The Yankees are visiting Fenway Park this weekend to take on the Red Sox, and Alex Rodriguez has 659 home runs. That puts A-Rod one short of Hall of Famer and Giants' legend Willie Mays, meaning that the next homer off of Rodriguez's bat is a milestone dinger. Whatever Red Sox fans think of A-Rod -- and many of you think very, very rude things about him -- you should take a moment to cheer him if he manages to mash the 660th homer of his career during this three-game set at Fenway Park.
I get it: You detest A-Rod and everything he stands for. Do you put your personal rivalry with Rodriguez over your longstanding -- and likely much longer standing, unless you skipped elementary school today to read this -- rivalry with the New York Yankees, though? There is some enemy of my enemy is my friend action happening right here with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Alex Rodriguez, as the only people who want A-Rod to hit that 660th homer less than Red Sox fans are the Yankees themselves.
Put a short way: Do you really want to side with the Steinbrenners over a guy who would have happily joined the Red Sox when the opportunity arose?
Photo credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Put a much lengthier way: the Yankees are refusing to recognize the legitimacy of A-Rod's 660th homer, because it will cost them money. It will cost them $6 million, as that is the amount they agreed for pay for each of a set of milestone bonuses when they negotiated a new deal with A-Rod back in December of 2007. The homer that tied Willie Mays, the one that tied Babe Ruth (714), the one that matches Hank Aaron (755), the one that catches up to the all-time leader in Barry Bonds (762), and the one that would make A-Rod the all-time leader himself. Five bonuses, $6 million each, for $30 million extra on top of the $275 million the Yankees already promised to Rodriguez.
The Yankees' argument boils down to believing that Rodriguez's previous homers are tainted by steroids -- the ones he had to sit out 2014 for when MLB suspended him, specifically -- so number 660 is not, in fact, historic. This argument falls apart rather quickly: Major League Baseball recognizes each of the 659 home runs that Rodriguez has hit, and the Yankees are a part of Major League Baseball. Going a little further with this, the Yankees have benefited from quite a few of A-Rod's homers over the years -- he's spent 11 years in New York, more than with any other team he's played for. That's 314 homers, 992 RBI, 1,420 hits, a .290/.385/.534 line, a 2009 World Series title, and two regular season MVP awards. If the Yankees want to argue that A-Rod's homers aren't legitimate, then none of the rest of his New York body of work is, which means history needs a whole lot of rewriting.
That won't happen, which is why New York won't get what they want when they go to arbitration to fight against the legitimacy of number 660. Even Cooperstown seems to be gearing up to honor the accomplishment -- yes, the Hall of Fame whose gatekeepers are refusing to let Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in -- as they might request the batting gloves or bat A-Rod uses to crush that Mays-tying blast. If the Hall is making a note of it, the Yankees are sunk before they even set sail on this journey.
And you've even got Barry Bonds, godson of Mays himself, claiming that Mays is rooting for Rodriguez to hit 660. Hank Aaron, True Home Run King of the lame duck era of Bud Selig's reign as commissioner, is even in A-Rod's corner. The man with the most to gain in history by putting down the accomplishments of those who came after him! The Yankees are on a very small and very lonely island, especially now that Selig has departed.
It should be pointed out, too, that Rodriguez is currently a huge reason why the Yankees are in first place as of this weekend: he's batting .232/.369/.507 with five homers, and it looks like there will be more to come. His 144 OPS+ is second on the team only to the rejuvenated Mark Teixera, and without Rodriguez, April would have looked a whole lot grimmer for New York. And yet, they rage alone against their aging star, refusing to give him what they promised him even though he has rightfully earned it in the eyes of the league they belong to as well as the men who came before him. I get it if the fact A-Rod has actively helped the Yankees makes it harder for you to cheer him, even for one brief, historic moment, but if nothing else, you can console yourself knowing you are cheering against the people who make the Yankees the Yankees more than you are cheering for Rodriguez.
And you can go right back to booing immediately after, because man, A-Rod sure is helping the Yankees on the field a lot.
Yes, Alex Rodriguez has cheated. Yes, his personality often leaves a lot to desire, and yes, that picture of Jason Varitek punching him in the face is still great. But at least he's holding up his end of this bargain, and his fight comes against the Steinbrenners whose father helped reinvigorate the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry in the first place. The Yankees want to benefit from Alex Rodriguez but not recognize the legitimacy of what he can do for them. Cheering for A-Rod, even at Fenway Park on a homer he hit against Red Sox pitching, is rubbing the Yankees' own problems in their faces.
The homer will already be hit -- you're not cheering for A-Rod to get number 660 at Fenway. No, the deed is already done, and the least you can do is cheer the man in his battle against the evil you claim to despise. You want to renew a rivalry with a team you've grown bored of facing off against in regular season contests built up as more than they are? Then cheer the man the Yankees hate but can't get rid of because they need him if they're to thrive, while he does exactly what they don't want him to do.