A-Rod Not As Clean As He Seemed
Wednesday - February 18, 2009
That collective groan heard from rocky coast to desert sand is the exasperated breath of forlorn commentators and holders of the national consciousness as they struggle to find any remaining elements of lost faith and childhood admiration for those who donned the uniform of athletic battle to wage war against the invading horde.
At least until the next “clean guy” proves to be otherwise.
For years, while Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and the like were being grilled over the collective coals of disgust and political opportunism, Alex Rodriguez had been portrayed as the saving grace of unaltered competition. Blessed from birth with every skill the game demands, the quarter-of-a-billion-dollar man was tagged to one day rescue the record books from the stain of tainted athletic ego and return its innocence to a time when achievement was accompanied by hard work, thick steaks and piles of amphetamines.
But before we dissect every atbat or wonder further about which Yankee will be next, can we at least ask how no one came to suspect a person so self-obsessed with image may just be the personality type to come to the determination that a few extra ribbies would mean even greater acceptance? To begin a program of shock and awe at this point is downright bizarre. Or, as A-Rod kept saying to Peter Gammons in his 30-minute-plus interview, “naive.”
OK. So Rodriguez is, or was, dirty. Strike up the band, attach the standard face of disgust and tell us how he is single-handed-ly ruining the game. If you’re a member of the media, don’t forget to mention Hank Aaron’s saintly race to 715. If a fan, defend your outrage, and don’t forget your $6 hot dog and your $10 beer on the way to your $100 seat. Settle in, get cozy and drift off with the peaceful bliss that comes from realizing that no one gives a damn.
If the use of performance-enhancing drugs was so outrageous and unforgivable, the turnstiles wouldn’t be spinning at unprecedented rates and the funds would-n’t be available to support the ridiculous salaries that put all of our undies in a bunch. Fans want victories and entertainment, and they don’t really care how they are obtained. So long as it’s the home team skirting the rules and decent behavior, nearly all sins are forgivable. This disconnect between fan and on-field conduct is also the reason that Bud Selig has been able to play the ignorant victim to the abuses that have gone on before his very eyes.
Selig is a tool. He has no foresight beyond kowtowing to his fellow owners, and treats each problem with a mixture of false personal injury and non-committed actions. He said A-Rod’s steroid use brought “shame to the game” but refused to display anything more solid than a jellyfish’s backbone in regards to any punishment. But give Bud credit for one thing: He recognized long ago what we in the media have not - that the fans are happy in their ignorance, and upsetting the economic base is just bad business. He’s not alone.
Even now, 27 years after he left the reins of power with the Players Association, Marvin Miller has come to the defense of the players and the union that helped sacrifice health for wealth. Miller feels that the investigation has been unfair and anti-union even though it is the union that is responsible for the samples not being destroyed in the first place. The former spur to management and hero to the rank and file remarked further about how he chastised union leadership for agreeing to testing because, “you’re going to see players going to jail.”
In fairness to A-Rod supporters and those who thought he was beyond such foibles, the man has been a unique talent. Rodriguez crawled from the womb an All Star. And unlike many of his performance-enhancing brethren, we have never seen his skills deteriorate from the ache of injury or middle age just to suddenly find a late-career resurgence to go along with renewed talk of post-career enshrinement. The Seattle Mariners’ scouting report on Rodriguez in 1993 described the young slugger as having an all-star skill set. Outside of his annual post-season failures, nothing he’s done in his 15-year major league career has proved those reports in error. Much like Mark McGwire, who burst upon the scene with 49 home runs as a rookie, it wasn’t hard to believe the ARod hype as he marched along toward the Hall of Fame and the game’s most hallowed record.
For his faults, Rodriguez will be forgiven. Factor away any chemical advantage and he still ranks as one of the greatest to have ever played. He may have to sit out a few voting cycles, but he’ll get in. Eventually baseball writers will realize that since fans, owners, agents and the players themselves don’t care, why should they?
Maybe A-Rod’s coming-out party is a good thing. Being able to look at sports through the innocence of ignorance was fun for the first 150 years, but it’s time to grow up.
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