Welcome to the Internet, your 24-hour, all-Alex Rodriguez news source. With A-Rod off to an incredibly hot start — 14 homers in his first 18 games — articles about the Yankee third baseman are everywhere these days. Beyond the perfunctory “I’m staying a Yankee” puff, some of it’s actually worthwhile. Earlier this week, The New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner had an excellent piece discussing how Rodriguez has changed his approach at the plate with the encouragement of new Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long. He’s swinging at the first pitch more often, concentrating on the opposite field, focusing on keeping his head stationary, and thus more able to lay off the high cheese in favor of pitches further down in the strike zone. SI.com’s John Donovan compared Rodriguez’s April to some other legendary one-month tears (but where’s Pedro Guerrero June 1985?). Yesterday at BP, Joe Sheehan took a look at Rodriguez’s shot at racking up 200 RBI yesterday.
Today my own piece about A-Rod’s blistering home-run pace is in The New York Sun. Given that the date of Opening Day has crept from mid-April back to early April over the past half century, I decided to base my frame of reference not on the hottest Aprils per se, but on the number of games Rodriguez’s Yankees will play by the end of this month, 24. Beyond examining the company A-Rod’s keeping these days, what I found was that a hot start isn’t a necessary precondition for a high home run total. Of the 52 hitters who managed at least 10 home runs in their team’s first 24 games, only six went on to top 50 homers for the year: Barry Bonds (2001), Mark McGwire (1998), Luis Gonzalez (2001), Ken Griffey, Jr. (1997), Brady Anderson (1996) and Willie Mays (1965). Looking at it another way, only six of the 26 seasons since 1957 in which a player hit 50 or more homers began with such a binge (Roger Maris managed only three in 1961). Meanwhile, eight of the top 12 all-time home run leaders are represented here at least once, suggesting that for the great ones, such a flurry is a rite of passage. Without further ado except to note that the top seven players here are in the graphic that was omitted online: