Alex Rodriguez has just become the 29th member of the 3,000 hit club with a solo home run in the first inning against Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. He is the third member of this exclusive fraternity to achieve this historic milestone with a home run. The last ball player to join the 3,000 hit club with a home run was former teammate and Yankee icon Derek Jeter in 2011. The occasion also marks the third time a Cy Young Award winner has given up a ball player’s 3,000th hit. Verlander now joins current teammate David Price and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in this category.
Rodriguez’s 2015 redemption tour throughout ball parks across North America has surprisingly produced favorable results. Besides performing well above expectations for a mediocre Yankees ball club in a lackluster American League East, Rodriguez has remained relatively quiet while he has aggressively assaulted Major League Baseball’s record book. Rodriguez knows that he will never silence the harshest of critics or the incessant blather that will accompany him and any accomplishment he has achieved in a major league uniform. However, that has not deterred him from reclaiming a small piece of his previous identity as an elite baseball player.
Perception is clearly not reality when it comes to Rodriguez so far in 2015. The perception at the outset of spring training was that Rodriguez would be hobbling around and wouldn’t be able to compete on a daily basis. He would be grossly overmatched by major league pitching due to his one year suspension, recent health ailments, advancing age, and the erosion of his baseball skills. Some even believed Rodriguez wouldn’t make it out of spring training. Much to the surprise of everyone, Rodriguez is fifth in the American League in On Base Percentage (.384), eighth in Base on Balls (34) and tenth in On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (.888). He has also achieved a highly respectable Slugging Percentage (.505) that currently ranks him twelfth in the American League.
Rodriguez’s approach to baseball seems to have greatly changed since his temporary banishment. As a ball player, it appears as if Rodriguez is allowing the game to come to him. He is not trying to do too much with each of his at bats and there has been marked improvement with his pitch selection. While his bat speed might not be at the level it was ten years ago, Rodriguez still exudes a confidence that he will do something productive every time he steps into the batter’s box.
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 19: The scoreboard acknowledges Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees after he hit a home run as well as getting his 3000th career hit in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers during their game at Yankee Stadium on June 19, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Off the field, Rodriguez is still encountering legal obstacles and distractions due to his previous affiliations with performance enhancing substances. His infamous cousin, Yuri Sucart, pleaded guilty in United States District Court in Miami to one count of conspiracy to distribute human growth hormone. Sucart, Rodriguez’s one-time “drug mule,” was sentenced to seven months in prison. Rodriguez has also been recently sued by Lazaro Collazo, the former University of Miami pitching coach. Collazo, a defendant in the Biogenesis case, claims confidential medical records were purchased by Rodriguez and his associates during the period in which the three-time American League Most Valuable Player was defending himself in the contentious arbitration hearing with Major League Baseball. Collazo believes the purchase of these records and subsequent sharing with third parties violated laws in the state of Florida.
Once viewed as bitter enemies on opposing sides of the now infamous arbitration hearing, Commissioner Manfred and Rodriguez have publically joined forces in promoting the future of the game through the new “Play Ball” initiative. Rodriguez was recently on hand with the tenth commissioner at a ball field in the Bronx playing catch with children and supporting a cause that is meaningful to the sport and to Manfred personally. On multiple occasions, Commissioner Manfred has reiterated that Rodriguez has served his penalty and is back in good standing with Major League Baseball.
Rodriguez’s $6 million conundrum with the New York Yankees regarding the home run milestones has also taken somewhat of a civil approach as well. Major League Baseball has agreed to put the matter on hold for the time being instead of requiring Rodriguez to file a grievance within a 45 day window after hitting his 660th career home run on May 1st against Junichi Tazawa of the Boston Red Sox. While it appears as if the intent is to resolve the matter in an amicable manner, Rodriguez needs to be cautious if the grievance were to go in front of arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez’s sordid past and sophisticated history of performance enhancing substance abuse would be brought to the forefront once again for further investigation.