x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Rodriguez is the youngest to 600 home runs

Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player in American baseball to hit 600 home runs yesterday, reaching the milestone in the first inning against Toronto.

Alex Rodriguez celebrates with Derek Jeter, after hitting the 600th home run of his career in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium yesterday.
Alex Rodriguez celebrates with Derek Jeter, after hitting the 600th home run of his career in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium yesterday.

Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player in American baseball to hit 600 home runs yesterday, reaching the milestone in the first inning against Toronto at Yankee Stadium. The 35-year-old slugger hit his 17th homer of the season, driving a pitch from Toronto's Shaun Marcum over the centre-field wall and giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead. A stadium worker retrieved the ball for him. He raised a hand slightly in triumph as he rounded first base, then completed his trot around the bases.

Rodriguez joined an elite, 600-homer club that includes Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr (630) and Sammy Sosa (609) He finally got No 600 after going 12 games without a home run. After coming out for a curtain call, Rodriguez received congratulations from teammates in the Yankees dugout. Many had raised their arms in joy when he finally connected.

Despite saying he has been more relaxed than he was when trying for his 500th homer, Rodriguez had just nine hits in 46 at-bats after homering on July 22, the longest stretch between numbers 599 and 600 for any of the seven men to reach the mark. Mays was next at 21 at-bats, according to Stats LLC. Rodriguez went 28 without a home run before 500. At 35, his home run pace is far ahead of the rest. Ruth had been the youngest to hit 600, reaching the mark in 1931 at 36 years, 196 days. Ruth did it in fewer games, however, 2,044 to 2,227 for Rodriguez.

During a tumultuous spring training of 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. He also had major hip surgery that kept him out the first month of last year. He returned with a fresh outlook that put the team first, helping lead the Yankees to their first World Series championship since 2000. The 13-time All-Star has been saying that No 600 is merely a springboard to better things, helping his team win, but also reaching Bonds' record of 762 home runs.

Being the home run king comes with a tarnished crown, though. After Bonds eclipsed Aaron's record with his 756th in 2007 amid accusations of steroid use (something Bonds vehemently denies), talk immediately turned to Rodriguez, who days earlier had become the fastest to No 500. He was supposed to be the player who would restore credibility to the most cherished record in American sports, but that all changed two years later.

In response to a SportsIllustrated.com report and mounting speculation, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids as he hit 156 homers with Texas. He has 255 with the Yankees and 189 with the Seattle Mariners. For one of the most scrutinized players in baseball, one who is playing on a 10-year, US$270-million (Dh992bn) contract, only modest fanfare accompanied the run-up to No 600. Perhaps it is Steroid Era fatigue or the fact that Rodriguez became the fourth player to reach the mark in the past 10 years after none in 31 years.

He does have enthusiastic supporters, however. One of them is Keith Law, a baseball analyst for ESPN. "We're privileged to watch this guy play," Law said. * AP