By Jason Keidel
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Whenever I’m slightly objective about the Yankees, I’m branded nouns unsuitable for family programming — particularly on Twitter, the toxic waste of human dialogue.
Well, then I’m writing this in my HAZMAT suit.
The Bronx Bombers are bristling at the idea of paying Alex Rodriguez $6 million for hitting his 660th homer. And while you won’t find much sympathy for the disgraced third basemen in this weekly space, the Yankees are either being obdurate or childish, or childishly obdurate.
Nine guys from the 2000 World Series team were on the Mitchell Report, but we celebrate the Joe Torre days like a puritanical time, like the Boys of Summer, when the game of baseball was a stand-alone emblem of virtue.
Few people have derived more pleasure from the Yankees than yours truly. But if the steroid epoch has — or should have — taught us anything, it’s that nothing is pristine. There are no virgins in sports.
Sure, it’s a slap in our soft faces, jarring our teen sensibilities. Just because we hit puberty, get jobs, and get married, doesn’t mean we don’t save some slice of our soul for hero worship. And A-Rod let us down. He was supposed to be the new, clean king of the home run, a pinstriped example of doing things the right way. Shame on him.
But now we’re supposed to believe the Yanks had no idea A-Rod was juicing? Jose Canseco knew it, called it, yelled it, from the comfort of his laptop, from the distant galaxy of retirement. But the brass, insiders, and investigators on the Yankees’ endless payroll were clueless.
The gang carrying the Yankees’ epic checkbook is indignant, boiling mad that A-Rod is about to pass Willie Mays and collect a fat check from said checkbook. And we’re now supposed to join this indignant chorus, pressuring A-Rod to decline the money, or at least admit he doesn’t deserve it.
This is the problem with baseball, and too many sports. They hire miscreants under the bright banner of victory, and then are appalled when they find out that those very people skirted the rules to get there.
Hypocrisy is the new hallmark of our pastime. Well, not so new, but rather newly published and public. The game flushed out steroids not because they were wrong or unfair or unhealthy, but because Congress and the people shamed the game into some form of transparency.
We feel better about the game today, and maybe about ourselves. The game seems cleaner, the parks bigger, the bats smaller. Those fictional home run numbers have now settled into something far more human, and humane.
But there always seem to be some lingering, legal thorn in our collective flank. From A-Rod to Pete Rose to looking up at the leader board and seeing Barry Bonds above Henry Aaron, we have glowing reminders of our pastime’s soiled conscience. We just can’t shake the past.
But, as William Faulkner said, the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. Just ask Alex Rodriguez, or the New York Yankees.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel