Baseball is littered with relatively worthless individual accomplishments, from the cycle to the no-hitter to the unassisted triple play. One of the few that mattered was the four-homer game.
At least until now.
In case you missed it, baseball last night was witness to one of the rarest feats in the game’s considerable history: the four-home run game. This was of obvious interest to me … right up until I learned that the author of said four-homer game was none other than the immortal Scooter Gennett.
That’s right. Scooter. As in — the kind of thing that some dork rides around in Europe. We could have all kinds of fun with this, of course, starting with the notion that nobody who hits four homers in a game should ever be called Scooter. But a closer inspection reveals something far more irritating, most notably that if Scooter Gennett can hit four home runs in a game … well … anybody can.
It’s that last part that bugs me most. The four-homer game is one of the few individual, single-game achievements that I thought required some requisite, base level of talent. Take a look at the players who accomplished the feat before, beginning with the most recent, Josh Hamilton. Others have included Carlos Delgado, Rocky Colavito, Lou Gehrig, Shawn Green, Mike Schmidt and Willie Mays. I never even really quibbled with Bob Horner or Mark Whiten, the former a power-hitting third-baseman and the latter a supremely talented outfielder who had motivational and attitude issues. But talent? Oh, they all had talent, great talent, particularly in the batter’s box.
And then along came Scooter.
Quick question for you: prior to last night, how many home runs did the 27-year-old Gennett have in his career? The correct answer: 42. In 503 career games. Last season, for the Milwaukee Brewers, he hit a career-high 14 home runs. Then Gennett went out last night and homered four times against the St. Louis Cardinals — shame, shame on them — in the Cincinnati Reds’ 13-1 victory.
That’s right, Scooter plays for the Reds. Forgot to mention that. We just assumed you already knew.
Look, good for Scooter, I guess. But the individual-game accomplishments in baseball have seemingly grown more worthless over the years, for lots of reasons. Thanks to steroids, some of the longer-term accomplishments have been devalued, too. My personal favorite — and I say that sarcastically — has always been the cycle, which is nothing more than baseball Bingo. Seriously, would you rather go 4-for-4 with a single, double, triple and homer or 4-for-4 with, say, four home runs? I’d choose the latter. And I still do.
But that hardly makes me feel better about last night.
Should you have the time to do such trivial things, google the all-time lists for players who have hit for the cycle or, for that matter, thrown a no-hitter. They are wildly inconsistent lists. And that’s because both accomplishments require a great deal of luck, no matter how good a player is, because that’s just the way baseball is. Edinson Volquez can throw a no-hitter, for goodness sake, but can he throw seven of them, like Nolan Ryan did? Or even five like Sandy Koufax? Of course not. He’s just not good enough. Accomplishments like single no-hitters are fluky, almost as much about luck as skill. And so the expression holds: on any given night.
But the four-homer game? I always thought that was different. I always thought that required a certain kind of player. Now I really wonder. Ballparks have gotten smaller, and there have been whispers this season of a baseball that is juiced far more than Jose Canseco ever was. And now we have a name on the list of players with four home runs in a game that simply does not belong.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the great power hitters in the history of baseball, I think of The Babe, the Iron Horse, Hammerin’ Hank and the Say Hey Kid.
I certainly don’t think of some little twerp — with all due respect — named Scooter.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.