Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

A-Rod must fight pressure to reach 762

Alex Rodriguez will certainly reach the 600-homer plateau, whether it’s tonight, tomorrow or next week. The real question is whether A-Rod can ultimately catch and pass Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader at 762?

The fact that A-Rod has gone 12 games, 46 at bats and 51 plate appearances since he hit 599 doesn’t auger well. It’s by far the longest drought of the six players who went before him. It took Willie Mays 22 at bats at 39 in 1970 to go from 599-600. It took Ken Griffey Jr. 18 at bats at 38 in 2008.  Bonds, Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Sammy Sosa (609) took less.

“The way I’m swinging now, it’s probably going to take a while — everybody get comfortable,” the Yankees third baseman said on Saturday night.

It goes without saying that the longer it takes now, the more grueling it’s going to be later. A-Rod just turned 35 and has seven years to go on his Yankees contract that ends in 2017 at 42. That means he’ll have to average about 23 homers a year between now and then to do it.

Bonds, the Giants slugger, was 43 and playing on surgically repaired knees when he passed Aaron on Aug. 7, 2007, at AT&T Park. It took him three days from the night he tied the record in San Diego to the night he broke it against the Nationals.

Bonds, who has was born on July 24, hit 195 of his homers during the seasons in which he turned 38 to 43. And that doesn’t count the 73 he hit in 2001. His last 40-homer year was 45 at 39 in 2004. He last played in 2007. 

Aaron hit 163 homers from the ages of 37-42. His last 40-homer season was at 39 for the Braves in 1973, the year before he broke Ruth’s record. He retired in 1976.

A-Rod may have already peaked. His last 40-homer  season was 54 the year he turned 32 in 2007. Since then he’s been on a steady decline: 35 in ’08, 30 in ’09 when he missed the first month because of hip surgery, and currently 16. He’ll need a barrage of homers the last two months of this season to  hit 30 again, a mark he’s either reached or surpassed every year since 1998.

The good news for Rodriguez is that he’ll need less homers at an advanced baseball age to break the all-time record than Aaron and Bonds did before him. The bad news is that he has a nagging hip injury that somewhere down the road ultimately may lead to more surgery.

“If he stays healthy enough, if he plays the game the way he always has,
he has a great shot at it,” Bonds said about A-Rod’s chances of passing
him. “He just needs to stay focused. There are a lot of reporters
around all the time. You’ve got to separate yourself from that. You want
to do well for your teammates on top of everything else that’s swirling
around. A home run, base hit, whatever. To win the game for your team
is the most important thing.”

On the field, this is what Bonds had to overcome: He missed the last six weeks of the 1994 season because of the strike, part of the ’99 season with an elbow injury, almost all of the ’05 season because of the knee injuries, and walked a record 2,558 times. Despite all that and a plethora of off-field pressures and problems, he broke the record.

As far as A-Rod is concerned, the health issue is the first caveat. Let’s add this second: He better learn to deal with the media attention and the accruing pressure or he’s certainly not going to make it. If it’s taking him this long to get to 600, when he gets to 762 he doesn’t realize what he’ll be facing.

 

A-Rod set to have breakout postseason

I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you that while the Yankees are are piling up the regular-season wins and are so far meeting expectations, Alex Rodriguez is in place to have a monster postseason.

By any stretch of the imagination his regular season has been very representative: a .285 batting average, 28 homers, 93 RBIs, a .403 on base percentage, a .524 slugging percentage and a .927 OPS when the latter two statistics are combined. That would be a fine season for anyone, but A-Rod was not inserted into the lineup until May 8 because of a hip injury that may (or may not) require off-season surgery.

Not coincidentally, the Yanks’ turnaround began when A-Rod came back. On May 7, they were 13-15, 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. Since then, they are 88-41, having clinched the East. Going into play today, they own a 9 1/2-game lead on the Red Sox, a massive 15-game turnaround.

Consider the fact that on July 19, 1978, the Yanks trailed Boston by 14 games. What ensued was the most memorable comeback in Yankees’ history that ended with the Bucky Dent, one-game playoff at Fenway Park that broke more than a few hearts because the Beantowners had blown a certain division title.

Of course, those Yankees won their second consecutive World Series, defeating the Dodgers in six games in both cases. That’s the rubric now that all Yankee teams are judged upon, which certainly was not always the case. If their 101-win season does not translate into their 27th World Series title, the season will be considered wildly disappointing.

That’s where A-Rod comes in. He’s had a quiet season off the field. He is no longer the focal point of the lineup that boasts Derek Jeter with 207 hits at the top of it and Robinson Cano with his 202 hits near the bottom of it. When A-Rod returned to the cleanup spot, Mark Teixeira started seeing a lot of pitches. He has 38 homers and a league-leading 120 RBIs. On May 7, Teixeria had five home runs and 15 RBIs.

The point is, this postseason A-Rod doesn’t have to be the guy. He can fly under the radar and is under no pressure to perform save for the head games he plays on himself. Yes, the Yanks have only won one playoff series since he arrived in 2004 and have won none since the ignoble collapse to Boston that postseason when they were three outs away from a sweep only to lose that series in seven games. In his five postseason series with the Yankees, he’s had four homers and nine RBIs.

But I hark back to the young A-Rod, whose Seattle team lost to the Yanks in the 2000 AL Championship Series. He hit .409 (9-for-22) in the six-games with two homers, five RBIs and 17 total bases, looking like what he is — the best overall player in baseball. So another good postseason series is certainly buried in there somewhere. My prediction is that he finds it this postseason. For the Yanks, there couldn’t be a better time for that happen.

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