Thursday, April 26, 2012

Next Up, The Great Willie Mays

To the dismay of the Yankees and fans alike, Alex Rodriguez's explosive attributes have slowly degenerated, an ominous indication that his body has begun the betrayal process. It wouldn't be completely out of the norm to have this perception, considering that after the fiery '09 postseason, his slugging headed southbound and the less than stellar '11 season, was the worst of his brilliant career.  Are we truly witnessing the end of one of the best players in the history of baseball, or have the hip and knee injuries slowed him down temporarily?  Alex is now 36 and soon to be 37 years old; young for most of us, but timeworn within the context of baseball.

As we all uncomfortably find out, aging does not discriminate and not even Ruth, Aaron or Mays - baseball immortals - could circumvent the process.  However, the top tier all-time sluggers were productive late in their careers (35 through the age of 40).  During this period, Bonds hit 263HRs, Aaron 223HRs, Ruth198 HRs, and Mays hit 141HRs.  Strong production for aging sluggers and it remains to be seen if Alex can produce similar results.

This year A-Rod appears to be in great physical shape and moving well. And, although his current numbers (.221BA, 3HR, 7RBI, .329/.382/.711) after 18 games will not imbed fear into the opposition, the three run homer vs Texas on Monday, should be a powerful reminder that his at bats are still a dangerous proposition.  It is this impromptu display of power that once elevated him as the best player in baseball.  Let's not forget that at this stage of Alex's career, he has amassed 632 homers, where as the top tier sluggers were in the 500 homer range: Ruth 565HRs, Aaron 554HRs, Mays 534HRs, and Bonds 494HRs.

A-Rod's commitment to the game has never wavered, nor his indomitable approach.  He has worked hard over the winter to make certain his latter years will not be a footnote on his Hall of Fame career and to erase any notion that he has become a routine out or a mere afterthought vs southpaws.  The baseball season is young and Alex does have plenty of baseball left to provide enough excitement as he chases the milestone of another great player:  Willie Mays at 660HRs.  So, he just needs to go yard 28 more times; a doable feat - considering Girardi's mindset of using him in the DH role more regularly as a way of preserving his body.

When it comes to Willie Mays, the superlatives abound.  Mays considered one of the top five players of  all time and probably the best ever, if you ask my old man - this assertion from the most die hard Mickey Mantle fan.  "Mays has been described by writers as a player who approached every game like he was trying to make the team." And, those that saw him play "were left with images of his impressive home runs, his basket catches in the outfield and his hat flying off as he ran down a ball."  It gets better: He hit a major league record 22 home runs in extra innings and holds the major league record of 13 consecutive years of playing 150 or more games.  He hit for power and average and won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, and "did things that you couldn't believe."   Along with Babe Ruth, Mays is the only player in baseball history with 2,500-plus hits, 500-plus doubles, 600-plus home runs and 100-plus triples.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Geo Ginrosge