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By The Numbers: Reggie Being Reggie; A Closer Look At A-Rod’s Stats

(credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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By Father Gabe Costa
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Let’s see… there was George… and Billy… and Thurman… and Sparky… and Graig… and, of course, the “straw that stirred the drink”… Reggie.

The Bronx Zoo!

There were fights and firings and the New York Daily News and the New York Post seemed to reserve their back pages for the Yankees. And only Popes and Super Bowls were listed with higher Roman Numerals than those which followed Billy Martin’s name when references were made to a specific managerial reign of the skipper.

Nearly two decades later the swashbucklers which comprised this Bronx Zoo were replaced by the Jeter-Pettitte-Posada-Rivera-Williams “Core Five,” along with O’Neill, Martinez, Brosius and the rest of the Yankees. This newer version of the Pinstripers would win five World championships from 1996 through 2009. The calmness and steadiness of Joe Torre and the precise logic of Joe Girardi would replace the unbridled passion, which often bordered on zaniness, of Billy the Kid.

And we thought that peace had returned to the Bronx.

At least until Reggie Jackson spoke up a few days ago.

Jackson’s words have been well documented and there are any number of websites which have reported both his comments and the impact they made.

While I personally found it particularly unsettling to learn that the recently deceased Gary Carter’s name was brought into the discussion with respect to the Hall of Fame, in this installment of By The Numbers I would like to address what Jackson’s views seem to be vis-à-vis Alex Rodriguez.

In so many ways Jackson and A-Rod were/are alike. In many, though not all, categories, they have put up great seasonal and career numbers. They both craved/crave the Spotlight. Fans were rarely neutral about either star; they cheered loudly or booed lustily… but were never quiet when either one approached the plate. And though A-Rod has toned down over the past few years, neither player has ever been at a loss when asked for a quote.

Presently, the controversy centers on Jackson’s comments about A-Rod’s (alleged? admitted? proven?) use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and how this has positively impacted A-Rod’s statistics. In turn, how will A-Rod’s career numbers be interpreted when he is considered for Hall of Fame enshrinement? So… is A-Rod a cheater? And, if so, should he be admitted into Cooperstown?

My own feeling is that we are still a very long way from closing out the “Steroid Era.” There are still legal, medical, scientific and ethical issues to be presented, discussed and ruled upon. And, as to how this will affect future Hall of Fame elections, only the voters will know for sure. This is all “to be determined.” One thing is certain: many people have a myriad of strong feelings and opinions about the Steroid Era. And the consideration of “tainted records” is, and will be, an essential component of the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

That being said, what follows below is a statistical summary of A-Rod’s career. I have approached this from a few different perspectives. I have also added a few comments about both A-Rod and Reggie.

In Table 1, we have A-Rod’s basic career statistics up through this year’s All-Star break. He has clearly put great up numbers, especially with respect to amassing cumulative totals such as HR, RBI and R.

TABLE 1:

A-ROD’S CAREER NUMBERS (THROUGH JULY 11, 2012)

YEARS

18.5

PLATE APPEARANCES

10984

AT BATS

9504

RUNS

1870

HITS

2857

2B

505

3B

30

HR

642

HR RATIO

.068

RBI

1931

WALKS

1202

STRIKEOUTS

1993

BA

.301

OBP

.385

SLG

.563

OPS = OBP + SLG

.948

In Table 2, I tweak the numbers due to the lingering “steroid shadows,” and, of course, because of Reggie’s recent comments. Specifically, I have deleted A-Rod’s three years with the Texas Rangers (2001-2003). Rodriguez put up great numbers during those three years, slugging 156 HR while playing in every regular season game but one. As is common knowledge, this time period has been particularly “sensitive” regarding Alex Rodriguez. This is due to the fact that there have been innuendos and inferences – some of which have been provided by A-Rod himself – concerning his stay in Texas and what he may or may not have put into his body.

That being noted, these would have been the career statistics, if A-Rod had taken a three year sabbatical from baseball.

TABLE 2:

A-ROD’S CAREER NUMBERS (THROUGH JULY 11, 2012)
WITH SEASONS 2001 -03 DELETED

YEARS

15.5

PLATE APPEARANCES

8812

AT BATS

7641

RUNS

1488

HITS

2288

2B

414

3B

21

HR

486

HR RATIO

.064

RBI

1536

WALKS

953

STRIKEOUTS

1614

BA

.299

OBP

.382

SLG

.550

OPS = OBP + SLG

.932

With respect to the percentage figures, I don’t that much of a difference between the two tables.

In Table 3, I decided to make a cursory comparison between A-Rod’s post season statistics with those of Mr. October, very much aware that the post-season format was not the same in, say, 1977 as it was in 2009. Nevertheless, I found the numbers interesting. Note, also, that the Texas Rangers were not involved in post-season play during the years of 2001, 2002 or 2003.

TABLE 3:

POST-SEASONAL RECORDS OF RODRIGUEZ AND JACKSON

RODRIGUEZ

JACKSON

GAMES

68

77

PLATE APPEARANCES

299

318

AT BATS

249

281

RUNS

42

41

HITS

69

78

2B

16

14

3B

0

1

HR

13

18

HR RATIO

.052

.064

RBI

41

48

WALKS

37

33

STRIKEOUTS

63

70

BA

.277

.278

OBP

.386

.358

SLG

.498

.527

OPS = OBP + SLG

.884

.885

Excepting HR and its associated ratio, I don’t see much of a difference between the two sluggers.

So, back to the question… Jackson is definitely a Hall of Famer… will Rodriguez follow him into Cooperstown?

When all is said and done, I believe he will.

In the final analysis, I don’t think A-Rod is the greatest player ever, nor should he ever have been considered as such…PEDs or not. He has accumulated great numbers, but percentage-wise his statistics were never sterling. He never had a seasonal SLG of .650, will almost certainly finish his career with a BA of less than .300 and his lifetime OBP will not break into the top 100 in this category. He has never had a 60+ HR season, and he has had a season of 150+ RBI but once. Furthermore, his strike outs exceed his walks by nearly 800.

The fact that the Yankees have A-Rod signed up for five more years, meaning that he will be 42 when his contract runs out, is a sobering reality. By many accounts he was not popular with his teammates, especially early in his career. And, as noted above, he has been known to make controversial remarks.

I suspect very few people know – or will eventually know – where the objective truth lies with respect to the particular steroid issue on whether A-Rod will get into the Hall of Fame. It is true that Rodriguez is no longer a premier player – at best, this former five-tool All Star is a three-tool player, since he has slowed down on the bases somewhat and will probably never again hit .300. Perhaps he will never hit 30 HR again either. But every time I watch A-Rod play, he always hustles. It is clear that he loves the game, and has always given it his all.

People grow and change…in some circles this is called conversion. A-Rod seems to be at peace with himself and his life…he seems to be enjoying the game more…and has pretty much quietly gone about his business. Real baseball fans are much more concerned about his actions on the diamond than off the field.

Regarding Reggie Jackson, I hope he finds peace enjoying what will soon come to be his Golden Years. No doubt that he was a winner on the field; he can boast of having played on five Championship teams. And I was there on October 18, 1977, when Reggie hit his three home runs. It was a magic night, especially for those of us who had not seen the World Series flag flying over the hallowed field within The House That Ruth Built since the Yankees bested the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 Fall Classic. How I try to forget those 15 dark years.

Yet I wonder… what if Reggie didn’t hit that third home run? If Reggie had just hit two circuit clouts that night, I suspect the Yankees still would have won Game 6 and the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. If that was the case, would we have ever heard the nickname “Mr. October”? Would he be a Yankee advisor? And would Reggie’s comments on his (former?) friend Alex even be newsworthy?

I wonder.

What do the stats tell you? Let’s hear it in the comments below!