Talk baseball all season long with SI.com's Jacob Luft in Baseball Chatter, a journal for hot topic debates, Sabermetric ramblings and reader-driven discussions.
5/28/2006 06:15:00 PM
The 30-year-old Alex Rodriguez already has 442 home runs to his credit.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Now that Hank Aaron alone stands in Barry Bonds' path to the all-time home run crown, I canvassed the illustrious SI.com team of baseball writers for their takes on who will be the next slugger to mount a challenge to the most important record in sports. Read what we had to say and then submit your own candidate:
TOM VERDUCCI Alex Rodriguez is the most likely to eclipse the home run record, whether it belongs to Aaron or Bonds. The guy averaged 42 home runs over the first 10 seasons of his career, never hitting fewer than 36 over the past eight seasons. His consistency and durability have been remarkable. Rodriguez's long-term prospects are excellent because he stays fit, he's highly motivated and he is a student of the history of the game -- all of which bodes well for his production for at least another 10 seasons at least.
ALBERT CHEN Albert Pujols. His record-breaking April showed he's only begun to reveal his monster home run potential. If he reaches 50 home runs this season (he has 23 through late May), Pujols, who turned 26 in January, must average 39 homers a year before he turns 40 (in 2020) to make 755. Given his exceptional work ethic and impressive durability, the best right-handed hitter in the game has a shot.
Statistics magician Bill James, who spends a lot more brainpower on these things than I do -- because, of course, he has more to spare -- projects that A-Rod will hit 816 home runs in his career, Pujols will blast 830, Manny Ramirez will finish with 696 and Andruw Jones 677. James also figures that Bonds, who doesn't look on some days as if he'll make it to 725, eventually will top out at a whopping 900 round-trippers. In James' biz, I believe, this is known as a statistical anomaly.
So how can anyone guess what might happen during the next 10, 12, 15 years? How can anyone pick, with any degree of accuracy, who might be, some day, the new home run king? At this point, all you can do is go with young guys who have shown power-stroking ability, then hope that they stay healthy, fairly consistent and in a place where they can swing for the fences. No active player hit more home runs before turning 25 than A-Rod (241). But from the ages of 21-25, Pujols cranked 201 to A-Rod's 200. So, for my money, your new home run champ (who figures to play in his new cozy stadium for many, many years to come) will be Pujols. Sometime around 2020 or so. Unless, of course, there's some kind of anomaly there.
As much as I'm tempted to pick someone other than Rodriguez, who is the safest choice to reach Aaron's home run mark, I just can't do it with any degree of confidence. I want to pick an underdog like, say, Ramirez. But can you see Manny playing six, seven more years? When the 1970 season concluded, Willie Mays was 39 and had 628 career dingers. Hank Aaron, at 36, had 592. Who at the time thought that it would be Aaron not Mays who'd beat the Babe? (And would anyone have thought Aaron would hit close to 100 more home runs than Mays when it was all said and done?)
The trouble with picking Ramirez is that he's four years older than Rodriguez. You could go with Prince Albert, but though he's currently the best hitter in the game, he just hasn't played long enough for me to consider him for that kind of milestone yet. Obviously, the biggest factor is health. Look at how Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas have been hampered during the second half of their great careers. There is no telling what kind of luck A-Rod will have. His bat will probably slow down far more than a whiplash swinger like Gary Sheffield, but I doubt A-Rod will ever stop hitting home runs. Rodriguez has got the determination and the ambition to gun for the record. I say he's the best bet to approach Aaron.
If the durable Rodriguez can average 35 home runs a year -- and he probably has more than a few 40-plus seasons left in him -- he'll reach 755 before his 40th birthday on July 27, 2015. Pujols could average 50 a year and still not pass Aaron before A-Rod would in this scenario. (Sixty a year ... now that would make it interesting.) In all probability, Rodriguez has to be the guy we're looking at next for the all-time home run record -- in fact, the bigger mystery might be whether he can reach 800. That being said, it's becoming more reasonable to think that Pujols could challenge Bonds' single-season home run mark of 73 ... say in 2006? Imagine a world in which Bonds' place in the record books would be less of a debate than a footnote.
With all due respect to Mssrs. Pujols and Rodriguez, I'm going to take a different route here. While looking at the active career home run leaders, one name stuck out to me above all others: Andruw Jones, 312 home runs. The Braves center fielder is following Aaron's career path nicely: a speed/defense and power defensive stalwart early on, then as the speed declines the power increases. Here are the top 10 similar players to Jones through age 28 (click here for an explanation of similarity scores): Frank Robinson (879)* Ruben Sierra (872) Al Kaline (863)* Eddie Mathews (863)* Ron Santo (856)
Griffey Jr. (852)
Darryl Strawberry (832) Juan Gonzalez (829)
* Hall of Fame
That is a sick list of comparables. Four are already in the Hall. Griffey and Bonds will make it in, too, and Santo should be in. Jones finally put together his first monster home run season with 51 in 2005. Mark my words: Jones is just getting started.
It isn't possible to assume a player will be healthy because he is "fit," or because he had a healthy first 10 years. Ken Griffey was on his way to topping Hank Aaron, according to the experts. Nobody saw his string of hamstring injuries coming, because he had no history. It's something that can't be predicted.
I would have to go with Pujols. His work ethic and the protection with rolen and edmonds give him pitchers have to pitch to him. His age is also a huge factor, he is extremely young. If he does nto get injured he will break the record
While A-Rod and Pujols are the odds-on favorites, take a close look at another young, big hitter: Miguel Cabrera of the Marlins. He's young and powerful, hits for average, and has a power built body. If he stays healthy, signs with a top club that has enough hitters to protect him, the kid will hit many HR.
Even tho I think Pujols and A-Rod will get past 755, I think there are some other stars (young and old) who could very well do it as well. Ken Griffey Jr. has been hampered with injuries the last few years, but if he went to the A.L. as a DH, he could reasonably hit 200 over the next 5 years if he stays healthy. Andruw Jones is only 28 and could get there as well. My darkhorse, however, is Miguel Cabrera. He is still very young and has some great power years ahead of him. He could end up out homering all of those guys.
Will we all say it's because of steriod too? I hope no one does so that steriod won't play a part. I cannot say Bonds took steriod because everyone should be innocent until proven guilty. But hey Bonds is black and Babe is white so we whites have to crucify Bonds. Oh shame on us whites when will we put racism away?
Shame on you "anonymous" for even bringing the race card into this discussion. Comments such as yours not only show your ignorance, but your own preoccupation with race. The sooner race obsessed people such as yourself can get over the issue of color the sooner the rest of the world can as well.
over the long haul it's probably Pujols. given his quick start and maturation process if he stays healthy he's the man. also, he plays in a bunch of band boxes. his own,wrigly, houston, and cincy. a-rod will suffer as most rght-handed hitters do in the stadium. i would estimate that he will lose 6/7 hrs. per yr, just due to the park's layout and the fact that he is a power alley/gap hitter.very few of his drives go down the line. nycboy
its not racism, but I have a feeling that if Bonds was white, he wouldn't be taking half as much flak as he is now. Mcguire is just as much an alleged cheater, and he isn't as reviled as Bonds. But being a jerk, or at least acting like one, doesn't help matters for #25. Secondly, what happened to the saying "innocent until proven guilty"? It seems as if we've collectively forgotten that there isn't any evidence that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, proves the guilt of Mcguire, Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro, etc.Also, Bonds may be a cheater, but he's a lock for the hall of fame based on his pre steriods numbers...we should remember that. Lastly, I think its pretty funny that people get so worked up about asterisks and cheating and the ethics and morals of this whole steriod nonsense,and the gambling thing with Pete Rose, but we put this kind of moral fervor into fighting AIDS or the death penalty or something...or maybe applying these strong moral beliefs to practice in our everyday lives... just a thought.
Vladimir Guerrero given the right circumstances could also reach the mark of Hank Aaron. He certainly has been a good player from the start and on the right team he might well have a shot. Certainly Pujols and A-Rod are on the top of the list, but Vladi may not be out of the race.
5 years ago, the name that ALWAYS popped up in this discussion was Ken Griffey Jr. Now that Albert Pujols is being discussed, I still think back to Griffey - who knows what could happen in a career to derail a HR-record-breaking career.
Plus, now that the steriod era in baseball is over, it's anybody's guess
I have nothing but respect for Bill James. In some respects he is the most significant contributor to the game of the past 20 years. Someday, maybe not all of the MLB teams will be using his work to improve themselves...but all of the winners will be.
But on this one, he has simply slipped a cog. Suffered meltdown. Died on the vine. Taken a bus outta town...whatever you want to call it, he's blown this one big time. Bonds has about as much chance of nursing his battered body through enough baseball to hit another 185 taters as Hillary Clinton has of becoming the next president. (I hope.)
Cheating is actually revered. Loveable spitballers and signal stealers are often remembered as being crafty. Baseball is filled with hidden ball tricks and corked bats. Pete Rose was, and is, a scumbag and yet he has people arguing on his behalf who never even saw him play. Bonds will get his appreciation years from now when people remember how good he was. What kills him is not just that he broke baseball's rules, but that he did it with science and not guile. For some reason the use of science scares people and delegitimizes the effort. Bonds is great and it's a shame he played in this era.
Bonds is great! People hate him because he is great. They hate him for another reason too. I will call it (*). When the asterisk is placed by his name, will that change the man? I don't think so. Will it diminished what he accomplished? I don't think so. Will he still be remember for his accomplishments? Yes he will. Even more so when he becomes the Home Run King! From a true Yankee fan in WA State...George Hollis
PLEASE! Its pretty much given that MANNY is going to launch home runs longer than A-Rod. They are pretty much equal right now. And...Manny has the ability to belt any pitch over the green monster onto the freeway...
Andruw Jones is the most likely to break the record because of his consistency. Pujols may eclipse him and A-Rod will probably be another 700 club member. The way baseball is going by 2025 there will be at least ten members of the 600 plus club, including Griffey, Cabrera, and Vlad to go along with Aaron, Bonds, Ruth and Mays.
i like john weisman's analysis: he answers the question, which is who will be the NEXT? certainly, arod is way ahead of pujols at the moment, and will be the next (pujols will be the next after arod, perhaps even surpassing him). i wish griff had never gotten injured - then we wouldn't be here talking about bonds; we'd be talking about the kid and his beautiful swing and how griff saved baseball by playing it steroids free...
It's ridiculous to even discuss anyone until they get to a minimum 400 homeruns. At that point, any player is still a solid decade away from approaching the record of 755.
After a couple of "down" years (24 & 32 HR's) in 1964-65, Henry Aaron had 398 by the age of 31. He reached 510 by the end of 1968 (age 34). Then he averaged just over 40 per year for the next 5 years to put him at 713 heading into 1974. That level of steady production throughout a player's late 30's is silly and will be tough for anyone to match. Aaron's last 42 dingers came in his 3 seasons at or above the age of 40.
The HR King Chase is more a test of longevity and durability. Too many things could happen to a young bomber like Puljols or Jones in the next few years to negate their chances. Griffey was on a similar pace, but injuries took their toll. Now he has virtually no chance.
Alex Rodriguez is the only one who should be discussed...for now. Let's see how old and healthy Jones and Puljols are (and how they are producing) when they get to 400.
Bill James' "Favorite Toy" method of determining a player's chances of breaking a record is not respected from a baseball or mathematical perspective because it produces such obviously whacky results. For instance, James also gave David Wells a 10% chance of reaching 300 wins. Because of the simplistic (and highly inaccurate) method he uses, it has no usefulness whatsoever.
As for the rest of the debate, can we just move on? I don't care if a supposedly clean Albert passes Bonds or A-Rod passes Aaron or Joey Gathright passes Juan Pierre. The home run has been rendered meaningless, so I would much rather discuss something else.
I agree that it will be Pujols or A-Rod. Andruw Jones is too much of a stretch for me. Why? His position. Playing outfield wears down the body much more than the infield. And if I had to pick between A-Rod and Albert, I go with Albert. Playing first base has to be the least demanding defensive position, which will allow his body and skills to hold up longer than even Alex.
Maybe big Mac is not as reviled as Bonds b/c of skin color, but I think it more likely that it's because he's taken his Andro and slunken quietly, shame faced off the stage. Barry keeps sticking it in everyone's face.
Its gonna be a-rod....But on to bonds....Barry is an amazing player with lots of problems,but just because he took steriods doesnt mean he's bad...he deserves some credit...A-Rods gonna win cause of consistent homeruns...Pujols will be very close to a rod though
for all those nay-sayers, the home run record is by far the most important record in all of sports in America. No other sport comes close to baseball when it comes to the importance of stats and history. Do you know how may yards the all-time leading passer in football has? No but if you watch any tv or know anything about sports you know 755 and 714. Another point of affirmation of the importance of this record. There was a great game between the Mavs and Suns last night, but that game has been pushed to the bottom of the pile in favor of this "meaningless" record.
Firstly, am I the only one to find it ironic that Bond's 715th home run came in a park renowned for it's inflated offensive statistics?
On topic, while A-Rod is the logical choice, assuming he keeps his motivation and health, I think Adam Dunn could make a run at the record. My concern with Rodruigez is that, because he plays in the infield, he's much more into every pitch. Eventually, that sort of concentration will wear on him. Notice that the four names on that list all played the outfield. No less a hitter than Ted Williams once observed that playing the outfield let him save himself for the offensive half.
Should Dunn get some protection and keep his health, he must be considered a strong dark horse candidate.
I think that if Jay Gibbons can stay healthy he may flirt with over 600 HR in his career. IF HE STAYS HEALTHY!!! I don't know about over 700 but who would of guessed in 1988 or 89 that in 2006 Bonds would flirt with passing Ruth or even that matter Aaron.
Pujols is a smart guy. He complimented Bonds and took nothing away from longevity. If anyone knows anything about steroid use...they would know..that if Bonds used them from day one..or very much at all..he would not be at 715 now. Besides this scientific fact...name one ballplayer in Bond's shoes right now...one that entered the league when he did, remained in the outfield, played his career outdoors, and finally, lifetime BA better than a lot of one-hit wonders. Pujols would have my vote, because he is smart and not jealous.
LOL some of you people are morons!! Ya Adam Dunn is gonna get to 755?!?! ya maybe 7550 STRIKEOUTS!!! Arod has the best chance followed by Pujols Cabrera Howard and Jones. honestly i find it funny how people try and justify bonds, bonds is a cheating, lying, greedy, self centered chump! K bonds you got Ruth i hope your proud now RETIRE and leave this game in SHAME like you deserve. HR record* HOF*
Bruce...thats a bold statement to say none of the other players mentioned are as great of a hitter as bonds. I remember when bonds was a little dude playing for pittsburg, bonds became a great hitter...Pujols is still young, and putting up numbers that could match and even surpass Bonds' best season. And Pujols is not on steroids.
Well...I think they should OK steroids and move the fences 50 feet back. We think that all these greats who we are talking about are clean? A-Rod? Pujols? Papi? Manny? Dunn? Give me a break folks. Oh, let me guess...THEY are innocent until proven guilty, right? The game is not the same since the days of Ruth...even the days of Aaron. We need to accept it and move on.
I agree with the Ryan Howard. I'm looking to some of the young hitters now to break the record in short order. Pujols is on the top of the list, ARod too. And if some people can stay healthy and live up to expectations (Andruw Jones, Howard, Cabrera) then we may see a bunch of new entrants into the 600 or 700 home run club.
Reading some of those choices by a few of you make me laugh. For someone to pick ryan howard, andy phillips, jay gibbons etc... Those might be the most rediculous comments I have ever read. Ryan Howard 59 career homeruns. A-rod had 263 homeruns in his career at the same age. The other two guys are not even worth further comment.
If A-rod stays healthy and hits 31 homeruns for the next ten years he will break the homerun record. He is in incredible shape and he might not hit 31 homeruns when he is 40 years old, but we also know he has four to five years of hitting 40, which means the last five he would only have to hit 20. My prediction he will retire after he gets to 800.
Andruw Jones is on a faster pace than Aaron, by only a few dingers. A-Rod will break it and Pujols is not nearly in as great condition as a-rod and will definitely make the HOF but won't break the record. A-Rod or A-Jones are two guys that will play 160-162 games a season. It's not about hitting 100 HRs a season its about lasting for a long time and consistently hitting the ball out of the park.
I don't think we are taking into consideration that we are extrapolating career home run totals for players that have played their first 5-10 years in an era that has been revealed to have been juiced.
...It remains to be seen if any of the yearly home run averages of these players can continue into the future, with new steroids testing in place.
Dropoffs appear to be in store for many of yesterday's promising sluggers, if the 2005 season is any indication.
A-Rod has by far the best chance to be NEXT. Pujols will have a chance to challenge the record after Alex has broken it, barring that either are plagued with injuries. Alex is just too much farther into his career and has too much more of a head start for Pujols to realistically have a chance to hit 755 before him. As for Bonds, if you are still not convinced that he has enhanced his numbers with steroids then you are just flat out naive. No matter what he ends up with, he will never be an Aaron or Ruth, he will simply be a stain in the record books.
OK…Lets straighten something out right NOW!!!! BARRY BONDS is not a cheater. A Cheater implies that you are doing something ILLEGAL!!!! Bonds did nothing illegal. Even if he did take steroids, there was no rule in place in the MLB rulebook stating that Steroids were illegal until the 2005 season. Barry bonds has not failed a drug test since steroids were ruled illegal, therefore he is not a cheater. If the MLB ruled tomorrow that batting gloves were illegal, would everyone consider the players that used them before the rule cheaters?…I doubt it. So we have no right to state that Bonds is a cheater because he broke no rules, nor to we have any right to blame him, if anyone is to blame it is the MLB they implemented a rule until 2005!!!
Would anyone consider a below .300 hitter a great hitter? Bond's lifetime batting average is below .300. He may be a feared hitter but not a great hitter. Look at the lifetime batting averages of Ruth, Gehrig, Hornsby, Cobb, Musial, Gwynn, and several others. Their lifetime batting averages hover way above Bonds - 30, 40, even 60 points higher.
Dont care who it is, if Bonds ends up with the record, just so it gets broken. Hopefully by someone not all juiced up or linked to any form of drug. As for steroids being over? How so when MLB doesnt even test for the major ones, things like Human Growth hormones, which by the way are just as illegal as thr "roids". Lord Selig and baseball's other buffoons know that to get serious and ban the tough stuff, would send Bonds and a host of others to the sidelines and make baseball look even more like a mockery of its former self.
No one playing currently will surpass Bonds and Ruth. The biggest reason: injuries and old age. With some external help, Bonds has been able to reverse the aging process the past 5 years - something that the current stars will not have access to. ARod and Pujols will not have the help that Bonds received with improved vision, strength and conditioning, recovery time, etc... Looking at Barry this year, it is clear that this is how a 40 year old, 20 year veteran is supposed to play - damaged goods with small rememberances of greatness.
It's gonna be A-Rod before anybody else. Guaranteed!!! The guy never gets hurt and is the most consistent power hitter in the last ten years. Pujols is the logical second choice but let's have that talk when he's 30
Yep, steroids weren't illegal in baseball...THEY WERE ILLEGAL IN AMERICA, along with lying to a grand jury. No cheating there, no sir...
A monster year this year will go a long way for Pujols in the end..change Bonds' 73 to 53 in '01 and he's not even a lock to catch Ruth, so 70+ from Pujols this year would lighten his curve considerably.
But Pujols might be too good for his own good. He has had an incredibly consistent number of ABs in his career--590 a year, almost exactly. Unless the Cardinals keep him incredibly well-protected for years to come, it seems like only a matter of time before he gets the Bonds treatment and that number plummets.
A-Rod tends to get 20+ more ABs per year than Pujols and is on a team on which it will never be viable to walk him. A-Rod also just isn't that scary that opposing managers feel the need to pitch around him, whereas Pujols is so much of a beast that he might limit his own opportunities.
the thing about a-rod that keeps me from believing he'll top aaron is his long swing. as he gets older the big, long swing will slow and his k's will increase while his hr's slip. he will still be a top tier player, because he is immensely talented, but i'm not convinced he will have the success later in his career that aaron or bonds have had.
vlad is too undisciplined at the plate to challenge the record. can you see him hitting ankle-high pitches out when he's 35?
cabrera and jones have similar builds and as they get older i believe weight will become an issue for both of them. i know they're both listed at 210, but that seems a bit low for both of them - jones especially.
pujols is the guy i'd look for. his swing is very sound, and his hands are amazingly quick. he's probably the most physically impressive guy in baseball outside of julio franco who is a freak of nature anyway. plus, pujols has just begun to hit for power. he's always had pop, but hasn't really shown what he's fully capable of. i think we are all seeing that now. i also believe he'll be the next man to win a triple crown, but that's a whole other argument.
It's open territory to project what may happen in regards to home run production over the next 10-12 years. Why don't you take players like Mays, Robinson, Williams and even Aaron, check their stats when they were thirty and see where they would project to end up?
You may be able to say an A-Rod has a chance but even he is too premature. Nobody else should even be mentioned, just look what happened to Ken Griffey Jr. Also some of these players may actually break the record for most strikeouts the way their going. You have guys like Sosa who either hits a homer or strikes out. Sosa already has somethink like 2400 skrikeouts. Look at Joe DiMaggio, he may have only had 361 home runs but he also only had 369 strikeouts. And as these players get older their strikeout total will grew at a much more alarming rate then their HR total.
back sometime during the late '90's / early '00s I read an article in SI or ESPN about Barry Bonds. This article stated that his arm wasn't the same, some of the pop in his bat was leaving and that he was coming off some serious injuries. The tone of the article was that one of the greats was nearing the end.
Instead a couple years later he is hitting 70+ home runs. Doesn't make sense to me. Add in the fact that at his prime he was a 35 HR a year type of guy, his current accomplishments make even less sense. The 30/30 guy from the good but never quite great pirates teams is dead. He has been replaced by a roided up monster, and now needs sombrero sized ballcaps. But hey, he was always lousy to fans and media, 20 years of bad attitude will always overrun 5 years of freakish chemically enhanced HR numbers.
McGwire was a bit different, he had hit 50+ HR already in his career, early on in Oakland for all the kids who think he was a Cardinal his whole career.
Anyway, it's all moot, HR's are overrated, only exciting to me when a game is on the line. Otherwise, go ahead and hit 70+, two have done it, and if memory serves me correctly, their teams didn't win any titles.
Wake me up when someone approaches Cobb's Career Batting Average. I'll care about that.
A-Rod has the best chance. His home run totals are already impressive, and if he hits an average of 30 over the next ten years he'll be there by 40. Obviously injuries for anyone are a factor, but given a relatively injury free 10 years, A-Rod has the best shot.
...and 4000 hits for Jeter is a strong possibility if he plays into his early 40's.
This debate has been going for years. Griffey was the first player to make a legimitate claim to te record, and we all know how that's going to finish. That's why injuries are so brutal on these projections. For me, the player that has the widest lane is A-Rod, and i'm based on his healthy career. Another longshot can be Andruw, how you just mentioned, also because of health. Manny is a good candidate, but i don't think he's onto records. As for Pujols, he's too young, we'll talk in 5 more years. BTW...where's Vlad???
I think his name deserves to be thrown out there. Why? Just a hunch. He's only 21 years old, and he hit a ton of homers in the minors. His dad hit 50 home runs. His speed and defense certainly didn't justify a top-10 draft pick.
This is very shabby supporting evidence, I know. But if he hits 40 home runs a year (looking at him, it is possible he could reach 50+ a season) until he is 38, that gives him 760.
Do I think he'll do it? No. But how can anyone, with injuries, steroids, steadily improving pitching overall, surely make a more accurate pick?
I stick with my prediction and statement that "Andruw Jones is the most likely to break the record because of his consistency. Pujols may eclipse him and A-Rod will probably be another 700 club member." The only thing I'll change is now from revieiwing more statistics about Home Run hitters in Baseball History "the way Baseball is going, that by 2020 not 2025 there will be at least ten members of the 600 plus club, including Griffey, Cabrera, and Vlad to go along with Aaron, Bonds, Ruth and Mays". The Babe was amazing, but what Aaron and Bonds have done since is unbelievable. Mr. Aaron without a doubt was and still is the best natural Home Run hitter of all time until someone else passes him, if ever they do you have to respect such a great accomplishment.