Is 600 a big deal?
That was the question posed by ESPN's morning edition of SportsCenter the day following Alex Rodriguez's historic home run. Performance enhancing drugs or not, 600 home runs by one individual player most certainly is a big deal.
Of the thousands of players to play the game, Alex Rodriguez is only the seventh player to accumulate that many home runs. That's a smaller percentage of players than have recorded 3,000 hits, won triple crowns, or pitched perfect games.
It's an incredible accomplishment that is definitely a big deal. Whether you believe the number is tainted or not, Alex Rodriguez has hit 600 major league home runs, which is more than all but six individuals ever to play the game. And he's only 35.
There have been plenty of high-end sluggers that also used PEDs that never reached the milestone Rodriguez did on Wednesday. Mark McGuire never hit his 600th home run. Same for Rafael Palmeiro. Hitting 600 home runs requires remarkable skill and longevity.
Even though MLB has seen the 600 home runs club more than double in size over the past decade, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to attain such status. In the era of pitch counts, innings limits, and relief specialists, it is not uncommon for a hitter to face multiple pitchers in one game.
A longer and more extensive travel schedule also plays into the fact that the game is harder now than it ever was. And what about home runs that Rodriguez hit off of pitchers that were using some sort of performance enhancer? Using the logic applied to Rodriguez, those home runs should count for more.
I am not defending A-Rod's decision to use performance enhancing drugs, nor will I ever. PEDs have no place in a game where natural ability is more than adequate. But to question the significance of a player that has entered one of baseball's most exclusive clubs, naturally or with a little help from some friends (or cousins) is juvenile and a sign of extreme immaturity.
Alex Rodriguez has entered a rarefied air only seen by six other major league baseball players. However he got there, it's a big deal.