Why wait? Alex Rodriguez swung at the first pitch he saw from Justin Verlander last night–a fastball on the outside part of the plate–and popped it over the wall in right field. Hit number 3,000 was a home run.
It was a sweet moment and Rodriguez seemed to soak it in. Got big hugs from C. C. Sabathia and Brian McCann and Joe Girardi, pats, slaps, and daps from the rest of his team. Pointed and blew kisses to his daughters, Natasha and Elia, sitting in the stands behind the Yankee dugout.
A quick look at the articles around the web this morning and I see most of them hone-in on what this moment could have been–should have been–if only Rodriguez hadn’t botched it all up. Stain, shame, tarnished, asterisk, you’ve heard it all before.
John Flaherty was less than sanguine on the YES broadcast last night, noting that none of the Tigers applauded as Rodriguez rounded the bases. It was a fair observation but incomplete as the replays didn’t show if any of the Tigers clapped or saluted while Rodriguez was hugged by his teammates and cheered by the crowd. When Sabathia hugged Rodriguez, they turned, smiled and pointed to someone on the other side of the field, presumably in the Tigers dugout. Perhaps the Tigers didn’t cheer–this was no lovefest like the one Jeter got the day he hit 3,000–but it was misleading of Flaherty and YES to suggest the Tigers apathy and not give a full account of their actions–Miguel Cabrera, for one, gave Rodriguez a hug after the game.
Rodriguez told reporters after the game, “The thing that I’ll take away from a day like today is, after the last out is made, Miguel Cabrera comes over and gives me a hug,” Rodriguez said. “Twenty years from now, that’s really what I’ll take away — the fans’ reaction, sharing it with my teammates and seeing their reaction.
“Everything about this year has been a surprise. I’ve never enjoyed the game as much as I have this year.”
This gray area is of Rodriguez’s making and some of us don’t like to have the innocence of the prize-in-the-crackerjack moment sullied by anything as sticky as reality. But Rodriguez has always been a challenge, even before 2009, hasn’t he?’
Leave it to Ken Davidoff to make sense:
You don’t view this as a redemption tale? Good. Me neither. A-Rod had nothing from which to redeem himself; he served his year’s suspension in 2014 and returned as a player with the same rights as all of the others. For me, it’s a tale of perseverance — the guy just won’t go away, even with two surgically repaired hips and his extensive rap sheet — and of comeuppance for the blinders-wearing moralists who thought, just with the force of their consternation, they could will A-Rod into oblivion.
You’re expending energy trying to determine whether A-Rod is using something right now? Ay yi yi.
You’re searching for a level of truth that is virtually unobtainable — if not necessarily about A-Rod, than it is about the player population in general. What a shame to lose sleep wondering who uses illegal PEDs and who doesn’t. The drug tests, to repeat a line, are IQ tests. The same goes for baseball’s investigative department, which capitalized on the stupidity of A-Rod and his fellow Biogenesis guys to rely on the unreliable Anthony Bosch for their stuff.
A-Rod is great for the game because he gets people to care, one way or the other. The game needs its villains just as badly as its protagonists, and in this age of social media, can we really hope to find a worthy successor to this guy?
Anyhow, never mind the angst–or the professional putz who caught the ball and won’t fork it over–it was a lovely moment. Even better, was Adam Warren, who pitched 8 innings (the longest outing of his career), held the Tigers to a couple of runs, and got home runs from Didi Gregorious and Brett Gardner as the Yanks beat the Tigers, 7-2.
[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun; Frank Franklin II/AP]