A-Rod ties Willie Mays home run record. Will Yankees pay him $6 million?
Alex Rodriguez tied Willie Mays' total of 660 homers, fourth most in major league history, Friday night. But will the New York Yankees pay him the $6 million 'accomplishment' bonus?
Boston — No. 660 is in the book. Will $6 million get in the bank?
That's the amount in a marketing agreement that the New York Yankees may have to pay Alex Rodriguez for tying Willie Mays' total of 660 homers, fourth most in major league history.
He slugged that on Friday night, a no-doubt, tie-breaking, pinch-hit liner over the Green Monster in the eighth inning that lifted the Yankees to a 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.
But Rodriguez and the Yankees appear to be on opposite sides of the $6 million issue.
"I'm so in the moment right now and really grateful and appreciative to be playing baseball," Rodriguez said. "Those things will take care of themselves"
When he and the Yankees negotiated a 10-year, $275 million contract in December 2007, they also signed a separate $30 million marketing agreement. It called for $6 million each for up to five accomplishments, payable within 15 days of designation by the team. The accomplishments were contemplated to be home runs 660, 714, 755, 762 and 763.
But the Yankees are considering letting the milestones pass without making a designation. They'd likely say that Rodriguez's suspension all last season for involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal ruins the marketing possibilities for the milestones.
A failure to declare a milestone and make a payment likely would trigger a grievance on Rodriguez's behalf by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Barring a settlement, the case would be heard by an arbitrator.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he didn't think that issue would be a distraction to Rodriguez.
"He's so happy to be playing, I think he'll block it out," Girardi said.
Rodriguez wasn't allowed to play last year. He returned primarily as a designated hitter while Chase Headley handled his former spot at third base.
"I was in a cave in Miami, serving my time," Rodriguez said. "I am very thankful to the Yankees and major league baseball for allowing me to play this game."
That's a more conciliatory tone than he took during his failed fight to overturn his suspension when he angered the Yankees by suing, among others, the team physician for the treatment of a hip injury that resulted in surgery. The lawsuit was eventually dropped.
After hitting No. 660, he praised the Yankees, major league baseball, the Red Sox and even their fans, who booed loudly when he came to the plate and as he jogged around the bases, expressionless, after his shot to left.
"I usually don't hear the difference" between boos when he plays on the road in different stadiums, Rodriguez said with a grin, "but that boo was pretty intense. It was pretty passionate."
With one out and the score tied 2-2, Rodriguez hit for Garrett Jones and looked at three straight balls from Junichi Tazawa (0-1). Then the reliever fired a 95 mph fastball right down the middle. Rodriguez didn't miss.
"I hit that one good," he said.
He slapped hands with his first- and third-base coaches as he circled the bases and with on-deck hitter Stephen Drew after crossing the plate. His teammates stayed in the dugout. But when he arrived there many of them, and Girardi, high-fived him. Some enthusiastically slapped his back.
"I was hoping he would swing" at the 3-0 pitch, Yankees starter CC Sabathia said. "Everybody was excited."
Until then, Rodriguez had been 1 for 16 as a pinch hitter in his career. That hit was a single.
Friday's was much bigger. It made a winner of Esmil Rogers (1-1). Andrew Miller earned his ninth save.
"Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez on his 660th home run," Mays said in a statement. "Milestones in baseball are meant to be broken and I wish him continued success throughout his career."
When told of that, Rodriguez appeared emotional and said, "I love Willie. He's one of my heroes. I'm speechless."
And, of course, his homer won the game.
"I'm very excited," he said. "A year ago today I never thought I'd be hitting home runs and helping the Yankees win. Being in the middle of it is fun again."
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.