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January 16, 2014

Skewed Left

The Historical Precedent for an A-Rod Comeback

by Zachary Levine


The first A-Rod, well before the fat A-Rod that we know today, might have looked like this guy.

His name is Candy Nelson, and more than 120 years ago, he did what Alex Rodriguez is facing the prospect of having to accomplish when his 162-game suspension ends. Rodriguez will be four months short of his 40th birthday when he comes back to play, presuming both that no federal court intervention changes the decree and that he does desire to return.

The diminutive Nelson was 41 when he returned from a year off in 1890. At least he might have returned from a year off. Records at Baseball-Reference.com have him playing in what were considered the minor leagues in 1888 for Albany and Buffalo and returning to what was considered a major league in 1890 to play 60 games for the last-place Brooklyn Gladiators of the American Association. He might not have played in 1889. There seems to be no record of it, anyway.

When looking for any pattern for A-Rod to emulate as precedent after an unprecedented suspension process, we have to allow for some words like “might,” because there just aren’t many guys at all who have come back from a year completely off at his age.

In the 140-ish years that we’ve had entities that we consider major league baseball (with lowercase letters), only 33 times has a position player successfully made a comeback (>10 games) at A-Rod’s age or older after being out of the majors for a full season.

The list is, understandably, heavily concentrated in the 1940s, with one-third of it making their comebacks between 1943 and 1947 as players were returning from World War II.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Yes, Pa... (01/16)
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Premium Article Overthinking It: How t... (01/16)

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