Nelson Cruz joins elite company with 400th career home run at age 39

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Nelson Cruz #23 hugs Eddie Rosario #20 of the Minnesota Twins after Cruz hit his 400th career home run in the 4th inning of their game against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field on September 22, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Cruz became the 57th player in Major League Baseball history to hit 400 career home runs.  (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
Nelson Cruz celebrates with Eddie Rosario after he hit his 400th career home run. (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

Some things only get better with time, and Nelson Cruz is aging like a fine wine.

The Minnesota Twins designated hitter is wrapping up yet another outstanding power season and capped it off on Sunday by hitting his 400th career homer, which also happened to be his 40th of the season.

Cruz turned on a first-pitch fastball down the pipe from Kansas City Royals reliever Gabe Speier and sent it over the right-center fence to make history.

Cruz is only the 57th player to reach the milestone and ninth player from the Dominican Republic to do so. He joins Adrian Beltré, Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramírez, Alfonso Soriano, Sammy Sosa and Edwin Encarnación, who crossed that mark in June.

Reaching 400 at this age and with this strong of a season makes the milestone even more impressive for Cruz. He’s just the third player to hit 40 home runs in a season at age 39 or older, joining Barry Bonds (45 at 39 in 2004) and Hank Aaron (40 at 39 in 1973).

Cruz was a late-bloomer and first reached 30 homers at age 28 in 2009, but he's become an entirely new hitter in his mid-30s. Six of his best seven offensive seasons have come since 2014, when he first hit 40 home runs.

This season is Cruz’s fourth with at least 40 dingers, making him one of 26 players to do so. However, only Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth have more 40-homer seasons starting at age 33 than Cruz, at five apiece.

Does Cruz have a shot at the Hall of Fame?

Home run milestones don’t mean as much as they used to since PEDs took over the national discourse. Rafael Palmeiro fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after just four years, and Sammy Sosa has little to no shot despite the duo combining for 1,178 home runs.

Cruz has his own PED scandal too, when he was suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, although he never technically failed a drug test.

Overall, Cruz’s chances remain low as he has only created 37 WAR in his career, just over half of the average of the 26 Hall of Fame right fielders. Even without the PED concerns, he may never make it to Cooperstown, but he’s not showing signs of slowing yet, so fans may still have a few more years to enjoy his massive power displays.

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