Early Saturday, on a 3-1 pitch from Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan did this.
In case you missed it, you can watch the video here. In short, Branyan put his uppercut swing on a fresh, oven-baked, steaming elk meatball and became the first player in new Yankee Stadium's limited history to reach right field's fourth deck.
It was a dinger worthy of adjectives. Mariners.com describes it as "mammoth". Geoff Baker described it as "epic". Other people described it with other words. Some home runs just barely get out. Other home runs settle five or ten rows back. Homers like those can be forgotten as quickly as they leave, and you move on to the next hitter like a regular Cliff Lee. Homers like Branyan's, though, immediately impress and linger on the mind long after the end of the inning. Homers like Branyan's are feats of extraordinary strength. They're watched with mouths agape, and the mouths remain open for longer than just the ball's flight. Homers like Branyan's render the game a secondary concern. "Yeah, I was there. The Yankees won. But did you see that one dinger?"
We remember these things. We may not be as enchanted by home runs as we were 20 years ago, but the long home run is still very much in fashion. It's a big part of what kept Richie Sexson popular until he became unpopular and bad. We love to watch guys hit the ball off of windows and into upper decks. We love to watch these blasts, and we love to estimate their distances. Said Baker, on Branyan's:
But this shot by Branyan was epic. No measurement involved. But to say it was close to 500 feet or more would not be an overstatement. It was a rocket.
Of course, Hit Tracker Online is a thing that exists. Hit Tracker Online updates with home run distances every day, and yesterday morning, it pegged Branyan's home run with a distance of 440 feet.
Now, 440 feet is a long home run. It's the third-longest distance of the year for any Mariner hitter, behind blasts by Eliezer Alfonzo and Milton Bradley. The league average is about 397, and 440 is well towards the top of the season-long list.
But 440 doesn't have the majestic ring to it that you get from 470, 480, or even the hallowed 500. Josh Hamilton owns the longest home run of the season to date, and his had an additional 45 feet. 440 is nowhere close to the league-leading or nearly-league-leading measurement we thought we were in for two days ago when Branyan reached rarefied air.
And I'm not gonna lie to you - when I saw that, I was kind of disappointed. I like big homers. I like big numbers. I like big hitters capable of generating big homers with big numbers. And when I watched the video of Branyan going deep, I thought we were in for a really big number. Turns out it was smaller than I expected. And to some degree, that cheapened the experience. "Oh, it only went 440? I guess I shouldn't have been as impressed as I was."
That, of course, is totally wrong. One's experience of watching a home run shouldn't be cheapened retroactively by some revelation that comes later on, short of finding out that the pitcher intentionally grooved a pitch. But here I am, a man less awe-struck than before, all thanks to the wonders of knowledge.
I guess it might just be time for me to accept the fact that distance traveled has become a part of my dinger evaluation checklist. Used to be that I could just watch one and know. Now the math has forced its way into the picture, and given how much I love using Hit Tracker Online, I don't think I'm getting it out. What once was all visual is now something like two parts visual and one part actual distance. This is my new reality.
I guess, at the end of the day, at least this team's finally given me a chance to think about dingers.