- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A year ago, Barry Bonds zoomed into the record book in the final week of the season, finishing with 73 home runs and breaking a couple of Babe Ruth's records with 177 walks and an .863 slugging percentage.
It turned out to be just a preamble for the 38-year-old slugger. Now Bonds is about to complete the best combined batting average-power season since Ruth hit .373 with 46 homers in 1931.
The final week of the season offers some opportunities for other record-breakers. For example, the New York Yankees could become the first team in 66 years to have five players with 100 RBI, while Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa is trying to become the first player with five straight 50-homer seasons.
Bonds' 44 home runs this season included the 600th of his career, joining Hank Aaron, Ruth and Willie Mays in that exclusive club. His drop in homers has been balanced by a bounce in his batting average. At .370 going into the final week, he should become the oldest first-time batting champion, three years older than Al Oliver in 1982 when he won his first crown.
Until Bonds, the oldest National League batting champion in history was Honus Wagner, who was 37 when he led the NL with a .334 average in 1911. Ted Williams was 40 when he batted .328 to win the AL crown in 1958.
Bonds also joins Colorado's Larry Walker in an exclusive club by leading the league in batting the year after he led it in home runs. Walker did that in 1997-98, with 49 homers followed by a .363 batting title. Aaron had the same perfecta in 1956-57, first winning the batting title with a .328 average and then the homer crown with 44 the next year.
With 191 walks, Bonds already broke his own record of 177 and he could become the first 200-walk man in baseball history. His on-base percentage of .581 is well ahead of the record .553 set by Williams when he hit .406 in 1941.
Bonds needs to get on base just six times in the final week to match his record of 342 set last season. The major league record for reaching base safely is 379 times set by Bonds' old pal, the Babe, in 1923. That Ruth record is safe for now.
On other record tracks, the Yankees went into last night's game with two players already having at least 100 RBI Jason Giambi (114) and Alfonso Soriano (100) and three others closing in Bernie Williams (99), Jorge Posada (96) and Robin Ventura (93). The last team to have five players with 100 RBI were the 1936 Yankees, Joe DiMaggio's rookie year.
A year later, Joe (46) and Vince DiMaggio (13) combined for 59 home runs, a record for brothers. That could fall this season to the Giambi brothers: Jason (38) and Philadelphia's Jeremy (20) were one away through Sunday.
Soriano was one home run away from becoming the fourth player to reach 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a single season. Montreal's Vladimir Guerrero is two homers away from the same goal.
"Every year he gets better and better," Michael Barrett said, referring to teammate Guerrero. "He's consistently an amazing player. Only a handful of guys have that kind of talent."
Alex Rodriguez needs four home runs to become the first shortstop to reach 60 home runs in a season, and Minnesota's Jacque Jones needs one more leadoff homer to match Brady Anderson's record of 12 set in 1996.
Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki became the first player since Harvey Kuenn in 1953-54 to reach 200 hits in each of his first two major league seasons. Kuenn had 209 and 201. Suzuki had 242 when he was last year's American League MVP, and has 200 so far this season.
The most impressive pitching record already belongs to Atlanta's Greg Maddux, who reached 15 victories for the 15th consecutive season, matching the record set by Cy Young from 1891 to 1905.
John Smoltz, in his first full season as the Braves' closer, matched the NL single-season record for saves with 53. He is four short of the major league record set by Bobby Thigpen in 1990.
On the negative side, there is Jose Hernandez of the Milwaukee Brewers, who has struck out 188 times, two short of the record held by Bobby Bonds, Barry's father.


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