New York Appreciates A-Rod's Power Surge

The San Francisco Giant's Barry Bonds is hot on the homerun record of Hank Aaron. But the player with the hottest bat this year is Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. A-Rod is finally winning friends in New York, while Bonds finds few friends applauding his power.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

And it's time now for baseball.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: The crack of a homerun. All right, that wasn't such a good example. It's been practically predictable when Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez have come to the play for this April, but the context of those homers couldn't be more different.

We're joined now by our own slugger, Ron Rapaport. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON RAPOPORT: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Yankees dropped their seventh game in a row last night to the Boston Red Sox. But, you know, it's hard to notice because Alex Rodriguez is having, well, it's not hard to notice in Boston, okay? But let's lop that off and let it flow out a little bit. A-Rod has finally seems to have charmed the cold, cruel hearts of many New York Yankee fans this year.

RAPOPORT: Yeah, he's having such a good year, Scott. I don't even think - even Yankee fans can complain. Actually, you know, I don't know how A-Rod could show his face this season after hitting only 290 with 35 homers, 121 RBIs last year, the nerve of that guy.

SIMON: Nerve, yeah.

RAPOPORT: But this year, he's set more homers than half a dozen team, Scott. I mean, that's a kind of thing Babe Ruth used to do. He's the best offensive player of our time. I don't think there's any doubt about that anymore.

SIMON: Is he making it a little easier to overlook what some of us consider to be the completely obnoxious race that Barry Bonds is making towards Hank Aaron's all-time homerun?

RAPOPORT: Scott, I got to tell you. I went to Dodger Stadium this week to hear Dodger fans boo Barry Bonds - steroids, steroids. But he shut them up early - a 400-foot homerun over the centerfield fence in the first inning. You know, there's nothing compared to want Bonds is going to hear…

SIMON: Well, that's how easy Dodger fans are to shut up.

RAPOPORT: Yeah. Yeah.

SIMON: Yankee fans would have stood up and just gotten louder.

RAPOPORT: Well, that was just warming Bonds up for what's he's going to hear. When he gets within four or five homeruns of Hank Aaron, Scott, is they're going to be screaming about him, defiling the record books with a suspect homeruns. And I guess it's - I'm not giving away any secrets when I say Bonds can be a little difficult to deal with, but he's a wonderful hitter. When you watched him hit, you got to admit that's really something to see.

SIMON: Of course, there's the glorious prospect that if A-Rod stays healthy, he's on a pace to surpass Barry Bonds' all-time record.

RAPOPORT: Well, take a look at it for a minute. It took Hank Aaron 39 years to break Babe Ruth's record, right?

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

RAPOPORT: And barring injury, it will take Bonds 33 years to break Aaron's record. But if you look at A-Rod, he's got more homeruns than any 31-year-old player in history and he's on his way to become the youngest guy to hit 500 this year. He's averaged 42 homers a year in his 11th season, Scott. Let's give him a very modest 35 homers a year from now on.

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: He will have 800 before he's 40. So Bonds will have only sullied the record books for nine years. Baseball has survived worse, I guess.

SIMON: And you know who we suddenly can't forget about? Sammy Sosa. He has hit seven homeruns this year with the Texas Rangers.

RAPOPORT: Well, that's, I mean, that's third in the league, Scott. That's more homeruns in the entire Cubs outfield.

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: So I guess that year off that he took it's working out for him.

SIMON: Well, I mean, he's a shadow of his former self. He's smaller and we all know the reason why that might be. But on the other hand, he's hitting a ton, isn't he?

RAPOPORT: Yeah, it isn't the steroids that hit the homerun in his case or in Bonds'. These are good hitters.

SIMON: Yeah. Have you noticed that the Chicago Bulls are on the verge of sweeping the world champion Miami Heat?

RAPOPORT: Oh, yes, I have, Scott. Ben Gordon, Scott. Little (unintelligible) Scottie (unintelligible), not exactly Michael (unintelligible).

SIMON: Okay. Thanks, Ron. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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