Alex Rodriguez, media lightning rod and three-time American League MVP, was never my favorite, even before he wore pinstripes. Sure, he’s a hell of a (regular-season) ballplayer, and with 535 home runs by age 33, he’s the only current player with a realistic chance (sorry, Junior Griffey) to eclipse Barry Bond’s career record of 762 dingers. My limited, conditional support of A-Rod’s accomplishments rested on that thin caveat. I can get behind anybody who might wrest the most hallowed individual record in sports from Bonds, the shameful personification of baseball’s steroids era.
But, unless you’ve been at sea without a radio for weeks, you know that A-Rod admitted to using banned performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003, while with the Texas Rangers. Those years saw him hit 156 home runs, win the first of his MVPs, and set several Major League Baseball records, including the most home runs by a right-handed hitter in consecutive seasons (109, in 2001-2002), the most home runs by a short stop in a single season (57, in 2002, breaking Ernie Banks’s 1958 record of 47), and most total bases by a short stop (393, in 2001). Now, like so much in baseball, those records are forever tainted.
A few weeks ago, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig floated the idea of suspending A-Rod, and of maybe striking disgraced players like Bonds and Mark McGwire from the MLB records, effectively putting Hank Aaron, baseball’s real home-run leader, back atop the all-time list. The commish backed off that idea quickly. Even Hammerin’ Hank said he would not support such a move, but I think the proposal deserves more consideration.
There is a precedent: When Marcus Camby was found to have accepted money from an agent while a college player, his UMass Minutemen’s run to college basketball’s Final Four in 1996 was vacated, like it never happened. You need more examples? Fine, there’s ... OK, the only other one I can think of was on Dallas, when the supposedly dead Bobby Ewing emerged from the shower, alive and grinning, invalidating the show’s entire previous season. Not directly on point, I know, but you get the picture.
I teach oral communications at Southern Maine Community College; last week a student gave a speech entitled “How to be a die-hard Red Sox fan.” According to him, one the most important requirements is an unbridled hatred of the Yankees. By that standard, I am indeed a die-hard Sox fan. I hate those pinstriped SOBs, but lately, that hatred is tempered by the Yanks’ excellent chances of stinking this year. With spring training under way, the necessary ingredients for a terrible swoon are all in place: nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of contracts for just three new free-agent signings (Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira), a new stadium totally lacking the intrinsic magic of the House that Ruth Built, and, of course, A-Rod. I hope they fall apart, and lose 90 games.
But, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, so, as a die-hard Red Sox fan, let me say one thing nice about the Yankees: If Commissioner Selig reinstated the pre-steroid record holders, Roger Maris, a Yankee, who famously hit 61 homers in 1961, would again be the single season home-run king. McGwire broke that record with 70 in 1998, and Bonds broke it again with 73 in 2001, but both players belong in the dustbin, not in Cooperstown, and certainly not in any glorious place in the MLB record book. There, I said it. Please don’t rescind my Red Sox Nation membership, but bring back Maris. A Yankee is the true king