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NEW YORK - JULY 21: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees at bat against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium on July 21, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
It had been a sloppy night up until that point, most notable for the second inside-the-park home run of Derek Jeter's career and the umpteenth lesson about the yin and yang of Jorge Posada.
The catcher hit a key double in the fifth inning to snap a tie but also allowed a runner to score made a bizarre throwing error when he tried to pick off a Royals runner on third after a strikeout, made another terrible throw on a dropped third strike and missed a tag at the plate that wound up going in his favor when the umpire blew the call.
Posada has always been a fantastic hitter but the rest of his game remains so rudimentary that it's a wonder he's been in the big leagues as long as he has.
None of that mattered after A-Rod hit in the seventh, though. He drilled a Robinson Tejada fastball to the opposite field and picked up his 599th career home run, a landmark that gave this game more of a sheen than it probably deserved. He got his first shot at 600 in the next inning but had to settle for a run-scoring double that put the finishing touches on the Yankee victory.
It would be surprising if the weekend ended without the milestone blast. A-Rod enjoys celebrating big moments against the Kansas City nine. The first and 500th homers of his career came against the Royals and this weekend's pitching matchups suit him.
The Royals start Brian Bannister on Friday night and A-Rod has hit three home runs in seven career at-bats against him. Saturday brings Kyle Davies to the hill, the same Kyle Davies who gave up that previously mentioned 500th career home run. On Sunday, the Royals might throw Anthony Lerew -- nine homers allowed in 26.1 innings -- or Sean O'Sullivan, acquired in a trade with the Angels three days after he beat the Yankees.
Either way, they'll be backed by an easily torched bullpen and A-Rod will have plenty of chances to become the seventh member of the 600 Home Run Club.
His pending entry to that club has been met with an interesting mix of anger and cheerleading. The local tabloids, once so committed to hectoring A-Rod at every turn, have become his biggest fans. It seems to be a reaction to the turned up noses and raised middle fingers that Rodriguez is getting from outside of New York as writers use his big home run as a chance to polish off their steroid outrage boilerplate.
Both sides are trying too hard. It's hard to understand how some people can still sit back and summon up that kind of anger about A-Rod's steroid use and that somehow his reaching an arbitrary number of home runs says something about Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. You're adults and, therefore, should know better than to think what Rodriguez does in 2010 has anything to do with what those guys did 50 years ago.
The other side sounds just as silly. "He's our cheat" is a pretty lame blanket to wrap yourself in just so you can celebrate a home run. The time for outrage may be well in the rearview mirror but that doesn't mean the facts of the past should be forgiven or forgotten so easily.
We should all be smart enough to know that there's more to baseball greatness than just a set of numbers when those numbers can be compiled with the help of any number of substances, rules and color lines.