Will A-Rod break Barry Bonds' record?

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Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th homer today. That’s well and good, but if the poll results are any indication you all don’t really care. But you will probably care more if and when he breaks 700 and starts knocking on the door of messers. Ruth, Aaron and Bonds.  Will it happen? Let’s break down some rough numbers:

  • A-Rod has 600 homers;
  • The record is 762;
  • A-Rod is under contract through 2017;
  • If he stays on his current pace for the rest of the reason, he’d finish with around 26 or 27 homers for 2010, putting him 152 or 153 homers shy of a new home run record.

Thus, Rodriguez would only have to average around 21-22 homers a year between now and the end of his deal to break the record. I find that eminently doable.

From 1996 — when he became a full time player — though 2009 he averaged 41.7 home runs per season. Those days are likely over now, but even if you assume that his production for 2008-2010 is the “new normal” for the guy, that puts him at around 30 homers a year, which puts him safely ahead of a record breaking pace. And that’s assuming he doesn’t pull out some late career mini-resurgence which gives him a random season of 40 here or there, which I could easily see happening.

Of course there’s nothing certain in this world.  Health being the biggest uncertainty. If A-Rod suffered a catastrophic injury all bets are off, but that’s the case for anyone chasing a record.  Just ask Ken Griffey Jr. what one’s late 30s are all about.

But A-Rod also, perversely enough, has his contract on his side. Being signed to that deal will give him more chances to come to the plate as he approaches the end of his career simply because there’s way less of a chance that teams will just turn their back on him like they did on Barry Bonds the year after he broke Aaron’s record.  Whether it’s the Yankees or some other team, the chances are very, very high that he’ll be on someone’s roster for the next seven years.

Sure, if A-Rod’s skills have eroded to a certain degree the Yankees — who will presumably remain competitive — may consider him a sunk cost and cut bait on him, but if that happens he becomes a very affordable gate attraction for the Orioles or the Athletics or any other team who needs a DH and some excitement. With the Yankees paying him $25 million regardless, Rodriguez would probably have no trouble signing with any other team for the veteran minimum, and if he gets his at bats, he should get his 21-22 home runs.

There are no guarantees in this world, but I’d feel pretty safe in betting that A-Rod will break Barry Bonds’ record one day.

Aaron Judge ties the rookie home run record with his 49th blast

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Monday afternoon baseball that isn’t either (a) part of a doubleheader; or (b) on a holiday is always a bit unsettling, but today’s rare Monday tilt gave us a gift in the form of history: Aaron Judge hit his 49th home run, tying the rookie record.

The dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. Mark McGwire also hit 49 with the Athletics in 1987. Judge has the rest of today’s game and five more games after it to hit number 50 and claim the record for himself.

Watch:

Major League Baseball wants you to look at a screen while you’re at the ballpark

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During the debate last week involving expanded netting at major league ballparks, the familiar refrain from the anti-netting crowd rung out: “hey, netting wouldn’t be necessary if you simply paid attention!” These folks get particularly upset at the idea of people looking at their phones or other electronic devices during the game, implying — or sometimes explicitly stating — that if you do that you almost deserve to be hit with a 100 mph foul ball.

The problem with that, though, is that Major League Baseball increasingly encourages fans to use their phones during games. You can order your concessions through them now. Fans are encouraged to use the MLB.com Ballpark app for an increasing number of in-game features. And, of course, the video boards — always in the opposite direction of the hitter — are getting larger and larger and contain more and more information that the clubs and the league want you to see.

But it goes farther than that. Or at least it will soon. As this article from TechCrunch makes clear, in the future, Major League Baseball wants you actually watching the game action through your phone or your iPad. It’s an augmented reality feature in which you hold up your tablet and . . .

In essence, it’s a bit like watching TV broadcast in person, with information overlaid on the action as it happens in real-time. The data is gathered from Statcast, MLB’s in-house analytics tool . . . Players on the field, meanwhile, get small, square popups featuring their faces that can be tapped open to offer up personalized player information

Which is kind of cool, actually. Personally I am fascinated with the possibilities of augmented reality. For me it usually comes to mind when I’m out hiking and I want to know what a certain kind of tree is or something (my natural education was sorely lacking as a child), but there are tons of other applications. Even though I probably know more about the players and what’s going on on the field than your average American, I’d still probably use such a product, at least a little bit at a game.

But, of course, there is that safety tradeoff. How can Major League Baseball continue to be hands-off about a netting policy and maintain that fans assume the risk of foul ball injuries while simultaneously encouraging the use of electronic devices that will, necessarily, distract them from directly observing on-field action? Indeed, if they do continue to maintain that paradoxical approach, I’d expect this quote from the article to be used at a trial of an injured fan suing for damages:

“People are already using their phones, and we don’t think this is all that different,” MLB Product VP Chad Evans told us at the event. Of course, in a sport where small spherical objects are regularly projected into the stands at high speeds, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the field. Perhaps popping up an alert on screen when a ball approaches would be a good start.

That last bit — not the quote, but the article’s suggestion of a warning — is comical given how quickly a ball can make it into the stands. Even fans paying rapt attention can get hurt by fast foul balls. Expecting them to process a warning and then act based on it when instinct often isn’t fast enough is ridiculous.

Cool product, for sure. Like I said, I’d probably even use it on occasion. But the more technology and the more distractions Major League Baseball pours into the game, the more responsibility it will have when those distractions contribute to fan injuries. In light of that, they simply cannot continue to be hands-off with respect to the matter.