With No. 630, A-Rod ties Griffey for fifth
NEW YORK -- With one more home run, Alex Rodriguez will pass Ken Griffey Jr. and stand alone in fifth place on the all-time list.With 630 homers -- the latest of which came in the Yankees' 5-0 win over the Angels during Friday's home opener in the Bronx -- Rodriguez is tied with his former Mariners teammate. Ahead of A-Rod now are the big four: Willie Mays at 660, Babe Ruth at 714, Hank Aaron at 755 and Barry Bonds at 762. That's pretty rarefied air, no matter how you put it. "I think it's interesting -- I think it's something to follow," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's amazing what he's done in his career. You look at the home runs, the RBIs, the runs that he's scored. You look at those stats that they put on the board, and they're amazing. "It puts an interesting sidebar on our season, and it's something people will follow. I will definitely pay attention. I knew that he tied Ken Griffey Jr. today." So did Rodriguez. He's been trying to catch Griffey for a while. On account of injuries, Rodriguez hit only three homers after last June 11 and none since a Sept. 17, 2011, game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. He's 30 homers behind Mays, and at that pace, it'll be a while before he catches up to the Hall of Famer. Friday's homer off Ervin Santana -- into the netting above Monument Park in dead center field -- was Rodriguez's first of the season and accounted for his first RBI. A-Rod was 3-for-4 on the day with the homer, the RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. He had only four hits in the Yankees' first six games. Because the homer tied him with Griffey, A-Rod called it "special." Griffey was taken No. 1 overall by Seattle in the 1987 First-Year Player Draft, and the Mariners selected A-Rod first overall six years later. By the time A-Rod was brought up to the Major Leagues for good in 1996, Griffey was an established star. The two were teammates and at the same time rivals; that's why tying the left-handed-hitting slugger, who retired midway through the 2010 season, was significant to Rodriguez. "It was special to me, because we came up together," Rodriguez said. "He was a teammate and a brother and a mentor all in one. It was a special day today." As far as what lies ahead, Rodriguez will be 37 on July 27 and has five years to go on his current $280 million contract. Rodriguez must average 26 homers a year through 2017 if he hopes to pass Bonds. Until last year, that seemed within reach. From 1996-2010, Rodriguez never hit fewer than 30 homers in a season, but last year, because of a shoulder injury and knee surgery, his numbers tumbled to 16 homers and 62 RBIs. Girardi said that when the right-handed-hitting Rodriguez is in a groove at the plate, everything goes right. Rodriguez agreed. "When I have my legs under me and I'm healthy, I feel like I can do some good things," Rodriguez said. And Girardi is certainly right about A-Rod's numbers: Aaron is the only player in Major League Baseball history to amass more than 700 homers, 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs and 2,000 runs scored. Rodriguez certainly has a shot at it, with 630 homers, 2,782 hits, 1,828 runs and 1,894 RBIs. Bonds came close, falling only four RBIs and 65 hits short. Aaron, considered by many to be the greatest hitter of all time, finished first, second, third and fourth, respectively, in those hallowed offensive categories. He's No. 1 with 2,297 RBIs, second in homers behind Bonds, third in hits behind Pete Rose and Ty Cobb with 3,771 and fourth in runs scored (2,174) behind Rickey Henderson, Cobb and Bonds. Aaron did this over the course of a 23-year career that ended in 1976. A-Rod said he is undaunted by all of the numbers in general, particularly those posted by the four players who lie ahead of him on the all-time home run list -- three Hall of Famers and the other on the ballot for the first time later this year. "I've gotten where I've gotten just focusing on one day at a time," Rodriguez said. "I've just been putting in a lot of work and thinking about winning. When I drive to the park every day, I try to figure out what I can do to help the team win. That doesn't have to be a home run. It can be a base hit the other way, grind out a big at-bat or make a nice defensive play. "If you take that blue-collar approach and with the God-given talent, anything is possible."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow href="http://twitter.com/boomskie">@boomskieon Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.