'What I'm about is winning': J-Rod laser-focused after joining 30-30 club

September 13th, 2023

SEATTLE -- has rapidly become the face of the Mariners franchise and one of baseball’s most prominent players in just his second season. But the reigning American League Rookie of the Year is admittedly still balancing the act of discussing his personal achievements in the wake of tough team-wide struggles.

Such was the case in Monday’s 8-5 loss in 11 innings to the Angels, when Rodríguez became the 44th player in AL/NL history to reach the coveted 30-30 club, tallying that many homers and stolen bases in the same season.

The homer that clinched his place in the exclusive club was a game-tying blast in the 10th inning that sent the ticketed 37,807 at T-Mobile Park into a frenzy, and is in the conversation for his best of 2023. But the Mariners’ bullpen then surrendered three runs in the 11th, after which Seattle’s bats went quietly to send the club toward its first four-game losing streak since April 26-29.

Postgame, Rodríguez declined to speak with reporters, but he did the following day after the dust settled.

“I didn't want to be disrespectful to you guys,” Rodríguez said Tuesday, addressing the media. “You know I will talk to you guys and everything. But I mean, I feel like you guys know me. You guys know what I like to do and what I'm about whenever I step on the field. It's tough to talk about the good things you're doing when us, collectively, we're not doing good.

“It's just always winning first for me," he continued. "That's why [I’m] here, just to say that, as cool as it sounds, 30-30 and other stuff -- what I'm about is winning, and I feel like that's why I step on the field and that's what we're going to try to keep on doing, try to keep helping the team, every single night that I step on the field.”

The loss dropped the Mariners out of a playoff spot altogether, a half-game back of the final AL Wild Card spot, making it sting that much more.

“It would have been a lot better and definitely a lot more celebration,” had his 30-30-clinching homer led to a win, Rodríguez said.

Had Rodríguez spoken after Monday’s tough loss, questions almost certainly would’ve extended beyond his achievement and to the team’s 3-8 start to September after compiling a franchise record 21 wins in August. Yet, even within one of the Majors’ younger clubhouses, there are challenges of speaking on behalf of the team at just 22 years old, even as its best player.

“We're always doing what we can,” Rodríguez said. “I feel like every time we step on the field -- not just me but every single one of those guys, they're trying to win. We're not trying to lose a game or lose four games. I feel like we're always giving our best effort and that's what we're going to keep doing. That's the only thing that we can control -- how we prepare ourselves, the effort we put out there, and just fight. We’ve just got to keep on fighting. At the end of the day, we've got 18 more games left.”

That said, the next day, he did allow himself to appreciate the historical accomplishment, a mark that hasn’t been reached in Mariners history since Alex Rodriguez did it 1998 -- and Rodriguez actually reached 40-40 (42 homers, 46 stolen bases).

“That just shows the talent of the guy, and it's definitely really cool to be able to to be on the same list for something like that with A-Rod because I mean he’s a guy,” Rodríguez said. “He was that guy. So it is cool to be on the same list with him.”

He also recognized the rigors it takes to reach 30-30, a statistical achievement illustrating a player’s rare combination of power and speed.

“You've got to be able to stay on the field, because that's where you put the numbers up,” Rodríguez said.

Ultimately, his individual milestone took a significant back seat to the stinging loss.

“It's a really cool list to be part of,” Rodríguez said. “A lot of amazing players and it's definitely cool ... But yeah, I didn't get to appreciate it a lot.”