Will injuries keep Alex Rodriguez from breaking Barry Bonds’ home run record?

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Not so long ago Alex Rodriguez seemed very likely to finish his career as the all-time home run king.

He won the MVP in 2007 with a monster season, hitting .314 with 54 homers, 156 RBIs, and a 1.067 OPS. At that point he was 31 years old with 518 career homers, had hit at least 35 homers every season for a decade, and had played at least 150 games in seven straight years.

And then he started to get hurt. Rodriguez smacked 35 homers in 2008, but missed 24 games with injuries. And then he missed 38 games in 2009, 25 games in 2010, and 63 games last season. And now Rodriguez is expected to be sidelined until September with a broken hand courtesy of a Felix Hernandez pitch last night.

In addition to missing 150 games from 2008-2011 and what will probably be another 40 or so games this year Rodriguez has also seen his power numbers decline significantly in his mid-30s. Through that MVP-winning 2007 season he averaged 45 homers per 162 games, but from 2008-2010 he averaged 39 homers per 162 games and during the past two seasons he’s averaged 27 homers per 162 games.

Rodriguez has 644 career homers, which is the most in baseball history through age 36–by 33 over Babe Ruth, 52 over Hank Aaron, and 77 over Barry Bonds. However, between his injuries and rapidly declining power Rodriguez is far from a sure thing to hit the 119 homers needed to surpass Bonds as the all-time leader.

Barry Bonds       762
Hank Aaron        755
Babe Ruth         714
Willie Mays       660
Alex Rodriguez    644

He’s signed through 2017 and the Yankees still owe him $114 million, so Rodriguez has plenty of motivation to stick around into his 40s, but he’d have to hit 20-25 homers per season for the final five years of that contract to become the all-time leader. Rodriguez is certainly still capable of that, but he’s also hit a total of just 29 homers with a modest .455 slugging percentage in 192 games during the past two seasons.

If he’s going to break the home run record it’s going to be by a much narrower margin than once seemed likely, which means every broken bone, minor surgery, and strained muscle takes a big chunk out of his chances.

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Clay Buchholz apologized to the Phillies for getting injured

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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.

According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.

It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.

Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.

Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.

Eric Thames leaves game with apparent injury

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Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

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Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.

The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.