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Alex Rodriguez Is Making History, Whether the Yankees Like It or Not

A-Rod is one of the greatest, most complicated, and most dishonest baseball players of all time. The Yankees are dealing with this by pretending he doesn't exist.
Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have always been at war with Eastasia.

One can't help but have that thought, at least upon viewing this tweet from ESPN New York reporter Andrew Marchand:

What is missing from this sheet? #ARod
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) April 13, 2015

On the surface, the missive is harmless enough: a list of team milestones designed to make sure that John Sterling has somewhere to go in between two-out rallies that start with an infield hit from the number nine spot in the lineup and exclaiming "That's baseball, Suzyn!" This sort of information seems trivial, but trivia is part of the gig—where would Yankee fans have been if they weren't properly prepared for the moment when Didi Gregorious played his 200th career game? We can assume that Steiner Sports will be making the stadium dirt from this occasion available to collectors in a matter of days.


Read More: Alex Rodriguez Is Baseball's Last Link To The Golden Age

The important thing about this list of unimportant factoids, as Marchand noticed and you probably have as well, is the one actually significant bit of information that should have been on it, and which was not. Alex Rodriguez is just one home run from tying Willie Mays' career mark of 660, although there's no way you'd know this from any Yankees press material. For all the little, round-number things that the Yankees want to brag about, A-Rod's massive accomplishment is one they'd rather not discuss.

Stunting on these haters like /does something that only a defective android would do. — Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have handled this in the most mature way possible: by refusing to acknowledge that it is happening at all, in their game broadcasts and in general. A request for comment from the Yankees regarding the milestone's continued absence from everything Yankees garnered no (shockingly) response. In the end, this missing milestone is rather easy to explain. It's embarrassing for the Yankees, because it's expensive.

For Rodriguez, dinger 660 will be a very valuable one indeed. Back in 2007, Hank Steinbrenner and the Yankees were happy to hand Rodriguez a 10-year, $275 million contract, which in the most delightfully and characteristically grandiose Yankees fashion included an additional $6 million bonus each time he surpassed one of the all-time home run kings. What was $6 million, really, when the Yankees had full confidence they could make that money back simply by minting a limited edition series of Alex Rodriguez commemorative coins?


But while $6 million isn't what it used to be, A-Rod isn't, either. In the days since that contract was signed, we've seen Biogenesis, Yuri Sucart, centaur self-portraits, and the most highly scrutinized popcorn snack since, well, since SB Nation raided MSG earlier this month. There was also the small matter of Rodriguez receiving a season-long suspension for his use of performance-enhancing drugs, although that's complicated, too. The end result is that A-Rod's Q-Score has fallen by an order of magnitude since the ink dried on his mammoth contract.

That's where this gets interesting. Because the Yankees have arrived at the event horizon of our "every game a business venture" merger of sports and capitalism. What the Yankees are saying in their refusal to acknowledge A-Rod's records is quite clear, and accidentally avant-garde. "If a record isn't marketable, has it really happened at all?"

TFW people that owe you literally tens of millions of dollars pretend you do not exist. — Photo by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to baseball's Steroid Period, the idea of revising history has itself become something of a cliche. Barry Bonds' single season home run record? Mark it with an asterisk! Hank Aaron's 755 career blasts? Restore it as the "clean" benchmark! To this day, there are those who advocate taking home runs away from Alex Rodriguez, in the name of a retroactive code of ethics that presumably went into effect sometime in the very late 1990's.

It's one thing for a grumpy columnist to decide that "crimes against baseball" must be repaid with a rigorous whitewashing of the history books. It's another thing entirely when a team, itself a party to a guaranteed contract with Alex Rodriguez and one that still owes him millions of dollars, decides that it wants to shake free of a negotiated bonus by ignoring that it exists. This is against the rules, but it's also objectively and hilariously a dick move.

Sooner than later, home run 660 will happen. The ball will fly off of Rodriguez' bat, sail into the bleachers, and land in a lucky fan's hands. We might as well hope it will be an adorable, innocent looking young child, just for maximum ironic effect. It will be undeniable, and a run will appear on the scoreboard and the statistical record will roll forward. There is nothing the Yankees can do to stop this. They are an accomplished team, a powerful corporation, and a license to print money, but the Yankees are not the keepers of their own narrative. We can only hope that an arbitrator maintains this, or else we can look forward to George Steinbrenner's campaign finance conviction, the 2004 ALCS, and Suzyn Waldman's ode to Roger Clemens all being expunged from the historical record.

Perhaps it's not fair to pick on the Yankees, given that they are hardly alone among teams willing to abase themselves to get out of paying money to the people they'd promised to pay. The Los Angeles Angels clamored that they would use Josh Hamilton's personal problems to get out from under a contract that's broken bad from a baseball perspective, and may well pull it off with a deal to the Texas Rangers. The Cubs were happy to welcome Kris Bryant at the precise moment that the franchise became guaranteed an extra year of control of his young career, but were unwilling to do so a moment sooner. The game is great, but the business is business, and seeing how far you can bend a rule before it breaks is a part of both.

But if we can't blame the Yankees for trying—or at least can't claim to be surprised by their attempt—we shouldn't quietly assent to let them get away with it. Professional sports franchises have taken control of our tax dollars and politics, and never apologized or said thank you, in large part because they knew they didn't have to do so. There's no reason to hand them the record books, too, whenever history becomes too expensive or inconvenient. Chalk this up as another reason to cheer for Alex Rodriguez on his encore troll-tour of the league this season—the next home run he hits will make some hypocrites, including the cynical and extremely wealthy ones that sign his paychecks, very uncomfortable.