A-Rod and the passing of yet another meaningless milestone

“What the hell am I doing here?  I don’t belong here.”

Radiohead, Creep

A-RodHR660This week, Alex Rodriguez knocked in his 1992nd RBI.  That tied him with Babe Ruth for fourth most all-time.  Not long ago he passed Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list.  Like it or not, A-Rod’s name is firmly etched into baseball’s history books.  And he continues to play in the line-up almost every night for the New York Yankees.

But what are we really watching here?

Rodriguez came back this year after being suspended all of last season.  Speculation lingered as to whether he would return, whether the Yankees wanted him back and whether the game wanted him back.  At 39 (soon to be 40), he IS back and actually having a decent season.  He’s hit ten home runs and is batting just under .250.  Those are well below his career numbers but he’s still getting the playing time… and a paycheck.  This year the Yankees will pay him $22 million.

But I still can’t help but think… what are we watching?

If recent history is any indication, this is a man that will not be allowed into the Hall of Fame.  This is a man that has routinely lied about his use of performance enhancing drugs.  This is a man that was very possibly using performance enhancing drugs his entire career, even before he made the majors.  This is a man that has alienated almost everyone in the game, from media to teammates to fans.  Yet this is a man that continues to break records with every at-bat.

A Rod high fives teammatesSo again, what exactly are we watching?

Most players will tell you they’re playing for a championship, the ultimate prize.  A-Rod’s Yankees have as good a shot as any.  But individual records are how we judge a player’s greatness… or at least how we have in the past.  In baseball, every hit, run and error become a part of history.

So what’s the point of A-Rod perpetuating his career if every record he breaks means nothing?  We’ll never consider him among the greats, only someone who could have been.  Despite climbing the record books in every important offensive category, his numbers will never be recognized as legitimate.

He’s 50 home runs behind Ruth, 90 behind Aaron and just less than 100 behind Bonds.  Passing those three, while unlikely, is still conceivable if he gets enough at-bats and plays out his remaining contract.

But it’s not anything we will cheer for.  It’s like getting the all-time high score on a video game that we’ve learned the cheat codes for.

So what are we watching?

Every time A-Rod steps to the plate, we’re watching something that doesn’t really matter.  Major League Baseball has done its best to put steroids behind it.  The penalties for violating the rules are as strict as they’ve ever been.  With a few alleged exceptions, A-Rod remains the one active link to an era marked by ass cheeks and asterisks.

BABE'S LAST HOMERSSo what’s the point of continuing his career when all of it is pointless?  A-Rod just passed Ruth but he’ll never be as revered.  He also just passed Mays but he’ll never be considered as great.  That’s what the record books always taught us: greatness.  They no longer do.

So somebody please tell me what we’re watching because for the life of me I can’t figure it out.  And if we’re watching something that doesn’t really matter, why should we even watch in the first place?

23 thoughts on “A-Rod and the passing of yet another meaningless milestone

  1. A meaningless milestone ? Oh yes , I forgot the $25 million plus this year he’ll earn this year , will make it all the less worrisome . LOL,LOL,LOL !!! It ‘s not as if the Elias Stats Bureau or MLB really gives a #hit anymore that many of the records are tainted but then again the apathy within the sport will continue to be there among the fans to begin with .

  2. That’s exactly my point, Al. So why the hell are we watching? It’s not like we’re watching a piece of history… or are we?

    How many fathers are taking their kids to Yankee Stadium to see A-Rod play in his final days? And if so, what are they saying?

  3. As a lifelong baseball fan I can’t hardly stand to look at this person. I lived in Washington when Rodriguez first entered the Majors with the Mariners. Like everyone else I couldn’t believe how talented he was. At the time he seemed to understand he had a chance to really be something special. He endeared himself to the fans and embraced the history of the game. He was hitting his marks on and off the field. Mariners fans were in love with the guy while the rest of the league took note and fell in love with the guy too. Then his rookie contract ran out and the bidding for his services got out of hand. Rodriguez signed the largest contract in the history of the game with the Texas Rangers and something happened to his psyche… It was like he could do no wrong. His demeanor that was so attractive changed. He didn’t help the Rangers and the man who gave him the huge contract realized too late he’d really hurt his team. Of course PED use made Rodriguez a greater talent and of course the Yankees had to have him and of course the Yankees made 4 Championship Series appearances and won a World Series since signing Rodriguez.
    Today I absolutely hate seeing Alex Rodriguez’ name used in the same sentence as Babe Ruth, Willie Mays or any other of the game’s greats… I just wish he’d go away.

  4. It’s little different than when Roger Maris was chasing Babe Ruth for the all-time highest number of home runs in a single season. No one wanted to see a Jewish ballplayer best the beloved Ruth. Years later, Maris admitted that he wished he’d never set the new record.

    As for Axle-Rod, he couldn’t care less about what others think of him. His greatness always has been, and always will be, in his own mind. He’s setting records for himself because he is by nature selfish. Never been a team player. Maybe, after his playing days are over and his name doesn’t appear on the ballot in his first year of eligibility and every year thereafter, he’ll finally lament, when he realizes his numbers mean nothing to anyone else, that he was a cheater.

  5. It’s the Yankees they will be going whether or not A-Rod is playing .

    Baseball’s hierarchy remains weak and gutless, as are the entire Yankee’s organization . As a matter fact all of the professional sports’ hierarchies are ran by pu#sies . The fans themselves are equally apathetic, with their idiocy with ranting over A-Rod, while yearning for Pete Rose be enshrined in the Hall of Fame . Such a crock of bull$hit , right from the get-go . Both players have brought disrepute to the game, but unfortunately , idiots just want Rose in, because they feel his banishment has gone on long enough . They don’t seem to be concerned with his actions at all . Can we have some Roman Catholic pedophile priests teaching kids ? I mean the Vatican can be soft on their a#s then why not the MLB hierarchy? After-all , their penance will be overlooked if they say seven Hail Mary’s .

  6. Here’s the thing though, Dwin.

    Most accounts point to him using in Seattle and even before that. So even if he was the next great thing, he had been “cheating” all along.

    My take on A-Rod is a little different. I don’t hate the guy. I’m pretty much indifferent towards him. If anything, I resent the game for allowing such a culture to exist if not backhandedly promoting it.

  7. I’m not exactly sure what any of that meant, Al.

    Let’s get back on topic. Let’s say you have a 12-year old son and you’re taking him to Yankee Stadium to see Alex Rodriguez play.

    What do you tell him? Remember, this is a 12-year old kid you’re talking to.

    I’m assuming you’d leave out your rant on Catholic priests and the Vatican.

  8. I wouldn’t mind seeing Rose in the Hall—but only after he passes away. Denying him the pleasure of induction is punishment. But his numbers are indeed Hall of Fame worthy.

    Cobb was the first to be inducted, with the highest percentage of votes until Tom Seaver came along. Cobb was a racist, a philanderer, and once killed a man he later claimed tried to rob him. He was enshrined for what he did between the chalk lines, which by today’s standards was a mean brand of baseball. But he’s in the Hall of Fame.

    I hope I never see anyone who ever used PED.

    As for whether Axle has it in him to lament anything, no, not at this point in his life. However, the aging process has a way of humbling people, of magnifying our regrets. I likely won’t be around to see whether it does him, so the point is moot.

  9. Good stuff, Conrad. Here are some points for discussion.

    I’m against Pete getting into the Hall because he wagered on a game he had control over. While he swears til he’s blue in the face that he never gambled on his team to lose a) that’s not the point and b) I’m not entirely sure I believe him. Putting him in posthumously is a little vindictive on your part, he he. I don’t know that I’d go that far. I’d just say no altogether.

    Cobb was a racist. Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owner. Those were different times. By no means am I justifying Cobb being a dickhead but there are plenty of jerkoffs in the Hall. There are also, allegedly, people that have used PEDs in the Hall. So what do we do with those guys? Expel them if we find that out to be true?

    The more I think about it, the Hall of Fame sounds like a club full of douchebags I wouldn’t want to wait in line to get into anyway.

  10. Racism, killing someone and being a philanderer have nothing to do with performance between the lines whereas Dianabol and andorstinedione most certainly do. A-Rod stands a good chance of never getting in. I’m betting heavy that there’s some documents in the Hall for future generations to strictly adhere to.

    And the record books? By all means no other sport embraces records more than baseball….at least they used to. For many the summer of 1998 will always be remembered as the year Sosa and McGwire literally saved the game by launching baseball’s version of scud missles almost every other day. And this is where I completely agree with Chris’ mention of MLB backhandedly promoting cheating thru PED’s. Two guys blown up like air ballons had tens of thousands of people showing up for batting practice…and MLB was eating it up while looking the other way. Same with A-ndRoid. As long as he was putting butts in the seats…oh well. Their records will never have an asterisk and will only have any kind of meaning to future generations. As far as this generation is concerned baseball records are now meaningless.

    If I had one baseball wish it would be A-Rod being 1 home run shy of breaking Aaron’s all-time record for homers and getting benched by a pissed off manager. Poetic.

  11. A-Rod will be an asterisk in baseball history. Rose did bet on a game in which he managed. Both will therefore be rightfully denied entry into the HOF. Cobb had a very checkered personal career but his entry was at a different time and private transgressions weren’t revealed. I agree, Chris, I have no
    interest in A-Rod’s play but I do think he’ll pass Bonds.

  12. “Racism, killing someone and being a philanderer have nothing to do with performance between the lines.”

    No, I suppose they don’t, but where do you draw the line? Taking a life, cheating on one’s wife—those are okay, but taking PEDs is cheating? Cobb put more basemen in the hospital with his spikes than probably all other players in his era combined. That’s okay?

    “For many the summer of 1998 will always be remembered as the year Sosa and McGwire literally saved the game by launching baseball’s version of scud missiles almost every other day.”

    Yes, and you don’t find it odd that no has come close to seventy home runs in the years since? What if you learned that, in the aftermath of the players’ strike, MLB “juiced” the balls to lure fans back to the ballpark with pyrotechnics the likes of which we’d never seen and haven’t seen since? No one had come close to banging sixty big flies since 1961, and suddenly two players smash the record in a single year, and three years later Bonds ups the ante? Do you strip Bonds of his record because MLB “cheated”?

    Chris: yes, it was a different time, and I’ve argued that point for years about Cobb. He was born in Georgia, a mere twenty years after the Civil War ended. He grew up working alongside blacks in the field. Lincoln may have given freedom to slaves, but blacks still had a long way to go before they were truly free—hell, in some circles they’re still not considered equals. Cobb wasn’t the only racist in his era. Lest we forget, MLB segregated its game by color until 1947.

    I’m on the fence about Rose: this morning I woke up, read your comments, and went back to the other side—he should be banned from the game forever. I never much cared for him when he played. If they let him in, then they should consider letting in Shoeless Joe Jackson, who in my mind is more deserving.

    I don’t know about expelling anyone from the Hall of Fame for PEDs. Someone (it may have been the baseball commissioner of the era) talked about putting an asterisk next to Maris’s name in the record books indicating that he had several more games in which to hit sixty-one home runs than did Ruth. Years after he won a batting title, Norm Cash admitted to corking his bats that year. Do you strip him of his trophy—not that it would matter, the guy’s been dead for nearly thirty years.

    If you don’t throw out anyone proven to be a user, then you’d have to let others in when they become eligible. That’s the fair thing to do, wouldn’t you say? If that’s the case, then in my mind, they need to be tossed out.

    … (The) Hall of Fame sounds like a club full of douche bags.”

    There are bad apples, eggs, etc. in all sports. I’ve heard it said that baseball players are the most arrogant of all professional athletes. I can see that. But there are some genuinely nice guys, even if there are fewer since the era of big contracts.

    Al Kaline, my favorite player when I was a kid, once turned down a $100,000 contract because he couldn’t wrap his head around being paid that sum for playing a kid’s game. He incurred the wrath of his teammates because that meant they’d never earn that much. He remains a gentleman and a wonderful ambassador for the game. He’s remains a part of the Tigers organization.

    Hall of Fame third basemen George Kell is another fine gentleman. He became a play-by-play announcer for Tiger’s games after his playing days were over. He retired from that gig when Kaline, the color commentator, had to carry his bags from the hotels, saying it was unconscionable that a Hall of Famer should have to do that for him.

    Sadly for every Kaline and Kell there are likely a dozen (or more) douche bags. I’ve said it for years: I try not to dwell too much on the petty squabbles between billionaire owners and millionaire players, and the arrogance of the players. Baseball is still a beautiful game, and I’m not willing to deprive myself of that—of the game I played as a kid.

  13. He he, Markaz…

    I don’t think that’s gonna happen. The Yankees are selling their soul paying A-Rod top dollar just so that he breaks the record in their uniform. They’re not about to sit the guy. I would never look for the Yankee organization to take the moral high ground.

    I guess for people that grew up with baseball numbers, it’s time for us to put them aside… they’re just not that important anymore.

  14. Pass Bonds on the homer list, Coach?

    That’d take a lot. I think his contract lasts two more years so he’s got two-and-a-half seasons to hit nearly a hundred homers. Plus he’ll be forty or so in another month.

    That might be tough.

    Remember, just ’cause I hustle in my forties doesn’t mean everyone can.

  15. Nice to see you’re not at a loss for words, Conrad. In the words of Charles Wright and later NWA, express yourself, my brother.

    I remember that whole, lame-ass “juiced ball” excuse they tried to feed us to explain why balls were leaving the park. It was just before the whole players were juiced reality. What were we thinking? How could we have been so naive?

    And I’ll play some devil’s advocate with ya’ on the whole HOF expulsion thing. Why not? I mean, if we’re going to disallow entry for players not yet in and use that as the reason, why not research who’s in that used and do something about it? Or are they just afraid of what they might find?

    I also agree that will never happen. Cooperstown is the hoity-toitiest of all of sports Hall of Fames. It’s a damn Heisman Trust. They don’t turn on their own.

    And we both agree that baseball is a beautiful game, one we grew up with, hence the healthy conversation… and the question at hand. If A-Rod’s current statistics mean nothing, then what reason do I have to watch?

    By the way, nice story and Kaline and Kell. I hadn’t heard that.

    Oh… and congrats on what is, after six years, probably the longest comment ever.

  16. “If A-Rod’s current statistics mean nothing, then what reason do I have to watch?”

    Because it’s still a beautiful game, largely unchanged in more than a hundred years, which is why I’m against instant replay, lowering the mound yet again, and the Designated Hitter rule. The NFL has ruined their game for me with instant replay and their constant rules changes, and hockey changes their rules from year to year, too, and they eliminated the center line and put that damn trapezoid behind goal crease. What’s up with that?

    Baseball is a simple game: hit squarely a round ball with a round bat. You don’t see MLB changing the distance between the bases or from the mound to home plate, or changing the three strikes, four balls routine to two strikes you’re out and three balls you walk, or the hitter is out after four foul balls to speed up the game.

    Yes, the simplicity of the game makes for great statistics, to the point of annoyance: Miguel Cabrera hits .323 career under domes in night games played during the week after the All Star break against left-handers after the seventh inning with the Tigers trailing by two or more runs when behind in the count and with runners in scoring position.

    What reason do you have to watch? How about to see the Yankees lose and A-Rod is the goat who left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth?

  17. I doubt very much if the Yankees would resign him but in a third year from now, rest assured a young Bill Veeck somewhere will sign him for gate receipts and another twenty-five home runs to get him the record. Wouldn’t that be something if MLB blackballed A-Rod when he was in sight of 763?

  18. I don’t know that the NFL’s ruined their game, Conrad. It’s the most watched sport in this nation by far. While instant replay might be imperfect in most sports, I’m still for it, just tweaking it. I’d rather have the call right than have a game decided on human error.

    Baseball’s not as simple as you think. It’s simple to us because we grew up with it but try explaining it to someone who’s brand new to the game. I spent some time in Brazil and tried to explain baseball to someone in Portuguese. I gave up.

    And I don’t need A-Rod in the lineup for me to root for the Yankees to lose. I’ve been doing that for decades.

  19. Yeah, Jimbo, I don’t see that happening either.

    As he gets closer, someone’ll sign him if it comes to that. The Marlins come to mind. I mean, after all, A-Rod is from South Florida.

  20. I still say baseball is a simple sport, or at least the concept it. They say hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in any sport, and I’m inclined to agree. Which is part of the beauty of the game: simple concept; difficult to achieve.

    Baseball is largely about failure, how to manage it, overcome it, succeed when it’s most advantageous. It mirrors life in that respect.

    I wrote that the NFL ruined its sport for me. I didn’t say it’s not the most watched sport today. They prove, more Sundays than they should, that despite instant replay, they still fail to get the call right. Remember the game a few years ago—Lions vs. Bears at Soldier Field, first game of the season? Calvin Johnson caught what should’ve been the game winning TD, but the officials overturned the call, saying he didn’t demonstrate possession after going up to secure the ball, landing on his feet, falling to his backside, rolling to his knees and leaving (not dropping) the football on the ground to go into his TD celebration. Let’s not even discuss the flag that was picked up during the Lions-Cowboys playoff game earlier this year. Yes, I know, not a reviewable play, which is why a rule will be written to prevent another similar debacle.

    I get it. In football, it’s important to get the call right. They play a seventeen-game season and a blown call can ruin a season for a team, especially during the playoffs when it’s lose and go home.

    In baseball, over the course of 162 games, it all evens out: your team gets the shaft one night, and they get the benefit the next night. A missed call is part of the game; it’s why we rant against the Men in Black. It’s part of why the game mirrors real life—it isn’t always fair. Who wants to watch a manager stroll out of the dugout to ask for a review instead of watching him storm out, cap flying off, spittle flying, face turning purple, to kick dirt onto an umpire’s shoes?

    Even in a five-game or seven-game post-season series the calls even out. The only time it’s critical to get a call right is during the one-game Wild Card game (which I hate—baseball is a game of series all season long, two-game sets, three-game, four-game series, but not for the Wild Card teams), and MLB managed to blow that the very first year during the Cardinals-Braves fiasco on an infield fly rule that never should’ve been called and wouldn’t have been reviewed anyway because it’s a judgement call.

    You and me both cheer against the Stankees no matter who they play against. I knew there was a reason I liked you.

  21. We’re watching a rod.

    A tool.

    A regular season juggernaut.

    A playoff midget.

    Personally, I’d rather watch paint dry. Next.

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