Lo and behold, the New York Yankees finally acknowledged that Alex Rodriguez did something kind of important in baseball history. Last night, with a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning of a tie game against the Red Sox, Rodriguez delivered a line drive home run over the Green Monster. It was the 660th of his career, passing Willie Mays.
This is the jubilant response from the Yankees’ Twitter feed:
With his homer in the 8th inning, @AROD ties Willie Mays with No. 660.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 2, 2015
And, that is about all that has come from the Yankees since. You see, that home run earned Rodriguez a $6 million marketing bonus for passing Mays. Rodriguez will also earn $6 million a pop if he is able to pass Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), and Barry Bonds (762*). The Yankees threw these bonuses on top of the 10-year, $275 million contract they gave Rodriguez in 2007. The bonuses were to be payment to make the Yankees the exclusive marketers of the milestone home runs.
Since then, Rodriguez has sullied his name not once, but twice with performance enhancing drug scandals. Rodriguez brought shame upon his own name and the Yankee organization. Now that he has hit the milestone home run, the Yankees find they do not really have any interest in being the sole marketer of Alex Rodriguez milestone home runs.
At the time Rodriguez signed his contract, $6 million would have seemed like a small price to pay for all of the revenue the Yankees could have generated from selling Alex Rodriguez memorabilia. It’s safe to say, that two PED scandals have shrunk that market quite a bit.
As Rodriguez has approached Mays, the Yankees did their best to cover their eyes and ears. Recent media press releases have included mentions of many important milestones — Brett Gardner passing Wid Conroy on the stolen base list! DiDi Gregorious playing his 200th game! C.C. Sabathia passing Vida Blue for 24th most wins all-time amongst left-handers! — but none about Rodriguez making his way towards history. Heck, the Yankees did more this week for Bernie Williams finally getting around to signing his retirement papers. Williams last played for the Yankees in 2006.
I understand that is hard for the Yankees to stomach writing another check to Alex Rodriguez. That does not mean they should be excused from the bonus they agreed to when they bid against themselves for Rodriguez’s $275 million contract. Yes, Rodriguez has turned into baseball’s most vilified player, but he has been one of the Yankees’ best players this season and is quietly putting his head down and moving on from the past.
If the Yankees are not willing to acknowledge what Alex Rodriguez does on the field for them this year, perhaps they should also look into their past. I’m talking about their 2009 World Series title. Rodriguez hit six home runs and drove in 18 that postseason. His OPS numbers by round that year — 1.500, 1.519, .973 — went pretty far in helping the Yankees claim World Series title number 27. I don’t think the Yankees will be giving that title back anytime soon, even though Rodriguez played a monumental role in helping earn that 27th ring for the rest of baseball to kiss.
If Rodriguez’s career home run totals are tainted, so too then is that 2009 title, but you won’t see the Yankees returning their rings anytime soon or see Joe Girardi change his number back to 27. If the Yankees want to pound the table about the legitimacy of the 315 home runs Rodriguez has hit in New York, then they must also look at the legitimacy of the title he helped them win.
New York congressman Peter King backed the Yankees when he said this a few days ago, “I think it would be wrong to be celebrating … since for all we know, hundreds of those home runs probably occurred when he was taking steroids.”
You know what — hundreds of them probably were, and hundreds of them helped propel the Yankees to victories. The Yankees front office wants to throw home run 660 back onto the field like a petulant child. Would they also be willing to give back the 3-2 win it helped deliver? Probably not.
The Yankees do not have to shower Alex Rodriguez with public affection, but they do have to pay him what he is owed. The entire Yankees clubhouse has moved on and welcomed Rodriguez back this season. The bench erupted at the sight of Rodriguez’s home run clearing the wall. It is time for the front office to do the same.