By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 19- Like it or not, depending on your feeling about Alex Rodriguez and his year-long suspension from baseball due to using performance enhancing drugs, but career hit number 3,000 is near and it will probably come Friday night in the Bronx.
A milestone for A-Rod that very few have achieved and you have to dig deep into the Yankees media notes to get the vital statistics. That’s another matter for another day because the Yankees will have to acknowledge the hit when it comes.
But Thursday night, with A-Rod at the plate in the eighth inning, and one hit shy of making history, the Yankee Stadium crowd anticipated the moment. They, as they have always done this season, stood and cheered Rodriguez as the cameras were ready to take photos and videos as he stepped to the plate.
Except they were disappointed, as were the media in the press box because Marlins’ reliever Sam Dyson did not cooperate by issuing four inside pitches for a ball. When Rodriguez went to first base the fans continued to show their displeasure at Dyson for not making them witness baseball history because A-Rod awaits another night to become the 29th player to get 3,000 career hits.
Dyson, if you can believe it, said it was more important to get the out, that it was more of an incentive to get A-Rod out. He claimed to not hear the fans and could care less about history. Perhaps that can be believed but the Marlins at that juncture were trailing by six runs and Dyson gave up four, all earned.
“I don't even know how to describe it," Rodriguez said about the cheers and fan support. "It feels good. Every time moments like that happen, I can just take a moment to reflect that a year ago today. Their support has actually helped me play a lot better."
The year ago was reference again to his suspension, and to many skeptics another milestone to them does not belong in the record books.
But, in all due respect to Alex Rodriguez, he has gone with the plan and been the team player. There has been no wrong statements, and his answers to the media have been about appreciation and not about himself. Reaching this milestone does not have an impact that Derek Jeter received when he hit the 3,000 plateau, then again there is no comparison when it comes to A-Rod and Jeter.
Rodriguez had an impact in the Yankees 9-4 win over the Marlins getting two hits that made that eighth inning at bat one for drama. That first hit drove in a run that got him closer to the milestone and added to his record career RBI total.
Manager Joe Girardi was also hoping the hit would come. “Was hoping to get it out of the way,” he said. “He will get another opportunity tomorrow. Think the crowd wanted to see it. I an understand. Dyson was trying to get him out.”
But those fans, many who won’t be in the Bronx Friday night, wanted to see a hit and not a walk. This was not one night they cheered for A-Rod as they have been in his corner all season. And Girardi, when asked, once again became the philosopher regarding the fans and how they have supported Rodriguez, who is having a comeback type first half of the season.
“Fans just want to see the players do well,” he said. “I think it's the society we live in. Most people will pull for your own team, no matter what the situation is and people want to see people come back. Giving people second chances. Most people in this room have made mistakes. One thing about Alex you see him get better everyday and he loves the game. The guys in that room respect him,” referring to the support A-Rod has received from his teammates.
Girardi added, “People are appreciative of what he has done for our club this year and how he’s helped us with winning.”
It also helps that the Yankees won again, that CC Sabathia threw the ball well and did not get the decision despite pitching six innings on three hits, and not issuing a walk for the fifth time this season. Carlos Beltran finally heard some cheers and put the Yankees ahead with a two-run homer in the seventh.
But the night was all about Alex Rodriguez and his quest to 3,000 hits. He surpassed the quest of having the fans in his corner, and it can only get better when he gets the milestone hit in the Bronx and continues to help the Yankees get wins.
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