Sunday, December 23, 2007

Baseball records versus Football records

Over the past week or so (and before that too), much has been discussed about why fans hold baseball players to a higher standard when it comes to usage of performance enhansing drugs. Meanwhile, it seems football players get a pass once they have served their 4-game suspension. Maybe that is a phrasing it a bit too simply and maybe it isn't fair for football players to say it that way, but I'm going to go with that.

One of the things that was brought up why fans are harsher on baseball fans is that records matter in baseball. We know about Bonds' home run records, about Clemens' 7 Cy Youngs and 2nd to Nolan Ryan in strikeouts.

While watching today's Patriots game, something clicked for me. With the ball close to the Miami goal line, instead of running the ball into the end zone, the Patriots passed and Brady threw a touchdown. I have nothing against Brady or the Patriots wanting him to get the record. But what clicked for me is that in football, the players and coaches have a much more important role on targeting a specific number and breaking a record. Sure, Brady still has to play well and the Patriots still have to get to the endzone, but a lot of him possibly breaking the touchdown record has to do with their play calling. And I believe their play calling has something to do with the record.

This is sometimes the case in baseball, but managerial choice is much less important. If someone was going for the Home Run record, they don't get more at-bats or more chances. They can't let McGwire bat for Eckstein, but they can let Brady pass instead of running it with Maroney. Again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Brady or the Patriots trying for the touchdown record. What I am saying is that it becomes a bit less important of a record if the play calling choice can change the chance of breaking the record. In other words, if the record was 47, Brady/Patriots may play a bit different than if the record was 49.

That's not to say that football is worse than baseball, just that they are different and another reason why individual records and numbers mean much less in football. And maybe that's part of the reason why fans get on baseball playes more about performance enhancement usage than they get on football players.