Nothing binds baseball to its past like the record book.
Yet none of the guys who had the chance to pencil in a new line got the job done Tuesday night, hinting perhaps at how tough it could be for those with designs on following them.
The hoped-for harmonic convergence fell apart first on the East Coast, where the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez faced the White Sox and failed to collect his 500th home run. His teammates admirably filled in for the fans, hitting eight to tie a franchise record.
``They got history,'' Chicago's Paul Konerko said, ``just not the one they were here to see.''
The scene shifted next to the Midwest, where the Mets' Tom Glavine left a game against the Brewers with a lead - and his 300th seemingly within reach - only to see his bullpen blow it.
``I'm not going to lie to you,'' Glavine said afterward. ``I wish it was over with.''
Then the night that wasn't officially fizzled out on the West Coast, where the Giants' Barry Bonds didn't catch up to Henry Aaron or the Dodgers pitchers, for that matter, walking twice and going hitless in two at-bats.
Baseball has had days when two players reached milestones - Craig Biggio collected his 3,000th hit and Frank Thomas his 500th home as recently as a month ago - but never managed to hit the trifecta. Rodriguez, Glavine and Bonds will all hit their marks in the coming days, and it's still possible they'll do it on the same day.
But after that, good luck.
We're likely in the last throes of the supersized era, especially if baseball's drug-testing program ever turns out to be half as effective as its leaders would have us believe. And once Bonds goes past Aaron, and then A-Rod eventually eclipses both of them, baseball won't see home-run numbers anywhere near the production of the last 10 years. And another 20 years could easily pass before Glavine's accomplishment, already 20 seasons in the making, is matched.
Greg Maddux, Glavine's longtime sidekick when both were mainstays on the Braves' staff, became the last pitcher to crack the 300-win plateau in 2004. That was a year after Roger Clemens turned the trick, ending a a 13-year drought dating back to Nolan Ryan.
rano. But a short list of great pitchers who didn't - Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller and Whitey Ford - proves that durability is just as rare as transcendent talent.
Home runs, on the other hand, have come cheaply in the last decade, thanks to a raft of new, bandbox-sized ballparks, rag-armed pitchers, hard maple bats and better slugging through chemistry. Since there's no way to accurately measure how many of Bonds' senior-citizen performances were enhanced by something other than flaxseed oil, take some comfort in the fact that some records simply aren't what they used to be. Anybody needing further proof should refer to last Sunday's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where Mark McGwire was notable by his absence.
A-Rod, on the other hand, looks like the type of player who could restore some credibility to the home-run record. He just turned 32, an age at which Bonds had nearly 200 fewer home runs, and like Aaron, Rodriguez has been a model of consistency. He's averaged 42 homers in his first 10 season, and even if that number drops by a dozen as his hair begins turning gray or falling out, he would still comfortably pass Bonds in another 10 years.
Thomas, as noted above, hit No. 500 earlier this season, and besides A-Rod, Jim Thome (489), Manny Ramirez (488) and Gary Sheffield (478), have a shot to make the number, too. Before this one, baseball has never had more than two players reach the plateau in the same year and that only happened twice, the last time in 1971.
Baseball is changing yet again before our eyes, with fewer musclebound sluggers and long balls, almost certainly, as well as fewer money pitchers, most of whom figure to have a shorter shelf life. It's still true that records are made to be broken, so enjoy it while you can.
At the rate baseball's been breaking them, a long, dry spell could be just around the corner.
---
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org

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