New York Yankees: Can Alex Rodriguez Still Break Barry Bonds' Home Run Record?

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2011

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will begin his age-36 season with 629 career home runs. Does he have enough games and ability left in him to surpass Barry Bonds' all-time record?

First, let's crunch the numbers.

Bonds clubbed 762 long balls over 22 MLB seasons. He began his age-36 campaign with only 494 home runs, but Rodriguez's advantage is not as sizable as it might seem.

2001 marked the beginning of a four-year, steroid-aided tear for Bonds. He garnered back-to-back-to-back-to-back NL MVP awards and amassed 209 home runs.

I can't imagine A-Rod approaching that total. His performance-enhancing drug use is behind him, and so are his most impressive single-season home run totals. 

Rodriguez has hit 35 or fewer bombs in each of the last four seasons—granted, he has spent significant time on the disabled list in all four. Specifically, he has had arthroscopic procedures on his hip and knee, which is a concern because both must be healthy for a batter to execute his optimal swing.

This trend is more than poor fortune.

While juiced with the Texas Rangers during the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons, Rodriguez missed only one game. Although steroids affect each individual differently, there is a consensus that it improves a player's durability.

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Rodriguez was once considered a shoe-in to become Major League Baseball's all-time home run king. He is well ahead of Bonds' pace, but it isn't realistic to expect him to produce as he did a decade ago with diminished power.

Moreover, the chances his body can last for an entire season are slimming. Even if A-Rod avoids injury, manager Joe Girardi will surely give his third baseman ample days off, thus depriving him of plate appearances.

He is under contract through 2017—his age-41 season—and it seems unlikely he would sign another contract afterward.

So, assuming six years remain in his illustrious and infamous career, will he ever slug No. 763?

I am confident he will.

To accomplish the feat, Rodriguez would need only to average 23 home runs per season. He managed just 16 in 2011. On the other hand, he hit at least 30 bombs every year between 1998 and 2010.

The Yankees' farm system lacks outstanding infield prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, meaning A-Rod won't be relegated to a bench role anytime soon.

Also, Yankee Stadium helps. Its dimensions are generous down the foul lines and Rodriguez has consistently been able to hit home runs to all fields since coming to New York. In the past, he has tagged baseballs to the opposite field to exploit the venue's short porch in right.

It's difficult to gauge public opinion on this topic. Discussion about Alex Rodriguez's pursuit of the record has become exceedingly rare.

Is it because people are skeptical he can pass Bonds? Have people become estranged to him since his PED admission?

Leave your comments below.