In the first inning of today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Rodriguez blasted his 600th career home run to dead center field off of Toronto starter Shaun Marcum. You can watch the video here.
Rodriguez becomes the seventh player to reach this milestone, and he does so at only 35 years old, suggesting that he may be able to chase 700 and the marks put up by Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds. If Rodriguez can do anything near what either of these three monoliths put up after their age-34 seasons (Rodriguez turned 35 on July 27th, meaning he spent a majority of the 2010 season as a 34-year-old), even 800 home runs could be a possibility. Ruth had the weakest twilight years of the trio, with 198. Aaron blasted 245 in the eight seasons he played after turning 35, but that doesn’t quite touch Bonds’s 317. Of course, Bonds’s performance is covered by the shadow of the steroids era, but it still far outweighs the performance of any of his peers at that age.
Can Alex Rodriguez keep up his performance? Even though New Yankee Stadium favors left handed hitters more than right handed hitters, StatCorner’s park factors suggest it should still help Rodriguez in his quest for 800 or 762 or 755 or any other number he’s going after. The real question is if he can fend off the effects of aging long enough.
A-Rod’s power from ages 31-34 is trending down and right now it’s hard to imagine him rattling off another 200 home runs in his career to reach 800. It’s possible that 762 will be tough for him to reach, and we always have to account for the possibility of injury. However, Aaron had an even less impressive, albeit more consistent, stretch in that same time of his career, and he went on to be a tremendous slugger through age 40. Ruth’s career was simpler, as he steadily declined from utterly ridiculous to merely really good from age 32 to age 40, but Ruth’s power numbers were driven by a more balanced attack between doubles and home runs, whereas Aaron didn’t hit many doubles in his later career.
Alex Rodriguez has already cemented himself as one of the elite hitters in the game’s history at a relatively young age. Now the question becomes how much does he have left. He certainly has the chance to be the first player to reach 800 home runs stateside – one can never forget the great Sadaharu Oh and his 868 career Japanese home runs – but there’s also no guarantee, given the realities of injury and aging, that he can reach the records of Bonds and Aaron or even become the fourth player to reach 700 home runs. Over the next few years, we will find out if Rodriguez can join this pantheon of greats, but even if he doesn’t, this is an accomplishment to be celebrated.
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