Going into Sunday’s Spring Training game against the Phillies, the number one thing on the minds of the Yankees–owners, players, and fans alike–was whether or not their highest paid player and power slugger, Alex Rodriguez, was going to perform well. After having a less than satisfactory end to the 2011 season, A-rod had to do something to get the fans back on their feet again. They needed a reason to cheer, and aiming to please, Rodriguez delivered.
The first pitch to Rodriguez–a fastball from Phillies Ace, Roy Halladay–was drilled the opposite way for a home run. Given the wind was whipping in that general direction, which no doubt helped carry the ball further than it would have traveled on a less blustery day, it was impressive none the less; and he wasn’t done yet.
Rodriguez reached base safely in each of his next two plate appearances. Recording a single and an RBI double, before being plucked from the game. Just a short glimpse at the old, injury free, Rodriguez, was a sight for sore eyes.
The problem with Rodriguez is that he can’t seem to stay healthy for very long, and using last year as an example, takes a while after recovering from an injury to get back into the groove of things. Taking all of this into consideration, many people foresee A-rod having a season similar to 2011, but I for one don’t see that taking place.
First of all, Rodriguez is too good of a player to not put up impressive stats, while healthy. He obviously wasn’t his normal self last season, due to injuries. However, if his first game of the year is any indication, Rodriguez seems to be fully healthy, and ready to go for 2012. Subsequently, that should equal a season with similar stats to years past. Yes, Rodriguez is older than he was back in the day, but he’s still not THAT old. At age 36, Rodriguez more than likely still has two or three more good seasons left in him; if he can stay injury free.
If in fact Rodriguez can avoid the injury bug for the full duration of the season, he should be able to reach several milestones. Currently one home run shy of tying Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all time home run list, A-rod should be able to check that off his list of things to do before he retires within the first week of the season. The next stop would be Willie Mays, who is currently fourth on the list with 660 career home runs. While I feel Rodriguez will come close, I don’t think he’ll quite reach it this year.I could however see Rodriguez tying (or passing?) Lou Gehrig for first on the all time grand slams list, with 23. (Rodriguez currently has 22 for his career.)
Moving onto a few other milestones that I could see A-rod achieving this season. Needing to drive in 107 base runners I could easily see Rodriguez reaching the 2,000 RBI mark. However, just like with passing Willie Mays in all time home runs, he might have to wait until 2013 to do so. 500 doubles is pretty much a guarantee, however, as he needs a mere 5 to reach the milestone.
I’m not trying to be unrealistic. Rodriguez isn’t going to come out and hit 40 home runs, and drive in 130 runs, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for him to have a 30 home run, 100 RBI year. He still has the determination, and most importantly the talent, that he’s had in years past.
I look for Alex Rodriguez to surprise a lot of people this year. He’s no longer 20, and thus is never going to play at the same level he was playing at in the prime of his career, but even a healthy 36-year old Rodriguez is enough to put fear into any opposing pitcher’s eyes. Or at least it should be.