- Dan Szymborski, ESPN Insider
Hall of Famers very rarely end up going out at the top of their games. For every Ted Williams who finishes a Hall-bound career on a positive season, there are several greats who look like shadows of their former selves. For example, the last time we saw Willie Mays and Cal Ripken playing baseball involved very little greatness, with Mays fighting the Mendoza Line and Ripken struggling as a punchless third baseman. Alex Rodriguez is looking like he won't be an exception to the rule.
There are few players in today's game more polarizing than Rodriguez. Whether your first mental image of A-Rod is a Hall of Fame talent who passed the threshold for induction years ago or an admitted steroids user who has had an occasionally awkward relationship with fans and media, there's little denying that at a couple months from his 37th birthday, he's nowhere near the player he used to be. The 2012 A-Rod is hardly a bad player, but hitting .279/.365/.430 with middling defense at third base is a far cry from being a Gold Glove shortstop hitting 57 homers.
Graphing A-Rod's decline is pretty easy. With a slugging percentage, OPS and home run rate that are in their fifth consecutive year of decline, the "Fall of Alex Rodriguez" makes one of those pretty neat graphs that you see only in textbooks. One of the immediate consequences of his declining power is that A-Rod is now less likely to finish his career as baseball's all-time home run leader. Surely to the chagrin of some fans, the odds of Barry Bonds and his 762 homers standing for a while longer look a lot better with A-Rod's decline.
1hJacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information
17hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com