( 4UMF NEWS ) A-Rod Passes Willie Mays:
The crowd at Yankee Stadium roared and his teammates implored him to acknowledge them, but Alex Rodriguez was still hesitant.
He’s been one of the most hated professional athletes in the world since he was suspended for the entire 2014 season due to his use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the cheers clearly still make him feel uncomfortable. But after hitting his 661st career home run to pass the legendary Willie Mays for sole possession of fourth place on Major League Baseball’s all-time list in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, it was as if the fans forgave him for his past transgressions.
“I certainly thought the days of curtain calls for me were long gone,” said a reflective Rodriguez. “I was a little embarrassed and it was a little awkward. I didn’t want the game to stop. I did not want to interrupt the game, and of course (Mark Teixeira), like my little brother, he was still in the on deck circle. Then I looked at Joe (Girardi) and asked his opinion, and he said, ‘Get out there.’ I tried to do it as quickly as I can.”
Rodriguez just missed the milestone in the first inning when O’s right fielder Delmon Young made a leaping grab to rob him off a homer. In his next at-bat, A-Rod drove a 1-1 changeup off of Baltimore starter Chris Tillman over the center field wall to break a 2-2 tie in the third inning, noticeably smiling as he rounded the bases.
“I thought the reaction was incredible, and it was very humbling,” he said. “We have the greatest fans in the world and they’ve treated me really good all year, and it’s fueling the way that I’m playing. I’ve said all along that the league, the Yankees, the fans — nobody owes me anything.”
The Yankees have publicly stated that they don’t intend to pay Rodriguez the $6 million bonus that the milestone is supposed to trigger based on a marketing agreement that was made when he signed his 10-year, $275 million contract in 2007. According to the team, they are only obligated to pay Rodriguez if each milestone is “commercially marketable,” which they claim it is not because of his previous issues involving performance-enhancing drugs. But the Yankees did briefly acknowledge the accomplishment with a congratulatory message on the scoreboard.
“That’s not where my mind is right now,” Rodriguez said when asked if he planned to file a grievance. “I’m really just trying to enjoy this moment.”
The top four hitters in the Yankees’ order — Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Rodriguez and Teixeira — were responsible for each of the four runs, going a combined 8-for-13 with three extra-base hits.
“They did a great job,” manager Joe Girardi said. “They started it right away, early on. After giving up the run, we take the lead 2-1 to bounce back. And we kept bouncing back when they tied it up the score. The four guys at the top had an awesome night.”
Nathan Eovaldi earned his third win, pitching 5 2/3 innings (102 pitches) while allowing three runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief.