It's a big deal because
Anticipating that the 33-year-old Rodriguez, who has 553 career home runs, could become the game's alltime home run king, the Yankees signed him in November 2007 to a 10-year, incentive-laden deal that could be worth as much as $305 million. Rodriguez is reportedly guaranteed $275 million and could receive a $6 million bonus each time he ties one of the four players at the top of the list: Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), and an additional $6 million for passing Bonds. In order to receive the incentive money, the contract reportedly requires Rodriguez to make extra promotional appearances and sign memorabilia for the Yankees as part of a marketing plan surrounding his pursuit of Bonds's record.
Unlike Bonds, ARod's power production never took a dramatic spike during the steroid heyday. His final three years in Seattle (when he was in his early 20s), he hit 42, 42 and 41 HR. He then signed with Texas, hitting 52, 57 and 47, but the Arlington ballpark is a haven for hitters, so his added power raised few eyebrows.
Bonds, by contrast, had never hit more than 46 HR in a season until 2000, when a 35-year-old Bonds hit 49 ... and the next year he hit 73. (It's fairly well accepted that a major league player's peak years are between ages 26 and 30, and performance should show a steady decline afterward.) His spike in power was also significant because the Giants moved to their new ballpark in 2000, and it's been death for every left-handed hitter not named Barry Lamar Bonds.
MLB was counting on ARod eventually passing Bonds and erasing some of the bad memories of the juicing era. If this story pans out, those plans are scotched.
And in the eyes of many fans of the game (now including me), Henry Aaron will always remain the all-time home run king.