Was Yesterday a Good Day or a Bad One for Mike Bacsik?

By now anyone who cares about baseball, Barry Bonds, sports in general, or steroids already knows that last night Bonds hit career home run No. 756, breaking Hank Aaron‘s record.

First, congratulations to “watamatyu,” a.k.a. Hunter Bishop, the first blog commenter who correctly picked the Nationals’ Mike Bacsik as the pitcher who would surrender the record home run. Bishop was the second person to comment on a post that got more than 100 guesses. (Some of them had to resort to pitchers like Doc Ellis.) And Bacsik wasn’t even Bishop’s first choice: he wanted to pick John Lannan, but the first commenter beat him to it. As promised, Hunter will get a signed copy of Freakonomics, as well as a brand-new Freako-yo-yo.

Even though Bonds did his thing during a late West Coast game, I happened to see it live on TV. Last night was the night we launched this blog on the New York Times site, and it took a while. I got home so late that the Giants-Nationals game was already well underway, and while I wouldn’t have normally stayed up so late to watch it, I did watch since I was already up. And I’m glad I did. Whatever you think of Bonds, it is always fun to see history being made. A few things happened that seem worth mentioning:

1. None of the Nationals’ players gestured toward Bonds or shook his hand as he rounded the bases.

2. His family looked more relieved than happy, and I can’t say I blame them. These last few months/years have probably been pretty rotten for them.

3. Soon after the home run, the stadium played a video message from Aaron, which was well-crafted, well-delivered, classy, and wise.

4. In light of the question I asked in the contest post about whether giving up a record-breaking home run like this is really such a terrible thing for a pitcher’s career, it was interesting to hear a phone interview that the ESPN broadcasters (sorry, don’t remember which ones) did with Bacsik’s father an inning or two before the Bonds H.R. It turns out that the elder Bacsik, Mike Sr., was also a Major League pitcher, and he talked about pitching to Aaron, and mentioned that, even as Aaron’s playing days wound down, he was still a fierce hitter that pitchers avoided. It was a great, funny interview — Bacsik was candid and salty — and I hope that the ESPN producer who found him got a nice fruit basket today from his/her boss.

But what I still want to know is this: in the long run, was yesterday a good day or a bad one for Mike Bacsik Jr.?


James

Mike Bascik Jr. is unlikely to be remembered or highly paid for his skills on the mound. So as long as he doesn't mind being "that guy" in all the replays and future interviews, wot the hell, why NOT revel in being a part of the moment?

And, yes, the Giants are a sad team, but why not go out to admire the powerful and effortless swing of Bonds, the ever graceful and heady play of Vizquel, the hot fastball and growing pains of rookie Tim Lincecum?

Dave

Your notes on Mike Bacsik Sr. got me curious.

He faced Aaron twice, both on 8/23/76. On that date, Aaron had already hit #755 (occured on 7/20/76). Aaron went 0-2 against Bacsik with a single.

Aaron would collect only 4 more hits in his career after facing Bacsik, including 1 in the last game of his career.

http://www.bb-ref.com/pi/shareit/3bKK

Mark

I was once at a party and the host had an old baseball card on his refrigerator of a player that had the same last name as the host. Not a player I recognized and when I asked about it the host said it was his uncle and that he had pitched in 60-70 (or maybe it was 60-70 decisions) over the course of his career. At any rate his big claim to fame was that he gave up Aaron's 714th home run. When I said that's interesting, how did he feel about it - the host said 'oh, he hated talking about it and would never bring it up'.

The interesting question I think is whether giving up 756 will have a negative affect on Bacsik's psychology and therefore his career or whether managers will view him differently than they would otherwise?

jeff

fantastic day... just think about all the TV time he's had. I'd assume the value of his autograph increased and his overall notability in the league also climbed. Heck, I had no idea who Bacsik was until this morning.

Bob

How many opposing players congratulated Henry Aaron as he circled the bases after hitting number 715? Zero. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5934539454318850626&q=%22hank+aaron%22+715&total=11&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=2
How popular was Henry Aaron as he got closer to breaking Babe Ruth's record? Not as popular as you would think. Racism played a part, but the closer Henry got to the record, the more some wrote that it took Henry far more at bats than Babe Ruth, Henry played in a live ball era in a ballpark built for home runs, etc. Google "Roger Maris" when he was about to break Babe's single season record.
Point is, Barry Bonds has created his own controversies, we need not imagine others.

David

I was sort of surprised to see Bonds taken out of the game after 756. When did baseball cease to be a team sport, with the team's victory more important (at least nominally) over individual achievement? This makes it apparent that Bonds signed not to help his team in any way, but to break the record. I'm not saying that people didn't already know this, but I'm surprised to see that it was accepted as an OK thing to do.

Dave

I read an SF Chronicle interview with the Nationals pitchers as they were coming into town, I forget who said it, might have been the Monday pitcher, but he said he didn't care if he was the one who got tagged for the record-breaking homer, because it would confirm he tried to get Bonds out. Sure, the guy can hit home runs, but he's .175 since the all-star break - go after him.

As far as the Giants not being in contention, boy that's sure right. The park was 3/4 empty by the 7th inning, and I bet it'll be that way for the rest of the season now that the chase is over.

Jake

Funny, Bascik was an intern at 1310 The Ticket in DFW, BAD Radio, a show I listen to daily. Interesting read today @ sturminator.blogspot.com

Noah

What does this have to do with Economics?

Ken

While we are patting ourselves on the back for "being a part of history", (since when does watching TV count a being a part of something?)let's remember that home runs are one of the most overrated of baseball accomplishments. Bonds will be eclipsed in a few years by several current players. When will the next Joe DiMaggio step up to hit in his 57th straight game or the next Cal Ripkin come along?

Those are baseball accomplishments for generations to come.

Bruce Humbert

Ah - but it is up the alley for Stephen...
I did some graphing this morning and by
my calculations IF BONDS did anything to
enhance his performance it MAY HAVE netted
him 50 or so home runs - which sounds to me
like a great chapter for Freakonomics II...

The hysteria about steroids drives me crazy
- they are legitimate drugs with many benefits
and why the "cheat" label is associated with
them - rather than the painkiller that allows
an otherwise injured player to take the field
is beyond me - the painkiller to me is much
more "performance enhancing" - since without
them the athlete could not perform!!!

What do you think Stephen?

Ben Maitland

Great day. From the uniform he wore, to his own John Hancock, Bacsik stands to make money off this, possibly is excess of $100k.

Paul

Yesterday was a great day for Mike Bacsik -- He got to pitch in front of a sellout crowd in San Francisco while a national TV audience was glued to the broadcast in anticipation of BONDS breaking the record. Bonds assault on the most hallowed record in sports has drawn inordinate amounts of press - and Mike Bacsik went right after him with every 84mph pitch he had.

So yes, for a guy who last year was cut from the lowly NATS and shunned by big league clubs (spent the entire season in AAA) Having the opportunity to bring his 4.19 era into San Fran last night and take on Barry Bonds was an excellent experience and giving up a home run to the most prolific HR hitter of all -- mark that up as a good DAY in the life of Mike Bacsik.

Brandon

Bob,

Did you watch the video you posted? In the replay of Aaron circling the bases, about fifteen seconds from the end of the video, you might have noted that he received high fives from the second baseman and the shortstop; I believe your "Zero" should read, at minimum "Two".

CWR

For a pitcher, it was a bad day. Bacsik gave up five earned runs in five innings for an ERA of 9.00. If he had not surrendered No. 756 to Bonds his ERA would have been 7.20. An ERA of 9.00 is horrible and an ERA of 7.20 is not much better. But, the difference, 1.80, is significant in that a pitcher with an ERA 1.80 points higher than an average pitcher in the league, really does not have much of a career.

So assume that after giving up No. 756, Bacsik becomes a pitcher who always gives up marginal homeruns every nine innings. Over his career this would roughly mean that his ERA would be one point higher than it would have been had he not given up any marginal homeruns.

For a pitcher, this could cost millions of dollars in salary since pitcher salary is probably correlated with ERA. In fact you could calculate how much salary each marginal homerun would cost a pitcher in terms of salary. I would guess that it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars. So one could argue that giving up No. 756 to Bonds cost whatever it costs a pitcher to give up one additional run over a career fraught with additional homeruns.

I agree with a prior post that Mr. Bacsik will likely receive some monetary benefit from giving up No. 756, but I do not beleive it will be enough to compensate him for giving up one additional run.

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Jim

That was a great day for Mike Bacsik. It gave an otherwise unknown MLB pitcher time in the national spotlight. Had Bacsik merely avoided giving up 756 to Bonds, he may have remained unknown.

Though we will have to see how the rest of his career goes. You never know, he may jump into the spotlight sometime later.

WLA

Consider the implications of this dubious milestone, that in our society today we allow cheaters to prosper. If Henry Aaron had taken the same dope as Bonds, who knows how many home runs he would have hit... My guess is a lot more than 755. Forget Bascik for now. The base issue here is that we Americans have allowed our values to degrade! That Barry Bonds has been awarded any credibility whatsoever is glaring evidence of this most torturous truth.

zbicyclist

Hank Aaron has always been a class act, and his video provided more evidence of that.

He was generous to Bonds, but also didn't show up in person where he would have been asked a bunch of drug-related questions. Regardless of what he said (including nothing), he would have been part of the story on the evening news.

Steven

If Mike Bacsik only wants to be remembered as a part of baseball history, then it's a good day. But if he wants to become a good pitcher in baseball, yesterday was probably not good for his development though it doesn't seem like it was negative either given his track record in the majors so far. Anyway, those two goals are not entirely inconsistent as Bonds has hammered a lot of great pitchers, and Bacsik still has time to develop. My guess is that since most fringe/average major leaguers only really possess the opportunity to achieve the second goal and most never make it, the fact that Bacsik became a part of baseball history is good. But he'll probably value it more later than he does now.

Nationals Fan

He is not Mike Bacsik Jr. During the press conference, the younger Mike Bacsik said he and his father had different middle names. It is like George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. Bush #43 is not referred to as Bush Jr. (except in derision).

I think Mike Bacsik Jr. is made for a media career after his pitching days are over. He did a local sports talk radio show for two hours just last Saturday morning before anyone outside of Washington fans knew who he was. He was very funny and the host wanted him back this weekend but the team is on the West Coast so he would have to get up at 7am to do the show this Saturday. But I'm sure when they get back he will be on every week. And since he gave up 756, it really doesn't matter what else he does. He is not Roger Clemens or Tom Glavine. The guy is 28 and has basically had a cup of coffee in the majors for several different teams. In fact, he was in jeopardy of being sent back down several weeks ago.

So I think he will come out terrific because of this in the long run. I believe a few pitchers in this era will wish they were the one who had thrown it.

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