08/05/10 12:32 AM ET
Plenty of praise for A-Rod after 600th homer
Former teammates, manager happy slugger reached milestone
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
And now: Rodriguez.
It took him a little longer than some had anticipated, but Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 600 career home runs on Wednesday afternoon.
The milestone puts Rodriguez in some very elite company, though the occasion is obviously not without some controversy. Even with that, the reaction around Major League Baseball about A-Rod's 600th home run has largely been positive.
Leading the long-distance accolades was his prior manager, who echoed the relief felt by many over the end of the unsettling vigil."Oh, yeah. Finally," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I didn't get to see it, but I sent him a message. 'Congratulations,' is all. I called someone I knew would get him the message. "He keeps changing his number, and the one I have didn't work." Sure enough, Rodriguez changed his number on Wednesday to "600." Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon played alongside Rodriguez in New York for four years, culminating in a World Series title last year. His relationship with the Yankees third baseman goes back much further than that, though, and he couldn't have been happier for his former teammate.
"That's how it's supposed to be [hitting it at home]," Damon said. "I mean, obviously, I wish he could've gotten it sooner, but I'm glad he gets to do it in front of the fans that love him. ... I'm very proud of him, especially with everything that's happened, but mostly because I've known him since he was 14 years old.
"Just seeing that progression over the past 20 years, I'm happy for him. I hope he gets 700 three years from now, and shoot, hopefully he can push 800. The way he keeps his body in shape, he can do it."
Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader with 762, published a message on his website, welcoming Rodriguez to the 600-homer club and telling A-Rod that "you only have 163 to go."
Randy Winn is now with the Cardinals, but he began this season with the hopes of replacing Damon in left field for the Yankees. The 36-year-old has 109 career homers to his name, so the concept of hitting six times that many is truly remarkable to the veteran.
"That is a lot of homers," Winn said, shaking his head. "A lot of homers. I have been playing against Alex for a long time now, and I got a chance to play with him this year. He is just truly a great player. I mean, 600 homers, that is a lot. It is mind boggling. You have to be a really, really good player for a really, really long time."
Some around baseball did try to tackle the elephant in the room, Rodriguez's admission that he had used performance-enhancing drugs in the past.
"He's the youngest to hit 600," Rays outfielder Carl Crawford said. "That's all I'm going to be thinking about -- the home runs. All the other stuff, that's his business that I really don't care about. He's just going to be the youngest person to hit 600 home runs in my mind."
"I'm very happy for him," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He represents baseball. He made a mistake one time, and that's part of the game. Everyone forget it and move on. It was great."Baseball needs people out there making good things about this game. To me, he's one of the best players, top three or four, ever in the history of the game."
Rays pitcher James Shields marveled at the accomplishment, but in voicing a pitcher's perspective, also expressed gratitude that it hadn't happened anywhere near him."I've given up a ton [of homers], and hopefully in my whole career I don't reach 600," Shields said. "That's a milestone that I'm sure he's glad to get by now. It's a ton of home runs. I don't care what anybody says. To be able to hit 600 homers over a 330-to-340-foot fence, that's pretty special. "He's one of the greatest players in the game. Congratulations to him. And I'm glad he didn't hit it off me."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.