58 in 2006, 54 by David Ortiz in 2006 and Alex Rodriguez in 2007, 51 by Andruw Jones in 2005, and 50 by Prince Fielder in 2007.

It’s still early, of course, and torrid home-run paces in May could fizzle by July. But I just have a sense that this isn’t a flukey 10 homers by the Mariners. Call me a homer, but I think they’re for real. I see no reason they can’t keep up this pace all year. Not to get your hopes up, but Babe Ruth didn’t hit his 10th homer in 1927 until the Yankees’ 33rd game, so the M’s are already five games ahead of his 60-homer season. In 1961, Maris didn’t his his 10th homer until Game No. 40.

The way it’s looking, this could be a throwback season in which the Mariners are joined in the Home Run Race by the likes of Paul Konerko (12), Ty Wiggington (10), Andre Ethier (10) and Kelly Johnson (10).

Fasten your seat belts. It should be a wild ride.

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