Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Alex Rodriguez Hits HR 661, Passes Willie Mays on All-Time List

with 4 comments

Folks, Alex Rodriguez has returned to his hitting ways with a vengeance.

After sitting out all of the 2014 season with an unprecedented 162-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez has come back to the New York Yankees revitalized. And it’s allowed him to first hit his 660th home run — tying Willie Mays on the all-time HR list — then his 661st last night.

Apparently, being away from baseball and able to heal completely from a number of nagging injuries has allowed Rodriguez (also known as A-Rod) to partially sip from the fountain of youth. And that’s why he’s hitting so much better than he has in years.

OK, OK. I’m being a bit fanciful. (Then again, I am a science fiction and fantasy writer by trade. Can you blame me?)

Truthfully, I don’t know why A-Rod is hitting so much better than he has in years. I do suspect that having to take time off and fully heal up has helped him. He’s also known as a “workout warrior,” much like Kobe Bryant — or before him, Nolan Ryan; sometimes being in such excellent physical condition allows a premiere athlete like A-Rod additional time in the sun.

(Doesn’t that explain such feats as Julio Franco’s extraordinary longevity in baseball? But I digress.)

Rodriguez has also been much different with regards to how he behaves in front of the media and how he behaves with the fans. A-Rod seems to have learned some humility in his year away from baseball, too. (Or perhaps a brilliant public relations person has whispered into his ear, and the message stuck.)

Now, all of a sudden, A-Rod seems to understand that being a baseball player is a privilege. Not a right.

Or at least that while he has enormous gifts for baseball (which should be celebrated), that doesn’t make him the best thing since sliced bread.

Look. I am on record as saying I don’t care about PEDs that much. I don’t think PEDs help you hit a baseball; I don’t think they make you that much better of a fielder; the only thing PEDs are proven to affect, as far as I can tell, are the skinny pitchers who can’t gain weight. (On PEDs, that scrawny guy can gain weight, which will allow him to have a higher MPH fastball, which might get him entrance to the majors. Maybe even keep him there.)

I’ve seen that with the Milwaukee Brewers, my own team, mind. Derrick Turnbow was an excellent closer for the Brewers, for a while. But he apparently was one of the Brewers “outed” by the Mitchell Report…when he had to start passing drug tests, all of a sudden he lost his effectiveness. Then he was out of baseball not too long after that.

I still don’t know for certain if Turnbow actually gained that much with PEDs. But I do know that for an elite athlete, confidence is everything. If he thinks that he’s taking something that’ll help, it will help…psychologically, anyway.

Whether it actually does anything physiologically is another story entirely.

And closers are particularly friable. They lose their confidence for whatever reason, and they aren’t able to regain it sometimes. It may be years, or never, before they regain their top form.

Baseball is funny that way.

At any rate, premiere hitters like Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds do not need PEDs to hit homers. They might need PEDs to stay on the field a few years longer, to somehow help with their physical conditioning.

But they were HR hitters before they took PEDs (if Bonds actually took anything; nothing was ever proven). That doesn’t change after you stop taking PEDs, as A-Rod is showing right now.

All I can say to Rodriguez is this: Good for you, Alex.

I’m glad you came back to the Yankees, and I’m glad you’re hitting homers again. You make baseball a more exciting game to watch.

Thank you for understanding that, and for being willing to work so hard to regain your top hitting form without the use of PEDs.

4 Responses

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  1. I’m of the opposite mind regarding PEDs. To me, everyone from ’90s onward (really, more likely the ’80s onward) is tainted. Which is really sad, because many of those players are the ones I grew up with, the ones I actually cared about. Bonds*, McGwire and A-Rod probably would have still been HoF caliber players without PEDs, but took them anyway apparently in an attempt to become elite players. We’ll never know just how good they actually were naturally, or how other players would have stacked up against them. To me they (all players who used PEDs) tarnished not only their own legacies along with the game, but deprived those players who didn’t use the fame and legacies due them.

    *I believe Bonds testified that he did use ‘the clear and the cream’, but that he thought it was just something natural like linseed oil and not an illegal substance (though I understand the Clear wasn’t classified as such until after he used it).


    May 9, 2015 at 12:52 am

    • I understand your position. I don’t completely agree, mostly because I see Bonds and McGwire trying to gain relief from back problems rather than gaining the upper hand. (Though they may have done both.)

      I certainly agree that Bonds and A-Rod were HOF-caliber players before steroids/PEDs.

      Bonds wasn’t found guilty of anything, and yes, I remember that he said he’d used the “cream and the clear” but he didn’t know what they were.

      I still think that for the most part, hitters who can hit well do not need PEDs (except in their own minds). If you told a MLB hitter a breath mint would help him hit better, he’d take it, and it would work for him…that’s my thought on that. 😉

      Barb Caffrey

      May 9, 2015 at 12:55 am

      • I agree that athletes, particularly baseball players, are heavily influenced by mental gymnastics/ritual and would do anything that they thought was helping. I’m not sure where I heard it, or if it’s even true, but I understand Bonds started PEDs after the big home run chase of Maris’ record where McGwire and Sosa got all the attention heaped on them and he felt he should have some of that. And I believe McGwire started juicing in college (surprised he never got caught at the collegiate or Olympic level).


        May 9, 2015 at 1:20 am

      • Yes, I think I heard the same story. The version I heard said that Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr., were standing around, and Bonds wondered why they weren’t getting more attention.

        It’s possible that McGwire started taking stuff in college, sure.

        Mind, I don’t understand why anyone would want to take any PEDs (unless they do really help with back problems; I have a bad back myself, so I can understand that one!). I saw Lyle Alzado on “60 Minutes” years ago, dying way too young, partly because of steroid use/abuse.

        After seeing that, there’s no way I’d ever want to take steroids if I were a player.

        Barb Caffrey

        May 9, 2015 at 2:14 am

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