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Alex Rodriguez and the road to Willie Mays - no. 655

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

He was gone for an entire year, but Alex Rodriguez has looked strong in the early goings of his return from suspension. He hit .267/.377/.489 in spring training and now he's hit his first home run since September 20, 2013:

The home run came in the sixth inning with the Yankees down 5–1 against the Blue Jays. They couldn't really manage much against Daniel Norris–just one run on two walks and fours hits through the first five innings–but the sixth inning opened up some possibilities when A-Rod and Mark Teixeira hit home runs to make it a a 5–3 game. Maybe, just maybe, there was still some fight left in them. Unfortunately, no, but at least A-Rod gave us something to get excited about for a little while.

At first it was just pure excitement and jubilation:


Then the snide remarks came in:




All very good points!

Rodriguez had his own remarks about his first dinger in over a year:

According to ESPN's home run tracker, his home run measured a true distance of 400 feet. After managing to pull the ball, it traveled 106.8 mph off his bat and landed in left field, just short of the bleachers.

According to Gameday, the pitch he hit was an 89-mph four-seam fastball that was a bit high in the zone. Brooks Baseball says Rodriguez has hit a total of 87 home runs against the four-seam fastball since 2007. He also has a .301 batting average against the pitch and has hit a home run on the pitch 1.85% of the time, the highest of any other offering other than the knuckleball. Obviously, A-Rod likes those fastballs, but he also likes it up high:


Also since 2007, Rodriguez has hit for a lot of power when lefties threw the ball high and over the plate. A high ISO means a lot of extra-base hits and home runs, and that's exactly what happened. You really don't want to be throwing a middling high fastball to Alex Rodriguez, even if he is 39 at this point.

This home run means more than most because it not only proves the true return of Alex Rodriguez, but it also marks the beginning of the countdown to his first home run milestone payout. On Thursday night, A-Rod hit his 655th home run, making it five more dingers before he ties Willie Mays with 660 and makes $6 million. As part of his 10-year, $275 million contract, the Yankees also agreed to pay him up to an additional $30 million as he broke some of the biggest home run records in baseball. He would receive $6 million for tying Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762), and another payout for passing Bonds.

The Yankees obviously don't want to pay that money at this point, but at least some of it seems inevitable, considering he's already so close. The good news for them is that they may only have to dish out one more payout after this one because the next highest on the all-time home run list is Babe Ruth with 714. A-Rod might be able to hit another 54 homers in the next three seasons, but he's not going to reach 755 or 762. Too bad, that would have been something to watch.

Tune in for A-Rod's next home run and we'll examine no. 656 and see what there is to see.