Alex Rodriguez was a treasure, one of the brightest talents baseball had ever seen, a 20-year-old shortstop with five tools and other, unseen tools that existed in sixth, seventh, and eighth dimensions. Then he was a mercenary, drawing the ire of people who get upset when others make rational, obvious decisions about money. Then he was a Yankee, with all the entitlement, success, and villainy that came with it. Then he was a cheat, a scoundrel, everything that's wrong with baseball.
This is Phase 5, then. It's Alex Rodriguez, master troll. He's coming for your records, baseball. He's coming for your records. And he's doing it for a team that would be thrilled if he retired in the middle of a postseason game. No one wants Alex Rodriguez to keep hitting records, other than a section of Yankees fans and people who appreciate a good middle finger. That last group is larger than you think.
We're not just talking about the third-place spot, held by Babe Ruth, a mark that would make for some beautifully repugnant poetry if A-Rod were to eclipse it. It's time to see just how Alex Rodriguez can become the all-time home run champ, passing Barry Bonds and making even more beautifully repugnant poetry in the process. The odds are long. The road will be perilous. Here's how he can do it, though.
Step One: Keep having a goofy 2015 season
On-pace stats are stupid. Let's look at Alex Rodriguez's on-pace stats. Through 27 games, Rodriguez has hit seven homers, putting him on pace for 39 this season. He's also on pace for 525 at-bats, which seems optimistic, but not ludicrous. Health + dingers is the first step. Let's just tack those 32 homers onto his career mark. He's on pace for them, after all.
Alex Rodriguez, 693 home runs, age 40
It's not like A-Rod's current total, 661, isn't ridiculous. But there's something about that "6" and "9" leading off that last number. It's not even a round number, it just sounds nice and big.
Step Two: Be good enough and healthy enough to stay in the 2016 lineup
A list of the best seasons from 40-year-old players, ranked in order of home runs:
- Darrell Evans, 34
- Dave Winfield, 26
- Hank Sauer, 26
- Harold Baines, 25
- Edgar Martinez, 24
- Eddie Murray, 22
- Craig Biggio, 21
- Hank Aaron, 20
- Raul Ibanez, 19
- George Brett, 19
- Carlton Fisk, 19
Remember, we're not choosing the likely path for Rodriguez. We're picking a possible path. The likely path is still that he breaks in some capacity before the end of this season, going on the DL at least once. A possible path has him hitting roughly as many homers as Evans did for the Tigers in 1987.
Now, A-Rod won't have the benefit of a league-wide spike in dingers, like Evans did in the "rabbit ball" season, but he will play half his games at Yankee Stadium, which is 40 feet down the line, give or take. It's one of the more fortuitous placements possible for someone thirsty for dingers.
We'll play it a little safe, then, and give him a cool 30 homers. It would be one of the better seasons for a 40-year-old. It would not be the best.
Alex Rodriguez, 723 home runs, age 41
You're not laughing now, baseball. You're not laughing now.
Step Three: Show up and collect a paycheck in 2017
I don't think it's especially rational to expect 500 or 600 at-bats from A-Rod when he's 41. Evans did it. Edgar did it. Aaron did it. So maybe Rodriguez can do it. We know he'll want to try, and the Yankees will have 21,000,000 reasons to hope he won't. Here's Rodriguez showing up for spring training in 2017:
Don't forget that he gets $6 million for tying Bonds's record and $6 million for breaking it. Ostensibly because the Yankees will sell at least $12 million in "I WAS THERE" merchandise to people who are just so excited about the record.
If he's that good in 2016, though, it's not like the Yankees are going to bench him out of spite. They'll run him out there and hope he stays healthy and effective as long as they're paying him. Just how healthy can he be, though? He has the janky hip. He has the hinky knees. Let's put him down for 17 homers in limited at-bats.
If only there were something he could take to keep him healthier, or at least allow him to recover quicker. Some sort of super elixir that helped him feel younger and stronger. I guess that's just a wild fantasy, though. Guess I'm just a dreamer.
Alex Rodriguez, 740 home runs, age 42
So close. So far away.
Step Four: Become Julio Franco
This one is tricky. Not in theory, but in practice. In this step, Rodriguez would accept the role of a part-time DH and general thumper off the bench. He would need to be OK with about two starts a week and 200 to 300 at-bats, rapping about 8-10 homers a year for two or three seasons. He would need to keep his bat speed up, fighting off age, which is still undefeated. He would need to be an asset to a team.
That could all happen easily ... if not for the baggage.
Clem Stickbill Hello, I am Clem Stickbill, an old veteran who still has power and can terrorize left-handed pitchers off the bench.
General manager: Go on ...
Compare that with this:
Alex Rodriguez: Hello, I am Alex Rodr
General manager: /eats phone
It will be difficult for Rodriguez to have enough obvious value at 42 to make a team overlook the sideshow. The NL teams would probably be out, for obvious reasons, though Franco did play for the Mets and Braves.
Suggestion: fake mustache. Let's assume there's a team that's thinking pragmatically and is desperate for power. Give him eight homers in one year, and 10 homers in another
Alex Rodriguez, 748 home runs, age 43
758 home runs, age 44
Now find a team that wants him back for that age-44 season, the one that will want the weird feat/stain of Rodriguez hitting 5 homers and setting a record in their uniform. Yankees probably wouldn't be interested. Red Sox would, but only if they had a delightful sense of humor. Really, it's hard to find a good fit, but again, we're talking about years in the future. Plenty can change.
He can hit five homers as a 44-year-old, though. Julio Franco did it in 2003. Just give him that chance.
Alex Rodriguez, 763 home runs, retired
It's probably not going to work. The odds are stacked against A-Rod, even if you give him a couple more years of health. He'll have to do things that 42-, 43-, and 44-year-olds have never done, and he'll have to find teams willing to employ him and deal with the metaphorical crew that's forever filming his drama for a metaphorical reality show on Bravo. But the goal was to visualize exactly how Alex Rodriguez could become the home run king. Here's one way, even if it's supremely unlikely.