The days when seers looked into the future and with breathless anticipation predicted that Alex Rodriguez would become Major League baseball’s all-time home run hitter are past.
Friday, the New York Yankee third baseman hit the 630th home run of his career. That tied him with Ken Griffey Jr. on the all-time list. There was a lot more hullabaloo last year when Rodriguez teammate Derek Jeter passed the 3,000-hit mark. That’s probably as it should be, but it seems to me that a couple of years ago the excitement level of another Rodriguez blast would have created a lot more and a lot bigger headlines. Heck, in my local paper the headline writer was so oblivious he featured the Yankees win over the Angels over the milestone smack.
Anticipation around the land did not seem to reach the level atttached to the release of the new Three Stooges movie. Maybe if Rodriguez was dating Sofia Vergara it would be different. Maybe he’s past his prime with the celebrity babes, too.
For the time being, at least, the home run seems past its prime. The populace soured on juiced up numbers and when Rodriguez, thought to be pure, or otherwise known as the anti-Barry Bonds, turned out to be tainted by the steriods trend and scandal, too, a lot of people lost interest in his quest. This was all compounded, of course, by the fact that Rodriguez hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the last couple of seasons and that has impeded his homer production.
Rodriguez will turn 37 in July. He played in just 99 games last year, missed 25 in 2010 and missed 38 in 2009. That’s a bad trend. Still, we are looking at one of the greatest careers of all time and if Rodriguez keeps chipping away with reasonable production for a couple of more years he is going to finish up with some fabulous numbers. Besides the still-very impressive homer total, Rodriguez could crack 2,000 RBIs, 3,000 hits, and 2,000 runs scored.
A-Rod mashed his 630th homer on a 92-mph fastball thrown by Los Angeles hurler Ervin Santana in the third inning of Friday night’s game at Yankee Stadium. That tied Rodriguez for fifth place on the career homer list, as sexy a statistical category as baseball has. Numero Uno, of course, is Bonds, still battling his own legal demons from issues arising out of allegations he took steroids to enhance his power. Bonds has 762 career homers and for a while there we would hear of baseball purists rooting for some “clean” player to come along and break the mark to restore its former glory.
It’s not as if there was a long line of prospects coming along to threaten that record. Rodriguez was the great hope and now you don’t hear so much about the likelihood of Rodriguez catching Bonds, or really how much people care.
The 600 homer club is very small, very exclusive. Second on the list is Hank Aaron with 755 homers. Third is Babe Ruth with 714. Fourth is Willie Mays with 660. Besides Rodriguez and Griffey, the only other players in Major League history with at least 600 home runs are Sammy Sosa with 609 and the still-active Jim Thome with 604. Thome will turn 42 this summer and is a part-time player with the Phillies. The only one he has a hope of passing now is Sosa.
We used to pencil Rodriguez in for at least 40 homers a season, but it’s doubtful that he will hit 30 this season. He’ll keep playing after 2012, and for a couple of more years, too, injury permitting. He’ll pass Mays on the all-time list in 2013 and then, as his career winds down, he will struggle to become the fourth player to reach 700.
The days of believing that Rodriguez will catch Bonds are over. The only thing that could change his status is if he has a Roger Clemens-like later-career resurrection. And we all know where that discussion leads.
Topics: Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Ervin Santana, Hank Aaron, Jim Thome, Ken Griffey Jr., Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Sofia Vergara, Steroids, Three Stooges, Willie Mays