In remarks to reporters this week, Robinson spoke about what might happen to his spot on the all-time home run list. He was fourth behind Aaron, Ruth and Mays with 586 until Barry Bonds passed him last season. Sammy Sosa starts the season just a dozen dingers behind him and Rafael Palmero could pass him in 2006.
'Probably before I take my last breath, I'm going to be about 99th on the list, Robinson told the assembled media at the team's Viera, Fla., training camp on Friday. 'And I'm afraid people are going to say 'Frank Who?' It's going to be such huge numbers up there at the top. They're going to say, 'You must have been a singles hitter who hit a few home runs.' That's the thing that's going to happen to this game."The context of the comments was, of course, steroid use and Jose Canseco's recent book pointing fingers and naming names, including Palmero's. Like many, Robinson tends to believe much of what Canseco wrote:
What he's doing now is saying that steroids are happening. Canseco is also putting the spotlight on guys, who are still playing and performing very well. Baseball and the Players Association have to dig in and say, 'Let's get at this thing before it explodes.'Well, it's a little late for that; the bomb has already gone off.
Back to his place in the game's history, Robinson came off as, well, a bit whiny when he said:
I wish I had stayed fourth. It's a nice ring to it. You're up there with the elite. You're up there with the top guys in baseball, but as you slip people have a tendency to ignore you or forget about you. It's not a nice ring, 11th or 12th. Fourth. Fourth, Fourth. I kind of got used to that. And now fifth, it just sounds a little odd.Presumably, he's lamenting that he played it straight, did everything the right way and didn't need to be juiced to hit his 586 and now players with 'roid-created bulging muscles are pushing him down the list.
Not to worry, Frank.
First of all, you're not going to be pushed down to 99th on the list, not even 11th or 12th. Besides Sosa and Palmero, the only active player with over 500 home runs is Ken Griffy Jr. at 501. Even though he's 34 his chances of hitting 587 are about 50/50 given his injury history and recent performance. After that, Jim Thome (33 years old, 423 HR) and Gary Sheffield (35 and 415) have a shot and A-Rod could eventually surpass everyone. Robinson's status in the top 10 is secure for quite some time to come.
And I think that Frank Robinson knows baseball fans a little better than to think that they're not going to take the steriods and the smaller ballparks that today's game is played in into consideration when they're gauging his place in history. The Triple Crown in 1966, the .389 lifetime OBP, the five World Series he played in and the eight home runs he hit in them, the two MVP's--one in each league--and the hustle and effort he gave on the field will place him in the pantheon of the greats no matter how many players hit more dingers.