Former home run king Hank Aaron, last seen around these parts taking a backseat to everybody's awesome grandpa Willie Mays, has gone on the record saying that the damn kids today spend much too much effort swatting home runs and not enough time focusing on the fundamentals, you see?
In an interview with the AP to promote his participation in Atlanta's upcoming Arthritis Walk, Aaron opened up on the bad habits of today's young players:
"I don't think they understand the role of what they need to be doing. I'm not saying all of them, but I think some players need to understand that they're never going to hit 50 home runs or 45 home runs [a year]. They've got to learn how to hit the ball to the opposite field and do the little things to help their ballclub win championships."
Aaron didn't directly address the hovering hullabaloo that is HGH and PEDs and whatnot, but by using the sooper-sekrit codeword "shortcut", he makes his anti-McGwirean stance known:
"No one can tell me that you can consistently hit 60 and 70 homers, because the league is not made that way. This is the big leagues and every team has the best players they can. If you hit 30 home runs, that's fine, but don't think that you will hit 70 home runs because there is no shortcut. Eventually, things are going to catch up with you."
C'mon, Hank, we know what you're getting at. You're not pissed players are trying to hit too many taters, you're ticked off they're taking "shortcuts" to do it. But that's presuming the players back in Hank's era weren't taking shortcuts too, shortcuts like greenies and uppers and goofballs and pick-me-ups. Players will ALWAYS look for shortcuts; if you told Pat Burrell he could legally avoid second base and just run directly from first to third straight over the pitcher's mound, he'd do it.
Besides, who is Hank Aaron to tell me that players can't consistently hit 60 homers? The game is far different today than during his heyday. Parks are smaller, the strike zone shrunk, and the increased steroid testing did nothing to stunt home run rates. Players hit about 30-40% more homers now than they did when Aaron played, so maybe it is possible for someone to consistently hit 60 home runs a season; after all, Aaron
average 40+ homers for his career had a nice run with 35 or more homers hit per year! (whoops)
Hammerin' Hank is (almost) the most beloved figure in the game and probably deserves to be free of criticism for his ideas. He's a diplomat, a leader, a teacher, and a gentleman; I just wish he would be cool about the way the game has changed in 40 years and get off the "get off my lawn" soapbox.