BY STEVE BRENNER
As soon as the 661st home-run of Alex Rodriguez’s career boomed off the bat, exuberant celebrations should have followed.
It was, after all, an historic hit , one which took him past the legendary Willie Mays as the fourth most potent hitter ever.
Another momentous moment in arguably the most storied of US sporting franchises. Yankee Stadium drips with history and sepia tinted nods back to the good old days.
They make millions from the past and will continue to do so.
There was no fanfare on Thursday night though against the Orioles. Barely an acknowledgment of a special achievement. A wave, some claps .That was it.
You won’t find any special commemorative t–shirts. No DVD either.
Legends like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were treated like heroic brothers.
Rodriguez ,though, will never be family. He’s continually out of sync with the bosses.
The drug ban, the shaming of the franchise, the lies and the despicable way he tried to turn on the club the MLB and its own players union for the treatment meted out – the 39 year-old knows he’s lucky to still be wearing his beloved stripes.
He’s disgracefully laid his bed. And he must forever lie in it.
Mays , 84, was one of the greats. A true legend of the game in a different, seemingly far more innocent era.
Comparisons have understandably angered older fans. They believe contrasting the ‘Say Hey Kid’ to a convicted steroid abuser is tantamount to sacrilege.
The bigger picture is the main story here however.
Another row is brewing.
Publically, the decision not to pay Rodriguez a formerly agreed $6 million marketing bonus once he passed May’s tally appears to have been taken in relatively good grace by the player.
Behind the scenes though, A-Rod wants his money.
Only fellow substance abuser Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) have now hit more homers. Each time they’re passed, another bounty of a similar amount should head his way.
Yankees top brass are rightly sticking their heels in. ‘He disgraced us, why should we pay?’ is the refrain. It’s only fair after everything which has gone before.
A-Rod, assuming his position in the last chance saloon, knows he’s in no position to call the shots. Just concentrate on ones flying off your bat. His lawyers will gleefully do the rest.
Not short of a penny or two – he is eight years into a $275 million, 10-year deal – the slugger who missed the entire season in 2014 after becoming embroiled in the Biogenesis performance enhancing drug scandal which shamed and disgraced many, is keeping his counsel for now.
His marriage with the Yankee’s remains tremendously complex.
They will never be on the best of terms. But they still need each other. It’s as if they’re keeping it cordial for the sake of the kids.
No matter which drugs he takes or how many lawsuits he unleashes, Rodriguez possesses a priceless commodity which cannot be ignored by the management and executive bean counters – the man is pure box office.
An A-lister in a team, who are arguably low on real superstars now Jeter is enjoying the quiet life. Someone who gets everyone – from the diehards to grandmothers- talking.
The Rodriguez who strode out to bat before the shame of his PED use was laid bare would have lapped it all up. Not now though.
Manager Joe Girardi had to effectively force him to salute the 37,000 plus crowd.
“I was a little embarrassed (when the record was broken), “ he said. “It was a little awkward.I didn’t want the game to stop. I did not want to interrupt the game.”
Rodriguez surely has learned from some of his horrific choices. There’s some remorse in his bones. Team-mates purr about his work ethic.
“I’ve said all along: The league, the Yankees, the fans — nobody owes me anything,” he added.
The headline grabbing saga and discomfort continues however.
Former Players Union chief Gene Orza , who helped broker the alleged agreement, went public this week revealing the union and MLB initially vetoed a home run deal that Rodriguez and Yankees president Randy Levine brokered.
That forced a rethink and slightly reworded agreement to dance around MLB rules which forbid bonuses linked to statistical achievements.
“We gave them a very creative way to get around the rules,” Orza told CNN.
The Yankees are so defiant , they are even questioning if nudging past May’s magic total is a milestone in the first place.
And even if it is (and it is , by the way) how can you market a proven drug cheat?
The truth is you can’t . And therein lies the rub.
It was a good week for MLS and the all important TV figures.
Numbers for the opening weekend of a season which promises to be the most important in its 20 year history were hugely encouraging. In the previous campaign, ESPN broadcasts raked in 240,000 per game while NBCSN – which shows Premier League action ever week – barely got about 140,000.
Yet when Kaka’s Orlando locked horns with David Villa’s NYCFC at the Citrus Bowl, a huge 539,000 tuned in to ESPN. A new Sunday time slot seems to have struck a cord although the fact the League’s two biggest names were up against each other also clearly played its part.
Meanwhile on Fox, Seattle versus New England drew 289,000 while Sporting Kansas City’s clash with the New York Red Bulls averaged 278,500. That’s almost twice the number NBC were pulling in.
Legend has it that whenever fabled US talk show host Johnny Carson mocked a sportsman, it sounded the death knell for the superstar in question.
So now David Letterman , the man who took the late Carson’s mantle as the king of chat, has mocked Tom Brady this week following the Deflategate revelations , the New England quarter-back really should be fearing the worst.
“Four time winning Superbowl quarter-back Tom Brady is in trouble, “ Letterman told his audience . “He may have to spend weekends in a cell with Aaron Hernandez. Or play for the Jets.
“By the way this raises another question Roger Goodell. What way does the commissioner look when they he’s already looking the other way? “
At least someone is laughing.
Problems on and off the court for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The girl then finishes off what must be one of the most ill-advised attempts at humour ever by insisting :”Well, I’m all in now.”
Considering the level of domestic abuse which has shamed the NFL, whichever bright spark had the idea for this should start looking for a new job.