Alex Rodriguez hit his 599th career home run last night, and given that he’s facing Royals pitchers this weekend, I wouldn’t bet against him knocking number 600 before Monday rolls around.
There’s some growing excitement about this in the last 24 hours or so, but it has certainly been muted. I’ve heard more beefing from Yankees’ fans about Joba Chamberlain than I have about A-Rod’s impending milestone. The tabloids are way more pumped about claiming Jerry Manuel’s scalp than they are in celebrating the feat.
Which is not surprising, because it’s A-Rod, and no one really much cares for him. I get that. And between his general lack of popularity and the PED associations, I understand why people may be giving Rodriguez’s impending milestone less hype than we might have expected.
But I think something else is going on here, and it’s way more benign: 600 homers simply isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Three guys — Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds — did it in the past few years. That certainly makes the event less special. And you can’t just say it’s because two of them are known PED users. Griffey has never had such associations, and the hype surrounding his reaching 600 was not particularly monumental either. Six guys doing something in the history of the game is still among the rarest accomplishments you’ll see, but given that we’ve all seen it happen recently it seems less special.
So it could simply be a matter of no one caring that A-Rod is going to hit his 600th home run. I think, though, that no one would care all that much no matter who it was.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.