For those that are spectacularly unaware, since July 17, 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak of 56 games has been one of the most iconic lasting records in sports history, and pretty much only one or two people have come remotely close (take a minute to look at the full list of hitting streaks here).
Since Joe’s tenure began as the King of Hitting, countless, seemingly immortal, records have been broken. The single season and overall home run record, all-time hits, most stolen bases in a year, and so on and so on. It almost seems that no record is safe. But right here, right now I’m going to tell you why Joltin’ Joe’s hitting streak will always stay at #1 in the record books.
ALL OR NOTHING
In today’s athletic world, everything is about flash. It is about the big play, the big moments, and the biggest stages. With home runs and strikeouts being manufactured at record pace this season, the concept of “all or nothing” exists now more than ever. The game has changed, small ball is essentially a thing of the past, and it is ALL about power.
A simple base hit does not mean what it used to. There will never be another .400 hitter like Ted Williams, even another .380 hitter is a stretch. Batters look for a pitch to DRIVE, hit towards the gaps, and put the baseball 30 feet beyond the fence. It’s about exit velocity and torque and all those other insane terms. It’s rare you see a guy who goes up looking to put the ball on the ground or screw a line drive up the middle. Trying to flip a two-strike curveball into right field isn’t exactly the mindset hitters have. When a hit like that happens, it is usually because the batter got fooled. If it’s not in their wheelhouse, they’re probably not swinging the bat. That type of thinking will not let you get a hit in 56 straight games.
BIG TIME CONTRACTS
You don’t get paid $25 million a year to hit .310. You get paid that money to hit 35 home runs and drive in 100 runs. If the consequence of that is hitting .260, so be it. While the game is changing, and so is what is considered valuable at the GM level. They want runs, and they want them fast. Hits help, but they are no longer a top priority, and that is evident by the contracts that big-time players receive. Home runs=big money. Hits=small money. Take the universal hit leader Ichiro Suzuki, who never got more than $18 million a year, and compare him to say Jason Bay, a guy who was a 30+ home run guy but only hit over .300 once in his career and made a little over $18 million in his prime. An average to slightly above average power hitter made a little bit more than the best pure hitter of a generation. Money talks, and power breaks the bank.
PITCHING & FIELDING IS BETTER
All in all, pitchers know how to get you out now. It used to be a: “Is my talent going to beat yours” and that was it. Pitchers would challenge hitters and make mistakes, not really following an exact sequence. And they also weren’t throwing 100 mph (except Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan). Now, pitchers know that a specific hitter is more susceptible to offspeed on the outside corner as opposed to the inside corner, and they can execute every pitch with near perfection.
Defenses are faster, have better arms, and play in exact spots the ball is supposed to be hit. The shift takes away an insane number of hits, and I can guarantee a guy like Joe DiMaggio would have an in-depth scouting report against him, which definitely would have taken some hits away from him.
JOE DIMAGGIO IS A LEGEND
Not much analysis to this one other than the fact that it’s true. It takes a legend to set records, and it’s gonna take another legend to break one. You never see names like Chuck Knoblauch or Lyle Overbay headlining the record books. It’s Hall of Famers like Rickey Henderson or Cy Young that catch your eye. So if you ever do see somebody break this record, just know that you better bet all your money on that guy being a household name for a looooong time to come.