Alex Rodriguez swung his way to another slugger’s milestone and helped lead the New York Yankees to a 3-2 victory against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night. With the score tied, 2-2, Rodriguez homered to tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list with No. 660.
The 39-year-old entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and connected on a 3-0 pitch from Junichi Tazawa, driving the ball over the Green Monster for his sixth homer of the season.
Rodriguez now trails Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), and Yankees legend Babe Ruth (714).
The home run milestone also comes with a heavy dose of awkwardness. Rodriguez is owed a $6-million marketing bonus for the home run, but the Yankees reportedly are balking on paying it, arguing that A-Rod's year-long suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs cost them the marketing opportunities that would otherwise have come with the home run record chase.
While the Yankees and Rodriguez iron out the bonus dispute, there is also a feeling of unease that Rodriguez, an admitted PED user, shares the milestone with Mays, a beloved and iconic figure from arguably the most nostalgic era in baseball history. Baseball purists often contend that statistics of Rodriguez’s era are tainted because of PEDs, while Mays, and those of his era, are considered free of cheating accusations. Rodriguez is one of six players on the Top 10 home run list who began his career after 1985, not long before doping became part of Major League Baseball culture. The other players on the list (Aaron, Ruth, Mays and Frank Robinson) all retired by 1976.
After spending the 2014 season in baseball purgatory because of his PED suspension, Rodriguez has enjoyed somewhat of a rehabilitation after a handwritten apology and impressive performances this season. Many fans appear to have moved on from Rodriguez’s peccadillos, yet there still remains some apathy as well as some scattered home-crowd jeering. The boos on the road, however, have been noticeably louder.
Asked about his perceived “villain status” by baseball fans, Rodriguez told a reporter last week that he has actually received a positive response.
“Everywhere I go, they have been really generous,” Rodriguez said. “I've been humbled by the reception I've received everywhere”
When discussing Rodriguez this week, Yankees manager Joe Girardi mentioned Bonds, the all-time home run leader, who also endured heavy public scorn because of PED accusations.
"Six-hundred and sixty home runs, he continues to move up on the leaderboard,” said Girardi this week.
“There is going to be a lot of different opinions on this 660th and when he passes Willie. Barry [Bonds] went through it, and a lot of the guys went through it. The reality is it is 660 home runs. I don't know what you say, but when you look in the record books his name is going to be there."