Charlie Blackmon Could Set a Hitting Record. Would It Be Legitimate?

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Last season’s leading hitter, Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox, was batting .424 after the team’s first 17 games. By Game No. 60, his average had dropped to .323, much closer to its season-ending .335. That seems to be a more likely path for Blackmon.

Then again, breaking records is never likely. Blackmon, who mostly hit leadoff in the past, has thrived in the No. 3 spot this season and helped lead Colorado (12-5) to the top of the N.L. West. An extended pursuit of .400 would be a talking point this season and would surely elevate his stature. Blackmon, 34, is a four-time All-Star but has never finished higher than fifth in voting for most valuable player.

“Charlie deserves recognition as an elite hitter, and if he gets over .400, it’s a great milestone for his career and for a season that needs great stories,” said Ryan Spilborghs, a Rockies television analyst who played for their 2007 World Series team. “But I don’t think it would be recognized the same way that we look at Ted Williams.”

Spilborghs said Blackmon separates himself from peers by never giving away an at-bat, a natural product, he believes, of the persistence and drive he needed to forge a career at the plate. Blackmon started college as a pitcher, but turned to hitting in a summer league with encouragement from his coach, the former major leaguer Rusty Greer. The Rockies drafted him in the second round from Georgia Tech in 2008.

“Physically and mentally, he’s as strong and tough as anybody I’ve ever been around,” said Rockies Manager Bud Black, who has spent more than 40 years in baseball. “And what he’s doing this year is a result of not only his overall talent, but what he does to get ready for a game and what he does post-game.”

Blackmon has done all this despite contracting Covid-19 before the season. Blackmon had been working out before summer training camp in Denver and then contracted the virus on a trip home to Georgia. Though his symptoms were mild, Blackmon curtailed his training for a while and has had to adapt.

“It’s been difficult to ramp up to the capacity that I need to be able to play Major League Baseball,” he said. “It wouldn’t be so hard if I just had to play for three hours a day, but there’s a lot more that goes into what it takes to be on the field for three hours. You’ve got to keep all your baseball skills sharp, you’ve got to work out, you’ve got to recover, and then you’ve got to do that day after day after day — at altitude, at sea level, back to altitude. That’s the only lingering effects that I’m seeing from the virus.”

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