Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sacred 600?

Is A-Rod really about to hit number 600? Why does it feel so ho-hum?

I remember him as a wee lad, a skinny thing with an M's uniform and a genuine smile. I tore the cover off a Beckett Baseball Card Monthly with his face on it and hung it on my dorm wall in college. He's only a year older than I am, but he was playing Major League Baseball when I was still in high school.

I stopped liking him as a player after the things he said about Ken Griffey, Jr. when the Reds got him. I was even more disgusted at the outrageous sums of money he received when he went to Texas, but when he threw the fit about his contract with the Yankees - a contract HE signed - and demanded the contract be renegotiated despite the fact that he was the highest paid player in baseball, well, that made him become one of my least favorite players of all time.

I've written before how I really don't care about steroids, how they are just another technological advance that players didn't have back in the "good old days" and that it's a Nancy Reagan view of drugs that make steroid players evil in the eyes of society. I've written about how the "good old days" have never really existed, too, but that's not saying things haven't changed or that the business of baseball often drowns out the game itself. It's not just player salaries or greed. People criticize him but see nothing wrong with selling historic homerun balls for hundreds of thousands of dollars, average Joes and Janes who want to cash in on a bit of luck rather than just appreciating the game for what it is - a game. People complain about how expensive it is to go to a baseball game but they don't see that they don't need to buy concessions or souvenirs that will just sit on shelves.

The fact is, Alex Rodriguez wanted to be the best in the game, and he would do anything to get there, and that is just a product of the society we live in, where doing the right thing is only right when it doesn't come with a high dollar profit and enjoying life is a measure of how many possessions one has rather than the number of breaths he takes each day.

The number 600 feels cheapened, but I don't blame steroids. The mystique of the great game of baseball is vanishing, and that's not simply misguided nostalgia or a kids-these-days mentality. I don't know what it is. I'm struggling to understand time and space and the evolution of humanity, and baseball is a mere reflection of the rise and decline of an empire and the struggles of a society to overcome its flaws and wrongs. What? It is! From it being the first professional sport (evolution of capitalist entertainment industry) to its racial separation and subsequent integration (before the Civil Rights Movement began) to its becoming the corporate behemoth it is today, baseball is the story of America.

Someday I'll look back on the career of Alex Rodriguez, look at that long list of stats and just marvel at what he was able to accomplish. But he'll never achieve the mythical quality of those I never got to watch, probably because I got to see his entire career when I was old enough to appreciate it.

But I can't help feeling Ken Griffey, Jr. is already a mythical creature. And so is Bonds. Go figure.

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