I wondered if any of you had any opinion on Scott Boras's assertions that
Alex Rodriguez will hit 778 HR. Rob Neyer
pooh-poohed the idea
in his column, but I don't think it sounds unreasonable at all in today's
Well, as I’m sure you know by now, Rob has explained his take on Boras’s
projections in his column. If you haven’t read it yet, head on over and
check it out.
What’s important here is the exact language Boras used in the
report. For example, if Boras said the following:
Alex Rodriguez is the most probable of any player in MLB to break the
career home run record.
Well, that’s almost certainly true. I can’t think of a player
that has a better chance than Rodriguez. But what does the statement
really mean? The best analogous statement I could come up with is "
Ralph Nader is the most probable of any third-party candidate to win
the presidency". When his chances are compared to the Pat Buchanans,
Harry Brownes and John Hagelins of the contest, they look
good. That isn’t at odds with the fact that his chances are very slim
That’s probably not what Boras was saying. If he was seriously positing
that Alex Rodriguez would probably end his career with 778 home runs,
it’s a good thing that Boras doesn’t make long-range projections
for a living. Certainly, it’s possible that Rodriguez hits that
many home runs, but anyone who thinks that it is likely is on crack.
Let’s take a closer look at the statement. Rodriguez currently has 189
home runs to his name, which means he needs 589 home runs to match that
projection. He’s still only 25 years old.
- If he plays until he’s 35, Rodriguez will need to average 59 home runs
a year from now on.
- If he plays until he’s 40, he’ll need to average 40 home runs a year.
I think we can agree it’s far-fetched to think that Rodriguez will
challenge the single-season home-run title every year for the next ten
years; chances are,
if he leaves the game before he’s about 40, he won’t make it.
A lot can happen in 15 years.
- Rodriguez could miss some time. It’s nearly as much a stretch
to think that Rodriguez will play full-time for 15 years
as it is to think he’ll hit 40 home runs in each of those years. Injuries
happen, and for every player with Cal Ripken‘s injury history, there
are a bunch of players with Tony Gwynn‘s health problems. Baseball is
a tough game, especially when you’re a middle infielder; it’s even more so
when you near 40 years of age.
Let’s say Rodriguez misses a season. In the remaining 14 seasons,
he now has to average 43 home runs to match the record. Missing time will
- Rodriguez could suffer a serious injury. Missing time is one
but every year careers are impacted by more serious injuries. Rodriguez is
very healthy, but so was Don Mattingly when he was 25. So was Kirby
Puckett. And nobody was in better shape at 25 than Bo Jackson.
We might be talking about Mark McGwire‘s home run record, rather than
Hank Aaron’s, if McGwire hadn’t had chronic foot and back problems.
- Rodriguez could get tired of playing. I don’t agree with the
school of thought that today’s players retire earlier because they get paid
so well. Looking at the average age of major leaguers doesn’t bear that line
of thinking out.
But there are some players who retire before they have to
because they’re ready to get on with their lives, and who knows whether
Rodriguez will be one of those players? Over in football, Barry
Sanders retired within shouting distance of Walter Payton‘s total
yardage record because he just got tired of playing for the Lions. In
basketball, Michael Jordan retired while he was still a great player.
Rodriguez is in the same class as those two greats. And in baseball, Will
Clark, coming off one of his best seasons in years, has retired. It
that nobody wanted to sign him (otherwise known as the "Chris
retirement plan"). It was because he didn’t want to play baseball
I’d agree with Boras when he says that if any player in baseball today has
a chance to break the home run record, Alex Rodriguez is that man. But a
record as well established as that one requires that you both be very good
and that you play forever. This early in Rodriguez’s career, it’s foolish
to assume he’ll be hitting bombs in 2015.
Of course, Boras is essentially a salesman, and a good one. It’s his job
to be on crack regarding his clients. He’s going to say these things to get his
client signed for an ungodly amount of money. I just hope nobody is taking
him too seriously.
In case you’re interested, here are Clay Davenport’s Wilton projections
for Alex Rodriguez’s entire career. Unlike some of the goofier predictions
that have been published lately, Clay has a few seasons in Rodriguez’s future
in which he manages to break a .300 average, which seems like a prerequisite
of a sane prediction to me.
If Rodriguez avoids serious injury and plays as much as projected, we think
he’ll beat the record by six home runs–not quite what Boras has projected,
but something his new team will likely be pretty happy with.
Dave Pease can be reached at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now