In the history of competitive sport you’d be hard pressed to find a more negative situation with regard to someone breaking a record. As Barry Bonds staggers across the finish line of 755 career home runs, his biggest accomplishment will that he tarnished one of the most hallowed records in all of sport.
Where Hank Aaron stood tall in the face of enormous pressure and was ever the gentleman despite every opportunity to turn sour, Bonds has been a selfish, unappealing anti-hero. Face it: only the most hardcore San Francisco Giants fans are rooting for Bonds to hit 756.
The bad news is that barring any recurrence of his knee problems, the doddering old Bonds – baseball’s Norma Desmond – looks like he’ll pass Hammerin’ Hank later this season and “earn” his place in the record books as the all-time home run king.
The good news is that it’s a pretty good bet that Bonds’ reign will be over almost as soon as it starts. Like Pope John Paul I and Bud Fox, Bonds won’t spend too much time on top.
You may have heard of a guy by the name of Alex Rodriguez who plays third base for the New York Yankees. A-Rod, as he’s commonly known, started the 2007 season as a 31-year old with 464 career homers. As I write this he’s sitting at 478 and has gotten off to a record setting start, hitting 14 home runs in April.
Going into this season Rodriguez averaged 42 round-trippers per season for the past 10 years since becoming a full-time player as a 20-year old in 1996. Barry Bonds hit only 292 home runs during his first 10 seasons, and were it not for his * cough cough * power surge over the past 11 seasons, where he hit 442 homers and averaged 40 per season, he would be lucky to be sniffing the 600-career home run mark.
But we all know that story by now. So let’s move on, because this is surely what baseball will do.
Assuming Bonds can gimp past 755 this season, there will probably be a lull of a season or two before the “A-Rod Watch” begins. As baseball looks to get the taint of the scandal-plagued and unpleasant Bonds scrubbed off of the game, they will turn to Alex Rodriguez – wherever he is then.
You don’t have to be a math whiz or a baseball expert to look at A-Rod’s numbers and figure out that he’s going to sprint past whatever number Bonds puts up -– or if he doesn’t make it -– Aaron’s 755 standard. Since he has been a legit slugger throughout his entire career, it’s not unreasonable to extrapolate the numbers and figure that by the time the 2013 season starts the 37-year-old A-Rod will have accumulated 711 dingers and will surpass the Aaron or Bonds standard during the ’13 campaign.
Barring injury or major scandal Alex Rodriguez should hit his 760th career home run during the latter stages of 2013, and will hit his 800th home run well before he turns into the faltering 40-something year old that Bonds has become. As compared to Bonds who hangs on pathetically just to break a record nobody wants to see him break, A-Rod will become the all-time home run king as a productive 38-year old ballplayer.
Where Bonds struggled and stumbled, Rodriguez will glide gracefully into the record books, at the peak of his game.
For a big man playing demanding positions A-Rod has been remarkably durable. Since he became an everyday player he has appeared in under 140 games just once and has averaged almost 600 at-bats per season. Since the steroid era began, the argument can be made that A-Rod has been the league’s most durable slugger. This kind of dependability, combined with big-time consistent production, bodes well for a guy who is in pursuit of the all-time home run record.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that Major League Baseball will pull out all the stops to promote the efforts of a player that can help the league move past the shame of the sordid, scandal plagued steroid years, for which Bonds was the poster child.
For all of his public relations blunders under the unforgiving glare of the New York spotlight, Rodriguez isn’t a bad guy; he hasn’t yet been tarnished by scandal and hasn’t run afoul of MLB’s drug policy. As a matter of fact, A-Rod’s biggest problem is that he was so good at such a young age that he signed the most lucrative pro contract ever, with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2001 season. In one of the worst bargaining moves ever, the Rangers bid against themselves and offered money to A-Rod that was well in excess to what any competing teams offered.
In the aftermath, the Rangers were failures and A-Rod bore the brunt of the fans' ire, and he was traded to the Yanks prior to the 2004 season. The anti-A-Rod faction likes to point out that he hasn’t performed well in the clutch and as a result can’t be considered a truly great ballplayer, and to a point this may be so. However, Barry Bonds hasn’t exactly been Mr. October himself. Since we are talking about the all-time home run king here, and not the all-time best ballplayer, matters of “clutch” don’t really matter that much.
Oddly enough, Aaron’s legacy as a phenomenal all-around player has taken a backseat to his position as the man who broke Babe Ruth’s record.
And Rodriguez still has a lot of baseball left in him and should have plenty of opportunities to perform well in clutch situations and as a result help whatever team he is playing for win a ring.
So Bonds may surpass Aaron and show up as number one on the all-time home run list for a few years. But his time at the top will be short, and seem even shorter, for as soon as Bonds is off the scene the baseball world will follow the slugging exploits of Alex Rodriguez, the heir obvious to the throne of home run king. It could be the best thing that’s happened to baseball in a long time.
The king is dead, long live the king.Powered by Sidelines