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Tag: alex rodriguez’s 600th home run

What 600 Might Mean

I had been planning a longer piece on the historical significance of Alex Rodríguez‘s 600th home run, focusing specifically on the rapidly growing ranks of the four-, five-, and six-hundred home run clubs, but since I couldn’t possibly come with anything better or more thorough than Joe Posnanski’s recent column over at SI.com, I thought I might go in a different direction.

It used to be that hitting four-hundred home runs gave you an automatic ticket to Cooperstown, but then Dave Kingman had to go and mess things up by hitting 442 home runs.  Since any rational person knew that Kingman most definitely did NOT belong in the Hall of Fame, the entrance requirements were rewritten.  Now 500 was the milestone you’d have to hit to assure your place in the Hall, and for a long time that number seemed nonnegotiable.  But you know what happened next.

If you take a look at the top twenty-five players on the all-time home run list and scan up starting with Eddie Murray’s 504 , you’ll see a host of names that will never be enshrined in Cooperstown.  There’s certainly a lingering drug cloud that will keep several of them out, people like Barry Bonds and the Unholy Trinity of McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro, but there are others who simply don’t seem to belong.  Gary Sheffield comes to mind, drugs or no drugs.  And I know Jim Thome‘s had a nice career and will finish with more home runs than all but six or seven guys, but somehow I don’t think Hall of Famer when I look at him.

So what do 600 home runs mean for Alex Rodríguez?  It was just a few years ago that people looked at him completely differently.  Boxing had a string of Great White Hopes, but A-Rod was baseball’s Great Clean Hope.  He was the one who could race to the top of the charts, surpassing Bonds and scoring a victory for what we hoped was clean baseball.  (This, by the way, is the part where I resist the urge to launch into a diatribe on the hypocrisy of a sport that allowed amphetamine use for decades, or start talking about the slippery slope of ligament transplants and lasix surgery.  But I digress.)

But with great hope comes great disappointment, and so it was with Rodríguez.  The optimists among us suddenly had no ammunition against the pessimists.  Maybe everyone really was juicing.  Maybe nothing was real.  And so when A-Rod came to bat with 599 home runs in Cleveland and Kansas City, people booed as they waited for history.  There weren’t as many asterisks as we saw in the stands when Bonds was chasing 755, but they were definitely there.

So the question now is, will Alex Rodríguez be elected to the Hall of Fame?  Even though he may end up with something in the neighborhood of 800 home runs, there are those who believe the doors to the Hall are closed to him forever.  Buster Olney doesn’t think his colleagues will ever elect him, but Olney himself has voted for McGwire and plans to vote for Bonds, Sosa, Clemens, and A-Rod once they’re eligible.  Here’s the money quote from his larger explanation:

I think most of the elite players were using performance-enhancing drugs, and within the context of that time — when baseball wasn’t doing anything to stop the growth of drug use — this was what the sport was. And we don’t know exactly who did what. There are a lot of superstar players who were broadly suspected within the sport of having used steroids, but they avoided the crossfire; the only difference between those guys and McGwire was that McGwire had Jose Canseco as a teammate. And here’s the other thing — we don’t know exactly who did what, and when they did it. So I think in order to have a consistent standard when considering the steroid-era players, you either have to vote for no one at all, or set aside the steroid issue and just vote for the best players of the era.

Alex Rodríguez, then, emerges as the ultimate test case.  Most of the big-name steriod users saw their names dragged in the mud after their careers had ended.  A-Rod had the sense to admit what he had done, which might count for something with some writers, and by the time he retires he will have played six to eight years — presumably clean — following that admission.  Certainly some writers will never forget the stain, but I hope that enough do.  Alex Rodríguez belongs in the Hall of Fame.

[Photo Credit: Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated/Larry Roibal]

Throwaway Game

At first glance, Thursday night’s Yankee lineup — Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, A-Rod, Canó, Swisher, Gardner, Cervelli, Curtis — gave the impression that Joe Girardi wasn’t treating the game with the utmost seriousness. It was questionable to go with a lineup that was essentially six-deep, since the Rays beat the Tigers earlier in the day for their sixth consecutive victory, and Dustin Moseley was getting the start.

The proof, or so I thought, came in innings 2-6, when the Yankees continually had base runners advance to scoring position, only to have poor situational hitting lead to nine men stranded. Not coincidentally, their success in putting runners on base aligned with Indians starter Mitch Talbot leaving the game due to a back strain. But the Yankees couldn’t capitalize; they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position until Derek Jeter’s two-out single in the sixth plated Brett Gardner to break a 1-1 tie.

In the seventh, Robinson Canó’s solo home run began a two-out rally and a string of nine straight Yankees reaching base. The Yankees broke the game open during that stretch, scoring six more runs as Francisco Cervelli, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod all had singles and Jeter had drew a bases-loaded walk to score a run. The Yankees stranded two more runners that inning, but at least they finally took advantage of an overtaxed Indians bullpen.

Two more two-out runs were scored in the eighth to pad the lead to 11-1. And again, multiple runners were stranded, thanks to A-Rod’s inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded.

A-Rod’s strikeout was the last piece of drama to the evening. Six more plate appearances, no home runs. Stuck on 599 for more than a week now. He got on base twice and drove in three runs, though, so while at times it appears that he’s pressing, he’s still managing to contribute.

The real story, though, was Moseley. Girardi had said before the game that he’d be happy to get six innings out of Moseley, and that’s exactly what he got. After a rocky first inning that saw him throw 31 pitches, Moseley settled down and cruised through the next five, striking out four batters, walking only two, and retiring eight via the groundball. If the Yankees do not trade for a starting pitcher between now and next Tuesday, Moseley likely earned himself another start.

The rout improved the Yankees’ record in July to 18-6, tied for the best in MLB with the Rays. The only way the Yankees leave St. Petersburg without being in first place is if they get swept. The only team to sweep the Yankees this season? The Rays, May 19-20 at Yankee Stadium.

Should be a fun weekend. Let’s see if Girardi crafts a lineup card like Thursday’s at any point against Tampa.

* Ten of the Yankees’ 11 runs were scored with two outs.

* After the 0-for-10 start with runners in scoring position, the Yankees went 7-for their next 11.

* Have you seen anyone get more at-bats with the bases loaded than A-Rod? Three more tonight, one last night; I checked his season splits during the game and was shocked to find that he only had 14 ABs with the bases loaded prior to Thursday.

* Both Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner walked three times. Gardner reached base in all four of his plate appearances to raise his on-base percentage to .397. Conversely, Jeter, who has batted leadoff for most of the year, has an OBP of .338. At what point will Girardi even consider placing Gardner in the leadoff spot, considering the 59-point OBP differential?

* The two pitching staffs combined to issue 17 walks and throw 386 pitches. The strike percentage: 57 percent. The Indians’ staff WHIP for the game was 2.67.

* WTF: Andy Marte pitched the ninth inning for Cleveland and was able to retire the Yankees in order. On the other side of the ninth, Chan Ho Park, in his second inning of work, gave Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland major agita by allowing three runs on two hits, three walks and two wild pitches. Only when Swisher caught Luis Valbuena’s fly ball on the warning track was anyone able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Where Alex Rodriguez’s 600th Home Run Will Land (but never thought to ask)

Where will Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run land, you ask? Well, even if you haven’t been thinking about it, the good folks over at SeatGeek have.

Dig this!

[Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]

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--Earl Weaver