Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hammer Time

A slightly different vibe permeates the run-up to this weekend's edition of the resumption of hostilities between the Nation of Darned Sox and the Empire of Empty Seats. It is due in part to the fact that since these two blood enemies last saw each other, a series sweep that enabled the bahstahds (trying to shape it into Bostonese) from Beantown to take an Ocho to Nada lead in the season series, David Ortiz has joined Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez as a member of the "Outed Off Of The '03 List" Club. This is the bizarro world version of Schindler's List for instead of life, this list is lies - as in those each member of MLB whose place on it has been disclosed to date had told himself and all of us for the past several years on the subject of his ingestion of performance enhancing drugs.

One can only wonder what clever visual aids shall be employed this weekend at the House that George Built by my fellow Yankees fans to heckle Big Papi. Given the butter knife-like wit displayed in peacock-like prominence by the denizens of the Fens when A-Rod and the Yankees were last there (had anyone seen that many syringes in one place outside of a needle exchange program) the bar has been set pretty low. Nevertheless, I anticipate that tripping over it will still prove to be not much of a challenge.

For what seems like forever at this point, someone has been leaking the names of the 104 players who appear on the '03 list of those who enhanced their performance through the use of drugs (a/k/a "cheaters"). And while the intermittent disclosure of another superstar's name boosts newspaper circulation and television ratings for a day or two, it has the practical effect of a Band-Aid being pulled off of a still-open cut over and over and over. The more often you peel, the less we heal (or something to that effect).

There has been a hue and cry (for one cannot exist without the other apparently) throughout baseball for all of the as yet undisclosed names on the '03 list to be disclosed. Just dump all of them out there at once, allow the world to collectively gasp one final time in mock horror and disbelief and then go about our business. Even rubberneckers at car accidents continue on their travels eventually.

Until a couple of days ago, such a mass outing seemed unlikely. However, now it would not be surprising to me at all if it were to occur. Bud Selig (a/k/a The Commish) counts among his closest friends one of the truest superstars baseball has ever produced - Hank Aaron. Aaron and Selig have been good friends for decades. Aaron is a man who has not only always been extremely proud - in a quiet, dignified manner - but he is a man whose quiet dignified manner has long been something of which MLB has been proud. Hank Aaron is a man who was a truly gifted player but who is an even more outstanding human being. A man who, when chasing the seemingly unbreakable career home run mark of Babe Ruth, in the early to mid 1970's endured too many death threats to count, not to mention all of the wonderfully supportive comments he heard from town to town, expressed by big thinkers who were really, really happy that an African-American ballplayer was going to topple the Babe. Yet Aaron did what he always did: he persevered.

He did so again two years ago when the poster child for the steroid era Barry Bonds eclipsed Aaron's career home run mark. While his discomfort at the association with Bonds was palpable and he did not travel to San Francisco to witness the game in which Bonds hit #756, he made certain to acknowledge the achievement and to do so without jumping up and down, foaming at the mouth and yelling, "Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!" to the top of his lungs.

Hammerin' Hank said a day or two ago that the time has come for MLB to do two things. First, to disclose all of the remaining names on the infamous '03 list. As he pointed out, it is mighty difficult to move forward when you keep circling back to the same point on the trail. "I wish for once and forever that we could come out and say we have 100 and some names, name them all and get it over and let baseball go on," the former home run king said. "I don't know how they keep leaking out. I just wish that they would name them all and get it over with." He also expressed his belief that the time is past ripe for Pete Rose to be reinstated into Major League Baseball and, presumably, thereafter voted into the Hall of Fame. Speaking of Rose, Aaron told the AP, "How long does a person have to die?... I think the thing that bothers me is that he is missing out on a lot of things. He made a mistake. I don't know what else can be done, or what else can be said. I just think at some point he needs to start enjoying being a Hall of Famer."

Whether one agrees with Aaron's position on either of the two topics above is irrelevant. It is his philosophy that is intriguing. A philosophy that seems to be the natural corollary to that of the renowned pitcher Satchel Paige, who dazzled the Negro Leagues for years before finally breaking into the "Bigs" as a rookie in 1948 at or about age 42. Among other things, Paige was well-known for his way with words (much like Yogi Berra), including the observation, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." Aaron's philosophy appears to be something akin to, "Don't look back for you cannot change the past and you will not see what lies ahead of you if you do not pay attention to where you are going."

Pretty good advice. Now, let us see if anyone heeds the words of the Hammer.

-AK

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