With Barry Bonds slowly approaching Hank Aaron’s all-time homerun mark (he hit 741 last night), and A-Rod making American League pitching look like batting practice, I thought it was time to ask the question: Could Alex Rodriguez become the most beloved player in baseball history?
OK, let me explain.
Most fans would agree that Bonds was a great player before he obviously began taking steroids. By cheating his way into the record books, Bonds sullied his already tainted reputation. No one outside of San Francisco is excited to see him break Aaron’s mark. Hammerin’ Hank has always been a phenomenal representative for the game of baseball on and off the field. All Bonds represents is the steroid era and inflated numbers. Too much of the baseball community Bonds is embodiment of everything that is wrong with baseball and sports in general. A self-important primma donna, whose rise to greatness was fueled by a needle and not his immense talent. That’s where Rodriguez enters the discussion.
If Alex Rodriguez were to break Barry Bonds’ single season and career homerun marks, thereby erasing his name from the record books, he would be forever held in high-esteem by true baseball fans. I know it’s too early to start speculating on the single season mark, but with the torrid start he is off to – 14 bombs in 20 games (on pace for a ridiculous 113) – it’s not inconceivable to think he might do it. If he approached Bonds’ record of 73, I see the country getting hysterical with happiness and excitement, just like when McGwire and Sosa were chasing Maris’ mark of 61 in 1998.
As for the all-time mark, pretty much everyone agrees that A-Rod has a serious shot at 800 career homeruns. Most people don’t realize that he currently has 478 at the age of 31. At the current pace he has established over the last 11 seasons, Rodriguez would reach 800 by the end of the 2014 season, at the age of 39. Sure it’s a long way off, but it’s certainly possible. To be fair, we don’t know if A-Rod’s career has been fueled by any performance enhancing substances, but no one has ever accused him openly of anything like that.
If Rodriguez makes a serious run at either or both of Bonds’ records, we’d be willing to forgive him for being a Yankee and we’d cheer him on. In contrast to Bonds, Rodriguez seems to be exactly what we want out of our sports heroes. He’s humble, appears to be clean, at least tolerates the presence of the media and has never blamed anyone else when he struggles.
Bonds is one of the worst the sports world has to offer and, though it’s tough to admit that we like a Yankee (it’s hard to root for Goliath), A-Rod is one of the best. We hope he makes a run at both records, so we can respect the homerun again and be excited by a major achievement in baseball.