Home Runs: Who Will Be The Next King?
11/17/2011, 6:36am CST
By Jason Bond/Photo By Harry How/Getty Images North America
Does anyone really stand a chance at becoming the next King of the Home Run Hill?
Now that the 2011 season is in the books and we look forward to the 2012 season, we can take a look at some questions about the future. One of these questions is “Who is going to be the next homerun king?”
In the last few years there has been much debate on this topic. One of the biggest reasons this question is always asked has to revolve around steroids. Major League Baseball went through a well documented past of steroid use that got the U.S. Congress involved. What came out of this report was not only widespread use, but some of the game’s biggest names were implicated.
At the top of this list was the MLB Home Run King, Barry Bonds. There is a large amount of fans and people tied to the sport that believe Bonds doesn’t deserve this record. Regardless of what people think and for whatever reasons they don’t like Barry Bonds, he holds the record and will retain this place until somebody knocks him off his perch.
Long before Barry Bonds started showing a possibility of breaking the record, I always thought the player with the best chance of beating Hank Aaron was Ken Griffey, Jr. Griffey was a fantastic home run hitter, a class act and was never implicated in any steroid use. Unfortunately, Ken Griffey, Jr. got bit by the injury bug. Injuries cost him five seasons of fewer than 90 games, and he played only 33 games in his final year. When Griffey retired after 22 years he had 630 home runs.
The active player with the most career homeruns in the majors is Alex Rodriguez. In 17 seasons, A-Rod has 629 career homers. Rodriguez is 36 years old and has been having injury problems the last few years. A switch to DH from third base might help with some issues. Entering the 2012 season, Rodriguez is 133 homeruns shy of tying Barry Bonds. A-Rod would have to hit at least 30 home runs a season over the next 4+ seasons to reach this mark, doesn’t sound too hard considering he has averaged 37 homeruns a year over his career. Yet in 2011, he only hit 16 home runs. At that pace, he would need 9 seasons to become the champ, very unlikely at the ripe age 45. Even though many people like Alex Rodriguez better than Barry Bonds, A-Rod admitted to steroid use and his numbers will be tainted also.
This brings us to a key 2011 free agent, Albert Pujols. Pujols is considered by many people to be one of the best hitters of all time. Assuming Albert Pujols stays healthy, he stands the best chance of breaking the record. In 10 seasons, Pujols has hit 445 home runs, while hitting .328 for his career. Pujols is currently 317 homeruns behind Barry Bonds. At age 31, that is a significant number. Albert would have to average just over 30 homeruns a year for the next decade to accomplish this feat. Though not impossible, this task is definitely not going to be easy, particularly if Pujols stays in the National League where there is no designated hitter. Barry Bonds was 43 years old at retirement. Pujols would be slightly younger if he can stay healthy. I would be hard pressed to find anybody that would question Pujols being the home run king should he reach that milestone.
Looking around the majors at some young players, there is definitely potential in the field, but it will take great health and longevity to reach this goal.
Ryan Howard has 286 career homers, but is 31 years old and suffered a serious Achilles injury in the playoffs. His chances have taken a big hit. Miguel Cabrera has 277 career homeruns. Cabrera would have to play another 14 seasons and average 35 homers a year to break the record. This would make him 42 years old in his 22 year in the majors. Though this is not impossible, it is going to be very difficult to accomplish. The list is followed by Prince Fielder (230 HR, 27 years old), Jason Bay (203 HR, 33 years old), Matt Holiday (202 HR, 31 years old), Adrian Gonzalez (195 HR, 29 years old), Dan Uggla (190 HR, 31 years old), and finally Ryan Braun (161 HR, 27 years old). Braun would have to average 40 home runs per year for 15 straight years to be number one. While I’m sure Braun will have a great career, home run king is not in his future.
The majority of the players on this list will have a very difficult time due to their age. These players will continue to move up on the all time list, but most if not all will have a very tough time reaching the top.
There are a bunch of great young players in the system who might be the next King if given the chance, or perhaps the next home run king is still in diapers today. Regardless of how you feel about Barry Bonds and his place in history, it looks like for he will remain on top for at least the next four years and possibly much longer.