NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Hank Aaron, who many consider to be baseball’s true home run king, says he’s pulling for disgraced New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez.
Aaron told Newsday earlier this week that he wants to see A-Rod come back strong after serving a yearlong suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
“I am rooting for him,” Aaron said. “Despite all of the things that people say he had been involved in, I’m rooting for him to come back and have a great year. I am very much anxious to see what he’s going to do.”
But Aaron acknowledged it could be a hard road for Rodriguez, whose nearly 40-year-old body must overcome two surgically repaired hips and readjust to the daily grind of a 162-game season. When asked Tuesday about his mindset going into the season without PEDs, A-Rod replied: “I think I’ll be fine, but only time will tell.”
“I wish him well, but I just don’t know,” Aaron said. “When you’re (away) from playing the game the whole year and go out and then have to face kids that are throwing 90 miles an hour, it’s a tough thing.”
Steroid-tainted Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s mark of 755 home runs in 2007, finishing his career with 762. Former commissioner Bud Selig is among those who believe Hammerin’ Hank holds the true record, not Bonds. Rodriguez is fifth all-time with 654 homers, six behind Willie Mays.
“I’ve always said this: Records are made to be broken,” Aaron told Newsday. “And I’m not sitting here saying the reason that a lot of these guys are breaking records are because of steroids. I can’t say that because I’m not God. I don’t know (if) they’ve been in steroids, I can’t say that. The only thing I can say is I wish them well and that they do the best they can. They have to live and meet their own maker, not me.”
Rodriguez has apologized to the Yankees and their fans without going into specifics about his ban related to the Biogenesis scandal. His surprise arrival to spring training on Monday was much-publicized, and some in the organization were reportedly unhappy they didn’t receive a heads up about his plans.
The 81-year-old Aaron said he’s been left with a good impression of A-Rod, who has “been nothing but a friend to me.”
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 to using PEDs from 2001-03 during his stint with the Texas Rangers.