The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner is amongst those hoping (betting?) that even if Barry Bonds stays upright long enough to shatter Hank Aaron’s home run record, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez will eventually pass both of them.

Bonds enters this season as the game’s most intriguing, and most vilified, character. He is 41, with 708 home runs and a right knee that required three operations last year. There is no doubting his ability to crank homers ” he hit 4 in his first 16 at-bats this spring ” and if he stays healthy, Aaron’s record of 755 is in reach.

But considering the curious way Bonds has improved his home-run hitting late in his career, baseball may be better off if he merely rents the record. Years from now, the owner may be the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez (above), who has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs and has a renowned work ethic.

“I’ve never seen anybody as physically prepared as A-Rod is every day,” the Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson said. “What he does to get ready, to me, is unbelievable. The way he works out. But when you get to 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, it’s a little different.”

Of course, Jackson was told, those are the years when Bonds actually improved. Jackson, who hit 563 homers and never topped 30 in a season after turning 37, was silent for a moment.

“They don’t make those vitamins anymore,” he said.

Rodriguez, who grew up idolizing Cal Ripken, has not been on the disabled list since 2000. In the first 5 years of his 10-year contract, he has played in all but 8 of his team’s games.

If he continues to avoid injury, the home run record could be his. If Bonds is the man whom Rodriguez is chasing, it is safe to say baseball will be rooting for him.

Yeah. Because there’s nothing remotely divisive about Alex Rodriguez — he’s universally beloved. Fans in Seattle, Arlington and Boston excitedly chant his name every time he comes to town.