New York 500 Club: Alex Rodriguez
As Alex Rodriguez chases 600 home runs -- and beyond -- ESPNNewYork.com looks back at the seven sluggers in the 500 Home Run Club most associated with the Big Apple, either because they played their prime years with New York teams or hit No. 500 in a local uniform.
Alex Rodriguez is a Major League baseball player for the New York Yankees. The third baseman is a three-time American League Most Valuable Player and 12-time All-Star. Rodriguez previously played for the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. Rodriguez has two of the largest contracts in sports history, signing a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers and a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees. Rodriguez, also commonly known by his nickname "A-Rod", is one of 25 members of the 500 Home Run Club and currently ranks 7th all-time on the career home run list.
In February 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs between 2001-2003 with the Rangers after a Sports Illustrated report was published.
New York Yankees
Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez was born on July 27, 1975 in New York City. As a young child, Rodriguez was raised in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan by his parents, Victor and Lourdes. At age four, Rodriguez and his family moved to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. After the family's business failed, Rodriguez moved to Miami.
Alex Rodriguez attended Westminster Christian High School in Miami. During his 100 games in high school, Rodriguez hit .419 with 90 stolen bases. As a junior, he led Westminster to a national high school championship. Rodriguez hit .505 with nine home runs and 36 RBI during his senior season. Rodriguez was selected as the USA Baseball Junior Player of the Year and the Gatorade's national baseball student athlete of the year. He signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Miami but he never played college baseball for the Hurricanes.
The Seattle Mariners selected Alex Rodriguez with the first overall pick in the 1993 MLB Amateur Draft. In 1994, Rodriguez hit .312 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI in 114 minor league games between the three classes (A, AA, AAA).
Seattle Mariners (1994-2000)
Rodriguez made his major league debut on July 8, 1994 at shortstop against the Boston Red Sox. He was the youngest player in Mariners history at 18 years, 11 months and 11 days of age. Rodriguez hit only .204 in 54 at-bats during the 1994 season. He split his time between the Tacoma Rainiers in AAA and the Mariners in 1995. After hitting .360 with 15 home runs and 45 RBI with the Rainiers, Rodriguez was called up to the Mariners for good in August 1995.
Rodriguez was named the starting shortstop by Mariners manager Lou Piniella heading into the 1996 season. He took the Majors by storm his first full year with the Mariners, leading the American League with a .358 batting average with 36 home runs and 123 RBI. His .358 batting average was the highest mark by an AL right-hander since Joe DiMaggio batted .381 in 1939. Rodriguez set franchise marks in doubles (54), total bases (379), and runs scored (141), in what is considered one of the greatest statistical seasons in modern baseball history. Rodriguez was the youngest shortstop in All-Star game history at 20 years and 11 months. He wasn't eligible to win Rookie of the Year but finished second in the Most Valuable Player of the year voting, just three points behind Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers. The Sporting News and Associated Press selected Rodriguez as their Major League Player of the Year.
Rodriguez's number declined in 1997, hitting .300 with 23 home runs and 84 RBI. Defensively, Rodriguez led all shortstops with 24 errors. However, Rodriguez was voted as the starting shortstop for the American League, knocking out Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken from the spot for the first time in 13 seasons. On June 5, 1997 against the Detroit Tigers, Rodriguez became the second Mariner and fifth youngest player in MLB history to hit for the cycle.
Rodriguez bounced back in 1998, joining the exclusive 40-40 club with 42 home runs and a career-high 46 stolen bases. The two other players to accomplish such a feat were Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds His 42 home runs was also the most by an AL shortstop.
Rodriguez tore cartilage in his left knee during the first week of the 1999 season, sidelining him for more than 30 games. Rodriguez homered in his first at-bat after coming off the disabled list. Despite playing in just 129 games, Rodriguez still hit .285 with 42 home runs and 111 RBI.
With Ken Griffey Jr. traded to the Cincinnati Reds, Rodriguez became the cornerstone of the Mariners franchise. He became the first shortstop to drive in 100 runs, score 100 runs and draw 100 walks in a season along with a .316 batting average and 41 home runs, leading the Mariners to the American League Championship Series. Rodriguez hit .409 in the ALCS but it wasn't enough as the New York Yankees defeated the Mariners in six games.
Texas Rangers (2001-2003)
Alex Rodriguez was a free agent following the 2000 season and signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers in the offseason. It was the largest contract in sports history. In homer-friendly Arlington, Rodriguez hit .318 with 52 home runs and 135 RBI in his first season with the Rangers. Rodriguez led the AL in home runs (52), runs scored (133), and total bases (393). He surpassed Ernie Banks' 47 home runs in 1958 for the most ever by a shortstop in MLB history. Rodriguez was the only player to start all of his team's games in 2001 with 161 starts at shortstop and one as the designated hitter.
In 2002, Rodriguez led baseball with 57 home runs, 142 RBI and 389 total bases to go along with a .300 batting average. He became the first player to lead the league in all three categories since Tony Armas of the Boston Red Sox in 1984. Not only was Rodriguez excelling with the bat but with the glove as well, winning his first Gold Glove award at shortstop. The Sporting News voted him as Player of the Year for the second time in his career and became just the seventh player to win the award twice.
Rodriguez won his first Most Valuable Player award in 2003 after leading the AL in home runs, (47) runs scored, (124) and slugging percentage (.600). He joined Andre Dawson of the Chicago Cubs as the only players to win the award on a last-place team. Rodriguez also earned his second straight Gold Glove at shortstop.
Rodriguez's impressive numbers in his three seasons with the Rangers went to waste as they finished in last place all three years. With the team not winning and the team on the hook for seven more years, Rangers owner Tom Hicks was willing to trade Rodriguez.
The Rangers and the Boston Red Sox had a deal in place to send Manny Ramirez to Arlington but MLB commissioner Bud Selig squashed the deal because of Rodriguez voluntarily reducing his salary. Rodriguez offered to his reduce salaries in his contract by $12 million in exchange for increased marketing and logo use rights.
New York Yankees (2004-Present)
Alex Rodriguez was traded to the New York Yankees on Feb. 15, 2004 for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias. The Rangers agreed to pay $67 million of the remaining $179 million left on Rodriguez's contract. With Derek Jeter entrenched at shortstop, Rodriguez switched positions and moved to third base.
In his first game against the Rangers in Arlington, Rodriguez hit a two-run home run after he was showered with boos. On May 4, 2004, Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 350 career home runs at the age of 28. Rodriguez got his first taste of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry on July 24, 2004, when a pitch by Bronson Arroyo hit him. After staring down Arroyo, Rodriguez and Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek exchanged words before a bench-clearing brawl erupted. Rodriguez hit .286 with 36 home runs, 106 RBI and 28 stolen bases in his first season with the Yankees. For the seventh consecutive season, Rodriguez had at least 35 home runs, 100 runs and 100 RBI, joining the likes of Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx. In the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Yankees blew a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox and lost in seven games.
Rodriguez won his second MVP award in 2005 with the Yankees, hitting .321 and leading the AL with 48 home runs and 124 RBI. He became the fifth player to win an MVP award with two different teams. The highlight of his 2005 season came on April 26 when Rodriguez hit three home runs and drove in 10 RBI against the Los Angeles Angels. Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 400 home runs on June 8, 2005 at 29 years, 316 days old.
In the 2005 postseason, Rodriguez struggled against the Angels, batting just .133 with no RBI. In the American league Division Series, the Angels in five games eliminated the Yankees.
Rodriguez had two major milestones during the 2006 season. He recorded his 2,000th hit and 450th home run on July 21, 2006 off Toronto Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett. Rodriguez was the fastest player to 450 home runs by 267 days over former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. With his 35 home runs and 121 RBI, Rodriguez was the second player in MLB history to have nine consecutive seasons with 35 home runs, 100 runs and 100 RBI. Defensively, Rodriguez struggled at third base, leading all AL third baseman in errors with 24. His postseason woes continued in the 2006 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers, hitting just 1-for-14 in four games.
After trimming down before the 2007 season and reporting to Spring Training in better shape, Rodriguez started the year with 14 home runs in his first 18 games. He finished the month of April with 34 RBI, one shy of the AL and MLB record held by Juan Gonzalez.
Rodriguez was involved in a controversial play on May 30, 2007 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada popped up to third base as the Blue Jays Howie Clark positioned under the ball. As Rodriguez ran past Clark on the bases, he shouted "Ha," resulting in Clark backing off because he thought it was teammate John McDonald calling for the ball. The ball landed on the turf resulting in a run-scoring single. As Rodriguez smiled at third base, McDonald had to be restrained by umpires.
On Aug. 4, 2007, Rodriguez hit his 500th career home run against Kansas City Royals pitcher Kyle Davies, just eight days following his 32nd birthday and the youngest in MLB history. Rodriguez became just the fifth player in MLB history to have a 50 home run, 150 RBI season after hitting a grand slam on Sept. 25, 2007 off Tampa Bay starter Jason Hammell. Rodriguez easily won his third MVP award after finishing the season batting .314 with 54 home runs and 156 RBI. He received 26 out of 28 first-place MVP votes. For the third straight year, the Yankees were eliminated in the ALDS and Rodriguez was a non-factor with a .267 average and just one home run and RBI.
Following the 2007 season, Rodriguez opted out of his 10-year, $252 million contract after telling the media and fans that he would like to remain a Yankee for the rest of his career. The timing of his announcement drew controversy as it occurred during Game Four of the World Series with the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies.
Rodriguez decided to negotiate a deal without agent Scott Boras, contacting the Yankees directly after he realized the timing of his announcement was handled poorly. Rodriguez and the Yankees agreed to a 10-year, $275 million contract with incentives for tying the home run marks of Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762), and breaking the home run record.
Rodriguez injured his right quadriceps and ended up on the disabled list during the first month of the season. He returned on May 20 and hit .302 with 35 home runs and 103 RBI. The Yankees finished in 3rd place in the AL East and missed the playoffs.
Rodriguez was set to play for Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic until an MRI discovered a cyst in his right hip. It was later discovered when Rodriguez went to get the cyst drained that he had a torn labrum. Rodriguez underwent an arthroscopic procedure that sidelined him all of spring training and the first month of the season. He returned on May 8, 2009 against the Baltimore Orioles, hitting a three-run home run on the first pitch in his first at-bat of the season. In the final game of the season, Rodriguez hit two home runs and drove in seven RBI to give him 30 home runs and 100 RBI on the season.
Rodriguez shined during the 2009 MLB playoffs, hitting a game-tying home run off Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan in Game 2 of the ALCS and trying to dispel the notion that he wasn't a clutch hitter. In the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels, Rodriguez hit .429 with three home runs and six RBI. Rodriguez won his first World Series when the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
On August 4, 2010, Rodriguez became the 7th member of the 600 Home Run Club, with a first-inning home run against Shaun Marcum of the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the third anniversary of his 500th career home run.
Performance-Enhancing Drug Use
Alex Rodriguez had been linked to performance enhancing drugs by former outfielder Jose Canseco in his 2005 book, "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big."
During a 2007 interview with Katie Couric on "60 Minutes," Rodriguez denied ever using steroids. However, in a February 2009 Sports Illustrated story by Selena Roberts and David Epstein, it was reported that Rodriguez tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan. Rodriguez was one of the 104 players that tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball's 2003 survey. The results were to remain anonymous but the list of names were released to the Major League Baseball Player's Association in 2004 after a copy of the list was seized during the BALCO investigation.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons on Feb. 9, 2009, Rodriguez admitted that he took performance-enhancing drugs for a three-year period starting in 2001 with the Texas Rangers. He said his career with the Yankees have been "clean."
In a press conference held before the start of Spring Training in Tampa, Fla., Rodriguez told the media that he and his cousin, Yuri Sucart, bought an over-the-counter during in the Dominican Republic known as "boli." After the drug was smuggled into the United States by Rodriguez's cousin, he injected himself twice a month for a six-month span out of the year.
Alex Rodriguez opened a Mercedes-Benz car dealership in 2005 in Houston. Rodriguez has had a long-term relationship with Nike and previously had an endorsement deal with Pepsi.
Alex Rodriguez married Cynthia Scurtis on Nov. 2, 2002. The couple had two children; Natasha Alexander (born Nov. 18, 2004) and Ella Alexander (Apr. 21, 2008). Cynthia Rodriguez filed for divorce on July 7, 2008 citing numerous extramarital affairs by Alex Rodriguez during their six-year marriage. In 2007, photos were published of Rodriguez with a woman that wasn't his wife while he was on the road with the Yankees. The woman was later identified as Joslyn Noel Morse, an exotic dancer. Prior to that, Rodriguez allegedly had sex with Candice Houlihan in 2004. Rodriguez was linked to pop singer Madonna in 2008 but she denied rumors they were dating. Cynthia and Alex settled their divorce in September 2008. Rodriguez allegedly dated actress Kate Hudson in 2009 but neither side confirmed it.
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