RAB ran a post Tuesday highlighting all of Alex Rodriguez's under appreciated achievements. The post is worth the read, but it ignored a major achievement Alex is pursuing that gets overlooked more than any of his other accomplishments.
Most of the talk about A-Rod and the record books focuses on his pursuit of the all time home run record, and with good reason. Alex is under contract for 7 seasons after this one. He's currently on pace to hit 13 more homers this year, which would bring his career total to 611. That would leave him 152 short of Barry Bonds' 762. If he averages 22 homers over the remaining 7 years on his contract, he'll finish his career 3 homers ahead of Bonds. His decline in production this year raises some legitimate concerns as to whether or not Rodriguez will get to the milestone, but he'll certainly climb the list further before his career is done, and probably has about a 50% chance of ending his career with baseball's most prestigious record.
While the home run pursuit receives lots of attention, fans and journalists consistently overlook the record A-Rod is no only on pace to break, but to completely annihilate: the all time RBI record.
Before I go any further I want to acknowledge all the flaws with RBI as a measure of individual performance. A-Rod has more RBI on the Yankees than Robinson Cano only because he bats ahead of him in the lineup, taking away opportunities to drive in runs. Alex has 73 RBI at this point in the season because he plays for the Yankees. That said, stats minded bloggers aside, most baseball fans and journalists think highly of RBI as a measure of performance, and it's pretty cool to be the all time leader.
Alex has 1,779 career RBI and is on pace to drive in about 60 more this year. That would bring his career total to 1,839 at season's end. Hank Aaron holds the all time record of 2,297. Entering next year Alex projects to be 458 short of the record. That may seem like a lot, but the one thing Alex has continued to do, and the one thing the Yankee lineup will continue to let him to do, is drive in runs. If Alex averages only 80 RBI a season for the rest of his career with the Yankees (assuming that to be the 7 years left on his contract after this season) he'll break the record in about 6 years and finish his career with 2,399, 100 more than Aaron.
That's impressive enough, but did I mention that Alex is currently on pace to knock in 132 runs this year, in a down year? That level of production surely has as much to do with batting cleanup in a superior lineup, but Rodriguez has done his job. He's knocking in a lot of Yankees, so many, in fact, that the notion of his averaging only 80 RBI for the next 5 years, let alone the next 7, seems conservative. It is more likely that Alex will average around 90 RBI over the next 7 years. In that case, he'll have almost 200 more than Aaron, and could possibly hold the record for an extended period of time.
I don't entirely believe that people are overlooking A-Rod's 600th homer. Every time he hits one at Yankee Stadium the scoreboard shows a countdown toward history graphic. 600 just seems to be an odd number out, above 500, the more widely regarded milestone, but below 700, the truly spectacular number. It is, however, surprising that so little attention gets paid to the all time RBI record. I want Alex to break the all time home run record, but given his reduced power numbers this year I'm not sure he will. I am, however, confident that, barring injury, he'll take the RBI record, and with some distance to spare.
By the way, A-Rod figures to get his 3,000 hit by the end of the 2012 season, something else that doesn't get much attention.