You’ll Never Forget About Scooter Gennett

Sometimes baseball history requires an explanation. History is happening all of the time, and we try hard to point it out when it does. I don’t think requiring an explanation necessarily makes certain achievements any less remarkable, because context is important, and there are numbers that need adjustments. Like, it could take a while to convey just why last year’s Cubs defense was so amazing, but at the end, you’d understand how amazing it was. It just takes some mental digging and sorting.

Explanations, though, lose people. You’re left with a receptive audience, but the audience is smaller than it would’ve been, at the beginning. There’s baseball history of the sort that appeals to dorks, and there’s baseball history of the sort that appeals to everyone. That second kind is powerful. That second kind brings fans to their feet. Over the weekend, there was a standing ovation for Edinson Volquez. Tuesday evening, there was a standing ovation for Scooter Gennett. Scooter Gennett hit four home runs in a baseball game. That’s historic because he hit four home runs in a baseball game. That’s as simple as history’s ever going to get. And so Scooter Gennett has made himself unforgettable.

So much of baseball fandom is spent living in more than just the moment. It’s perhaps a natural consequence of just how much freaking baseball there is, but so often, observation is about more than hoping for the best in an at-bat or a game. Everybody, of course, wants the best results, and everybody watches a game hoping their team’s going to win, but in the back of everyone’s mind, there’s the question: what is this going to mean? Will this win mean a winning streak? Will this hit mean a hitting streak? Is this player who had a good game going to be actually good? Because, I mean, it was a good game, but there are so many more games down the road. What’s the longer-term significance of the baseball on TV?

Nothing wrong with that. That’s how I am. That’s how a lot of us are. But when something like this happens, damn the future. Scooter Gennett hit four home runs. The point isn’t whether Gennett is suddenly a good hitter now. The longer-term significance of this is that you’ll never forget Gennett’s name again in your life. This was something that *makes* you live in the moment. Something that reminds you that any day can be a blessing. Throughout MLB history, there have been fewer of these than there have been perfect games. It was a perfect game, basically, as the hitter equivalent.

Maybe Gennett is another Tuffy Rhodes. Maybe he’s another Phil Humber, or another Armando Galarraga. You know how those careers all turned out. But, more importantly, you know who those players all are.

The easiest interpretation here is that Scooter Gennett has become a living symbol of our new home-run era. Scooter Gennett hit four home runs in a game because there are constant home runs now, in every game, and a lot of the shine has come off, and we know a lot of the shine has come off because four home runs were just hit in a game by Scooter Gennett. Gennett has a career slugging percentage of .431. Now this year he’s slugging .578. Yesterday he slugged 3.400. The home-run spike colors everything. If the ball isn’t juiced, it feels like the ball is juiced, and it’s just a weird time to be alive.

I get it, and I don’t even disagree with it. Maybe Gennett’s become an even better symbol of the times than Freddy Galvis. There are a lot of home runs. We’ve spoken a lot about the home runs. But putting the focus on the league-wide homer shift serves to downplay what Gennett just did. You might’ve noticed that no other player recently has knocked out four dingers. The previous instance was in 2012, and before that it hadn’t happened since 2003. Home runs are up, sure, but on a per-plate-appearance basis, nothing is out of control, and Gennett just won the lottery.

The home-run rate is higher than ever. Where it gets extreme, though, is when you focus on the rate of home runs on contact. That’s to a large extent negated by the fact that contact continues to plummet. Home runs aren’t actually taking the league over by storm. This year, there have been home runs in 3.2% of plate appearances. Last year, the league-wide rate was 3.0%. It was also 3.0% in 2000. For a while, the rate has hovered around the upper 2s. Home runs have gotten a little more common. They haven’t become so uncontrollably common that the Scooter Gennett game isn’t amazing. Don’t get talked out of believing that Gennett did something extraordinary. He did, and the happiest people are able to appreciate that which ought to be appreciated.

What even is that home run? It is, clearly, a perfectly legitimate home run. Nothing lucky, nothing to question. Except for the one thing to question, because, nothing about that swing suggested a homer several rows deep down the opposite line. Gennett opened up to pull, and, just as importantly, this is Scooter Gennett. And yet the ball still hit the bat, and the ball still flew the other way, and the ball still stayed in the air, and the ball still went for a home run of a type that Gennett hadn’t previously hit in the majors. It wasn’t Gennett’s first-ever opposite-field dinger, and we’ve seen home runs kind of like this before from other guys, but they’re rare. Gennett himself would’ve been surprised.

One of the theories of the universe is that we all, together, exist within a computer simulation. I’ve played computer simulations of baseball games in my youth. Sometimes those simulations include cheat codes where the next swing and contact will yield an automatic home run. You can see why some people believe we’re being simulated. And one of the simulators last night might’ve been cheating. How could we possibly ever know? But you can’t tell me this isn’t evidence.

Scooter Gennett went 5-for-5. He drove in 10 runs, and he knocked out four homers. In so doing, he tied the all-time record, and he broke Joey Votto.

That’s one screenshot. I could’ve included more. Gennett returned to the dugout with an irrepressible grin — nothing showy, but more than enough to convey the emotions swirling inside. Gennett stepped down to receive his congratulations, and as he navigated through the celebratory horde, Votto stood there with his hands on his head. He wore the expression of a hard-drive crash, and he rebooted just in time to give his teammate a double high-five. Votto’s night might well have been sleepless. His processor was in need of repair.

There are guys scattered around the game who aren’t actually big fans of baseball. It’s just something they do, something they do well, something they do for a steady massive paycheck. The overwhelming majority of guys enjoy baseball enough. They stay dedicated, and they’re somewhat aware of what’s going on around either league. Then there’s the last group, the group of fanatics. The players who devote every fiber of their being to the sport that they play. Robinson Cano loves nothing more than to think about baseball. The same goes for Zack Greinke, and the same goes for Joey Votto. They can’t get enough. They can’t ever get enough. If they’re not playing baseball, they’re thinking about baseball, and they have a lot of time for their thought.

Joey Votto has thought about everything. You’ve seen his sprawling interviews posted here, chats he’s had with Eno Sarris where it’s Eno who sometimes has to leave the clubhouse before Votto’s done talking. All Votto wants to do is exchange baseball information. He’s about so much more than himself, easily one of the game’s most thoughtful and inquisitive minds. When it comes to the major leagues, Joey Votto has thought about everything. He’d never before thought of a four-homer game from Scooter Gennett.

History is made by the historic. It’s Wednesday, now, and Scooter Gennett awoke a different man.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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5 years ago

how did he break joey votto.. is the link broken?

5 years ago
Reply to  treyash9

Votto is on the left side of that photo.