A-Rod not preoccupied with 600 homers
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Alex Rodriguez is two home runs away from becoming the youngest player in major league history to reach the elite 600 club. He would rather focus on helping the New York Yankees win games than on milestones.
Quite a change from the old A-Rod: a selfish slugger who piled up prodigious numbers.
“For me the whole thing as I approach 600 the thing I think about is the perspective of where I was when I hit 500. How things are different now,” Rodriguez said Tuesday before the Yankees faced the Los Angeles Angels. “For me early on, I just thought it was about accumulating numbers.”
Rodriguez hit his 598th homer Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Rodriguez has readily acknowledged that he underwent a change in his philosophy after a trying spring of 2009, when he admitted using steroids from 2001-03 for Texas and missed the first month of the season after having hip surgery in Colorado that threatened his career.
He returned with a bang, hitting a homer on the first pitch he saw in Baltimore. New York went 90-44 after Rodriguez’s return, and he finished with 30 homers and 100 RBIs thanks to a seven-RBI, two-homer inning in the last game of the season, connecting on the last pitch he faced.
Rodriguez then ditched a reputation for failing in the playoffs and led the Yankees to their first World Series title since 2000 – the first of his career that began in 1994.
“I think after coming back from Colorado and talking to most of the guys in Baltimore last year it’s a lot easier, it’s a lot more enjoyable when you think about doing the little things to help the team win. It’s a lot more rewarding,” he said. “I’m looking at 600 as a springboard to help the team win.”
When Rodriguez returned in May 2009, he limited his access to the media and spent more time with the team. Rather than relying on outside aides, he looked to Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo for advice. He has continued to limit his access this season. He asked, “Where’s Jason?” before talking to the media Tuesday.
Rodriguez entered 2010 just 17 homers shy of becoming the seventh player to reach 600. But he went homerless in his first 41 at-bats, his longest streak at the start of a season since beginning 1995 without one in his first 48 at-bats for Seattle. He has one multihomer game this season and has not homered in consecutive games.
He’s not concerned.
“After winning a world championship and attaining that goal, you realize that it’s not about (numbers), that it’s obviously about winning a championship,” he said.
Rodriguez entered Tuesday hitting .272 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs, third best in the AL.
Rodriguez’s approach to 600 has garnered little fanfare. There is no countdown clock at Yankee Stadium and there is little of the hype that surrounded him as he approached No. 500 in 2007 – before he admitted to using steroids in his three seasons with Texas, where he hit 156 home runs.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t think the achievement is lessened by the admission, though.
“There are some things that are going to be considered when you talk about big numbers,” Scioscia said. “But still when a player does – what 600 represents – it’s an incredible accomplishment. It speaks volumes.”