Monday, January 13, 2014

Not Waiting for 2017

We have about seven weeks and change before pitchers and catchers report to spring training for the Citrus League or the Cactus League. As a kid I had my dad's tastes in baseball teams and rooted for the San Francisco Giants because I was only five when Horace Stoneham, and his running buddy, Walter J. O'Malley, honor grads of Carpetbagger University, picked up their National League baseball franchises and dropped them four time zones west.

I never knew how that broke my dad's heart or Mom's which bled Dodger Blue for her Brooklyn bums. Business is business and professional sports is business. At times we, the fans, lose track of that but the owners and the players never do.

When the NY Mets started my father made the trips to the Polo Grounds while Shea Stadium was being built. I loved the trains, the subways, and the hot dogs and soda in the paper cups in the stands, but I never warmed to the Mets the way I could have and probably the way they deserved.

I think I'm more a General Motors than Tesla kind of guy so my team has always been the New York Yankees even with Joe Pepitone and Tommy Tresh-and truth to tell they had a period, pre-Joe Torre as manager, that nobody likes to talk about or remember.

By now, you've digested the weekend's biggest sports story about a sport not being played, the suspension of Alex Rodriguez. All I did when it saw it on line as a headline Friday was react with some surprise to the shortening of his suspension, down from 211 games to just one whole season.

There's a line Heller's Catch-22 I love that goes, "it makes no difference to a dead man who won the war." And that's this story in a nutshell for me. He has never been my guy and that's my fault not his. The Yankees used no dollars of mine to sign him, or to extend his contract so I should watch my mouth and if I had a mirror, maybe I would.

Alex Rodriguez started out with the Seattle Mariners as a great shortstop in a league with surfeit of talent at that position. Just in the American League East alone, the Red Sox had Nomar Garciaparra, and the Yankees had Derek Jeter so when the Rangers, (Texas not New York though it does sounds like a signing Jim Dolan would make but only if Isiah Thomas were part of it) needed to jettison lots of payroll a few years after signing Rodriquez from the Mariners, those two teams were logical choices.

Boston signed Rodriguez then were NOT allowed to keep him (never really followed that) but the Yankees could and did, confident he could become a talented third baseman (which he has) so they spent the GNP equivalent of the Asian Rim to land him.

And he, in turn, landed them in a remake of Sparky Lyle's Bronx Zoo, but minus the rings and the talent-laden rosters. A gifted athlete, a troubled person and a flawed talent, in many respect he's an Everyman with feet of clay or blood with PEDs as the case may be. And that, sadly, doesn't make him exceptional in any way at all.

It was hard for me to teach my kids cheaters never prosper when so many obvious cheaters in baseball were rolling in the cash and the adulation. And that's what irks me most-a rising tide lifts all boats and no one complains. But when the tide recedes, we suddenly all have misgivings about the course we have charted.

I wish Rodriguez well, but more than that--I wish him gone. When he plays, he's high maintenance and when he doesn't he's something worse. I'm tired of his defense team, his press conferences, his legal maneuverings, the unrelenting joylessness of his pursuit by the billionaires who own Major League Baseball masquerading as The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball because all of them remind me how far from my original love of this game as a child through to my life as an aging adult we have gone.

As the bartender at Olde Queene's Tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey, used to bellow at closing time to what we all pretended were legal drinkers, "you don't have to go home but you do have to go." First step, Alex, is to leave. Take it.
-bill kenny

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