BOSTON -- While the 209 have been the digits that have loomed over Alex Rodriguez lately, the really important numbers are 586, 15 and 3.
Rodriguez's third home run of the season and the 586th of his career tied him with Frank Robinson for seventh place on the all-time list, and again raised the question of how everyone should celebrate his PED-enhanced accomplishments and how quickly he will move up the list.
"I've said all along that sometime when I retire, it is going to be special, but unfortunately tonight it didn't come in a winning form," Rodriguez, 34, said after the New York Yankees' 9-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.
It has been 15 years since A-Rod has gotten off to such a slow homer start. In 1995, his second season in the majors with the Seattle Mariners, A-Rod hit three homers in his first 30 games. At that point, Rodriguez was a skinny kid with great expectations, who had been called up during the season from Triple-A Tacoma.
So Mr. Perfect, Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden, from the 209 -- the area code from Stockton, Calif., where Braden says folks handle disputes with their fists -- thrust A-Rod into the national discussion. The latest barb, from Braden's grandma no less, had Rodriquez saying "Uncle" as he tried to stop the back-and-forth.
Still, the real question about Rodriquez right now is the lack of power. Does it mean anything? A-Rod and his manager both say no.
Joe Girardi was indignant upon being asked about Rodriguez's weak output so far.
"He has three homers, it is not like he doesn't have any," said Girardi, who was testy all night, having been thrown out for arguing balls and strikes. "Like I've said, Alex is streaky. Home run hitters can be streaky. Who knows? He might hit five this week and then it will be a moot point."
On Sunday, Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP, hit his first home run in 61 at-bats. That is the second worst streak of his career. The worst came last year when he went 72 at-bats.
A few years back, the solo shot that Rodriquez hit on Sunday night would have been one of those home runs that came with a lot of angst. The Yankees were being smacked around, down five runs in the fourth, and here was A-Rod going deep. Back in the day, Rodriguez would hear about meaningless stats.
Those criticisms are mostly long gone after last October, but still there have been some home run droughts, raising questions about Rodriquez's power or lack thereof. For his part, he is not worried about them.
"Home runs, I never look at that as a big issue," Rodriguez said. "All I want to do is always think small, take my walks and keep being productive. Home runs will always be there."
So far, they haven't. On a historic night for A-Rod and his new West Coast rival, maybe he is about to start one of his hot streaks.