June 19, 2019

Monday Night in Chicago

August 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Nearly 100 years ago the South Side of Chicago was home to one of the greatest shames in baseball history when eight members of the 1919 White Sox were accused of taking money from gamblers and handing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

Shame and controversy – and a battalion of reporters – returned to the South Side Monday night but this time the Sox were not the accused.  This time the scandal centered on one man in the visiting locker room: New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

In a scene that was weird, sad, and a bit bureaucratically Byzantine, A-Rod made his season debut after rehabbing in the minors all year from various injuries on the same day Major League Baseball suspended him for 211 games for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Welcome back, now get lost.

Rodriguez plans to appeal his suspension and, according to various reports Monday, the arbitration process could drag on into November or December which means number-13 could, conceivably, catch fire and lead New York into the playoffs which would put baseball in an even more curious position.  Imagine A-Rod helping end another team’s season, maybe several teams, or even, please don’t think it, helping the Yankees win it all, then the suspension kicks in.

As troubling as that would be it has happened before.  Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun hit .500 in the 2011 National League Division Series helping knock out the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was, we all now know, on the juice having tested positive for PEDs but got off on a technicality.  The hammer fell back on Braun this year but that’s a little too late for the Diamondbacks.

But such speculation is folly.  A-Rod went 1-for-4 on Monday, splashed with a chorus of boos and jeers from Chicagoans at each at-bat, and he appears to have fallen light years from the skill level that led to 14 All-Star games, three MVPs, put him in the discussion as one of the greatest players of all time, and made him baseball’s richest player.  He hasn’t hit .300 since 2008, hasn’t driven in 100 runs since 2010, was, notoriously, pinch-hit for with regularity during last year’s postseason, and basically looks like a 38-year-old injury-plagued player.

But still, he hangs on.

Rodriguez seems as determined, confounding, and charmingly defiant as ever, refusing to admit he took PEDs while not outright saying he didn’t take them either, noting that the legal road he is now hiking down is a complicated one, one apparently on which, for Rodriguez, the truth is a menacing mirage, something we see quite clearly but he can’t reach, or take us to.

A-Rod and his phalanx of lawyers appear set to fight baseball and the Yankees to the very end to secure as much of the tens of millions of dollars he’s still owed on his contract and, it seems, in a far more daunting battle, to also salvage his reputation.

There are long days ahead.

After the Sox beat the Yankees, 8-1, Rodriguez spoke about the game and his larger fight and said, “I just hope there’s a happy ending there somewhere.”

There was no happy ending for eight members of the 1919 “Black Sox.”  They were banished from baseball for life.  Now, so many decades later, those players are seen less as cheaters and more as tragic fools, if not outright victims.  It’s difficult to imagine Rodriguez ever earning a measurable amount of public pity, but we can envision him enjoying forgiveness.  Holding on to bitterness hurts, even if it’s directed toward those who had all life’s gifts: skill, health, charm, intelligence and wealth and, instead of saying to the world “thanks” said “more.”

On the day that Alex Rodriguez comes clean and asks for our forgiveness what word will the rest of us respond with?

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