Sadaharu Oh, the Japanese Babe Ruth, has seen his single season home run record fall. The record set 49 years ago was broken by Wladimir Balentien, who played with Seattle from 2007-2009 before being traded to Cincinnati during the 2009 season for Robert Manuel. The record of 55 was broken Sunday when Balentien hit his 56th and 57th homers.
Oh’s record of 55 was tied by Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Alex Cabrera in 2002. After they tied Oh’s record Japanese pitchers did not give them many pitches to hit, so goes the accusation, in order to preserve the Japanese hero’s record.
There are 17 games left for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Balentien can add to the record, perhaps going for the magic 60. He set the record playing in 112 games.
But guess what? The record may be tainted, but not from performance enhancing drugs. The Japanese baseball is juiced.
Japanese baseball officials admitted this June they had introduced a new baseball this season and never told the players. The aim was to bring more excitement to the game. As a result their was a rise in home runs. Thus Balentien, 29, from Curacao, is the single season Japanese home run king.
No word on what the 73 year old Oh thinks about the new record or the juiced baseball. If he is like most players, I am sure he would not happy about the juiced ball.
Balentien was 22 when he played in three games for Seattle in 2007. He was 2 for 3 with a double, a homer and 4 rbis. In 71 games, 260 at bats in 2008, he hit .202 with 7 homers. In 56 games before being traded to the Reds in 2009, he hit .213 with 4 homers in 170 at bats. Like all Mariners traded away, he did better with his new team, batting .264 in 40 games and 3 homers. That was the end of the outfielders major league career.