Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

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.

 

Giants hanging in there with 10 games to go; Sabean, Bochy should both return in 2010

PHOENIX — No matter what happens to the Giants in the National League’s Wild Card race, they’ve had a wildly successful season.

Coming off 90 losses in 2008, the Giants at least secured a .500 record with their 5-2 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field on Wednesday night. At 82 wins with 10 games to play, that’s already 10 victories better than ’08. Coupled with a Rockies loss to the Padres in Denver, the Giants are four games behind in the Wild Card race, tied with the suddenly surging Braves.

“We’re still breathing, we got help,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. “We’re running out of games. We know that, but there’s still hope.”

The Giants head home to play the Cubs this weekend, while the Rox get the NL Central-leading Cardinals at Coors Field. The Cards need a win or a Cubs loss to capture another division title. The Braves, meanwhile, get three vs. the 99-loss Nationals in Washington.

What the Giants have done should be enough to secure the jobs of Bochy and long-time general manager Brian Sabean, whose contracts both expire at the end of the season. Bill Neukom, the team’s new managing general partner, has told both men they’ll be evaluated with everyone else in the organization this offseason. Here’s hoping that the process doesn’t take long and neither of them are left dangling. They are both consummate professionals. Thus far, Neukom has kept his word and there has been silence on the subject internally and externally.

The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since 2003, but that’s not for lack of effort. In the post-Barry Bonds era, Sabean deserves credit for resisting the trade of his young pitchers — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson — for more grizzled veterans. With his future and job on the line, it would’ve been easy to take the “win it at all costs now” route. But Sabean didn’t. He stayed the course and the Giants should reward Sabean by staying with him.

Bochy has done one of his best managerial jobs this year, keeping a team with a thread-bare offense — the Giants’ 112 homers are next to last in the 16-team NL  — in contention for a playoff spot. But that’s not surprising. In his 12 years managing the Padres and now three with the Giants, Boch has always gotten the most out of every club. He won four division titles and the 1998 NL pennant in San Diego and was on a two-year playoff streak when he up and left the Padres for the Giants with one year left on his contract. The Giants owe him a debt of gratitude for coming and an extension for a job well done.

It’s tempting in this era of  instant Twitters and instant success to look elsewhere. But is anyone better out there? Ask Astros owner Drayton McLane, who fired GM Tim Pupura and manager Phil Garner only two years after a World Series loss to the White Sox. McLane brought in Ed Wade and Cecil Cooper. Since then the Astros have continued to falter and Cooper has been dismissed. Sometimes it’s better to stay the course.

The Giants still have an outside chance of making the postseason. If they tie the Rockies after 162 games, they’ll host a one-game Wild Card playoff at AT&T Park by virtue of a 10-8 head-to-head record with Colorado. If they don’t, there’s nothing to hang their heads about.

“Our goal this year was to go to the postseason,” Bochy said. “We all thought we had the team here to do it. But no question, as an organization we wanted to make an improvement. That’s something we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to play winning baseball and now we’ve done that.”

And so, the architect and the manager should be rewarded accordingly.

 

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