Alex Rodriguez's lifetime batting average is straddling the .300 line. Given his age (38) and his looming 211-game suspension, his lifetime average at the end of this season may be his final lifetime average. Reasonable minds can differ on the importance of batting average, but a .300 average still has a certain cachet.
With last night's 0-3, Rodriguez's lifetime average stands at .2996 (2,937/9,800). That is, of course, rounded up to .300. As long he hits .250 or better over the next nine games, he will maintain his .300 average. For example, if he went 8/32, his average would fall to .2995 (2,945/9,832). If, however, he continues his current slump (1/23), he could slide below .2995.
This may sound like pointless number crunching and to some extent it is. Over a 10,000 at-bat career, the difference between a .300 average and a .299 average is 10 hits. However, a .300 average means a lot to many players. In 1968, Mickey Mantle's lifetime average slipped to .298. He later told friends that he regretted playing that last year and hated it when he looked at the record book and saw .298 after his name.
Rodriguez notices the numbers. In The Yankee Years, Joe Torre said that in 2004, Rodriguez's first year with the team, Torre told him to relax because it takes time to adjust to playing in New York. "Well, my numbers are about the same as this time last year," Rodriguez responded.
Age and the looming suspension also threaten other career milestones. Rodriguez is seven home runs away from tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list and 63 hits away from 3,000. In the long run, these milestones may not mean much because Rodriguez's legacy and Hall-of-Fame candidacy will be tied as much to PED use as to career statistics. With his arbitration hearing set to begin on September 30th, PEDs will again take center stage and we will undoubtedly learn more about the nature and duration of his PED use.