There are some hallowed numbers in baseball history, such as Joe DiMaggio's 56 (his hitting streak), .406 (Ted Williams' batting average in 1941) and 762, which just so happens to be the number of home runs that Barry Bonds hit in his career, seven more than Hank Aaron for the most in the history of the game. Whatever you think about Bonds' performance enhancing drug (PED) run to history, the fact is that his number is one that every ballplayer will be chasing if they want to be known as the greatest power hitter who ever lived.
One of the pretenders to the home run throne of Bonds is Alex Rodriguez. In unfortunate parallel with the two, "A-Roid," as he is called by some, has admitted to using steroids in the past to aid his performance. Of course, he said that was in the past and that he was clean now, but that would seem to fly in the face of the report in the Miami New Times, which relays that Rodriguez was still receiving performance enhancing drugs (HGH) as recently as last year (others implicated in the report include Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz and Yasmani Grandal).
The outcome of what yet another PED scandal will bring is uncertain—the players will obviously be suspended if they are found to be guilty—but it appears that Rodriguez might realize what anyone watching him has been worried about the past couple of years; his skills are on the decline. Given his once near-certain run at 762 homers, the question must be asked if the often injured 37-year-old can stay healthy long enough to make a run at history?
Rodriguez is currently working his way back from a hip injury that required surgery, and the belief is that he will be out until mid-season. Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman did say that it's possible that Rodriguez could miss the entire 2013 season, but that statement seemed to be more about giving an honest answer to a question that was posed versus Cashman presenting any definitive information that suggested A-Rod missing the season was likely to occur.
“I think because (of) the serious nature of the surgery and the condition that he’s trying to recover from, you know, there is that chance [he could miss the season]... there’s no guarantees in this stuff.”
So assuming that Rodriguez is back at some point in 2013, and at full health moving forward, what are his odds of catching Bonds in the big fly category? Bill James—the noted sabermatrician—has placed the odds of Rodriguez catching Bonds at less than one percent in the 2013 Bill James Handbook. (In fact, Albert Pujols has a better shot at 10 percent followed by Miguel Cabrera who is listed as a seven percent contender.) Why has A-Rod fallen so far, so quickly? (As recently as the 2010 version of the book Rodriguez was given a 40 percent chance of reaching 762.)
- From 1998-2003 Rodriguez hit at least 41 home runs every season. No other player in baseball is in that group.
- From 1998-2010 Rodriguez his at least 30 home runs every season. No other player in baseball is in that group.
- From 1998-2010 A-Rod hit a total of 549 home runs, an average of 42 homers a season, which is 93 homers more than any other player in baseball (Jim Thome had 456).
Over the last two seasons, however, the 37-year-old Rodriguez has hit a total of 34 homers in 221 games as injuries have beaten him down. For the sake of context, per 150 games the past two seasons, he's hit an average of 23 home runs; one-third lower than his established yearly pace.
Presently, Rodriguez has gone deep 647 times in his career, leaving him 115 home runs short of Bonds. At his current rate of 17 homers per season the past two seasons, he would have to play nearly seven full seasons to reach 762.
We know it's likely that he will miss half of the 2013 season because of his hip issue, and though reports suggest that his hip should sufficiently recover, it's growing increasingly unlikely that his skills and body will hold up long enough for him to hit the 115 home runs needed to catch Bonds.
The Yankees have Rodriguez under contract for at least $20 million each of the next four years, so barring something unforeseen happening—like A-Rod being able to hold off Father Time—it appears that he is set to earn a whole lot of money for the player he used to be but no longer the player that he is. Whether or not he misses half of the coming campaign or the whole season, it appears that Rodriguez simply doesn't have enough left to reach that 762 mark.