Season highlight: A-Rod declares independence as HR king
Alex Rodriguez turned in a memorable Independence Day and kept the celebration going the next day when he became the PGBL’s career home run leader.
Two days after hitting his 20th home run of the season at Oakland, Rodriguez hit his 600th and 601st career homers in the Toronto Tigers’ 9-6 win at Flagstaff on July 4. A day later in Toronto, A-Rod hit a two-out homer in the ninth inning to move ahead of Manny Ramirez for the all-time lead (dating back to 1995).
After sitting out all of 2015, Rodriguez looked to build on a career total of 579 and accepted the designated hitter role for the Tigers this season when the franchise relocated from British Columbia. His big first week of July started on the 2nd when he took the first pitch he saw from Oakland’s Sonny Gray out to center leading off the second inning, although the Tigers went on to lose 3-2.
Home run No. 600 came in the sixth inning of a scoreless game in Arizona when he crushed an 0-1 pitch from Elk starter Alex Morgan for a two-run shot to to deep left to stake Toronto to a 2-0 lead. With the Tigers down 6-5 in the ninth, A-Rod banged an 0-1 delivery from Sergio Romo out to left to start a four-run rally as he joined Ramirez at 601.
Back in Toronto against Las Vegas, Rodriguez saved his historic blast for the end when he drove a 2-1 pitch from Pedro Strop down the left-field line with two outs in the ninth. The Gamblers finished off a 5-2 win but A-Rod had made his mark.
He would only hit four more homers with Toronto before getting traded to playoff-bound Tijuana in a deadline deal, the second midseason move of his career sending him to his sixth franchise in 22 seasons. He made his Tequila Swiggers debut on Aug. 2 and hit a two-run homer off Athletes closer Andrew Miller in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss.
Rodriguez went on to hit 10 homers down the stretch to help Tijuana secure a wild-card playoff berth. He will enter 2017 looking to build on 616 career long balls.
A-Rod now has 2,874 career hits as the active leader, trailing only Derek Jeter (2,909) and Ramirez (2,874). With 1,821 RBIs, he needs just 23 more to surpass Manny as the career leader and he already holds the career marks for runs scored (1,762) and games played (2,648). Among active players, the next closest on the home run list is Calgary’s Albert Pujols (522), who joined the 500 club with a solo shot off Chicago’s Jared Hughes in an 8-2 home win on May 26.
A Rod debuted in 1995 with Chicago and played sparingly in his first two years but helped the Cardinals win the 1996 title. He hit 98 homers in six seasons with Chicago and then was traded to Charlotte, a franchise that relocated to Louisville after his first season with the Hornets.
He spent three years total with the Long Rifles franchise, totaling 114 homers before getting dealt to Vancouver after the 2003 playoffs when both Louisville and the Wildcats blew 3-1 leads in the League Championship Series.
Rodriguez hit 141 homers in three seasons with Vancouver, including career-best 59 in a Triple Crown season of 2006 that saw him win the first of his two MVP awards. But he got traded twice the following offseason, first to the Chicago White Stockings and then to Key West.
He played three full seasons with the Penguin, highlighted in 2008 by a 55 regular season homers and seven more in the postseason as he earned both his second MVP and second World Series ring. He remained with the franchise when it relocated to Dublin in 2010, totaling 131 homers with the club before a midseason trade moved him to B.C.
He hit 27 homers in the second half of 2010 with the Bucs, then added 30 in each of his first two full seasons with B.C. before managing four in each of the next two seasons, plagued by injury and suspicion.
Alex Rodriguez – PGBL career statistics