Alex Rodriguez finally has time to sit and clear his head. Or at least try.
As soon as he launched home run No. 599 off Kansas City?s Robinson Tejeda on July 22, the buzzing began. Ten days later, it hasn?t stopped.
When is he going to hit his 600th, placing him in some very esteemed company? Will pitchers just lob up 80 mph fastballs right down the middle for him? Does it even mean anything because he took performance-enhancing drugs?
A-Rod has to be seeing “599” everywhere. It must materialize on the inside of his eyelids. Newspapers recap the Yankees game and inevitably mention how the third baseman is one measly long ball shy, or perhaps it?s the numbers on a cash register when he buys a sandwich. The number is everywhere, and Rodriguez is stuck.
So after nine games of expecting him to just do it, and instead watching his effortless stroke look like he?s swinging underwater, manager Joe Girardi mercifully gave his star the day off Sunday against the Rays.
Hitting only .222 (8-for-36) in his previous last nine games — seven of which were against teams that hold an ERA in the bottom five of the majors — Rodriguez needed a break. He needed the buzzing to stop, and the numbers to go away. He needed to clear his head.
Players across the MLB will agree that when they try to hit it hard, they miss. A-Rod is trying to hit the ball over the Empire State Building, and it?s not working. He had a tailor-made stretch of games in Kansas City and Cleveland to slap No. 600. He was facing starters such as Kyle Davies (5.52 ERA), Brian Bannister (5.73 ERA) and Jake Westbrook (4.65 ERA), but couldn?t connect.
If not against them, then when?
Don?t be surprised if Alex Rodriguez becomes the seventh member of the 600 club in the Yankees? upcoming home series against the Blue Jays. To be specific, he?ll likely do it on Tuesday.
For starters, Rodriguez has to hit the historic homer in the friendly confines of Yankees Stadium. It wouldn?t be right otherwise. The immortal photos of Barry Bonds? follow-through inside AT&T Park would look off if it were in another ballpark, and the same goes for A-Rod. The home crowd has cheered and booed Rodriguez for 10 years, and Yankees Stadium at capacity deserves to witness the home run for themselves. Besides, it doesn?t hurt that the ballpark averages 2.72 homers a game this year, just .02 home runs shy of Toronto?s Rogers Centre, which sits at the top of the list.
Rodriguez also doesn?t own any of the Blue Jays? probable starting pitchers, which somehow makes it feel like he will poke the historic hit off an unsuspected arm. Here is how he has fared against the likely starters and closer, with their season statistics in parenthesis:
? Brandon Morrow: 3-for-12, one home run (4.62 ERA, eight homers given up in 113 innings)
? Ricky Romero: 4-for-11, no home runs (3.46 ERA, eight homers given up in 138 innings)
? Shaun Marcum: 4-for-17, one home run (3.24 ERA, 12 homers given up in 125 innings)
? Kevin Gregg: 3-for-8, one home run (3.63 ERA, three homers given up in 39 2/3 innings)
There?s no way to accurately predict when Rodriguez will get the monkey off his back, but a home run drought can only last so long. And is it that preposterous to imagine 25-year-old Ricky Romero thinking he can add a little extra heat on a fastball to Rodriguez, miss a little over the plate and watch as A-Rod?s 600th lands in the right-field seats and Romero?s name is forever etched in the record books?
Rodriguez was given Sunday to rest, to shoo away the historic expectations clogging his head. He struck out as a pinch hitter.
On Tuesday night, he could be standing on that new plateau.