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Will injuries keep Alex Rodriguez from breaking Barry Bonds’ home run record?

Jul 25, 2012, 2:14 PM EDT

alex rodriguez and barry bonds Getty Images

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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  1. pinkfloydprism - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Great…another roider that can beat a record.

    • electstat - Jul 25, 2012 at 4:13 PM

      Terry Bradshaw admitted to using roids back in the 70s. Other baseball players have also admitted to not only using in the 70s, but seeing them in the minors in the 60s. How far back do you want to go do worry about the “records?”

      • pinkfloydprism - Jul 25, 2012 at 4:52 PM

        I actually do not care about the records. I was mainly calling Arod a roider.

      • giselleisasucubus - Jul 25, 2012 at 5:01 PM

        I know that the 70’s Steelers offensive lineman admitted to steroid abuse, but Bradshaw? I don’t know man, I don’t think he ever said that.

  2. dawgpoundmember - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    he will hit 75 next season in 145 games

  3. randygnyc - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    I don’t know about the record, but the Yankees should trade for David Wright to fill in while Arod is on the DL

  4. crashdavis99 - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Shouldn’t there be one, giant asterisk next to this whole article?

  5. thefalcon123 - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Jo Pos has been on the “A-Rod ain’t gonna break the record” train for a while, and I tend to believe him.

    Let’s say A-Rod comes back and smacks 5 more when he returns to the DL. That would give him 649, 113 shy with 6 years left on his contact (!!!)

    A-Rod hasn’t played 140 games since 2007 and has been hitting a home run every 26.7 PAs in the past two seasons. Let’s be *really* generous and say A-Rod plays 130 games each of the next 6 years and improbably maintains his current home run rate int his 40s.

    130* games* 6 years* 4.25 PA per game(won’t actually happen)= 3,315/26.7= 124 home runs.

    In kindest scenario I can imagine, A-Rod would barely reach the record. And that involves 41 year old A-Rod being much healthier and hitting home runs at the same rate he did 5 years before.

  6. crali - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    No one cares except Barry, Alex, and Hank Steinbrenner — and I’m a Yankees fan.

  7. 100loves - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    As long as Barry Bonds heads that list, the number (and the accomplishment) is meaningless. Continuing to acknowledge those who won through better science does nothing but render the value nil.

    • thefalcon123 - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:53 PM

      “Continuing to acknowledge those who won through better science does nothing but render the value nil”

      I whole heatedly agree! BTW, do you there that Tommy John only won 124 games and not 288 as many people claim?

      • chadjones27 - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:20 PM

        Thefalcon, did you mean “better science” as a euphamism for “PED’s.”
        Because if you mean training techniques, legal supplements, nutrition, video replay, advances in physical therapy and surgical methods, well, you’re just wrong. That’s just the game advancing.

      • bbil2012 - Jul 25, 2012 at 4:02 PM

        Good one falcon.
        Not to mention all the cortisone (a steroid hormone) ballplayers inject. Injections that lead to permanent damage.

    • blabidibla - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      Every current player has benefitted from better science.

  8. budselog - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Alex Rodriguez*

    it looks good.

  9. sincitybonobo - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    It would be fine with me if we stopped at one chemically induced HR king. The steroid factor would remove much of the joy from the public (see 2007).

    Despite his considerable talent, I don’t think many fans outside the tri-state area will have much nostalgia for ARod. He will walk away from the game with nearly a half billion in total earnings, at least one ring, and the first confirmed steroid cheat to challenge one of sports’ most revered records.

    I don’t believe his timeline- only in Texas- for steroid use. Frequently, when talking to investigators under duress, suspects will admit only to the minimum amount of wrongdoing. The Yankees foolishly singed him to the latest deal when they were largely bidding against themselves. I recall hearing the news that he was opting out of his deal during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

    The truly outrageous part of his latest deal is that he is eligible for $30 million in incentives for passing Mays, Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds. Breaking the HR record aside, am I the only one who finds it a bit unseemly that he’ll be cashing checks for passing the previous three? Does anyone think he’d be passing them without steroid use? (Please don’t equate amphetamine use by Mays and Aaron with steroids. The numbers and science make quite a distinction).

    Each dinger he hits sullies the record book a bit more. Stolen valor is difficult to celebrate. If he donates every cent of aforementioned incentives to charity, I’ll gain some respect for him- but not enough to view him as a greater player than Willie, Babe, and Hank.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 25, 2012 at 7:33 PM

      (Please don’t equate amphetamine use by Mays and Aaron with steroids. The numbers and science make quite a distinction).

      Citation needed!

      Each dinger he hits sullies the record book a bit more

      Ruth never played against black players, maybe Gibson would have broken his record. Asterisk
      Aaron admitted to taking PEDs, as did Mays, two more asterisks.

      You can do this with almost every slugger in baseball history, for some reason or another the playing field was/is never level.

      • skids003 - Jul 26, 2012 at 8:28 AM

        And Ted Williams gave up 6 prime years and the Mick didn’t take care of himself, so your point is…..?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 26, 2012 at 12:32 PM

        That people’s notions that today’s players are somehow were at an advantage compared to year’s past is laughable. Players have always had advantages over others, such as Ruth not playing against some of the best players in history, Williams (and others) missing time for wars, Mays/Aaron taking PEDs, etc.

  10. thefalcon123 - Jul 25, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    “The truly outrageous part of his latest deal is that he is eligible for $30 million in incentives for passing Mays, Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds. Breaking the HR record aside, am I the only one who finds it a bit unseemly that he’ll be cashing checks for passing the previous three? Does anyone think he’d be passing them without steroid use? (Please don’t equate amphetamine use by Mays and Aaron with steroids. The numbers and science make quite a distinction).”

    So, you ask us not to equate them because you like to pretend that greenies don’t exist or something? I’m confused by your insane troll logic.

    • sincitybonobo - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Not because amphetamines didn’t exist, but because they didn’t cause an insane spike in offensive production.

      MLB runs per game peaked in 2000 at 10.28. Since 2006, the number has declined every year- currently at 8.6. The last time it was that low was 1992- when “greenies” were still prevalent. This spike and retraction follows the trajectory of the steroid era- not an increase in amphetamine use.

  11. crookedstick - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    That is one creepy, awkward looking pic!

    • chadjones27 - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      It looks like two dudes with the same ex-wife meeting for the first time.

  12. sunsation3413 - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    Who cares? We can call most all records these days roid records. They mean nada….

  13. muir6 - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    As a yank fan I hope so, guy is an embarrassment. Aaron is the home run king

  14. Jeremy Fox - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Even setting aside catching Bonds, he’s no sure bet to catch Aaron. Aaron is hard to catch because he had his best 5-year home run period starting at age 35, thanks to the combination of sustaining his power late in his career and his team’s move to a good hitter’s park.

  15. kjfulch - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    STEROIDS!!!!!!!!!!

    • 18thstreet - Jul 25, 2012 at 8:32 PM

      I have something clever to say. No one ever noticed this before. Did you know that Alex Rodriguez used steroids? And that his nickname is A-Rod?

      Well, I think we should call him A-Roid, and mention his steroid use at every turn. I am the first person ever to say this.

  16. quonce - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    No one cares, and no one should recognize his nor Bonds accomplishments.

    Aaron is still king followed by Ruth and Mays.

    That’s the way I’m bringing my son up to understand it. When he asks, ill speak to it and state the life lesson involved. Its the only good thing that can come out of this era.

    *

    • Kevin S. - Jul 25, 2012 at 7:07 PM

      What life lesson is that, ignore anything that you don’t like and pretend it never happened?

      • 18thstreet - Jul 25, 2012 at 8:34 PM

        That’s why like to call the era from 1929 until 1945, “The Peace and Prosperity Years.”

        I don’t understand what this Greatest Generation nonsense is about.

  17. florida727 - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Interesting topic of conversation, Aaron, thanks for posting it. I don’t follow baseball as closely as I once did, but you mentioned 5 years left on his Yankees contract, and he’s 119 shy of breaking the record (unless you’re a baseball purist and still consider Aaron’s 755 the “real” record in light of Bonds’ “alleged” steroid use).

    For the 5 years of his contract remaining, he has to average 24 per season. In his 16 FULL seasons, he’s hit 624 of his 644 HR’s. That’s an average of 39 per. That means he has to average 61% of his career-to-date run-rate to do it in those 5 years. However, if he’s that close to the record, a) the Yankees won’t let him go, and b) they’ll sign him for a term until he breaks the record. Marketing and advertisement revenue will rule the day.

    I wouldn’t say it’s a foregone conclusion he’ll break the record, but if I were betting, I’d be betting that it happens.

  18. dannythebisforbeast - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    He’s gonna smash the record. Right after he goes to visit his cousin.

  19. Detroit Michael - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    Judging by the number of comments, lots of baseball fans care about this record, even if they claim they don’t.

  20. explodet - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Everyone knows Davis Eckstein is the true Home Run King. Not like all these other jokers with their “amino acids” and “melanin”.

  21. explodet - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Everyone knows David Eckstein is the true Home Run King. Not like all these other jokers with their “amino acids” and “melanin”.

  22. mrwillie - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    One asterisk ahead of Aaron, or two….makes no difference to me. Hammerin’ Hank will still be the all time HR king.

  23. rcali - Jul 25, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Can’t A-Fraud just rub some flaxseed oil on that hand and make it better overnight?

  24. ebrownwareagle - Jul 25, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    The vast majority of these Bastards commenting, never saw Hank, Mays, let alone Babe play a game. Outside of the 3 highlights they show of them on ESPN. So to all the hypocrites; GIVE IT A REST! Bonds is the Greatest Baseball player in this Generation, if not EVER! 7 MVP’s most all times in the MLB. 3 in the 90’s before the steroid allegations which was still tied for the most in MLB history. NUFF said.

    • imaduffer - Jul 25, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      Balco Berry and his side kick Greg the trainer. MVP?

    • Detroit Michael - Jul 25, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      I agree that Bonds and Ruth are the only two serious candidates for best baseball player ever. However when you call other people bastards and hypocrites and using the caps lock button, I’m still going to give you a thumbs down.

  25. drewzducks - Jul 25, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    Aaron, I do believe you meant to say Aaron’s record.

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