It’s no secret that last year’s Major League Baseball home run leader was Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Technically, he was the American League (AL) home run leader last year, hitting 62 home runs, the most in a single season in the AL, and winning the AL MVP award. But who was the National League (NL) home run leader last year? It was Kyle Schwarber of the Philadelphia Phillies, and not many people know that he hit 46 home runs.
Major League Baseball is divided into two divisions, the NL and AL, with 15 teams each. The postseason consists of league “qualifiers” leading up to the World Series, and individual batting titles are awarded based on league records. Last year’s AL batting champion was Luis Arajuez of the Minnesota Twins, who moved to the Miami Marlins this year and was awarded the trophy before the home game against Minnesota on April 5 (KST). It was a rare sight to see the AL batting champion receive the trophy in front of his hometown Minnesota players while wearing an NL Miami jersey.
It is a Major League Baseball “norm” that individual titles are awarded separately by league. Although the presidents of both leagues were eliminated in 1999, the tradition of league distinction since the AL’s inception in 1901 is strongly confirmed by the awarding of individual titles.
However, when it comes to the home run category, more attention is paid to and value is placed on who is the “unified” leader than on league division. The reason for this is that home runs are the “flower of baseball,” and there is no trophy for them. You don’t hear about all-time wins, all-time RBIs, all-time stolen bases, etc. But the home run leader in both leagues is front-page news every day, and there’s a lot of reaction to that story.
This has been the case since 1997, when interleague play began. The introduction of the interleague is considered a historic event because it broke down the boundaries between the two major leagues. Before then, teams from different leagues would never meet in the regular season. Only in the World Series could teams from different leagues play each other.
The interleague was the brainchild of Major League Baseball, which was trying to revitalize itself after the 1994-1995 Major League Baseball players’ union strike. The response was overwhelming, especially in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where interleague games between local rivals drew attention, especially when both teams shared the same hometown. The Subway Series (Yankees-Mets) in New York, the Windy City Series (Cubs-White Sox) in Chicago, and the Freeway Series (Dodgers-Angels) in Los Angeles get special treatment.
The number of interleague games has gradually expanded from 214 in 1997, the first year of implementation, to 224 in 1998, 251 in 1999-2000, 252 in 2001-2012, 300 in 2013-2022 (excluding the 2020 shortened season), and more than doubled to 690 this season. The so-called “balanced schedule” is characterized by having at least one series with every team. The number of interleague games per team increased to 46, up from 20 last year.
The distinction between leagues has been further eroded. Fans have responded well. The average attendance per game in Major League Baseball this year is up 9.4%, from 26,566 last year to 29,068. While it’s true that the box office is in the process of recovering as all sectors of society return to normal after the pandemic, it’s also true that the balanced schedule has played a role.
Under these circumstances, being the combined home run king of both leagues is an even more unique honor.
Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels has been struggling with a season-ending injury. He was overtaken by Matt Olson of the Atlanta Braves on June 6 after leading both leagues in home runs. Ohtani had been on a 13-day hiatus since hitting his 44th home run of the season in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on May 24, during which time Olson overtook him for the home run lead.
Ohtani’s season is over as a pitcher due to an elbow ligament injury, but he’s been pushing through as a hitter. This is because the elbow injury doesn’t affect his batting motion. On the contrary, swinging the bat doesn”t strain the elbow ligaments, but it”s not the same as before the injury. Ohtani hasn”t hit a home run since the day he tore his elbow ligaments. On top of that, he missed two consecutive days on May 5 after injuring his side in batting practice.
It seems unlikely that Ohtani’s cannon will ever get hot again. Olson, on the other hand, seems to have gained momentum. He’s been on a home run streak of five or six days in a row. At his current pace, he could hit 53 home runs. Ohtani’s arithmetic projection is 51 home runs. Not only Olson, but the Mets’ Pete Alonso, who has 42, and Schwarber, who has 40, are likely to surpass Ohtani.온라인바카
In other words, it’s unlikely that the AL home run crown, which went to Judge last year, will go to Ohtani this year. Of course, the official AL home run title will go to Ohtani. Ohtani has a nine-run lead over the AL home run leader, the White Sox’s Louis Robert Jr.
Ohtani had hoped to play against the Baltimore Orioles on June 6 after feeling better in his side, but he and manager Phil Nevin talked him out of it. Some have attributed Ohtani’s desire to play to his desire to win a home run title. We don’t know if that’s AL-specific, but local media outlets devote most of their stories to whether or not Ohtani will win the all-time home run title. Because it’s Ohtani.