Celebrity gossip reporter, Perez Hilton, posted on his website that Alex Rodriguez broke a home run world record on Wednesday afternoon. (Sorry, I thought Perez Hilton breaking the A-Rod story is funnier and more entertaining then Peter Gammons doing so.)
Now, I am not breaking any news—neither is Hilton—but Alex Rodriguez, 35, smashed his 600th home run at Yankee Stadium.
With the blast, which was hit against Blue Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum, Rodriguez became the youngest player, seventh overall, in MLB history to hit 600 home runs.
What’s interesting about Rodriguez’s milestone, which is a major accomplishment, is nobody cares…well, at least not a lot—according to The Dan Patrick Show’s non-scientific poll on Thursday, 70 percent of listeners said they didn't care.
On Thursday, sports talk shows talked about A-Rod’s dinger, his place in history, what No. 600 means nowadays, and steroids.
However, tomorrow, Brett Farve’s non-retirement retirement will be the headline on ESPN.
This wouldn’t be the case 25 years ago.
I have a mixed take on whether this is right or wrong.
This is what happens when you get an edge. It’s much like LeBron James winning a title in Miami instead of Cleveland. Yes, LeBron’s chances of winning multiple titles are greater in a Heat uniform. But those six titles in Miami won't equal the title he’d have earned Cleveland. LeBron’s edge with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hinder the value of his possible titles.
The truth is, when people have to struggle to reach their goals, the satisfaction is greater.
Fans also appreciate milestones more when there’s nothing attached—just think of Craig Biggio’s race to 3,000th hits, which was hyped up during spring training, covered endlessly during the season, and celebrated for months after it was reached.
Biggio was the 27th player in MLB history to reach the milestone. A-Rod is the seventh player in history to hit 600 homers.
How much coverage did A-Rod's race to 600 get during spring training? How much during the season? How much will it get after?
I follow MLB very regularly. I watch Yankee games consistently.
At around 599 is when I heard about A-Rod’s 600—unfortunately for Rodriguez, that was 46 at bats ago. The delay between 599 and 600 hindered the anticipation. By the time Rodriguez hit 600, New York fans were moving onto the AL East pennant race.
The truth: General baseball fans stopped caring about home-run milestones after Bonds and Sosa.
Which brings me to the other side of the story.
What happens when Jim Thome (39 years old, 577 HRs), Manny Ramirez (38 years old, 554 HRs), Albert Pujols (30 years old, 393 HRs) and, possibly Adam Dunn (30 years old, 344 HRs) march toward 600 then 700?
Do fans begin to switch opinions on home-run records?
Ramirez, who has been caught using steroids, is a bad example. Currently, Thome needs just 23 dingers, Dunn is on pace to hit more than 40 home runs for the seventh time in eight seasons, and Pujols will surpass 400 homers by season’s end.
It would be hypocritical for fans to support Thome, Pujols, Dunn, and not Rodriguez because we aren't 100-percent sure if the threesome played clean. (It’s acceptable if a fan supports the three because they like them more than Rodriguez.)
Another interesting question is, if the trend of pitching continues will the value of the home run rise again?
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince wrote on Thursday, that Rodriguez could be the last to hit 600 homers:
“Rodriguez's path, then, was a circumvented one, and it could be a long, long time before anyone comes within striking distance of 600 so quickly.
If Thome's body holds up, maybe he'll join the club. Ramirez might do it, too. But after that, the wait between entries could be a bit more in line with the historical flow, rather than the recent flood. Club 600 could become the little hideaway that it once was.”
The future will answer all of my questions.
I’ll admit, I’m would like to move past the PED era and root for hitters to silence critics during a pitching-dominant era, which I think will continue for many seasons.
However, I know in the back of fans' minds—I’ll admit mine, too—there will be doubt about how many of Player X’s homers were legitimate.
The good thing is, time heals most wounds and, like any free market, the value of the home run will return.
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, his 600th came during a home-run market crash. He’ll need to hope that when 700 is in reach, the market returns and fans, once again, appreciate the milestone’s rightful value.
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