June 03, 2008
Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the issue that has lately been creating some confusion.
Just how many homers does Chase Utley have to hit to own the record for most in a season by a second baseman?
If you've been reading the AP reports during Utley's current run to 21 HR, you'll see that it notes he has to hit 42 homers to tie both Rogers Hornsby (1922) and Davey Johnson (1973).
But as many have pointed out — and at least one newspaper corrected — Johnson actually hit 43 round trippers in '73, which would make him the sole single-season HR champ for 2B.
Why the mixup? Well, if you look at Johnson's home run log for '73, you'll see that he did hit 43 homers for the Braves that season. However, visiting the box score for the June 17 game against the Cubs shows that Johnson entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter for Sonny Jackson and responded with a three-run shot that gave Atlanta the lead.
But even though Johnson stayed in the game as a second baseman, the HR apparently counts at a pinch-hit, which is reflected in both the AP and the records at Baseball Almanac. (I'd try to doublecheck that at MLB.com, but the site keeps crashing my browser ... help?)
Of course, it seems like a tiny nit to pick and some sites have Johnson's 43 listed as the number to beat. Personally, I think 43 should be the official number since Johnson didn't start anywhere but 2B in '73.
But I also think that Chase Utley is going to power past either number, making the whole issue a moot point, anyway. As it stands, he's on pace for 58, though we can't be sure that number won't be reached with at least one pinchy.