As a Yankees fan, people have been asking me for the past few weeks what I thought about A-Rod's chase for 600. Okay, nobody's asked me that. But my girlfriend did ask if 600 is a lot. Yeah, I suppose it is.
Steroids would be the elephant in the room, but that phrase indicates that no one's talking about it. Everyone's talking about it. And no one seems to know how to handle it.
How many home runs do we discount because PEDs gave him an extra 15 feet on his fly balls, or an extra few milliseconds on his swing? How many do we add because of outs recorded by pitchers also juicing? Where do we fit Sosa, Bonds, and, hell, Griffey on the all-time list? Who knows. It's not really constructive to play things out in an alternate universe, but the fact is, gaudy numbers ain't what they used to be. And he's chasing a record that lost its luster in a laboratory in Burlingame, Calif.
Then there's the "A-Rod's not a true Yankee" argument. The guy's never going to be as beloved around here as any of the homegrown players, and he doesn't particularly seem like a guy I'd like to grab a beer with. But fans have a way of putting those things aside when that sort of player comes to their team. So if I'm not excited by Alex Rodriguez's personal accomplishments, that doesn't mean I have anything against the guy personally. And it doesn't mean I don't love him when he gets a hit that helps the team win.
No, I think the main problem with 600 is the arbitrary nature of it. Six hundred is only a round number because we count in base ten, and that's only because as Earth primates we happen to have ten fingers.
What is 600 but a really big number? Sure, Rodriguez is only the seventh player to hit 600 home runs. But he was also the seventh player to hit 599, and he'll be the seventh player to hit 601.
It's a milestone in the sense that it gives ESPN something to cut to for its live look-ins, and columnists plenty of inches of copy (like this gem, which argues that the Yankees are on a losing streak and it's all A-Rod's fault). But it's inherently meaningless.
Now check back in when Jeter nears 3,000 hits, and I show myself for a blatant hypocrite.