What happened to the hype? Sure, ESPN broke into coverage on "Baseball Tonight" on Sunday to show Alex Rodriguez's final at-bat. But while the quest for 600 home runs has created plenty of buzz in New York and at Yankee Stadium it certainly hasn't galvanized the country like it would have even five years ago.
Rodriguez is attempting to become just the seventh player in MLB history to reach the hallowed 600 mark. But let's hope he does it at home and gets some love for that accomplishment. Because in this steroid era -- and as an admitted performance-enhancing drug user -- Rodriguez isn't likely to elicit much more than polite applause from fans on the road. That's in part because of his drug use and in part because Rodriguez has always been a polarizing figure in the sport. Let's be honest -- his odd personality doesn't exactly make you want to root for him.
But does this also mean baseball fans are tired of the sport's glorification of stats? It sure seems like it. That's another fallout from the steroid era where numbers were always, um ... juiced. Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa made a mockery of Roger Maris' home run record in 1998 -- it just took everyone almost a decade to figure that out for sure. Barry Bonds then put that saga to shame by breaking both the single-season home run record and the career home run record.
People in San Francisco celebrated because Bonds was a hometown kid. But the rest of the country was absolutely conflicted. And now that baseball's greatest records have fallen it's hard to get too worked up over Rodriguez hitting home run No. 600. The context that the sport always relied upon to sustain the validity of its numbers is no longer valid. Rodriguez is one of the best sluggers of this era. That's a definite. But any other accolade? Thanks to steroids no one will know for sure.