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Despite Past, A-Rod’s Feat Still Impressive

(USATSI)

(USATSI)

Only 28 players in the history of Major League Baseball had reached 3,000 hits before Friday night.

Of those 28 players, only one – Derek Jeter – had done so while wearing pinstripes. Only two, Jeter and Wade Boggs, had achieved the monumental feat with a home run.

On Friday, to a soundtrack of Jay-Z and a roaring fan base that gave Yankee Stadium a playoff-like atmosphere, Alex Rodriguez added his name to each of those lists when he lifted a fly ball over that short right field porch in the Bronx. Despite years of cheating, wrongdoing, lying to the public and trying to take others down with him, “A-Rod” was still able to make some history and bask in it with the support of the Yankees’ faithful.

It was a rather nice moment for a guy that has not had too many in the past year or two. It was a moment worth recognizing.

Make no mistake; it would have been inappropriate to stop play for any length of time with an on-field ceremony akin to what was done when Jeter notched his 3,000th hit. That day the Tampa Bay Rays gave their opponent, someone who has always represented the sport in the best ways possible, a standing ovation. Of course, Rodriguez has not always been that perfect representative – instead, he has been a stain on the game for the better part of the last six or seven years – and so it was fitting when the Detroit Tigers’ bench did not even flinch following the milestone hit.

As apt as Detroit’s seemingly unified decision not to give Rodriguez a standing-o was, the slugger’s latest feat should be recognized.

Like the the Tigers, you do not have to clap. You do not even have to like the guy (If you have read my columns, you know that I am no fan). You do not have to tip your cap or forgive his past transgressions or say a single nice thing about him. But you do have to respect the feat.

While steroids and performance-enhancing drugs do not boost hand-eye coordination, it is reasonable to argue that those substances made many of Rodriguez’s hits possible. Which ones and how many? No one knows, but the clouds of drug use will always cast a dark shadow over Rodriguez’s career and milestones, as they should. But forget all that and the what-ifs for a minute.

Instead, remember that in 146 years of Major League Baseball, only 29 players have achieved 3,000 hits.

Some may be more popular than others, but any name on that short list is impressive, even Rodriguez’s.

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