Latest posts by Horatio Cornblower (see all)
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As most of you know I root for the Yankees. Mostly because I started following baseball in 1976 and I lived in Connecticut. Since most of you are young I will remind you here that this was that terrible time before cable, before satellites, before ESPN and before remote controls. You got about 6 channels, you got up off your ass to change them and you goddamn well liked it.
Also there were dinosaurs. We just called them The Rolling Stones back then.
Had there been cable or ESPN my 7 year old self would undoubtedly have latched on to the Reds, because they swept the Yankees that year to win the World Series and 7 year olds are front-running assholes. We did not, however, have access to any channels that showed the Reds. We had Channel 11, WPIX, out of NYC and starring Phil Rizzuto, (who god bless him never seemed to be watching the same game I was), so the next year I was regularly watching Yankee games and they not only won the World Series that year they did it in 1978 too. Game, set, match. I was 9, the Yankees had played in 3 straight World Series and won two of them. What kid could ask for more?
They wouldn’t win again until 1995 which, I know, boo-fucking-hoo for me right? During that time I followed them far more religiously than I did religion, much to my mother’s chagrin and what I suspect was my father’s secret delight. Even if he was a Red Sox fan Dad was just happy that I didn’t think any more of Catholicism than he did. Yes, for 17 years I cuddled up before the TV and watched Dale Berra, Ken Clay, Ken Phelps, Matt Nokes and some actually good players, like Dave Winfield, try and fail to win another World Series. In the late 80’s they didn’t seem to try all that hard either.
My favorite player, (that I’ve actually seen; Lou Gehrig is my favorite player of all time although contrary to how old some of you think I am I never saw him play), was Don Mattingly. From 1984-1987 you could make a strong case that he was the best player in baseball. He was a Gold Glove first baseman, (and a legitimate Gold Glove, unlike St. Derek Jeter in his later years), and during that time, pre-steroids I might add, he hit 119 home runs and drove in 483 runs. He hit .343, .324, .352 and .327.
Then he fucked up his back. He remained a great defensive player and a decent but not spectacular offensive player. He kept playing through 1995 but never regained the form he had for those four years. He will not, and should not whatever my high school self thinks, make the Hall of Fame.
Which brings me to Alex Rodriguez. He needs no introduction. He was an All-Star and future Hall of Famer pretty much from Day 1. Put up statistics that made Mattingly look like a guy who should hit 8th. Defensively very, very good and it’s not a real secret that when he wound up in New York Jeter became the second best SS on the team, even if A-Rod moved to 3rd.
Despite his phenomenal production on the field A-Rod never clicked off the field. Socially he’s less than adept. A less generous person might say “socially retarded”, but I’m led to believe that this isn’t an acceptable term so I’ll just say that when it comes to social skills A-Rod would probably fall somewhere between Bill Belichek and Hitler. (Godwin’s Law; nailed it!) Every step he took he fucked up. Married a gorgeous woman, (probably) cheated on her with a stripper built like a man. Dated Madonna. Played cutesy with Cameron Diaz at the Super Bowl. Made out with a reflection of himself.
Despite all that I liked the guy. Probably because I’m something of a contrarian, although not Skip Bayless level by any means; I have some self-respect! If everyone hates a ball player, I’ll look for a reason to like him. And there were plenty of reasons to like A-Rod. First in his prime he was clearly the best player in the game. Second, whatever his missteps were as long as you weren’t married to him they were pretty harmless. So the guy’s a social idiot, big deal. So he chokes in the post-season, (2009 excepted), so did the rest of the Yankees, they just got away with it because A-Rod was there. I rooted for him. I wanted him to do well.
And then he got caught cheating.
So today Alex got his 3,000th hit, maybe baseball’s most exclusive club that doesn’t involve pre-1910 pitchers. It was a home run, his 667th, 4th all time. He has over 2,000 RBIs, number 2 behind Hank Aaron. And he has 2 PED suspensions, including one setting the record for longest suspension ever. Which is saying something since the Yankees once employed Steve Howe, who I believe had at least 8 suspensions for being too fond of nose candy back in the 80’s and 90’s.
I’ll admit, as a Yankees fan and as someone who rooted for A-Rod, part of me wanted to see him hit these milestones and part of me, even today, was happy for him. As a baseball fan, as a fan of a guy who flamed out because of injuries and never had a chance to “recover” because of the “treatments” that showed up in the late 90’s, eh not so much. I guess it comes down to, good for you Alex. Good for you and your family and for achieving all of those dreams you had growing up when you so obviously sacrificed every bit of personal growth and self-awareness that didn’t directly affect baseball. Congratulations, and I mean that.
But don’t think for a minute that I respect them half as much as I respect what Don Mattingly did.