One of the by-products of getting together for a meal—even if it happens to be Christmas Eve aka Nochebuena dinner—with a bunch of rowdy, baseball-loving Dominicans is that heated discussions concerning the national pastime will also be on the menu. So, as talk of the latest Hot Stove fodder was consumed while waiting for the main course, the conversation shifted towards the topic of A-Rod vs. Prince Albert, initiated in part by what I feel is the extra level of hype surrounding the Cardinals’ first baseman.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one to belittle Pujols’ accomplishments. The man is a fearsome offensive beast, without a doubt. But to compare him to a five-tool, hot corner defender (and let’s not forget his stellar days as SS) as well as an already sure-fire HoFer like Rodriguez—regardless of what a future Cooperstown voting committee may decide—isn’t even fair to the current pride of St. Louis.
Routinely derided for not being a clutch hitter in the post-season—an accusation which conveniently omitted his arrival in pinstripes in ’04, not to mention his career .302 batting average in Autumn—A-Rod decisively silenced critics in October and November of ’09, but what very well might be in his future is truly is something to look forward to.
In the eight seasons left on his Yankee contract, an average of 22 HRs per season would have A-Rod surpassing Barry Bonds for the all-time HR record. Which means he’d obviously pass The Babe as the Yankees’ HR king. If you factor in the opportunities to add a couple more MVP titles to his current three, and the possibility of acquiring another World Series ring or two, that would make him—whether you like him or not—one of the great Yankees. And all this while eventually playing in The Bronx for 14 complete seasons: longer than Munson, Donnie Baseball, or even Joe D, for those keeping score. (Btw, he has more career stolen bases than Jeter, the leader among current Yankees, himself in second place over-all, right behind the great Rickey Henderson’s tenure in pinstripes.)
All Rodriguez has to do is stay healthy. But if his strong work ethic and this year’s speedy recovery from hip surgery—and the dismissal of a planned second surgery—are any indication, A-Rod will be in fine form, with his time in The Bronx cementing his reputation as the greatest player of his generation. And the paycheck that went along with it will have been worth every dime. Not bad for a kid from Washington Heights.
It would be quite awesome to see, wouldn’t it?
(PS: Sad to see Melky go but he'll be better off playing every day in Atlanta and facing weaker NL pitching.)