Jul 25, 2012, 2:14 PM EDT
Not so long ago Alex Rodriguez seemed very likely to finish his career as the all-time home run king.
He won the MVP in 2007 with a monster season, hitting .314 with 54 homers, 156 RBIs, and a 1.067 OPS. At that point he was 31 years old with 518 career homers, had hit at least 35 homers every season for a decade, and had played at least 150 games in seven straight years.
And then he started to get hurt. Rodriguez smacked 35 homers in 2008, but missed 24 games with injuries. And then he missed 38 games in 2009, 25 games in 2010, and 63 games last season. And now Rodriguez is expected to be sidelined until September with a broken hand courtesy of a Felix Hernandez pitch last night.
In addition to missing 150 games from 2008-2011 and what will probably be another 40 or so games this year Rodriguez has also seen his power numbers decline significantly in his mid-30s. Through that MVP-winning 2007 season he averaged 45 homers per 162 games, but from 2008-2010 he averaged 39 homers per 162 games and during the past two seasons he’s averaged 27 homers per 162 games.
Rodriguez has 644 career homers, which is the most in baseball history through age 36–by 33 over Babe Ruth, 52 over Hank Aaron, and 77 over Barry Bonds. However, between his injuries and rapidly declining power Rodriguez is far from a sure thing to hit the 119 homers needed to surpass Bonds as the all-time leader.
Barry Bonds 762 Hank Aaron 755 Babe Ruth 714 Willie Mays 660 Alex Rodriguez 644
He’s signed through 2017 and the Yankees still owe him $114 million, so Rodriguez has plenty of motivation to stick around into his 40s, but he’d have to hit 20-25 homers per season for the final five years of that contract to become the all-time leader. Rodriguez is certainly still capable of that, but he’s also hit a total of just 29 homers with a modest .455 slugging percentage in 192 games during the past two seasons.
If he’s going to break the home run record it’s going to be by a much narrower margin than once seemed likely, which means every broken bone, minor surgery, and strained muscle takes a big chunk out of his chances.
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