If it were up to me, Alex Rodriguez would be playing baseball.
But since he's almost certainly not going going to be for a while...
There's every chance now that he may fall short of Willie Mays after all. It turns out? 660 is hard. Really hard.
For a long time after Mays and Aaron, no one really threatened to reach their neighborhood.
Mike Schmidt actually had a shot at it...he had 530 after his age 37 season, with a most recent three years of 33, 37, 35. Coming off a 142 OPS+. If he had averaged 25 a year through age 42, that gets him to 645...but in fact, he only had a year plus remaining, and 18 HRs.
That's when the real chances began, right after he retired.
Mark McGwire's monster full seasons were at ages 34 and 35. The next year was a half-season, 321 PAs, but he didn't tail off at all: 32 HRs, 203 OPS+. That gave him 554 HRs. Any kind of normal career tail-off would have pushed him close to 70 HRs, maybe more. Instead, only more year, more injuries, done.
Sammy Sosa probably wasn't good enough to get to more than 700, but 660 was well within his reach. His last Cubs year he had 35 HRs, age 35, to get to 574. Then a bad year with the Orioles, retirement, a comeback year with the Rangers, and that's it. He managed 21 HRs in that comeback year, giving him 609 through age 38...to get to 660, all it would have taken is to play in that retirement year and get 20, and then hang on a few years as a part timer. Didn't happen.
Ken Griffey finished with 630. He retired during his 40 year old season, and certainly played as long as he could -- even given a normal come down from his early peak, it's unlikely he could have played into his 40s. But of course his story is all about the injuries -- he only reached 500 PAs three times after age 30.
Did Jim Thome really ever have a chance? He ended up with 612, so we're talking about finding another 48 HRs. I sort of think he maxed out...sure, there were some injuries in there, but not all that many. He was 41 in his final season; he probably could have hung on a while longer if he got lucky, but he wasn't going to get more than 15 in a season any more, and even that is stretching it.
A Rod? If he's only going to miss this season, he'll still make it easily. But if he misses this year and next, who knows? He needs 13. He had 18 last year, at age 36, playing hurt. If he comes back reasonably healthy in 2015...well, he probably only has to hold a job for two seasons, maybe one. The 2010-2012 version was certainly able to do that, but there's really no way of guessing what two years off would do. Presumably, Aaron and Bonds are out of his reach...Ruth? Possible. But, again, possible he doesn't have 13 HRs remaining.
And then there's Albert Pujols. If he's done for the year, he's at 492 through age 33. That's plenty of time to get there -- guys as good as him can play through age 42, so if he averages only 20 a year for 10 years, no problem. But maybe he has five seasons remaining. Too early to count him out, but he sure is reminding everyone how hard 660 is.
That's not even thinking about the other flame-outs...Albert Belle was on pace, and so was, actually, Andruw Jones...I don't think Mo Vaughn was, but he wasn't that far off. I suppose you could also go back and talk about Mantle. Manny Ramirez was certainly on his way, with 527 through age 36.
No real point here, other than what Mays, Aaron, Ruth, and Bonds did was probably even more amazing then people realize.