Monday, July 26, 2010

Does anyone really care about A-Rod hitting his 600th home run? Hall of Fame questions continue as well

Sometime soon, Alex Rodriguez is going to hit his 600th home run. It might be as early as tonight in Cleveland, it might be a week from now—A-Rod tends to tighten up in any and all big situations—but it is going to happen.

If you were at Yankee Stadium this past weekend, you will no doubt say this is a big deal; that this is historic. Only six men in baseball history have hit 600 home runs so clearly Rodriguez will be entering an exclusive club. This past weekend, every time he came to the plate when the Yankees were playing the Kansas City Royals, specially marked baseballs were put in play and flashbulbs went off all around the ballpark on every pitch.

They went home disappointed. They did not get to see history.

My question is this: Who among us believes that A-Rod IS about to make history? Who among us—other than loyal Yankee fans—really and truly cares. Rodriguez is a confessed steroid user. He says he used during three seasons (2001-2003). Even if we believe his version of the story he is still tainted. The argument being made these days among my seamhead friends in the media is this: You can claim that everyone who has ever played the game is tainted in some way. Babe Ruth played in an all-white sport (not his fault) and Henry Aaron and Willie Mays played in the amphetamines era and, of course Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and Rodriguez have all been sullied by steroids.

So, since everyone is guilty, no one is guilty. Right?


The greatest myth about the steroid era is that there were no rules against them until the union and owners finally got together on drug-testing in 2003. In fact, Fay Vincent banned steroids in 1991 after they were declared illegal by the government but the ban was toothless since there was no testing and the government wasn’t exactly storming clubhouses demanding that players be tested. The players knew the drugs were illegal and against the rules. They also knew they weren’t very likely to get caught.

Of course a lot of players have been caught: some by good reporting and some by The Mitchell Report. Others have simply been considered guilty due to overwhelming circumstantial evidence—which, given that this isn’t a court of law and we aren’t talking about sending people to jail in most cases—is evidence enough.

So, back to the question: Does anyone really care about A-Rod hitting his 600th home run?

My answer is no. I didn’t care when Bonds hit 756 and I was horrified when Henry Aaron showed up on that video congratulating him. It was bad enough that Bud Selig trailed him for a while during the chase; bad enough (though hardly surprising) that ESPN glorified him but really depressing when Aaron gave in and did the video.

Now, A-Rod isn’t as surly a guy as Bonds. He tries to say all the right things—though he often fails. But he’s just as tainted as far as I’m concerned and just as un-deserving of the Hall of Fame down the road as Bonds is undeserving of it now. Here’s my bet: A-Rod will make the Hall on the first ballot; second ballot at worst. Why? Because the excuse-makers are already coming out of the woodwork on his behalf; because there will be a greater passage of time and because people will by the argument that only 136 of his 868 career home runs were steroid-induced. And let’s not forget the ever-popular, “how many of the pitchers he faced were juiced?” argument.

Here’s what I think and have always thought: None of these guys should ever go in. Not Bonds, not Sosa, not Clemens, not A-Rod, not McGwire, not Palmeiro—none of them. If there’s any evidence at all (and in most of these cases there is plenty) then they’re guilty. My 600 home run club is Aaron, Ruth, Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. That’s it. Forget Bonds, forget Sosa and forget A-Rod whenever he gets there.

If you want to make the argument that eliminating all bad guys from the Hall of Fame would remove about 90 percent of the guys who are in there, that’s fine. But there is a difference between being a bad guy and being a cheat. These guys cheated the game and they damaged the game. Baseball is going to be talking about steroids for years to come. Rodriguez will probably play at least another five years and then it will be another five years before he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot. That guarantees that steroids will be talked about for at least 10 more years—if not longer.

So let’s drop the, ‘everyone’s guilty, so no one’s guilty,’ argument. If you think Ken Griffey Jr. is guilty of something, prove it. The same with Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn—some have made the argument that we don’t KNOW they were clean, thus they could be dirty, thus we should treat them as dirty. Seriously, people have said that.

So when A-Rod hits No. 600 I know it will be played and replayed everywhere and people will call it historic and wonder when No. 700 will come. John Sterling will practically bust a gut screaming, ‘A-Rod hit an A-bomb,’ (I truly hate that call and find it offensive) on Yankees radio and ESPN will probably do an hour long special called, “The Homer,” with A-Rod --on the 16th question--saying he plans to celebrate in…Miami.

Fine. I hope everyone has a good time. I’ll be watching the Mets not score any runs while Jerry Manuel insists that they are right on the verge of a breakthrough.


cd1515 said...

totally agree John.
big baseball fan here, and I don't care at all.
he's a cheat and a loser.

Chuck B '92 said...

The other issue is that A-roid had a weaselly answer as to how and when he used: that he stopped using as soon as it became illegal to do so. Oh, really?

Eventually, the truth will come out about the number of baseball players that have used (and are continuing to use today) steroids, and it will wreck baseball for a generation if it hasn't already. Unsurprisingly, Selig's fecklessness - not immediately expelling the folks mentioned in the Mitchell Report from the game of baseball, and not presenting a "you're caught, you're booted from baseball" policy - will ensure that this will be an active topic of conversation for at least the next decade, and probably even further into the future.

Gunnar said...

Boo A-roid! I agree with your 600 club and HOF thoughts.

Anonymous said...

At least A-Rod is from Miami.

I'm glad to see this column. It represents perfectly my feelings in the matter. Not only have these cheats tainted themselves, but hey have ruined baseball for me. I haven't been to a game since the whole mess erupted. I didn't watch the All Star game this year. The last few World Series I've only watched bits and pieces. I've moved on to other forms of entertainment. And that's all sport is anymore is entertainment. The results don't mean much anymore because there is no way to know if the games are on the level.

Rich, Denver

Anonymous said...

john, why are you so angry?

Gordon said...

You had to mention John Sterling... OMG is he bad. And that is an offensive call. Poor Michael Kay he is the one good person at the YES network. Makes me long for Bill White, Frank Messer and Scooter.

Griffey, Ripkin and Gwynn certainly can not be considered guilty before proven innocent as there has never ever been any even mild insinuation that they were steroid users.

Your 600 club is accurate. Regardless of what the record book says Aaron is the all time home run leader and Maris is the single season home run leader.... END OF STORY!

One person you failed to find culpable was Don Fehr. And as a hockey fan the fact that he is likely to be the next leader of the NHLPA strikes fear into my heart.

The players union and the clean players are as much to blame as anyone. I especially find the repeated comments of Todd Helton and Curt Shilling as being highly hypocrytical. Every clean player had the power to protect the clean but choose instead to protect the dirty.

Here's hoping your wrong and A-Rod never gets in but I'm afraid that the passage of time will soften the voters many of whom will be different by the time his career is over

case said...

your anger is totally justifiable, john
any fan of the game and not just a blind supporter of one team should agree with you

bbqguy said...

So how does Tiger fit into this?

Gunnar said...

Tiger had the same steroid/hgh doctor as some of these guys. Tiger is also an admitted repeated cheator.

Bolts said...

Curious: why are you not advocating that Gaylord Perry, John McGraw, Whitey Ford, and all the other cheats be removed from the HOF?

Anonymous said...

Wow, John. That may be the best article on this subject I've ever read. Bra-vo! There's absolutely nothing wrong with having the highest standards for getting into the Hall of Fame. Agree with every word you said.

Mel Frishman said...


There's a huge typo in Living on the Black. On page 155, you meant Lew Burdette not Birdie Tebbetts. Good if you can catch for subsequent editions.

Best, Mel Frishman

pwlebrun said...

As a Nats fan, having watched Pudge hit a walk-off RBI last month, and knowing that he just reached the 300 HR mark, I feel I must ask:
what about Pudge?
Canseco fingered him in his book as a user during his days with the Rangers, and he had an off-season with the Tigers after which he reported to spring training much lighter (read: smaller) than the previous year.
Yet, he's been a productive bat (300+ HRs, possibly will reach 3000+ hits) as well as one of the best defensive catchers in the past 25 years.
So, how tainted is he? Circumstantial evidence exists. Is he to be excluded? I don't have a dog in this fight -- I'm just curious to hear John's and other's opinion.