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A-Rod Hits 600: Put It in the Books with an Asterisk

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“Damaged goods.” That is what my friend and Yankee fan Frank – he prefers for me not to use his last name – said when I asked him what he thought about Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium yesterday. I was glad that Frank qualified it this way. When pressed about the number 600, he said, “Put it in the books with an asterisk.”

Rodriguez hit a ball to straight away center field, ending his pursuit of number 600 against Toronto’s Shaun Marcum. As A-Rod rounded the bases, getting cheered all the way, it was as if he and the fans believed that this moment was special. Later on, he confessed to being glad it was all over, but for his team and their fans it is never over with A-Rod. Now he and they can set their sights on number 700, right?

Okay, I am a New York Mets fan, but I am also a fan of baseball. I had to check with Frank (with whom I have had lots of heated discussions in the past about our two teams) because he bleeds pinstripes as much as I bleed Mets orange and blue. I can appreciate great Yankees players like Derek Jeter, Thurman Munson, and Mickey Mantle for what they have meant to baseball. But the question invariably with A-Rod is: What has he done to baseball?

I know there are those who don’t care about steroids. They didn’t care when Mark McGwire walked around like the Incredible Hulk and hit all those home runs. Chalk that up for Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds too. They only cared about all the dingers and how it was good for baseball. Good for baseball? Saying these tainted players were or are good for baseball is like saying the Gulf oil spill was good for tourism. Give me a break.

The great sports columnist Mike Lupica, writing in today’s issue of the New York Daily News, says that Bobby Bonds put a message to A-Rod on his website: “Welcome to the club.” As Lupica notes, “Yeah. They’re in the same club.” As always, Lupica hits the salient nail on the head: A-Rod is part of the Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa club, and not the Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Babe Ruth club. Pure and simple, A-Rod’s accomplishment has the whiff of something foul to it.

Make no mistake, A-Rod is a great player. He has enormous natural talent, but the problem is that he sought to enhance that talent in ways that are not in keeping with the fundamental, natural beauty of the game. He is a bad influence on other players who see his success and think, “Why not me too?” Furthermore, he is a terrible role model for kids who aspire to be baseball players, who may think they need to do something even at a young age to enhance their natural abilities in order to perform better, to get noticed, and maybe make it to the big show.

So, in the Bronx in New York City yesterday, A-Rod hit his 600th career home run. I kept thinking, “Thank God he is not a New York Met.” I have always thought that was, as the legendary Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner used to say, “One of the best deals never made.” I know a lot of Mets fans wanted A-Rod back then, but we can breathe easier because all his talent and all his problems are on the other side of town. Let Yankees fans try to sort out how they feel about his legacy and his place in Yankee history; we can be honest with ourselves that it’s better this way.

What about A-Rod’s legacy? As my friend Frank says, “Damaged goods.” So let baseball put A-Rod and his 600 in the books with a big fat asterisk. Bonds said that A-Rod is part of the club now. I guess it depends on how you look at it, but I keep thinking about that great Groucho Marx line: “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.” Damaged goods, indeed!

 

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charlie Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Charlie Doherty

    You’re glad as a Mets fan that A-Rod never came to your team, but for once, I gotta thank the Player’s Union for something in denying A-Rod to come to the Red Sox in 2004 due to their disapproval of A-Rod’s reworking of his gigantic contract. Two World Series later (with Manny Ramirez as MVP of one of them), I think the Red Sox are glad he never came here either, as great a player as he is.

  • Larry

    Ok.. Aaron and Ruth did it without choking down steroids every day. Screw you ARod. Your accomplishment is meaningless.

  • majik

    Uhmmm… babe ruth used corked bats… so put on by his name too! idiots

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    When the Babe was playing the ball was dead, not like the jacked up ball of today. If the bat was corked, it evens out with the dead ball.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    So, what you’re saying is that the sport should never progress? Baseball should be exactly like it was when Ty Cobb was crushing balls in the park then crushing women & beer cans in his spare time(not to mention his other criminal activity)? No one cries to have his accomplishments taken away. So, Cobb’s stimulant was alcohol and theirs are a stimulant that has been used in every facet of the sports industry since before A-Rod’s time. It’s alright for people to drink beer in the stands but it’s not alright for the players to use a stimulant? It’s a performance enhancer not a performance creator.It’s not like anybody could bat 600 homers just by using steroids. You still have to put in the freakin work,man!
    Come on, with that logic, we shouldn’t allow the technology in making baseball helmets or bats to progress either…

    “not like the jacked up ball of today”

    LMAO… So, now the ball is “not in keeping with the fundamental, natural beauty of the game.” too, right?

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    No, Brian, the game has changed in many ways: better bats, better balls, bigger gloves, and so on. But the fundamental things: distance from home to first, distance from the mound to the plate, and most rules remain as they were.

    As far as I know alcohol is not a performance enhancer. If anything, alcohol should have a negative effect. I can’t believe that these guys who drank gallons of beer and whiskey could hit like they could.

    Talent is the thing that should be pure. In track and field, they wipe out the records if someone is using dope. That will never happen here, but A-Rod’s 600 is not a “pure” 600 homers like Aaron, Mays, and Ruth hit.

  • http://www.thekonglist.com/ theKONGLIST

    “Thank God he is not a New York Met?” Bandwagon fans & sports hyprocrites such as yourself are the thee worst types of fans imaginable. Comparing A-Rod to Bonds, Hulk & Sosa is unfair…the latter were emphatic steroid users who seem to have abused the performance enhancing drug…A-Rod only did it for 3 years (whooptie-whoo! lol)…his head didn’t balloon to a blimp ala Bonds so stop making such a big deal about it

  • http://www.thekonglist.com/ theKONGLIST

    Additionally, Alex Rodriguez came through in the clutch in the 2009 Postseason and helped propel the New York Yankees to their 27th World Series Title…and guess what? He did so while being clean & steroid-free, “HOW ‘BOUT THAT?!”

    Sucks to be a Mets fan…sucks to be you.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Uh, Kong, the only thing that sucks is your writing ability. There are courses you know. Enjoy the long wait for number 28, pal!