What MLB Records Will Never Be Broken?
One of baseball’s classic clichés is the phrase, “records are made to be broken.” Thanks to advancements in gameplay, training, and management–as well as an ever-expanding talent pool–today’s players and teams are arguably the best to ever play the game. Every season, new records are set and broken. However, some are considered unbreakable. Read on to find out what MLB records are considered unbreakable and why.
Types of Unbreakable Records
There are three main types of MLB records that can be considered unbreakable. The first is a previously-set record that becomes unattainable due to rule changes by the league. An example of this is the 1899 Cleveland Spiders’ record of most road losses in a season, at 101. According to today’s rules, even scheduled home games relocated to a different venue are considered “home” games for recordkeeping purposes, making the record technically unbreakable. This is in contrast to the same team’s record of 134 total losses in a season, which could still theoretically be broken by a very mismanaged team.
The second type of MLB record that will never be broken is one that has become unfeasible to repeat as a result of changing game fundamentals and management strategies. For instance, pitcher Charles Radbourn’s 1884 record of 59 wins in a season will likely stand forever. This is because in modern rosters, five or more starters rotate with a focus on load management. Even the most productive pitchers barely crack 30 starts a season, making 59 wins hard to imagine in baseball today.
The final type of unbreakable record is one set by an athlete of such great abilities that even elite competitors are unlikely to break it. This includes Ichiro Suzuki’s record-setting 262 hits in the 2004 season. He broke George Sisler’s record of 257, which had stood since 1920 and had itself seemed unlikely to be broken. In addition to being an exceptionally talented slugger, Suzuki was uniquely empowered by his management to swing on pitches that most hitters are instructed to avoid. Thus, his record will likely stand forever, even if an equally skilled hitter makes it to the majors.
Pete Rose’s record of 4,256 career hits, set over a 36-year career, represents a period of dominance and longevity that will likely never be matched. Likewise, thanks to increased bullpen use and reforms in official scoring, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is almost certainly unbreakable. Ty Cobb’s .356 career batting average is an especially impressive record, considering he spent half of his 23-season career in the low-scoring, dead-ball era.
Another classic MLB record made particularly unbreakable thanks to dead-ball rules favoring pitchers is Cy Young’s 511 career wins. The closest a pitcher has come during the live-ball era is Warren Spahn, with 363. However, Nolan Ryan’s record of 5,714 career strikeouts can be attributed solely to extreme dominance and focus on strikeouts over an extended period. Ryan had six 300-strikeout seasons and led the league in strikeouts for 11 seasons on his way to setting this benchmark.
Durability contributes to any unbreakable record, but some players make history simply with their ability to keep showing up. The prime example of this is the “Iron Man,” Cal Ripken Jr., who played an astounding 2,632 straight games. He surpassed Lou Gehrig’s previous record, set during a drastically different era, by nearly 500 games. Another incredible record of longevity was set by Cornelius McGillicuddy, known as Connie Mack, who owned and managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years, coaching the team in 7,755 games. Such feats of dedication will likely never be repeated.
What baseball records will never be broken?
One baseball record that is impossible to break is the 1899 Cleveland Spiders’ 101 road losses in a single season. While several teams have lost 100 games in a season since, it is impossible for a team to record more than 81 road losses due to MLB scheduling rules. An individual record that will never be broken is Charles Radbourn’s record of 59 wins as a pitcher in 1884. This is because pitchers in the modern MLB do not start anywhere close to 59 times in a season, much less win that many.