Some of us are so caught up in the chase to nail Alex Rodriguez for PED use, that we might forget A-Rod is part of another chase — he's inching toward Willie Mays' 660 career homers. Passing Mays would put A-Rod fourth on the all-time list behind (in order) Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
With a suspension looming, it's a possibility that A-Rod might never make it to 660. But he hit another significant home-run threshold on Monday night, slamming his 650th career homer. It came off a floating R.A. Dickey knuckleball, which Rodriguez powered into right field in the Yankees 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays. Dickey, it's worth mentioning, also gave up Ichiro Suzuki's 4,000th career hit last week.
A-Rod reaching Mays — whether you want him to or not — is important to watch from a historical standpoint, but also, in A-Rod's case, from a financial one. He'd get a $6 million bonus for doing so. Can he? Let's look at some numbers:
So far this season, A-Rod has hit three homers in 70 at-bats, a rate that is (not-surprisingly) worse than his 15.0 career AB/HR average. Assuming his current AB/HR rate and averaging his at-bats per game this season, A-Rod would need 60 games to hit 10 more homers. The Yankees have 31 regular season games left, so he obviously couldn't catch Mays in 2013 based on those projections.
It's likely, though, that A-Rod starts hitting homers more frequently as he gets more comfortable at the plate. Projecting 15.0 AB/HR (which is generous for 2013 A-Rod), it would take him 39 games to hit those 10 homers. So it's pretty unlikely that he matches Mays this season unless he goes on quite a tear — like in 2007 when homered in every 10.8 at-bats.
That was a career-best, which would be virtually impossible for 38-year-old A-Rod to match. We're talking about a guy who hit 18 homers in 122 games last season (that's 25.7 AB/HR), and that was before a second hip surgery.
If A-Rod's appeal-pending suspension knocks him out of action for all or even a big chunk of 2014, there's no telling what player we'd see afterward. That, coupled with his diminishing power numbers, should be enough for Mays loyalists to feel good about A-Rod not touching 660.