“Obviously, when you talk about a name like Willie Mays, when the time comes that’s a pretty great name.” — Alex Rodriguez.
Notice he said “when.” I’d like to talk a little more about “if.”
Nothing can be taken for granted in life. You are not even guaranteed another day. It’s easy to look into the future and assume that something will happen, but many times that day never comes.
Maybe it’s a promotion at work that keeps you waking up every morning. Maybe one day that girl you like will express her undying love for you. Maybe you’ll die in a car accident on the way to buy cigarettes.
Go ahead and look at A-Rod’s lifetime numbers — they are mind boggling. The season he had at 20 years old goes down as one of the best ever (.358, 141 R, 36 HR, 123 RBI). It’s a travesty he didn’t win the MVP award that year.
It’s not that he doesn’t have his share of records and awards. He’s won 3 MVP awards. He’s been invited to the All-Star game 14 times. He makes more money than anyone in the game.
None of that matters in this discussion.
To A-Rod, twenty nine home runs might not seem like a lot, but he is no spring chicken. He will turn 37 in July. In this supposed “post-steroid” era, 29 home runs could be an entire season’s worth.
Look at his HR totals from the last four years: 35 in 2008, 30 in 2009, 30 in 2010 and 16 in 2011. The dwindling trend is obvious.
All it takes is one injury to the lower body and his season could be just like last year. Or even worse. He’s not hitting the cover off the ball so far this year, and at times he just looks… old.
The fact that he has a contract until he’s 42 works in his favor. Barring a career ending injury, he will likely get that $6 million bonus for passing Mays.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the batter most similar to him by age has been Hank Aaron for the last four years. If he plays like Aaron for the next 3-4 years, we’ll be talking about him passing Bonds. Yay.
OK, so we can all agree that he will probably pass Mays. When? If not this year, surely it should be next year.
But what about our other question? Do we WANT him to pass Mays?
After his admittance of steroid use, many people immediately discounted A-Rod’s accomplishments as artificially inflated. Unfortunately, we’ll never know how inflated.
But does that matter to anyone any more? Do these records matter anymore? hardly anyone gave a damn about him passing Griffey. We all assumed he would do it. After all, Rodriguez is the fastest player in history to reach 500.
I remember saying to an old buddy, “I can’t wait until A-Rod passes Bonds so he isn’t the home run king anymore.”
Many people I know felt the same way. How stupid he made us all look.
I most definitely look at him differently now. Don’t misunderstand, I still look at his career stats and shake my head in amazement. It’s hard to believe how awesome he has been for so long. No matter what, he will go down as one of the best ever.
Who doesn’t love watching history in the making? About 10 years ago, I wanted A-Rod to break all the records. I wanted to be able to tell my grandkids I watched him play.
Of course by the time I have grandkids modern medicine will be so advanced steroids will probably seem like wooden teeth.
Nothing inside me is rooting for him to break another record. Likely he will pass Mays and Ruth, with a series of uneventful seasons batting .247 with 14 HRs.
And if I had to guess, no one will care.
► Read more articles written by Paul Phipps.