As we continue our series on Hall of Fame ballot previews as the MLB is shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, today we shift our focus to the newcomers on the 2022 ballot. The biggest name on that list is Álex Rodríguez. The former shortstop for the Mariners and Rangers and third baseman for the Yankees put up numbers that would make him a no-doubt Hall of Famer if it weren’t for his multiple PED suspensions.
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In high school, A-Rod was a sensation, winning All-USA Player of the Year as a senior while hitting .505 with nine home runs and 35 stolen bases. He was then taken first overall in the 1993 draft by the Mariners as they began building a powerhouse. He hit .312/.376/.577 with 21 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 114 games across three minor league levels in ’94, even making his MLB debut that July at age 18, but only played 17 Major League games as he didn’t look ready for the big leagues. He played 54 games of triple-A ball in ’94 and hit .360 with 15 home runs before the Mariners called him up for good.
A-Rod unsurprisingly struggled as a teenager in the MLB, hitting a combined .224/.257/.352 in 208 plate appearances in his age-18 and 19 seasons. At age 20, he was ready to break out into one of the league’s biggest stars. In ’96, he became the third-youngest player to ever win a batting title behind Ty Cobb and Al Kaline, hitting .358 while also leading the majors with 54 doubles. He led the AL in runs (141) and total bases (379) while also hitting 36 home runs, driving in 123 runs and stealing 15 bases. He made his first All-Star game, won his first Silver Slugger, and finished second in the AL MVP race, just 3 vote points behind winner Juan González. If the vote could be done over again in 2020, it would likely be a close race between Rodríguez and teammate Ken Griffey Jr, who finished fourth. His 36 home runs were the most by a shortstop since Rico Petrocelli hit 40 in 1969.
By hitting 42 home runs in 1998 and 1999, A-Rod joined Ernie Banks as the only shortstops in MLB history with multiple 40-homer seasons, and the pair still account for 10 of 11 such seasons all-time. In 1998, he became the third player to ever record a 40-home run, 40-stolen base season, a club that now includes four players. A-Rod’s 46 stolen bases are still the most swipes in any 40-40 season. He would steal no more than 29 bases in any other single season in his career.
Upon leaving Seattle to join the Rangers, A-Rod became the first shortstop in MLB history to hit 50 homers in a season, going for 52 in 2001 and then breaking his own record with a league-leading 57 the next year. He would hit another league-best 47 home runs in ’03 and take home his first career MVP award as he also took home his two Gold Glove Awards in ’02 and ’03. Likely hoping for more playoff success than his career had seen to that point (no WS appearances, Rangers didn’t make the playoffs his three years there), he opted out of the seven seasons left on his MLB-record $252 million deal to sign an even richer one with the Yankees, getting a $275 million commitment from the Bronx Bombers over 10 years.
He was too late to see a glut of playoff success, as after the Yankees had gone to six World Series in eight years, they would make just one World Series with Rodríguez on the roster, winning it all in 2009. Despite A-Rod’s success at shortstop, the Yankees told him he had to move to third base to accommodate another superstar shortstop in Derek Jeter. He continued to be a solid fielder at third base and absolutely mashed at the plate. From 2000-2007, he hit .305/.402/.593 averaging 27 doubles, 46 homers, 126 runs, 130 RBI and 18 stolen bases per year. That was good for a 155 OPS+ and 66.7 WAR over that 8-year span, an average of 8.3 per year.
He won two more MVP awards in New York, in 2005 when he hit .321/.421/.610, leading the AL in slugging and OPS along with runs (128), home runs (48) and OPS+ (173); and in 2007 when he lead the MLB in runs (143), home runs (54), RBI (156), slugging (.645), OPS (1.067) and OPS+ (176). He would win his 10th and final Silver Slugger the following year, having won seven at shortstop and three at third base. He would make the last of his 14 All-Star appearances in 2011 before a torn meniscus cost him some time down the stretch and his 13-year stretch of hitting at least 30 home runs and driving in at least 100 runs, both tied for MLB records, ended.
A-Rod had ups and downs in the playoffs in his career, but was at his best in the Yankees’ run to the 2009 World Series title. He hit .365/.500/.808 in those playoffs including two home runs in their sweep of the Twins in the ALDS, three more in their ALCS victory over the Angels, and after going 0-8 with six strikeouts in games one and two of the World Series he hit a home run in game three, had two doubles in game five, and ended with a .973 OPS in the World Series.
After being suspended from August of 2013 through the 2014 season for his use of PEDs in the biogenesis scandal, he returned in 2015 to hit 33 homers and post a .842 OPS (129 OPS+) in 2015 as primarily a DH. In 2016, his production fell off, leading to a midseason retirement.
Rodríguez’s career totals:
.295/.380/.550, 3115 hits, 696 home runs, 548 doubles, 329 stolen bases, 2021 runs, 2086 RBI, 1338 BB, 140 OPS+ and 117.5 WAR.
So, is this guy a Hall of Famer or not?
Everything about the numbers jumps off the page. 16th in career WAR (12th among position players), 24th in slugging percentage, 37th in OPS, 76th in OPS+, 8th in runs, 3rd in RBI, 4th in home runs, 22nd in hits, 7th in total bases, 33rd in doubles, 35th in walks, 7th in extra-base hits. Only he, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron have over 2,000 runs and RBI. He’s even 4th in power-speed # (behind Barry Bonds, Ricky Henderson and Willie Mays) as one of eight players in the 300-300 club, with Henderson just missing at 297 career home runs. He’s in the top 100 in games played at both shortstop and third base, places second in JAWS as a shortstop and would lead all third baseman in Jaws. His black ink score is 68, with an average Hall of Famer pulling in 27. His grey ink is 214, with an average HOFer at 144. His Hall of Fame Monitor score is 390, the 5th highest total among any position player, and his either 76 or 77 Hall of Fame Career Standards score (it says 76 on his player page and 77 on the leaderboard on Baseball-Reference) places him in a tie for second with Barry Bonds and Willie Mays (I say he’s tied for second despite the discrepancy because his player page says he’s in 2nd with 76).
But there’s the glaring PED issue of him being the first player ever suspended a full season for PED use. Jenrry Mejía is the only player to ever get a worse suspension than that, getting permanently banned from the MLB after his third failed drug test. Confirmed PED offenders haven’t faired well on the Hall of Fame ballots, without any confirmed cases gaining induction yet, though some players with PED suspicions have been elected. If Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens don’t make the Hall of Fame, it would be difficult to see A-Rod making it in. On the other hand, we’re about to hit a point where players were fined and suspended by the league for PED use rather than things coming out after their playing career. PED suspensions have become less shocking, and perhaps some voters might think that a suspension from the league is adequate punishment and they shouldn’t be doubly punished by not being enshrined in Cooperstown. I doubt any voters will actually think that, but it’s a possibility.
Up next: David Ortiz
Stats and info courtesy of Baseball-Reference.