When I was a kid playing stickball in the streets of Queens in New York City, not far from where my beloved Mets played at Shea Stadium, we had one thing those guys in Major League Baseball could never use – the “do-over.” A do-over was a fail-safe mechanism, a corrector of supposed wrongs, and an eraser of something that shouldn’t have been. In short a do-over was the answer for anything that could be argued or couldn’t be explained.
If I was in the field and a ball got hit my way but was deflected by the bumper of a parked car, I simply yelled, “Do over.” If the car had not been there, the ball would have been in my glove, so it seemed without question that the play had to be rewound and done again. If my friend was at the plate and about to swing, but a car came speeding his way as he swung the bat and missed the ball, clearly that called for a do-over. Anything we could not resolve (safe/out, foul ball/fair ball) would be ripe for do-over status. Amazingly, once a do-over was called, no one on either side ever took offense or objected – it was a safety net that avoided arguments, fights, and delays of the game.
Now in the real world of MLB the venerable New York Yankees organziation, the team that calls upon a tradition of excellence and a history of championships, is basically calling for a “do-over” with Alex Rodriguez – the man without a country in 2014 because of a suspension for using PED. Now A-Rod is back and with a vengeance, hitting homers and defying the general opinion that he would be washed up and useless without his meds.
On Friday night in Boston A-Rod slammed career homerun 660, tying him with the great Willie Mays. This normally would be something for MLB and the Yankees to celebrate profusely (anyone remember the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa parties?); however, it is being downplayed because the Yankees owe A-Rod a $6 million bonus for this achievement that they are now unwilling to pay. The team management’s logic is simple – who knows how many of those previous 659 homeruns came as a result of PED use? How can we honor a milestone that is in itself suspect? How can we promote suspect homeruns when they are unmarketable?
Probably knowing that his handlers will be taking legal action against the Yankees, to his credit the usually blabbering A-Rod has kept rather low key throughout all this. Despite all the people who do not like him, no one can deny that the man knows baseball and in fact loves it. At times one can say A-Rod is consumed by the sport; however, it’s hard for many people to forgive A-Rod for what he did, but the truth is that no one can deny what he has accomplished statistically. In his mind this must be A-Rod’s ace-in-the-hole.
The average Joe off the street can take the same PED that Rodriguez took, get in the batter’s box, and not even make contact. The thing people forget is that A-Rod was and is full of natural talent and ability; he could hit, field, and play with the best of them. The drugs didn’t do that for him; he was born that way. Unfortunately, now A-Rod becomes a good deal like Pete Rose – a man with all the Hall of Fame statistics in the world but with no way to get elected.
At a press conference the day after A-Rod hit the historic homer, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman indicated that the team had a right but no obligation to pay A-Rod the homerun bonus. What Cashman is basically saying without saying it is this – We will accept the homeruns A-Rod hits on the field that win games for us and put people in the stands, but we will not recognize them on or off the field. Apparently, MLB is in agreement with this attempt by the Yankees to basically call a “do-over” in regards to A-Rod’s performance.
When asked if he thinks that A-Rod is clean now, Cashman cautiously responded, “I hope so.” Notice the salient way this questioned was handled. Cashman is clearly calculating every angle in hopes of voiding whatever he can in the future should any testing results come back that can assist in the Yankees attempt to vilify A-Rod or void their contractual obligations.
As a Mets fan I must admit that I have never liked A-Rod. Long ago when there were rumors that the Mets were trying to trade for him, I hoped that they wouldn’t be successful. When he was signed by the Yankees, it only exacerbated my dislike for the man. I felt he was egotistic and the worst thing of all for his team, the fans, and especially the kids watching him – a totally “me” player all about himself and what “he” could accomplish.
Now, I oddly find myself on A-Rod’s side. For one thing, the man paid his debt, if not to society definitely to MLB. After serving the punishment, he came back to the slings and arrows of outrageous reporting and rumors that he was washed up. A-Rod showed them all what he could do during spring training and is still doing it during the regular reason. Maybe the Yankees don’t want to acknowledge that he hit that homerun officially, but they are gladly accepting the win over the Boston Red Sox that it provided. This is most certainly hypocrisy at its worst.
After tying Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list, A-Rod seemed overwhelmed by the moment and its significance. He said, “It’s good to do it in a good team win. I got emotional there.” Obviously, A-Rod feels the pressure and understands the implications – not just of the accomplishment but of the Yankees refusing to acknowledge it. Some people may say that it took him until now to be a team player, but forget the bonus because there is more than money at stake here – it’s A-Rod’s legacy.
As for the great Willie Mays, he remains a class act all the way and released this statement: “Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez on his 660th home run. Milestones in baseball are meant to be broken and I wish him continued success throughout his career.” It goes without saying that Mays had the kind of career any player, including A-Rod, would have wished for as a kid. Now Mays wishes him well as he ties his career homer mark, and you can’t help but wonder what is going on inside A-Rod’s heart and mind.
When told of Mays’s statement, A-Rod responded, “I’m speechless.” Of course, as the enormity of the situation becomes clear to him, the reality of what he has done and failed to do, someone with the class of Willie Mays could loom as a reminder of what could have been. That makes A-Rod a tragic figure – someone along the lines of Hamlet or Macbeth, someone enormously gifted and fortunate who could have had it all except for one tragic flaw.
Still, no matter what Cashman and the Yankees organization would like the narrative to be, there are two simple facts here. One is that A-Rod hit all those homeruns (660 as of this writing). Two is that nothing they can do can erase them. The Yankees would like it to be different, but there are no “do-overs” in big league baseball. MLB knows that, the fans know it, and so does A-Rod; now it becomes clear that sooner or later the Yankees will have to know it too.
Photo credits: sport-kid.net, daily news, MLB[amazon template=iframe image&asin= 0525954635]