A-Rod's homers blaze trail across baseball
Slugger belted 150-plus for three clubs off 365 pitchers since '95
NEW YORK -- The Yankees enjoyed an off-day Thursday, allowing Alex Rodriguez to wake up and savor his status as the seventh and youngest member of baseball's 600 home run club.
If the push to crack just one more over the wall seemed a difficult and lengthy journey, one that ended when Rodriguez accomplished the feat in Wednesday's first inning off the Blue Jays' Shaun Marcum, imagine how traveling the entire course felt for Rodriguez.
"It's definitely a special number," Rodriguez said. "I'm certainly proud of it. I'll treasure it for a long, long time. Many years from today, I'll be able to reflect a lot better."
But the numbers can tell us plenty now. Rodriguez's body clock was at 35 years and eight days when the ball he struck landed near the netting of Monument Park, but Rodriguez's home run clock was at 15 years, one month and 23 days.
That was the elapsed time between when a young Mariners prodigy belted his first homer off the Royals' Tom Gordon on June 12, 1995, at the since-demolished Kingdome, and when Marcum served up a 2-0 fastball that the Yankees' cleanup hitter dispatched out of Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez hit 189 of his homers in a Seattle uniform until 2001, when he signed a 10-year, $252 million deal with Texas. Rodriguez hit 156 home runs for the Rangers, later admitting that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his three seasons there because of perceived pressure to live up to the contract.
Traded to the Yankees before the 2004 season, Rodriguez has since hit 255 homers in pinstripes, making him the only player to hit 150 home runs for three different teams. Two other players have hit as many as 100 for three different clubs; Reggie Jackson (563 career jacks) and Darrell Evans (414).
The only other player to hit his 600th homer as a member of the Yankees was Babe Ruth, who hit it on Aug. 21, 1931, in St. Louis off the Browns' George Blaeholder. Ruth did it in 223 fewer games (2,044), but Rodriguez hit the mark at a younger age; Ruth was 36 years and 196 days old.
|100||Nerio Rodriguez||Blue Jays||8/12/98|
|200||Jon Garland||White Sox||5/12/01|
|250||Luke Prokopec||Blue Jays||4/30/02|
|400||Jorge de la Rosa||Brewers||6/8/05|
|450||A.J. Burnett||Blue Jays||7/21/06|
|600||Shaun Marcum||Blue Jays||8/4/10|
"For me, the perspective of hitting 600 home runs, it feels really good," Rodriguez said. "But when you win a World Series -- which is what I worked my whole life for -- no personal achievement can compare to celebrating on the mound and being the last team standing."
Rodriguez's past two milestones have come against the Blue Jays and the Royals, with Kansas City's Kyle Davies serving up No. 500 at the old Yankee Stadium on Aug. 4, 2007 -- three years to the date of Wednesday's blast, which Rodriguez called "amazing."
Most of Rodriguez's damage has come against the Angels, a team he loved torturing during his time in the American League West, clubbing 67 homers off Halos hurlers. The Orioles and Blue Jays have each seen 51 of Rodriguez's homers leave the yard, with the Twins and Red Sox serving up 45.
Like most players, Rodriguez has had his favorites among the 365 pitchers he has victimized for home runs, ranging alphabetically from David Aardsma (one, July 1, 2010) to Barry Zito (five, last on May 12, 2006).
Rodriguez has hit eight homers apiece off Bartolo Colon, Ramon Ortiz and David Wells, while taking Tim Wakefield and Jarrod Washburn deep seven times. Jamie Moyer, Sidney Ponson and Jeff Suppan each surrendered six of A-Rod's 600 blasts.
Most of Rodriguez's homers (132) have come on the second pitch, with plenty (118) coming on the third offering. But pitchers can't groove one, either, as Rodriguez has teed off 100 times on the first pitch and sent it into the seats -- in fact, his favorite count to hit them has been 0-0.
Seventh to 600
Yankee Stadium past and present has been kind to A-Rod: He hit his most at the old House that Ruth Built (124) and has gone deep 28 times at the new cathedral that bears George Steinbrenner's fingerprints.
Then there's the matter of where they clear the walls. Rodriguez joked while the Yankees were in Cleveland that the fans clustering behind the left-field foul pole were in the wrong spot, that they should "be set up somewhere else, maybe right-center."
Students of Rodriguez's swing, including Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, have also noted that Rodriguez is on track when he's hitting with power to right-center field, but maybe those fans were reading the data charts.
According to baseball-reference.com, 347 of Rodriguez's homers have actually cleared the wall in left field or left-center. 102 went to center field, like Wednesday's shot off Marcum, while 151 have traveled to right-center or right field.
A-Rod homers usually mean good things are on the way; his teams are 346-196 in games when he has homered. Nine of Rodriguez's long balls were of the walk-off variety, last accomplished on Aug. 7, 2009, off Boston's Junichi Tazawa. A cool 48 tied the game and 204 gave his team the lead. Fifty-five came in multihomer games, including a trio of three-homer contests.
Boppin' vs. the Blue Jays
A whopping 110 have come in the first inning, his most by far; 36 came in the ninth inning, his least. And of course, 21 of Rodriguez's homers have been grand slams -- last off the A's Trevor Cahill on July 6 -- tying him with Manny Ramirez for the second most behind Lou Gehrig's 23.
And while A-Rod has not played shortstop since 2005, he owns 344 home runs as a shortstop, one shy of the all-time record held by Cal Ripken Jr. He has hit 245 homers as a third baseman and 11 as a designated hitter.
Rodriguez's contract includes $6 million incentives for each player he passes among the elite four in baseball's homer discussion, beginning with Willie Mays (660) and continuing through Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762).
Ferocious in the first
|10.||10th or later||9|
Bonds cheered on Rodriguez with a message on his website Wednesday, telling him that "you only have 163 to go," but even that comes with a caveat for Rodriguez, who said earlier this year that he'd prefer to be thought of as an RBI guy, rather than a home-run hitter.
"It took me three years to the day to hit 100, so that's not really even on my radar right now," Rodriguez said. "That's something that we can revisit in two or three years and see where we're at. The journey is what's fun."
He can use a break from those specially-marked balls anyway, which Rodriguez called "a jinx." No. 600 took longer than nearly anyone could have expected, spanning a record 46 homerless at-bats between No. 599 off the Royals' Robinson Tejeda -- an A-Rod first-timer -- and his second career shot off Marcum.
Finally able to celebrate, Rodriguez was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation and later a curtain call from the Yankee Stadium crowd, which almost certainly will be not the last he enjoys while the march toward his final number continues.
"I felt bad for them. I had them waiting a long, long time," Rodriguez said. "Their patience and support was incredible."