This article comes from Mike Lupica, and was in this Sunday's paper.
Alex Rodriguez is supposed to start hitting home runs in bunches soon, the same as Mark Teixeira is, A-Rod currently one behind Teixeira. The two of them, total contract value, are about half-a-billion dollars of corner infielders, the most expensive bookends in all of sports history. As you might imagine, home runs are sort of part of their deals.
Players have been paid to hit home runs since Babe Ruth's heyday - this is nothing new.
It means Rodriguez could be at 600 homers before the month is out, at which point the city and the Yankees will be expected to come to a dead stop, mostly because there is money to be made off a magic number like that.
There's money to be made from any athletic accomplishment, really. This isn't different from any other milestone in Major League Baseball - people turned out to see an ineffective, over-the-hill Craig Biggio accumulate 3,000 hits.
At least it used to be a magic number.
The 600 Home Run Club used to be one of the most exclusive clubs in all of sports, a club that was about as easy to get into as Augusta National. Because here were the three players in that club, for an awfully long time in baseball:
Hookers and booze (when booze was illegal).
So you could have argued that here was this one small club that included the three greatest players in history, though it wouldn't have been much of an argument.
And all three of them broke the law, though I get the feeling that this will get glossed over, as is the norm.
But when A-Rod, who was sitting on 591 through Wednesday night's game - and just eight for this season - gets to 600, there will be seven members of the club. Along with Aaron, Ruth and Mays, you will have Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa and A-Rod.
I assume you're going to gloss over the fact that Griffey's bodily breakdown can be easily compared to the sorts of injuries associated with steroid use/abuse… but I'll keep my fingers grossed, so long as you're slinging around slander and assumptions.
Please keep in mind that I'm not dragging Griffey through the mud here - I just feel that his free pass is a bit baffling.
A-Rod is an admitted user of steroids, even though he never actually used the word when he went to his media confession in the spring of 2009. "We knew we weren't taking Tic Tac's," he said at the time, talking about the "Boli" he says he took in Texas - but only in Texas! - and the phantom cousin who administered it to him over three full seasons.
Why should he use the word "steroids?" What is there to gain from that?
And why harp on the three-year use of steroids? Rodriguez hasn't tested positive for anything since joining the Yankees, he hasn't lost or gained noticeable amounts of weight, and he hasn't suffered any steroid-related injuries… I guess that's not important, though.
I've also noticed a trend wherein you seem to forget things that have happened. Rodriguez's so-called "phantom cousin" spoke to the media, appearing in interviews both alone and with Rodriguez.
Bonds only admits to accidentally using a steroid called "The Clear," saying he thought he was only taking flaxseed oil, because, hey, who hasn't made a simple mistake like that?
You've never accidentally drank from someone else's glass? Or ate from someone else's dish? Or ate something that you were allergic to? Or taken a laxative instead of a Tylenol?
I'm not defending Bonds' shenanigans, but I do believe that such a mistake could be made - particularly if you have a strict regiment of supplements as most professional athletes do… it can be overwhelming.
But unless you believe that the book "Game of Shadows," which detailed Bonds' steroid regimen, is a work of fiction, Bonds is a drug cheat, too, him and his ridiculous home run surge after the age of 35.
And if "Game of Shadows" is a work of fiction, Bonds would have sued the authors by now, right?
Litigation costs a great deal of time and money. It results in heartache and headlines. It involves dragging the names of yourself and your loved ones through the mud. This must be irrelevant.
Then there is Sosa, who hit 60 home runs three times in four seasons and sits at 609 career home runs. He says he never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, no sir, swear on a Bible.
And he's never been caught or implicated in any significant way.
And if you believe that, you believe that it's only a coincidence that his appearance starts to make the name "Lady Gaga" come to mind. Stop me if you've heard this one, but Sosa is the latest sports example of the old country line:
Who you gonna believe, me or your own lyin' eyes?
Wouldn't assuming that Sosa - who never tested positive for PEDs and wasn't named in the Mitchell Report - used PEDs be trusting your "lyin' eyes?"
There has never been a hint of drug use with Junior Griffey, and I hope there never is, even if the moment in sports has long since passed where you can be sure about anybody or anything.
Well… you sort of mentioned it. I mean, aside from his Rodriguez-like bulking over the course of his career and steroid-esque injuries, there's no reason to assume that Griffey used PEDs.
Always remember the idiotic theorizing, after "Game of Shadows," that we just had to wait a few years for A-Rod to eventually break Bonds' record of 762 home runs, maybe even be the first guy to 800, so that the all-time home run record would once again be as pure as it was when it belonged to Aaron, Ruth, Mays.
Aaron - amphetamines. Ruth - hookers and (illegal) booze. Mays - amphetamines.
By the way? "Pure" with The Babe obviously refers to the time in his day between the first pitch of the game and the last out. A lot of the rest of his time, if you believe the books on him the way you do "Game of Shadows," he was as much of a legendary slob as he was a home run hitter.
Only it didn't matter much at the time because he was the biggest and most famous athlete in the country, he was "The House That Ruth Built," he was the real beginning of the Yankees, the biggest brand in all of sports.
Rodriguez is pretty freakin' famous. He may not be the most well-known athlete in the country, but he's certainly up there.
With the Babe, people didn't want to know what they didn't want to know, the same as they didn't want to know what Mickey Mantle was doing until the bars closed, and often after that.
That the media has entirely changed course over the last thirty or so years should be linked with Rodriguez, obviously.
With A-Rod, fans know.
They sure do.
But they no longer seem to care too much, the guy has already gotten complete absolution now that he put the Yankees back on top. All has been forgiven, for the only reason that mattered to Yankee fans in Ruth's day, in Mantle's day.
Why should they care?
I (and it would appear you) am of the mindset that a majority of players at least attempted to gain a competitive edge by using some sort of PED. If that's the case, was there really a competitive edge at all? If PEDs work wonders, why have so many of those caught been middling ballplayers?
I don't see anyone writing an article looking for some sort of sick retribution from Jack Cust or Jerry Hairston Jr.
He is one of theirs. He helps the Yankees win. It doesn't make Yankee fans remotely unusual.
The vast majority of the fans of every other Major League Baseball organization seem to share this sort of not-caring outlook.
Even though you have to say that The 600 Home Run Club ain't what it used to be. The way The 500 Home Run Club ain't what it used to be. And never will be again.
Nor is any other milestone "club."
Nothing against Jim Thome, who's currently sitting at 569 home runs, which means 17 behind Frank Robinson and four behind Harmon Killebrew, but have you watched Thome for one minute of his career and thought you were watching one of the great sluggers of all time, and a future Hall of Famer?
Are you asking me? Well I'm going to answer anyway - yes.
Thome hit baseballs as far as any player that I've ever seen. He worked counts, used the whole field, and appears to be the consummate professional. He's personable, outgoing, and gregarious. Check out the numbers: 67.5 WAR (65th all-time), 146 OPS+ (44th), and a .406 wOBA. Great stuff.
Thome is 39 now and with the Twins and probably won't hit 31 home runs from now until the end of his career. But how do you keep him out of Cooperstown if he gets to 600? Or even if he doesn't hit another one and quits next week the way Junior quit last week?
I wouldn't keep Thome out of the Hall of Fame.
Here are the top 14 home run hitters of all time, from Bonds to Manny Ramirez:
Hookers and booze.
Booze, amphetamines, and adultery.
There are some serious scumbags on that list, eh?
Six of the guys on that list, nearly half, are either known drug guys or suspects.
Why aren't amphetamines drugs?
If A-Rod stays healthy, he will eventually climb over everybody. It will be 600 this season and 700 in a few seasons and then who knows? His story - and he is, by God, sticking to it - is that he only used performance-enhancing drugs for those three seasons in Texas because of the pressure of living up to his huge contract.
And why are we supposed to believe him on this?
Why shouldn't we believe him? What has he done to earn this venom?
It's a good question, when you think about it.
This list, these inflated numbers that go with the inflated bodies, is as much a record of this time in baseball as George Mitchell's report. Bonds. Sosa. McGwire. Rafael Palmeiro, the drug cheat who pointed a finger at Congress and said he'd never used steroids and then turned up positive. Manny Ramirez got busted eventually for a taking a female fertility drug, a known companion to steroids.
You cite the Mitchell Report as a resource… yet only Bonds was listed there. You may need new interns, as your research as a whole seems incredibly shoddy.
Hall of Famers, Hall of Shamers. Same club.
Why do the names and indiscretions I've pointed out mean so little to you?
I was standing near the batting cage at the old Stadium a few years ago with Reggie Jackson. It is worth pointing out again that when he played, he looked like a tight end in a baseball uniform. Now he stands there at the batting cage and looks like a leadoff man.
Reggie Jackson is 64-years old. He last played Major League Baseball on 4 October 1987. Perhaps that has something to do with it?
Reggie retired with 563 home runs. Check the list. It means he got passed by Thome.
Jim Thome was a better hitter than Jackson. Look it up.
He said that day, "When I retired with my 563, there were five guys ahead of me: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Frank, Killebrew. Now I'm getting passed like I'm standing still."
I hate to pick on Jackson further - but he is standing still. He hasn't played a game in nearly twenty-three years.
A-Rod passed him that way last season. He is still just 34 years old. The home runs will keep coming, the home runs a lot easier for him to talk about than why he needed to see Dr. Tony Galea, the patron saint of human growth hormone, when he was recovering from hip surgery.
The question on that one isn't about A-Rod, it's for him:
Galea is a world-renowned doctor, and Rodriguez has been urged to stay quiet on the matter due to a criminal investigation.
He is one of the best players of all time. He goes with the top Yankees of all time. He is in that club. The 600 Home Run Club soon.
How are you going to feel about that, really, when the magic moment finally arrives?
Pretty damn excited.