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Bonds, A-Rod, and Glavine: Are Their Accomplishments Really Historic?

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This week we have been witnesses to three players making history: Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hit home run number 755; Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hit home run number 500, and pitcher Tom Glavine of the (my beloved) New York Mets notched his career win number 300. All impressive Hall of Fame achievements, right? Shouldn’t we be honored to have seen baseball history in the making?

I’m not so sure about that.

First of all, as a Met fan I am not so giddy about Tom Glavine getting his 300th win. Mostly this is due to the fact that the majority of those wins came when he was wearing another uniform, and it wasn’t just any uniform, folks: he was an Atlanta Brave. Now, many of you non-Met fans are probably saying this is crazy, but I have trouble with the Mets celebrating the achievement of a guy who used to beat them while pitching for an opposing team in the same division (by the way, the only more despised opponent is the Yankees).

I know that many of his current teammates celebrated with him, but whom do the guys on ESPN call when they want some perspective on this accomplishment? Glavine’s former Braves teammate and bud John Smoltz, that’s who. Gets me thinking that Glavine is still in his heart of hearts a Brave and wishes he won this game down in Atlanta and not on some sultry night in Chicago wearing a Mets uniform. Still, by all accounts Glavine is one of baseball’s “good guys” so I can tip my (Mets) cap to him if ever so slightly.

Not even considering the steroid factor in any way, baseball fans (besides those McCovey Cove zealots in San Fran) have not embraced Bonds in his quest for the Everest of baseball records. Think how McGwire and Sosa were seen as baseball’s darlings as they raced for the single season home run record. That good feeling was akin to watching Cal Ripken ride around on a horse in Baltimore when he had his farewell ceremony. But Bonds seems to have always been not the straw that stirs the drink but more the one that blows bubbles into it. Even if steroids were not an issue (and believe me, they are no matter how you want to look at the matter), I’d say Bonds is not liked and that has all to do with him reaping what he has sown.

A-Rod is another sour pill to be sure. He talks a good talk but struggles with his walk. He came over to the Yankees expecting a ring and all the associated bling, but things haven’t turned out the way he planned. Yankees fans will always like Derek Jeter better (hey, they even like a guy like Robinson Cano better) and feel like A-Rod has waltzed in as a golden boy, anointed by George Steinbrenner to be the next B-Ruth. Unfortunately, A-Rod is right-handed and even though he hits all these homers and knocks in all these runs, all Steingrubber’s men really can’t put him back together again after stories about cheating on his wife and ego clashes with Derek.

Despite all the things noted above, the main problem I have with these achievements is that they have not occurred in the consistency of service to one team. Bonds and A-Rod have bounced around a bit, while Glavine only took the Mets’ offer because he couldn’t get the same from Atlanta. This is a bit of pure mathematics that has nothing to do with baseball statistics and everything to do with dollars and cents.

Yes, I know this is the world of free agency and that Catfish Hunter paved the way for the poor baseball players, freeing them from the oppression of working for the baseball owners who made Simon Legree look like Little Orphan Annie. Still, no matter how we slice it, the piece of the American Pie is a lot bigger for these ballplayers, even the ones who make less like David Wright and Jose Reyes. I mean, wouldn’t you rather work seven months a year (hopefully eight if you make the playoffs) playing a game you love rather than doing something else?

In the end, when I think about these records the feeling I get is nothing close to warm and fuzzy but more like moist and fetid. These guys followed the bucks and they didn’t care about the fans, the most important people in the baseball kingdoms run by these baseball kings and queens. If anyone has “serf” status it is the fans, since we have to work the land and still pay for it (whatever happened to the $1.50 general admission seats of my youth?). The players are less than knights in shining armor to be sure, but they have been touched by the sword and certainly live a charmed life at home and on the road.

It doesn’t help that Bonds plays for the Giants (who left New York for sunny California and put a hole in so many hearts), A-Rod saunters around for the Yankees (a team that believes it’s royalty as much as its owner thinks he’s King George), and Glavine pitches for the Mets (working class scrubs to be sure but still hated because the team is in New York).

There is also the truth that loyalty is a forgotten notion and that really hurts. While I hope Wright and Reyes play their whole careers in Queens, I am not certain of it. Jeter (no matter how much I hate his team) is probably the last stand-up baseball guy; the last future Hall of Famer who played his whole career with one team. There’s a reason Lou Gehrig said he was the luckiest man on earth (even when he was dying), and the fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium that day intimately knew why because they were fortunate too since Gehrig played every inning of his career as a Yankee.

We will never see the likes of those kinds of days again. Free agency, steroids, and greed have seen to that. So these records mean nothing more than numbers in the book when they should mean a whole lot more. For that, every baseball fan should be more than angry because as we are witnesses to baseball history we can also testify to the fact that it has been compromised probably beyond repair, and that’s more than a damned shame, it’s a disgrace.

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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 Charley 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.
  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Craig Biggio and Trevor Hoffman feel slighted by you.

  • Patrick Cossel

    To be sure I waited to read this. I was a bit outraged when I heard that Glavine was coming to the Mets. I did not understand how they could opt to take him on when he had surgically shut them down for so many years. On the other hand why not though. I think I would rather have him pitching for us than against us.
    What Glavine did was great and although I agree that his heart is more than likely south of the mason-dixon line, he celebrated with this team.
    Bonds and A-Rod….. well lets just say it turns my stomach to think of them.
    Excellent article, very well written. Hopefully we will be writing more about the Mets come October.

  • sal m

    the romantic concept of sports is a thing of the past and it will never come back. free agency – and not money – is responsible for this change occuring. and even in the golden days of baseball, it was still just a concept, playing for the love of the game. babe ruth and ty cobb, dimaggio and williams and the rest of the greats of generations past would have bolted to the highest bidder if the reserve clause was not in effect.

    this is a good piece, and i agree with what you say about bonds, but i disagree with the premise. if anything if guys haven’t been spoiled by the riches they earn and can continue to play at a high level for a long period of time, they should be celebrated as much as anyone. using babe as an example, he just hung on at the end for the payday as did a lot of old-timers.

  • Not So Much

    I wouldn’t exactly say Bonds bounced around a bit. He’s played for one other team. And he hasn’t played for that team in over a decade. And this is only Glavine’s 2nd team. Babe Ruth played for more than one team. So did Willie Mays. Hell, Cy Young played for FOUR teams. Also, if you think Catfish Hunter paved the way for free agency I suggest you read up a little bit about Curt Flood.

  • TommyD

    Bonds is a disgrace and he’s being allowed by MLB to desecrate a sacred record. I’m happy many baseball fans are ignoring his filthy quest for glory.

    Watching the Mets vs Cubs game the other night, the one where Glavine won his 300th (good for him), ESPN replayed Glavine’s first pitch in his first MLB game back in 1987. Who did he pitch to and actually hit!?! Barry Bonds!!

    Barry Bonds is absolutely UNRECOGNIZABLE today from what he looked like in 1987. I know just about every single human being gains weight, especially over 20 years, but for pete’s sake Barry Bonds’ head, his actual frickin’ skull! has grown at least 5 times larger. Tom Glavine looked younger, of course, in 1987, but is relatively the same size or a few pound heavier today.

    Oh well, baseball always had it’s cheaters and Bonds is just the latest one.

    As for Alex Rodriguez: An egomaniac for sure and maybe even an obstacle to the Yankees success but the guy puts up big numbers…. and in today’s mad and selfish world, that’s actually praised and revered.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I gotta say this about Bonds…I was watching ESPN the other day and they showed his 1st, 100th, 200th, 300th, 400th, 500th and on and on…when you look at his progression over the years I don’t really think he got that much bigger. I mean, I just found a picture of me in a t-shirt thirty years ago and if you look at me today, you might acuse me of the same thing. I’m a lot bigger than I was back then…and a lot heavier…about 30 pounds heavier…and I never used any steriods…

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Great comments, everyone. Thanks.

    Matt: I like Craig Biggio. He’s a Long Island boy and deserves a big tip of the cap. This article was really about guys I didn’t like too much.

    Andy: I know what you’re saying, but you haven’t jacked 755 homers at the MLB level either. Then it would matter. Look at McGwire’s rookie baseball card and then how he looked in 1998. His neck was a tree trunk. Please, he and Bonds are like Hans and Franz on SNL.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Victor…that’s only because I never had the opportunity!

    I know what you mean though…when you look at his stats back in the day, as they say, he was a good hitter, but never for the kind of power he had later on.

    McGuire was part of a culture, I think, that seemed to roll through the A’s back then…Giambi, Canseco, both of them, the Canseco’s I mean, I think even Stewart back then…

  • Tom

    Well, Catfish Hunter may have been a big early free agent, but I think it was Kurt Flood who paved the way to Free Agency.

    Your love of the Mets shows through on your opinions of both Glavine and A-Rod. They play or played for teams you hate.

    Guys that stay on one team their whole careers are special, and we’d all love to keep superstars on our home teams throughout their careers, but that is not the way it works. Teams often don’t show special loyalty to players, trading them or not offering contracts if something better comes along. Would you stay in your current job if you had offers for more money elsewhere?

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Okay, guys, I missed on Kurt Flood, but Catfish was the first “Big” free agent that I remembered. I recall an old uncle saying (it was around Christmastime that year) that after Catfish the game would never be the same. Guess he was right.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve stayed at a job out of loyalty to the boss who gave me a big break but couldn’t always pay the bigger $ I was offered elsewhere as time went on.

    I think it’s part of a culture, or as old Mr. Fezziwigg said, “A Way of life” that is part of the fabric of some people’s mentality. Either we feel it or not, but I’d like to have kids see better role models in all sports, ones that put fidelity to team and honor of the sport above the $. Guess I’m crazy but so what.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I’ll say this about A-rod. I’m a diehard Yankees fan. I even have an NY tattoo (2 actually, baseball and football)! But I’m not an A-rod fan. Never was and doubt I ever will be.

    It started when he tried to knock the ball out of Arroyos’ hand…as a Sox fan with a heavy Boston accent said to me after that…”Jeta wouldn’ta done it.” It was cheap and not worthy of pinstripes. Every kid that ever played organized ball knows that you can’t do that…and this professional…who puts up all these great numbers, tried to do something cheap like that…and again this year…yelling behind the shortstop…WTF!?!?

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    as a Sox fan with a heavy Boston accent said to me after that…”Jeta wouldn’ta done it.”

    God bless those Sox fans. : )And ‘Jeta’ too, I guess.

    Nice post Vic

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    So I read what you said…but in my head I heard Gawd bless…hehehe

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Andy, what a story. And yes, that incident of knocking the ball out of the guy’s hand was probably the thing that turned me off most. Talk about lack of sportsmanship. I am a Met fan but to me Jeter is a class act, and A-Rod (despite all his numbers) can’t shine Derek’s shoes.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    LOL Andy.

    And my husband (who has a Red Sox tattoo) says the same about Jeter.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    And that’s why Derek has a job on the Yankees that only 10 other guys have had in their history…because he is a class act.

    Victor, how do you like Chesapeakes’ own playing on your team? We get a lot of Mets highlights down here in Hampton Roads because of Wright. He’s a local boy! And a helluva ball player…seems to be a class act too.

  • nicolas

    saying that the player with the most career home runs, possibly the last pitcher of my generation to reach 300 wins, and the next player to reach the top 5 in career home runs are performing acts that are not HOF-worthy because they didn’t do it with one team (the originaly premise of your article) is absurd.

    yes, i am disappointed that Bonds et. al. have not admitted to using performance enhancers (since they so obviously did), but i am not going to fault them for it when the league let them do it. if MLB deemed it ok, then so be it.

    glavine’s 300 wins are impressive no matter who they are with. tom knew he could get one last big paycheck, so he went where he could get it (and kudos to minaya for snatching up a pitcher who always killed his team).

    yes (the ball knock and A-HA! Gate) A-Rod has done some stupid crap, but he is still an absolutely incredible hitter.

    you may personally disagree with a player ‘foolishly’ following a big payday (you really expect me to believe you wouldn’t have left that job of yours if somebody else hadn’t offered you a 200 or 300% raise???), but knocking the significance of their accomplishments over it? that’s just silly.

    for the record, IMO – bonds HOF? probably, but not first-ballot. glavine? again, maybe not first ballot, but yes. a-rod will get in too, IF he keeps hitting like this for another five years.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Nicolas, the only thing “silly” about this whole thing is that someone is stupid enough to pay these guys all that money. No one is worth what A-Rod makes, and that would extend to even the greatest players in their time (Mays, Mantle, and Aaron included).

    The only one who can go into the Hall clean is Glavine. The other two are suspected of steroid use as are many others. Maybe they’ll get in, but they’ll always have a cloud over their heads.

  • nicolas

    i know a-rod makes retarded money. i wrote an article about it. as does bonds. i think glavine’s contract is just fine.

    since when is rodriguez suspected of steroid use?

    and as i said, sure bonds obviously used, but if MLB let him do it, then it wasn’t cheating as far as i’m concerned.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Andy, I think Wright (and Reyes) are cut from the same cloth as Jeter. They’re good kids and hopefully will never reach the disturbing levels that Strawberry and Gooden did during their golden days.

    Nicolas, it has been noted by Canseco that A-Rod is somehow involved in the steroid mess. Stay tuned.