Ronald Acuña Jr., with 34 home runs, 28 stolen bases, and six weeks left in the season, has a chance to become the fifth player to join Major League Baseball’s 40-40 Club. If Acuña’s membership application is approved by feats of baseballing, he’ll join an exclusive fraternity of Jose Canseco, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Alfonso Soriano. Okay, mostly elite.
As someone who apparently became a “veteran” baseball analyst at some point, I’m not always sure if the game has changed or if I have. When I was a kid, there’d be talk of 20-20 clubs, 30 HR/100 RBI guys, and scores of home run milestones. But you don’t hear about these baseball clubs as often as you used to. Has fandom changed this much or have I become jaded about these kinds of statistically interesting accomplishments? Or is that some of the older markers for performance, such as the 400 Homer Club, have become less exclusive institutions to join than a sandwich shop that give you a 10th sub free after buying nine?
The 40-40 Club, on the other hand, still excites me. Part of it could be that Jose Canseco’s charge on his way to becoming the founding member of this fraternity in 1988 was still very early in my Serious Baseball Fandom phase. I’ve loved watching baseball from the age of three, but it wasn’t until a few years later I really became a serious fan of the game, aided by my grandfather getting me a subscription to Sports Illustrated in 1986, a bit before my eighth birthday. While I watched the 1983-1985 World Series games, the 1986 World Series was the first one where I really followed every pitch, watching to the end even on school nights. I can still remember Tim Teufel‘s error as much as Bill Buckner‘s more famous one, and am able to exactly replicate Marty Barrett‘s closed stance and Sid Fernandez’s three-quarters delivery.