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Terence Moore

Designated hitter skews home-run totals

Moore: Designated hitter skews home-run totals

Designated hitter skews home-run totals
No question, baseball's home run records are tarnished by those who spent part of their careers with artificially enhanced bodies, or have been suspected of it.

That said, why don't folks talk much -- if at all -- about that other great evil in this regard called the designated hitter?

In other words, may the baseball gods help us purists if Alex Rodriguez really does spend a lot of time this season and beyond as a DH for the New York Yankees. At 36 and sitting just 134 home runs shy of passing Barry Bonds' record for career homers of 762, Rodriguez could get a mighty boost toward history with more than a few DH homers.

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Not a good look. Not if you realize the DH should become yesterday's news for so many reasons.

It's used in one league and not the other. It rewards players who can't run, field, throw or all of the above. It's a gimmick. And here's the overlooked reason: When it comes to all-time homers, it's unfair to those who either didn't DH much or not at all during their careers.

This makes you respect Babe Ruth and Willie Mays even more. At 714 and 660, respectively, those sluggers are the only members of baseball's top 10 home run hitters who didn't homer as a DH.

Ruth and Mays never were DHs, because that option wasn't available to them when they played.

It was for Bonds.

The same goes for Hank Aaron, who remains the standard bearer for home runs if you take the so-called steroid era into consideration.

Subtract Bonds' 10 homers as a DH and he has 752 overall, and if you take away Aaron's 22, he has 733. Which means they still would rank Nos. 1 and 2 on the all-time list. Ruth and Mays also would hold their spots at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.

But things get crazy after that.

For instance: Ken Griffey Jr. is No. 5 on the all-time list with 630 homers, but his total would drop to 595 without his 35 DH homers. That would move Rodriguez from sixth place to fifth since he would still have 613 homers after subtracting his 16 DH homers.

Griffey would drop to sixth.

Sammy Sosa would stay at No. 7 with 584 home runs -- without his 25 DH homers.

Mark McGwire would jump from 10th to eighth when his adjusted total would go from 583 to 577.

Frank Robinson would remain at No. 9 with 528 homers after subtracting his 58 DH homers.

Finally, Jim Thome would suffer the most under such a scenario. He owns more DH home runs than anybody in the top 10 with 198. If you take those away, he would free-fall from 604 homers to 406, and he barely would make the all-time top 50 list.

Which brings us to Rodriguez -- and the possibility of a Record Horror Picture Show of necessity.

You see, Rodriguez and the Yankees have problems, and the solution to each of their problems is that DH monster.

As for the Yankees, it goes back to their trade last month of Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda. While Montero spent the last month of the season developing into the effective DH that the Yankees needed, they needed starting pitching even more.

Thus the deal for Pineda.

Then Jorge Posada retired to close another DH option for the Yankees this season. That left an opening for somebody who still can hit, but who can't take the field as often anymore.

Somebody such as Rodriguez.

Due to various ailments, Rodriguez hasn't played more than 138 games in a season since 2007. He was suffering so much from a damaged right knee and left shoulder that he went to Germany this winter for experimental treatments from a doctor recommended by NBA star Kobe Bryant.

The Yankees also have a viable option to replace Rodriguez at third base in Eduardo Nunez.

Even though Rodriguez says he prefers to stay at third, this DH thing will happen for A-Rod whether he likes it or not.

Such a scenario makes even more sense when you consider a banged-up Rodriguez, a career .302 hitter, played just 99 games last season, hit .276 and finished with 16 homers. Worse, while continuing to play defense, he batted .111 with no home runs and three RBIs during the Yankees' Division Series loss to the Detroit Tigers.

As a DH, Rodriguez could play well past 40, while putting the career homer record nearly out of reach. He could catch Bonds by averaging about 44 homers over the next three years, or about 33 over the next four years.

Rodriguez could do much of this as a DH, and then baseball officials could do something they don't like to do.

Start thinking about asterisks.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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