A-Rod: Stardom, power and controversy
See images of Alex Rodriguez from high school through his most recent years with the Yankees.
Indeed, the furor of his not playing in the All-Star game (“It would have been fun. Maybe next time," he said afterward), and the ensuing speculation that manager Joe Girardi was protecting him from an injury all pulled focus away from an impressive mark.
And so the chase continues — with just one more long ball off Rodriguez's bat, the 600-homer club will add a seventh member to Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa.
And we will be forced to examine how we feel about it; to ask ourselves what the accomplishment really means — Rodriguez's performance-enhancing-drug baggage and all.
There's no telling how long it will take him to hit that homer. It could be a series, it could be a month. Rodriguez had a pedestrian first half by his lofty standards, and at 34, he isn't the hitter he was as recently as two years ago.
He did rebound from a slow start to climb among the American League RBI leaders with 70 at the break, and hit a respectable 14 homers. But there are concerns about a batting average around 40 points below his career mark, and a slugging percentage around 100 points off his norm.
If Rodriguez wants to hit No. 600 in Yankee Stadium, he has a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Angels and Royals in which to get it done. After that, he's looking at a seven-game trip to Cleveland and Tampa (where at least there will be many Yankees fans in attendance).
It's impossible to know, of course, how much of what Rodriguez has accomplished is legit, and how much was PED-aided. That only serves to cheapen the milestones reached and cloud the final numbers in the record book.
And in Rodriguez's case, it's quite possible that his final raw number eventually will top the all-time homer list. There certainly is financial incentive for him to get there — $6 million bonuses as he passes Mays, Ruth and Aaron, and $6 million more for both tying and surpassing Bonds.
Maybe some day, a sentiment shift will occur, and PED-stained mega-stars such as Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rodriguez will be enshrined in Cooperstown — the everybody-was-doing-it justification, if you will.
But feel free to attach as much taint as you see fit to this and each subsequent milestone Rodriguez reaches.
HBT: Carlos Ruiz was lifted from Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after straining his right hamstring while running the bases in the bottom of the second inning.
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