In the time immediately after baseball’s unfettered PEDs era, users were publicly eviscerated. Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa had cheated, and were pushed into our national landfill. How dare they manipulate those sacrosanct numbers, home run totals, win-loss records. We dumped them in the hole of shame, then buried ’em like high-level nuclear waste.
The anger was palpable. What had they just stolen from us? Dust off your hands, watch the dirt pour over them. That’ll show ’em.
A decade ago, it was easy to dismiss those guys. We learned of their shenanigans after they had essentially wrapped up their careers. In Raffy’s case testing positive literally ended his playing days. The book was closed on them, we could void their careers like a bad check. Those fraudulent records were in the past, and could be automatically dismissed. Then came Barry Bonds.
He was the first who was destroying the record book while we knew he was dirty, so things got weird. Every home run he hit, every monster season he recorded was a question mark. Mac’s 70 was awesome. Barry’s 73 was deplorable. Just how tainted were these moments we were experiencing? America was being forced to decide on the fly, and we’re usually not very good at that. So his climb up the home run ladder, his passing of Babe Ruth and then Hank Aaron, was met with fans holding signs of asterisks and syringes. For Giants fans, each homer was another belt notch for their guy. For purists (and pretty much everyone not in San Fran), each moonshot felt like a violent case of diarrhea.
He’s cheating. He’s taking the record book down with him. And no one can stop this?
But for all of us who screamed at the trespassing of the 500-Home Run Club by these artificial ogres, this conundrum is a little different a decade later. It’s not just that Willie Mays and Hammerin’ Hank and the Babe have been compromised. It’s that now we honestly don’t know what the hell to even do, because we have too much information and the angry tank is on empty.
Alex Rodriguez hit #660 in Boston a week ago, and #661 last night in the Bronx. He tied and passed the Greatest Living Ballplayer on the most hallowed list in sports. And it’s been a bizarre, slow-motion Michael Bay car crash for even the most ardent of Yankee fans.
Those who grow up loving the pinstripes are born into the romanticism of sepia-toned baseball history. Babe’s called shot, Gehrig’s speech, DiMaggio’s elegance, ghosts and hallowed halls. That direct line from our baseball ancestors to 2015 runs through the Bronx. But here’s A-Rod, wearing that timeless uniform that literally is the yarn string through generations, and he’s swatting hollow home runs, not hallow.
The Yankees have misplayed this battle with A-Rod like a Knoblauch toss to first. The most opulent spending team in American sports history is haggling over $6 million bonuses. It’s like Warren Buffet using the penny tray at the gas station. Disingenuous, shallow, narcissistic A-Rod now somehow comes off as a sympathetic figure. Thus, some Yankee fans (and others) are rooting for him to stick it to the man. Who doesn’t love a good “employee tells the boss to shove it” story?
But we all know and understand the figures, the numbers, the tallies are insignificant. No matter where A-Rod finally lands on this mountain of greatness, no one will ever call him great. As he ascends this castle, the confusion is now overwhelming. We’re too exhausted about yelling over PEDs to put up much of a fight. But we also refuse to applaud. And it’s merely a blip nationally, because we have all this juicy Deflate-Gate, Tom Brady nonsense to pick through.
We are living the slow-motion car crash in real time, every at-bat. And all it’s done is confuse the hell out of everyone. Just think, when Bonds was assaulting the home run records there was one hope for America. That one day the record would once again be held by a clean ballplayer: Alex Rodriguez. So now what?
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.