For the fifth consecutive season, Alex Rodriguez will miss significant playing time because of injury, after getting hit in the hand on Tuesday night by a Felix Hernandez pitch. Rodriguez will be out 6-8 weeks with a broken bone.
If Rodriguez misses 50 games, that adds up to more than 200 games missed since 2008. Once one of the most durable players in the game (he played 162 games three times and twice played 161), Rodriguez had appeared to be a shoo-in to break Barry Bonds' record of 762 home runs. Now? It's not quite so clear.
Rodriguez sits at 644 home runs and turns 37 on Friday. With five more years on his contract after 2012, he'd have to hit 119 home runs from his age-37 season (2013) through his age-41 season (2017), minus whatever he hits when he returns in September. Say he needs 115 home runs; that's still an average of 23 per season over the next five years. Easy? Not really. Consider:
Giving him four more this year, that still gives him an average of just 24 per season over the past four seasons.
Only six players have hit at least 115 home runs from age 37 on -- Bonds, Hank Aaron, Darrell Evans, Carlton Fisk, Ted Williams and Rafael Palmeiro. Aaron averaged 40 home runs from ages 37-39 before hitting just 42 over his final three seasons. Evans hit 40 at the age of 38. Fisk played until he was 45.
Seven players have at least 23 home runs at the age of 40 or 41 -- Evans (34), Williams (29), Bonds (28 and 26), Dave Winfield (26), Hank Sauer (26), Harold Baines (25) and Edgar Martinez (24). Maybe A-Rod ages gracefully like Evans or Winfield. But there were others who hit a wall in their late 30s: Willie Mays hit 96 home runs from age 37 to 42; Frank Robinson hit 64; Ken Griffey Jr. hit 67; Babe Ruth hit 103.
I'm not saying it's impossible, but even aside from the injuries his home run rate is falling:
2009: one every 14.8 at-bats
2010: one every 17.4 at-bats
2011: one every 23.3 at-bats
2012: one every 23.5 at-bats
Rodriguez hasn't hit more than 30 home runs since 2008. Does he have one more big home run season in him, that season that would make the climb a little easier? I don't believe so. I think it will be a difficult chase to 762.