In one of those charming coincidences that seem to happen so often in baseball, Alex Rodriguez connected on his 600th homerun almost three years to the hour that he belted number 500 back in 2007 against the Royals. In both games, Arod’s milestone blast came in the first inning of a 1:05PM start, so the depth of the coincidence is almost bordering on eerie.
Although the symmetry of the dates is an interesting novelty, the fact of the matter is the Arod who belted 600 is a far cry from the one who rounded the bases after 500. When Rodriguez belted that earlier milestone on August 4, 2007, it was the same day Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron atop the all-time homerun list at 755 (another coincidence). Even before Bonds caught and eventually passed Aaron, all eyes had already turned to Arod as a potential knight in shining armor who might one day rescue the sacred homerun title away from the dirty hands of Bonds. Despite often being perceived as disingenuous, arrogant and too self aware, Arod was always thought to be clean, and therefore a worthy successor to Aaron. That all changed, however, in the winter of 2009 when Alex Rodriguez admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs during his tenure in Texas.
Admitting to the use of steroids hasn’t been the only obstacle that Arod has had to overcome since 500. Other bumps along the road have included: his performance against the Indians in the 2007 ALDS, which intensified the perception of not being clutch; the opt-out fiasco during the 2007 World Series, which further portrayed him as selfish; the publication of Joe Torre’s book, which painted an unflattering picture of his status in the clubhouse; and his first major injury, a hip surgery that cost him two months of the 2009 season and has seemed to limit him at times since then. In many ways, it has been a long road, which makes any thought of passing Barry Bond’s total of 762 seem to be just a little premature.
So much has changed for me. My place in the clubhouse, that’s the number one thing that has changed. My relationship with my teammates, the way I try to go about my business, especially the last two years. We’re about winning, we’re about checking your ego at the door and doing the little things to try to win games. For me, the perspective of hitting 600 home runs, it feels really good, but when you win a World Series – which is what I worked my whole life for – no personal achievement can compare to celebrating on the mound and being the last team standing.” – Alex Rodriguez, quoted in the August 5, 2010 edition of the Daily News
When the Yankees and Arod agreed to a 10-year contract extension after the 2007 season, the pursuit of the homerun record was an integral part. In fact, for every player Arod passes along the way, beginning with Willie Mays, he will receive a $6 million bonus. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ hope is that they will be able to market the chase, and attract increased revenue as a result of the surrounding interest. At the time of Arod’s admission, many had opined that the Yankees’ plans had gone up in smoke, but if the pursuit of 600 proved one thing rather clear, people still care. Now, the question is when, and if, will he reach 763?
Seven years remain on Arod’s contract, so if he is able to remain relatively healthy during that span, a season average of about 25 HRs (his current season pace) would be enough to make history. Arod’s health will definitely be a factor, but his biggest challenge will be not allowing the chase to consume him. Just like the Giants became a sideshow to Barry Bond’s pursuit of Aaron, the Yankees and Arod need to make sure winning takes precedence over all individual accomplishments. That may have been difficult for the old Arod, but every indication seems to suggest that new and improved Alex Rodriguez is really all about team first.
So, as 600 fades into the background, you can bet Rodriguez is looking forward to doing the same. The spotlight will always manage to find him, but at least now, it seems to happen when he lets his bat do the talking. The Yankees hope it continues to make noise over the next seven years.
Day of Milestones – Other major accomplishments recorded on August 4
- August 4, 1985 – Tom Seaver records his 300th win with a victory over the Yankees. Seaver accomplished the feat as a member of the White Sox.
- August 4, 1985 – The California Angels’ Rod Carew slaps an opposite field single to left to become the 14 man to record 3,000 hits. Carew’s milestone came against the Twins, the team with which he started his career.
- August 4, 2007 – Alex Rodriguez belts his 500th career homerun against the Royals’ Kyle Davies.
- August 4, 2007 – Barry Bonds ties Hank Aaron for most homeruns in major league history. Bonds hit number 755 against Clay Hensley of the Padres.