Thursday night in the Bronx, Alex Rodriguez closed within one homer of the 600 mark with a blast off Royals reliever Robinson Tejeda. The long ball was A-Rod’s 16th of the season – not exactly a blistering pace, but respectable.
The big question now is, how long until we see number 600? It took him nine games between 499 and 500. I don’t want to say that A-Rod is a total head case but I think he has a tendency to press and try too hard. Maybe the years in Pinstripes and the post-season appearances have made an impact and he cruises past the 600 mark on Friday against the Royals. Maybe it takes him another week.
Regardless of when he reaches it, he’s going to be compared to the men sitting ahead of him on the list: Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron.
Babe Ruth is from a bygone era and his 714 homers were reportedly fueled by hotdogs and booze. Mays played in the Negro Leagues during his early career and did not debut with the Giants until 1951. He hit 660 homers over 22 major league seasons. Aaron played one season of Negro League ball before joining the Braves franchise and made his major league debut in 1954. He hit his 755th homer in 1976.
Mays and Aaron were blessed with career longevity and Mays would have had even better numbers had scouts believed he could hit the curve ball and signed him to a major league contract sooner.
Of the modern-day players, only Griffey (630 homers) has been exempt from any steroid use accusations. Bonds (762) and Sosa (609) – not so much.
When A-Rod finishes his career and the dust settles, I’m really unsure about how he will be remembered. If he can outlast the PED scandal and gain forgiveness in the public’s eye before he hangs up his spikes, I think he will be in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. If more information comes to light or something else surfaces, he might face the same scorn and scrutiny as Bonds and Sosa.
You might be as shocked as I am to learn that there are only two other current players even close to A-Rod with more than 500 homers - Jim Thome (that’s right, Jim Thome) has 575 and Manny has 554.
A-Rod will turn 35 on July 27. He still has plenty of time to hit more, especially with the DH role calling his name once he can’t play the (baseball) field anymore.
Thome is 40 and on a one-year deal with the Twins, so I don’t see him getting to 600 unless he hangs on for a couple more seasons. He’s homered 11 times this year so far, so it’s not unfathomable that he reaches 600 if he can string together a couple more one-year deals.
Manny turned 38 in May and is troubled at best. It’s a shame because he’s probably the most naturally talented hitter of the three.
Rodriguez has a lot of career left ahead of him. If he keeps his head on straight, he may well wear the crown of all-time home run king.
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Written by Stephanie Geosits