Alex Rodriguez Closes In On 660 Homerun Record Set By Willie Mays
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
After a full year spent in purgatory, suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs, Alex Rodriguez is back with the New York Yankees, and his bat is blazing.
(SOUNDBITE OF BASEBALL GAME)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Ball is deep, deep to left field. It's fair. It is gone - Alex Rodriguez with his second homerun of the night.
BLOCK: He is currently the Yankees' best hitter. Going into tonight's game against the Tigers in Detroit, he's batting .316 with four homeruns and eleven runs batted in.
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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: That was a screamer.
BLOCK: So does this mean all is forgiven between A-Rod and Yankee fans and management? Mark Feinsand is the Yankees beat reporter for The New York Daily News, and he joins us now. Mark, welcome.
MARK FEINSAND: Thanks, Melissa. How are you?
BLOCK: I'm fine. Thanks. And, you know, looking at the back page headline of your paper over the weekend, I think I know the answer to that question. All is not forgiven. Here's what The Daily News said - "Fountain of Juice," after A-Rod hit those two homers against Tampa Bay.
FEINSAND: Yeah, you know, it's funny. Whether all is forgiven - it depends who you're talking about. If you're talking about his teammates, I think they've welcomed him back and embraced him. And certainly the fact that he's performing as well as he is will only continue to make him quite popular within his own clubhouse. You know, their goal is to win games, and right now, he's helping them do that. Management is another story - not that they're unhappy that he's performing, but he's got these performance bonuses - homerun milestone bonuses written into a marketing contract with the Yankees from when he signed his deal back at the end of 2007. And that's going to create a sticky situation as he's two homeruns away right now from tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list, which will kick a $6 million bonus into action.
BLOCK: Wow. And what is the team management saying about that? Given the suspension, they'd been balking at fulfilling that part of the deal. What are they saying now?
FEINSAND: Well, I think the position is that this is a marketing agreement. This isn't part of his contract - his regular player's contract. So the Yankees are looking to make money off of this. That was the reason for putting these bonuses in in the first place. And with his steroid past, with a full-season suspension and all of his PED use behind him, I don't know that they think they can market it and make the money. So they're going to try to argue that it's not a marketable milestone, and therefore, the marketing agreement should be annulled. It's unprecedented, and it's really going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
BLOCK: Well, what's the mood or what's the reaction among fans when A-Rod takes the field both at home and away? What have you been hearing from people in the stands?
FEINSAND: You know, the fans at Yankee Stadium have been really, really positive. I would say it's probably the 75-25 - maybe even higher than that - in favor of A-Rod. When he comes to bat, it's the only time in the whole game - you know, four times a game, where you can really feel a buzz in the stands. So the Yankee fans seem to have been willing to forgive and forget. Especially if he's hitting well, that'll continue. If he stops hitting well, you'll hear boos just like you always did before. Road fans are booing the daylights out of him, but again, that's no different than he's experienced his whole career.
BLOCK: Well, Alex Rodriguez has not been exactly known as Mr. Humility, to put it mildly. He does sound like he's taking a pretty humble approach to how the season's going so far. Let's take a listen to him talking after Friday's game.
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ALEX RODRIGUEZ: I mean, I didn't know what to expect this year, to be honest with you. I'm working really hard and just trying to take it one at-bat at a time.
BLOCK: Trying to take it one at-bat at a time - another baseball platitude (laughter). But how does he explain what's going on with him this year?
FEINSAND: Well, yeah, he's big on the baseball cliches this year. It's right out of "Bull Durham." But I think he's understand - understands that his best approach here is to talk about baseball and nothing else. Don't try to talk about things away from the field. He did this back in 2009 after the first steroid situation, and it worked really well for him. He had a good season. He helped them win the World Series that year. And I think he's really gone back to that - I'm here to play baseball. That's all I'm focused on, I don't want to talk about anything else or discuss anything else. And I think if he keeps that approach, it'll probably be beneficial for him.
BLOCK: Mark Feinsand, thanks so much for talking with us.
FEINSAND: Thank you.
BLOCK: Mark Feinsand is the Yankees beat reporter with The New York Daily News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.