New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez just underwent hip surgery and is looking at six months of rehab before he can play. Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Alex Rodriguez Still Has Much To Play For

He’s going to have to go through some pain and suffering to make it happen, and the recent Hall of Fame vote has to be discouraging to him, but Alex Rodriguez should be able to find it within his body to make a comeback after the hip surgery he had the other day.

It was announced that the New York Yankees third baseman underwent a hip operation that will keep him out of action for six months, or pretty much until right around the All-Star break. Rodriguez has had loads of physical difficulties over the last few seasons and he is 37, so it’s going to be up to him to work extremely hard in rehab to regain his batting stroke and prove he can still play. Some say that he is washed up, but none of those are doctors.

Certainly the Yankees need his bat in the lineup again, assuming he can bring a fair amount of pop, if not providing the same amount of danger he did in his prime. In a vacuum Rodriguez should be looked at as an aging superstar playing out his career and trying to hit a few more lifetime statistical milestones.

But in Alex’s case that’s over simplifying. First, there have been all of the injuries. Is his body really falling apart and telling him he can’t play at all anymore? If you were Rodriguez you would want to know the answer to that question definitively before retiring.

Even if he doesn’t play another inning, Rodriguez has recorded a Hall of Fame-level career in so many ways that in ordinary circumstances he would be a first-ballot inductee. Of course, there is nothing ordinary about the Hall of Fame vote these days. The recent voter rejection of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire shows there is a zero tolerance level of approval amongst some voters if your name has ever been mentioned in the same sentence as performance-enhancing drugs.

Which, unfortunately, does include Alex Rodriguez, who has even admitted to using PEDs at one point in his career. So even if Rodriguez returns to full strenth and puts in a few more solid years until he is maybe 41, with his numbers growing and growing, it’s pretty clear that it’s going to be a battle to obtain the 75 percent of the vote necessary for election for a long time.

When a guy has a serious injury and he puts in hours and hours of rehab every day, his body straining, the sweat pouring off of him, his mind telling him to stop, he needs every ounce of will and determination to keep going. Maybe what’s going on with the Hall vote will work on Rodriguez’s head where he might say it doesn’t matter what he does, he will never find approval again.

That’s a tough place to be in. For the vast majority of his career, Rodriguez was a super ball player. He’s not going to be having 40-homer, 120-RBI years anymore, but he may still be able to produce 22 homers and 88 RBIs, which would make him a guy worth having around. And he is so close to moving into uncharted all-ar0und statistical territory a healthy Rodriguez, good for another three seasons, could give him some of the most phenomenal lifetime stats of all time.

As Rodriguez begins his recovery he is sitting on these numbers: 1,898 runs scored, 2,901 hits, 647 home runs, 1950 runs batted in. The records for these categories are: 2,295 (Rickey Henderson), 4,260 (Pete Rose), 762 (Barry Bonds), 2,297 (Hank Aaron).

Rodriguez ranks 10th in runs, fifth in home runs, and seventh in RBIs right now. There are 28 players in the 3,000-hit club and if a player is healthy and active when he reaches that number he can zoom past numerous retired players in a short period of time, which is exactly what Derek Jeter did these last two seasons.

A full-strength Alex Rodriguez with age as his only detriment still might not break any of these records. But he could give it a good run, making the chase entertaining, come close, and create some excitement, and then let the Hall of Fame vote fall where it may, perhaps eight years from now.

Tags: Alex Rodriguez New York Yankees

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