ST. PETERSBURG – Alex Rodriguez might not have turned the clock all the way back to 2007, but for one night at least, he did turn it back to 2012.
That was the last time he hit two home runs in a game -- May 23, 2012, to be exact -- and he did it again Friday night at Tropicana Field, belting the longest home run in the majors so far this season in the second inning and a game-tying two-run blast in the sixth. The two home runs gave him 658 for his career, just two behind Willie Mays for fourth place on baseball's all-time home run list -- and a potential court battle with the New York Yankees over a contractually-stipulated home run bonus.
The leadoff home run in the second was measured at a whopping 471 feet according to MLB Statcast (and 477 feet by ESPN Stats and Info). It was also, according to ESPN Stats and Info, the longest home run hit by a Yankee since Rodriguez hit a 488-foot homer in 2006, and the longest one hit at The Trop over the same time period. The sixth-inning home run was slightly more ordinary, a run-of-the-mill sizzling line drive that whizzed past the foul pole and deep into the left-field seats with Stephen Drew aboard to wipe out a 4-2 Tampa Bay Rays lead.
The two home runs gave Rodriguez the team lead with four -- he also leads in RBI with 10 -- and moved him tantalizingly close to his next controversy, the battle for the first of his $6 million home run bonuses, which the Yankees have told him they have no intention of paying because of his 2014 suspension for PED violations.
A baseball insider with knowledge of the situation told me on Thursday, “[Yankees lawyers] say the contract is null and void. This is now a soiled situation, according to MLB and the commissioner."
According to the insider, the contract contains no set numbers, with the "milestones" to be set by the Yankees. Other sources have told ESPNNewYork.com that there are stipulated bonuses for home runs No. 660, 714, 755, 762 and 763 -- which would be the all-time home run record. The contract milestones were listed by Cots Baseball Contracts.
Rodriguez has refused to divulge what he plans to do if the Yankees refuse to pay the bonuses, and it is unclear if the Players Association would take up the fight for him.
But what is clear is that Alex Rodriguez is once again swinging the most dangerous bat in the Yankees lineup. Who would have believed it?