For A-Rod, milestones take back seat
Veteran says making playoffs is front and center in his mind
ST. PETERSBURG -- Back at the All-Star Game in July, Mike Schmidt kidded Alex Rodriguez that he should spring for a plane ticket once the Yankees third baseman got close to 548 home runs, flying in the Hall of Famer to witness his career total eclipsed.
Rodriguez tied the former Phillies third baseman on Tuesday, homering off the Rays' Jason Hammel in the eighth inning, but there were no rushes to book an airline seat. With the Yankees scrapping to remain relevant in the postseason discussion, A-Rod said it is no time to focus on individual accomplishments.
"It's hard to sit here and talk about anything personal when it means nothing to me right now," Rodriguez said on Wednesday. "I'm not real good on reflecting on things that I've done. I'd rather talk about the things that I haven't done. Lately, that's been a lot."
Rodriguez's shot tied him for 12th place on baseball's all-time home run list, and it was also his 30th home run of the season, marking 11 straight seasons that Rodriguez has reached that plateau.
Rodriguez did express admiration for Schmidt's career, saying, "Mike Schmidt is special to me, because I always looked up to Mike."
But Rodriguez said he was not aware of the home run's significance until Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo presented him with the baseball after Tuesday's game.
"There's nothing of a personal achievement that would even get me remotely excited," Rodriguez said. "We're hanging by a thread, and every game is so important. It's hard to get into any of that."
Up next on the all-time home run list would be Reggie Jackson with 563, something that the Hall of Famer reminds A-Rod of on a regular basis. Rodriguez has already passed Hall of Famers Ted Williams (521), Willie McCovey (521), Jimmie Foxx (534) and Mickey Mantle (536) this season.
"It just tells you how great of a player he's been, and he's been doing it for a while," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's still got a while to go, but you expect him to pass more people. He's consistent in his approach, and he's given us 30-plus homers every year. That's what he does."
In discussing his recent on-field play, Rodriguez could now laugh about his last week -- one that saw him booed loudly at Yankee Stadium when he killed a ninth-inning rally by hitting into a double play on Saturday against Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan.
He also had to be escorted to the Bronx by a New York City police officer after being stuck in three hours of traffic trying to commute to the Stadium -- an ill-timed endeavor, as much of the metropolis attempted to hit the highways for the Labor Day weekend.
"I'm just glad last week is over; It was an awful week," Rodriguez said.
But there is more work on the horizon. The Yankees are in the midst of a 10-game, four-city road trip that could define their season, and Rodriguez acknowledges that to truly control their destiny, the team must win every one of its remaining games. It's quite a tall order, but there isn't much of an alternative.
"There's no frustration," Rodriguez said. "We're hanging by a thread and playing like every game is our last. Every game is the most important game. We can't control what anyone else does -- I don't even watch. The only thing I care about is our team doing the best we can."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.