MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

A-Rod's history march a testament to Hank

A-Rod's history march a testament to Hank

CINCINNATI -- The numbers are no less daunting in their size than in what they represent. Henry Aaron is the only player in Major League Baseball history to amass more than 700 homers, 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs and 2,000 runs scored. And here comes Alex Rodriguez.

"Oh, he's going to run right by him," Joe Torre said on Monday about A-Rod. "At his age and with how hard he works? Unless God forbid he gets injured, those numbers don't even have a chance."

Barry Bonds came close, falling only four RBIs and 65 hits short. This was a prevalent conversation back in 2007 when the former Giants left fielder concluded his assault on Aaron's cherished home run record. Bonds finished at 762 to the Hammer's 755.

With a pair of singles, an RBI and another run scored in the Yankees' 5-3 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Monday night, A-Rod has 626 homers, 2,746 hits, 1,875 RBIs and 1,804 runs scored. He's going to be only 36 on July 27 and has six years to go after this one on his contract.

Rodriguez, who doesn't like to talk publicly about his numbers and his place in baseball history, was duly impressed when shown how close he was to matching Aaron.

  • 131 wins
  • 121 wins

"I love Hank Aaron," A-Rod said, shaking his head. "Nobody has ever shown me these numbers before. He may be the most unsung player in history."

No doubt. Aaron, clearly the greatest hitter of all time, finished one-two-three-four in those hallowed offensive categories. He's No. 1 with 2,297 RBIs. He's second in homers behind Bonds. His 3,771 hits are third behind Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. And his 2,174 runs scored were good enough for fourth behind Rickey Henderson, Cobb and Bonds. Aaron did this over the course of a 23-year career that ended in 1976.

"The thing that sticks out in my mind about Aaron is how important it was for him to score 100 runs [per season]," said Torre, who had his right arm in a sling after recent surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. "It was like you knew he was going to knock in 100 runs, but the stat he paid most attention to was scoring 100 runs."

The reason for that was simple: Aaron knew that if he scored 100 runs in a season, his club was going to win a lot of games.

Torre, now MLB's executive vice president, played on the Milwaukee Braves with Aaron and managed A-Rod with the Yankees. Reds manager Dusty Baker played with Aaron as a kid in Atlanta and managed Bonds with the Giants.

The two men have a unique, first-person impression, and it was fortuitous to have both of them in the house on Monday.

Baker always looked up to Aaron, and behind his office desk in the Reds' clubhouse is a picture from a recent Civil Rights Game hosted in Cincinnati, with Aaron hugging Dusty's son, Darren. The picture, of course, is signed by Aaron.

The question to Baker was a simple one: what made Aaron, Bonds and A-Rod great?

"They all had a calmness and a determination," Baker said. "God gave them a whole bunch of ability and they worked at it. They cultivated it. I know Barry worked hard and I've heard that A-Rod works hard. Hank, I used to go with him to this gym and I'd play basketball. The whole time, he'd do lap after lap after lap and throw this big medicine ball around. Then he'd play racquetball to work on his hands and quickness. These guys worked."

That's the key, Baker added: "There were other guys who had close to their abilities, but didn't work as hard. I like A-Rod. I'll be pulling for him."

Bonds also said last year as A-Rod was going for his 600th homer that he'd be pulling for the right-handed hitter, who is currently sixth on the all-time homer list, four behind Ken Griffey Jr.

"If he gets to 762, I'll be in the stands rooting for him," Bonds said.

A-Rod is 11th in RBIs, 16th in runs scored and just passed Al Oliver into 52nd place on the hits list. He's already in the pantheon of the greats, but he has plenty of time to separate himself from all but a few.

When he passes Griffey at 630, only Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Aaron and Bonds will be ahead of him.

"If he stays healthy enough, if he plays the game the way he always has, he has a great shot at it," Bonds said. "He just needs to stay focused. There are a lot of reporters around all the time. You've got to separate yourself from that. You want to do well for your teammates on top of everything else that's swirling around you. A home run, base hit, whatever, to win the game for your team is the most important thing."

For his part, Rodriguez seemed humbled, almost stunned about the baseball history that lies ahead of him.

"Hank is definitely one of my heroes," he said. "Anytime I get mentioned with him, it's good enough."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.