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It’s not top secret that Mike Francesa adores Alex Rodriguez, and that I don’t. And it’s hardly accidental that our respective commentary reflects those feelings.To most of us, A-Rod not only deserves every second of scolding and scalding coverage, he earned it over a period of years, with an epic allergy to the truth, a level of narcissism that would make Terrell Owens blush, and an inability to learn from his blunders.
I agree with Richard Neer’s wisdom. There is no conspiracy, no left or right-wing kabal stalking the disgraced third baseman. There is no Grassy Knoll. There is only our veracity and A-Rod’s mendacity, and never the two shall meet.
But when the A-Rod Apologist points northward and barks, “What about David Ortiz?!?!” it’s hard to argue with him. While A-Rod has been the face of the post-Bonds PED era, David Ortiz has cleverly ducked the firewall of finger-pointing, and the TMZ-style lust that has hounded his countryman.
Just a few years ago, they put postmortems like so many bouquets around Ortiz’s vocational coffin. Yet here he is posting Ruthian numbers well past his prime. Four years ago he was so wretched that Terry Francona had to find soft pockets in the lineup to place the chubby, cherubic slugger.
Now his bat wields the power of Godzilla’s tail. Now he is Babe and Barry in one, turning the Fall Classic into his personal T-Ball tournament. The rest of the Red Sox are hitting under .200. Ortiz is batting over .700.
Maybe, as Mike suggested, A-Rod should have had a tantrum at the first whisper about malfeasance. Maybe that would have thwarted the mass media barrage, Selena Roberts’ A-Rod OCD.
Or maybe he shouldn’t have flown strippers around the nation while married or played illegal poker games with Spider Man, or be hand-fed popcorn from Cameron Diaz in Dallas, or sunning shirtless in Central Park, or tell Esquire that Derek Jeter isn’t the guy you worry about when playing the Yankees, or say that Mariano Rivera is “one of the greatest” relievers ever, or become a board member of the Taylor Hooton Foundation while tooling around with Anthony Bosch.. The list is almost endless.
Is it as simple as Francesa characterized it? Was a tantrum the tonic for Ortiz? Is the fear of a savage sermon keeping the media buzzards from circling his locker? While Alex Rodriguez has morphed from A-Rod to A-Fraud to Pay-Rod to to A-Roid, the Red Sox slugger has remained among the high clouds of a Wheaties icon.
Had they swapped handles maybe we’d be talking a different tale. Big Papi. Just the name conjures some cuddly, avuncular buddy with whom you grab a beer after the game. He’s always smiling and accessible. Forget that he, like A-Rod is from the Dominican Republic, the cradle of steroids. Forget that his name glows in neon next to A-Rod on the list.
While the rest of the Red Sox stroke and tug on each other’s beard, presumably for the ambient mojo it possesses, Ortiz need only spike the batter’s box with his cleats and he’s assured a clutch hit. How is that possible when he was done in 2009? One thematic thread through all sports is the immutable truth that no man gets better as he limps toward 40.
Yankees fans — yes, we know I am — will be reduced to sour grapes, hating on the hated Bostonians during their most ebullient moment. They are about to beat the best team in baseball, their best pitcher, and clinch a World Series on Fenway’s fertile soil for the first time since they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
But there’s more than enough source matter sans steroids. This is about an obvious inequity. You’re looking at the last A-Rod defender on earth. Nothing would please me more than watching him rot in his mansion while his endless suspension scrolled out for years, making it a de facto retirement ceremony.
But fair is fair. Just because you’ve got a cheery, cherubic persona, a handmade moniker, a cherished, hopelessly thick accent, are the face of Red Sox Nation, and are the last remnant of the surreal, 2004 season, doesn’t mean you get to swing and wing your way into the Hall of Fame with impunity.
If A-Rod, Bonds, Sosa, etc., are banned from baseball’s Hall of Fame, then Papi, no matter how Big, should share their cell. Yankees fans have no right to denounce any player for PEDs. Just stop pretending David Ortiz isn’t under the same roof.