Nelson Cruz and the Hunt for 500 Home Runs
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsMilestones are part of baseball history and the Twins have plenty of attainable marks throughout the 2021 season. 500 home runs used to be a direct ticket to induction into Cooperstown, but the steroid era has put a cloud over this previously important milestone. Out of the players with more than 500 homers, at least five players have been associated with steroids including Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Manny Ramirez.
Cruz has also been tied to steroids as he was one of at least 12 players suspended by Major League Baseball in relation to the Biogenesis drug case. At the time, it was the largest mass suspension in sport’s history. In response to the suspension, Cruz blamed the failed test on substances he took to overcome a stomach infection that caused him to lose 40 pounds in the months leading into the 2012 campaign.
Even with this blemish on his resume, one of the biggest reasons Cruz hasn’t reached 500 homers is because he was considered a late bloomer. He didn’t play over 100 games in a big-league season until his age-28 season and he didn’t hit more than 30 homers in a season until he turned 29. He certainly picked up the pace from there with four 40-homer seasons in the 2010s, the most of any player during that decade.
Entering play on Tuesday, Cruz sits at 419 career home runs, which places him just 8 home runs outside the top-50 in baseball history. Since 2014, he has averaged over 40 home runs per season when he has played 120 games or more. He’s been the team MVP in every season since putting on a Twins jersey. However, now that he is in his 40s, Father Time might start to take its toll.
None of the top-5 seasons by players over the age of 40 saw a player hit more than 18 home runs. Cruz would need to set baseball history in order to reach the 500-home run mark. He entered his age-40 season needing 83 home runs to reach this historic milestone, but no player over 40 has ever hit more than 72 home runs total.
Many of the players to have home run success over the age-40 are some of the best power hitters of all-time. Carlton Fisk played until his was 45 years old and added 72 home runs to his career total. Behind him on the list are Darrel Evans (67), Barry Bonds (59), Dave Winfield (59), Raul Ibanez (53), Carl Yastrzemski (48), Stan Musial (46) and Hank Aaron (42).
Cruz searched for a two-year contract this past offseason, but Minnesota wasn’t comfortable with a multi-year deal for an aging slugger. There’s a good chance the National League adds the designated hitter as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, so Cruz may end up having more suitors next off-season.
For now, Twins’ fans can continue to watch one of the game’s best power hitters in his quest for 500 home runs.
Can Cruz reach this milestone? Will he have an opportunity to do it in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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