David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
On Sunday night, during the Subway Series finale in the Bronx, we again were reminded who owns New York.
No, not the 27-time champion Yankees. And not the upstart Mets, riding their best start in three decades.
It's Alex Rodriguez.
On this city's biggest baseball stage, A-Rod hogged the spotlight -- something he's become quite good at -- by hitting No. 659 off the top of the Yankees' bullpen fence in the first inning. The stadium scoreboard didn't tell you this, but that left him one short of tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list and triggering the $6-million bonus the Yankees reportedly refuse to pay him for the milestone.
Biogenesis or not, A-Rod has earned that money. And the Yankees, whose grip on this city is fading, should be glad that he has.
Let's be honest here. The Yankees were thrilled to pocket the $25 million Rodriguez forfeited because of his year-long suspension, so they're already ahead. Why look petty now and squeeze A-Rod, the second-best offensive weapon on the roster, for playing like an All-Star again?
But if the Yankees must continue their legal wrangling over that contested $6 million, saying that A-Rod's tainted home run pursuit is worthless as a sales pitch for the memorabilia biz, then at least give him his props at the stadium. When he drills No. 660, as much as the team may want to do a Sopranos fade-to-black on the giant video board, give him a little pinstriped pomp and circumstance. The paying customers might even enjoy it.
As for A-Rod, he's used to this twisted saga by now. After the Yankees' 6-4 win over the Mets, he was asked how the team might honor the Mays-tying blast. "I don't have a marketing degree," he said, not skipping a beat.
Although A-Rod wants to move on to the baseball-centric portion of his career, his PED-stained past won't let him -- not as long as the Yankees can help it. The drama has been going on too long, and for the Yankees -- a team that always claimed to put winning above all else -- it's beneath them.
We understand that A-Rod's Q rating took a devastating hit with the Biogenesis suspension, but there has to be a better way to go about this.
At one point, the Yankees agreed to pay Rodriguez a total of $30 million in home run bonuses. Reach the milestone, get the money. Simple enough. And between the lines, A-Rod has been holding up his end of the deal with five homers and 13 RBIs through the first 19 games.
"He's done a lot of everything," Joe Girardi said. "I'm really pleased with what he's done."
Regardless of how you view PEDs in baseball, anything that A-Rod accomplishes is never going to be a feel-good story. But from the Yankees' perspective, he still is wearing pinstripes, and they have a season to play.
It's almost comical that the front office can continue its cold war against A-Rod and still need him on the roster to end their embarrassing playoff drought. Last week, after A-Rod's two-homer night at the Trop, Girardi was effusive in his praise, basically saying they don't beat the Rays without him. We wonder if Girardi got a call later that night telling him to tone down the superlatives when it comes to A-Rod.
The Yankees probably are as surprised as anyone that this is happening. During the winter, team officials wondered if Rodriguez would be productive enough at the plate to stay in the lineup on a regular basis. But he survived spring training and quickly showed the year-long suspension probably did him more good than harm.
As much as these homers probably stir mixed emotions for Yankees fans, their Mets counterparts certainly enjoy the aggravation he is causing his employer.
There's really no need for it. The Yankees' primary goal should be winning the AL East, a division that looks to be up for grabs, and then doing some damage in the playoffs. And if they believe A-Rod reaching 660 isn't a big deal, they're mistaken.
"Its' pretty amazing when you think about it," Girardi said. "That's a lot of home runs. Obviously you hope it comes [Monday night]. And you hope there's a couple guys on base when he hits it. That's what you hope for."
Imagine that. Hoping A-Rod ties Mays. What a concept.