BOSTON – Alex Rodriguez joined Willie Mays in the 660 club. Whether it earns him his $ 6 million bonus remains to be seen.
A-Rod belted a pinch-hit homer off Junichi Tazawa in the eighth inning Friday night, lifting the Yankees to a 3-2 win over the rival Red Sox in the first of three weekend games at Fenway Park.
Rodriguez’s blast – a screaming line drive into the Green Monster seats in left field – was his sixth of the season, tying him with Mays for fourth place on the all-time list with 660.
It was the first pinch-hit home run of A-Rod’s career.
Rodriguez and the Yankees signed a marketing deal back in 2007 when he inked his 10-year, $ 275 million contract that would allow him to earn up to $ 30 million more as he climbed the home run list, giving the Yankees the right to use his name and likeness to market his achievements.
The deal calls for a $ 6 million marketing bonus for tying Mays, Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), plus another if he passed Bonds as the all-time home run king, bringing the bonus total to $ 30 million.
Of course, that was before A-Rod was a two-time admitted steroid cheat with a 162-game suspension on his résumé.
The Daily News first reported in January that the Yankees would fight A-Rod on the bonuses. On April 10, the News reported that the Yankees would not declare No. 660 as a “milestone,” which in their mind would annul the agreement.
The Yankees view the pact as worthless and invalid, according to sources, thanks to A-Rod’s 2014 suspension for violating the game’s collectively bargained drug policy and for his scorched-earth attack on baseball and the Yankees.
If the Yankees decline to pay the bonus, Rodriguez can take the case to an arbitrator. But according to A-Rod, that’s all for another day – and for somebody else to deal with.
“I’ve learned my lesson,” Rodriguez said before the game. “I’m doing things a different way now. I know those things will work themselves out.”
A-Rod has done his best to brush aside any questions about the potential bonus battle. Asked Friday whether he would simply allow his lawyers to handle the situation with the Yankees, Rodriguez grinned.
“I don’t even like that word anymore,” Rodriguez said. “I’m focusing on baseball.”
For the first seven innings, all A-Rod could do was watch, having been left out of the lineup as Joe Girardi started only lefthanders and switch-hitters against Justin Masterson.
But with the game tied at 2 in the eighth inning and Tazawa pitching for Boston, Girardi sent A-Rod to pinch-hit for Garrett Jones, drawing the loudest boos the slugger has heard all season.
A-Rod, who was 3-for-14 with one homer in his career against Tazawa, took three straight balls to start his at-bat. Tazawa tried to pump a 95 mph fastball in for a strike, but Rodriguez had the green light, lining a frozen rope into the Monster seats.
The Fenway scoreboard made no mention of A-Rod tying Mays, though an announcement was made in the press box. Rodriguez’s teammates waited at the top step of the dugout to greet him, congratulating him on his feat – and on breaking the tie – after he rounded the bases.
Rodriguez had been 1-for-12 since hitting No. 659 on Sunday, entering the weekend series hitless in his last 11 at-bats. That was nothing new for A-Rod, who went 28 at-bats between home runs 499 and 500, then waited 46 at-bats after hitting his 599th homer before belting No. 600.
“I wanted to do it Wednesday at home,” Rodriguez said before the game. “It would have been nice to do it at home in front of our home fans. But now I’m on the road and the goal doesn’t change. It’s still to win games and to win series.”
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