Matt Kemp hit for the first cycle in San Diego Padres history last night—which, really guys? You've been around since 1969 and never lucked into one of those before? I mean, the Rockies aren't near the top of Major League Baseball in many historical statistics, but they have the second most cycles in the entire league since 1998. It's happened seven times, most recently a year ago this weekend when Michael Cuddyer achieved The Feat. The only MLB team with more during that time period? The Rangers, with eight.
It took the Rockies five years to get their first cycle, which wasn't as fast for an expansion team as the Diamondbacks or Royals (two years each), but which compares favorably to the Rays, whose only cycle came in 2009, and the Marlins who, after last night, are now the only Major League franchise to have never hit for the cycle. It took the Padres 46 years to hit their first cycle, so that means that the Marlins are only halfway to that mark of futility, with this being their 23rd season. To surpass San Diego's record they would have to go without hitting a cycle until 2040.
This brings up the fact that cycles aren't necessarily an accomplishment of skill so much as they are a feat of luck. Having good players does not always correlate to having a lot of cycles. You might assume that the New York Yankees would be one of the league leaders in cycles, but they are not. Since Mickey Mantle hit for one in 1957 only three Yankees -- Bobby Murcer in 1972, Tony Fernandez in 1995, and Melky Cabrera in 2009 -- have done it. Not Reggie Jackson, not Derek Jeter, not Don Mattingly and not A-Rod.
Babe Ruth never hit for the cycle, nor did Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. It's not something that even the greatest players are able to do on the strength of their skill alone, but it's something that many average players have managed. While Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Mike Trout and Todd Helton have all hit for cycles, so have Aubrey Huff, Chone Figgins, Eric Byrnes, Mike Lansing and (very recently) Shin-Soo Choo.
It's rare for a home run hitter to hit a triple and it's rare for a triples hitter to knock one out of the park, and there's such a small likelihood of both of those things happening in the same game in addition to a single and a double that it almost negates the divide between good and great players.
This is pretty common with all single game achievements. One of the rarest things in baseball, hitting four home runs in a game, has been accomplished by some players like Shawn Green and Mike Cameron, who weren't exactly all-time greats. Plenty of marginal pitchers have had a great night and wound up with a no-hitter. This almost never seems to happen with perfect games, which is probably why we value them so highly.
Those other accomplishments don't seem to have the same luck factor as the cycle though, which makes it an even less valuable milestone. Most triples I've seen that were parts of a cycle seem to come from the ball being missed by an outfielder or taking a strange bounce off the wall. Also, if you need a single or a double to hit for the cycle, the odds are that you're stopping at that base instead of trying to stretch it unless the game is absolutely on the line.
Am I being a Debbie Downer? Maybe. I thoroughly enjoy it when a Rockies player hits for the cycle, but if a player for another team does it I don't experience the same kind of joy as I do when I see someone throw a no-hitter or hit four home runs. My feelings when Michael Cuddyer got a double to complete the final piece of his cycle last year were about the same as my feelings when Charlie Blackmon got his sixth hit in the home opener. It was something really cool to see, but I didn't stop and regard it in awe as a truly historic moment.
Maybe I'm spoiled because of cheering for the Rockies (only time I will ever say this) and seeing several cycles in the past few years. If I was a Padres fan, I'd probably be enjoying the hell out of Kemp's feat. Soak it in guys, it's the most joy you're going to get this season.
If you want to see the complete list of all the cycles in Major League history, go here.
Also, just because I don't think it's a superhuman feat doesn't mean that I don't still watch this video on a regular basis.