February 19, 2009

A-Rod’s Trip to Hall of Fame Derailed

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I know I promised a series on “alternative” Ithaca sports, but I decided to build some suspense and talk about something a little more pressing this week. And anyway, who can resist discussing an athlete who has purportedly had an affair with Madonna. Even if you don’t follow baseball, if you’ve even passed within the vicinity of anything resembling ESPN, you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding Yankees third baseman Alexander Rodriguez.
Obviously, ESPN’s best and brightest have been weighing in on the topic, but so has the rest of the sports world. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that some of the most straight-forward comments on the recent A-Roid scandal are coming from (you guessed it) the Philadelphia Phillies. With a culture of no-nonsense, in-your-face, brutal honesty endemic to the region, even non-natives adopt the pervasive habit of telling it like it is.
Still, it’s not often that Jamie Moyer (Phillies starting pitcher) feels the need to jump into the melee of people clamoring to pass judgment on A-Rod, not that he doesn’t deserve it. What has much of the baseball community up-in-arms is not that he was taking steroids (big shocker), but that before this scandal came to light, many considered him a shoe-in for the baseball Hall of Fame. Just the mere possibility that Rodriguez, his former teammate on the Seattle Mariners, could be a ‘Famer incited Moyer to beg the question, “Who in their right mind would vote for anyone who got caught taking that stuff?”
Exactly. No one. So what is really at issue here? I guess it just seems like a moot point to me. According to an ESPN article, Mike Schmidt said he would accept it if A-Rod were voted into the Hall of Fame, because even though using steroids is cheating, he can understand why so many guys succumb to the pressure to use them. While I admire Schmidt’s insight into the psychology of overpaid baseball players, he has either become a softy in his old age, or just wants to be diplomatic.
Part of the disappointment for Yankees fans (and baseball fans) is that A-Rod was a bonafide New York baseball hero. With a career total of 553 homeruns, even his somewhat lackluster 2008 season (just 35 jacks) hadn’t really diminished his appeal to both young and old Yankees supporters. Just for causing the crestfallen looks on so many blue-and-white bedecked eight-year-old kids’ faces, A-Rod should not even be hearing whispers of the Hall of Fame. Not to mention his $28,000,000 salary, which he might not be earning if he hadn’t been on the juice from 2001-2003 (at least). Of course, he might be earning it anyway, but because he cheated we’ll never know, and there will always be a shadow of doubt.
If there is any credibility, whatsoever, to being inducted into the Hall of Fame, using steroids at any point in your career should be an eliminating factor. The reward for his honesty (which is hotly contested, as well) during his press conference on Feb. 9 is that both New Yorkers and the Yankees’ management are still letting him play in the city. Journalists should stop asking players around the league what they would do if Rodriguez was nominated or inducted, because it doesn’t matter. I’m fairly certain he won’t ever be in consideration after this stunt. Even if he hits six billion homers this season, that won’t remove the shadow of doubt that will hang over him for the rest of his career.