My first two games of Little League set the tone for the rest of a disappointing and discouraging career. break Having no previous baseball experience, save my father tossing shallow pop flies and rolling slow ground balls to me in our backyard, it became painfully clear that I had seriously misjudged my talent when I finally decided to sign up for organized competition. An on-base percentage hovering dangerously close to .003 and an uncanny knack for misplaying every ball hit in my direction earned me a seat at the end of the bench for at least five out of the six innings my team took the field. That would be, sadly, my first and final season in uniform. I'm sure for many of you my story is familiar. With the exception of the few who, every spring, don the royal blue Columbia jerseys and caps as they take their positions on the infield dirt and outfield grass at Robertson Field, most of us saw our dreams of becoming professional baseball players fade some time ago. Whether we grew tired of early Saturday morning games and practices, or, like myself, we never really had the talent to progress much beyond a game of catch with some neighborhood friends, we have all, more or less, resigned ourselves to the realization that our games have reached their peaks. And though our childhood hopes of playing under the lights of [INSERT NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE TEAM'S PARK HERE] have dissipated, we continue to find pleasure in cheering on our hometown team and idolizing our favorite players. Yet, our generation was born into an era of baseball history littered with allegations of shameless substance abuse, the validity of which has often been confirmed by investigations and public testimonies. We, more so than our parents and grandparents, have seen many of the most extraordinary records shattered by players who later confessed to taking performance-enhancing drugs. It is not unreasonable, then, to suggest that we are experiencing a very peculiar phenomenon—many of the records set during our lifetimes are likely to be tainted by proof of cheating. As such, we seem to be living in a period of irrelevance, where these players' achievements hold little more significance than when an avid gamer wins the World Series on his XBox 360. Indeed, both are exciting only insofar as one agrees to ignore their artificiality. By now, you've probably figured that I, like many others, was not at all impressed as I watched Barry Bonds' 756th home run sail into the center field bleachers at AT&T Park. I was confident even before the reports concerning his connection with BALCO were released that triceps the size of my thigh were fairly good indications that he was taking something illegal. As a Yankees fan, I was even more disappointed when I learned this past week that Alex Rodriguez had also taken steroids during his three-year stint with the Texas Rangers. It seems certain now that the illustrious record of most career home runs will simply pass from the statistics sheet of one fraud onto that of another. There's no debating that Rodriguez is a great player—with or without the aid of steroids. Indeed, he had arguably his best season in 1994 when he hit .358 with 36 HR and 123 RBI, a period during which he claims he was totally clean. Ironically, this makes his story all the more pitiful. Though I find it hard to believe that anyone is worth the roughly 55,000 dollars George Steinbrenner dishes out every time A-Rod steps to the plate, his statistics from that year certainly do indicate that he possesses a special talent. I don't doubt that A-Rod would have been just as good without taking whatever it was in those syringes. Yet, I sense that this latest saga will severely tarnish his image, causing damage far greater than that caused by the tabloids concerning his alleged affair with Madonna. Rodriguez, with his I'm-bigger-than-the-game attitude, has never been a very likable figure, and this most recent news will surely do nothing to enhance his public appeal. So perhaps we should be at peace with our failed attempts at making it to the Major League—though we may have only recorded a few hits in the entirety of our final seasons, at least our records are clean. Still, I find it rather difficult to place all of the blame for these scandals on the players themselves. Certainly, they must be held responsible for their actions, but there comes a time when we must turn our attention to those officials and general managers who allowed such overtly illicit conduct to carry on right beneath their noses. It doesn't take a trained eye to notice the startling physical transformations that some of these players have undergone during their time in the league. And, when the headlines of the New York Times and ESPN.com reveal just how divisive the Bonds scandal has become since he launched that towering blast nearly two years ago, one wonders how the chase could have ever gotten this far. For managers, the reason may not be so complex. After all, keeping their job is contingent upon putting a winning squad on the diamond each day—why jeopardize that by ratting out what could be your most prolific offensive force? Even the owner may be willing to look the other way if it means selling a few more overpriced nosebleed seats to some anxious kids who want to see this superstar play. For me, however, the truth is not so easily ignored. When A-Rod finally seizes the home run crown from atop Bonds' shamed head, you can be sure that I'll be watching. But you can be just as certain that I'll only be clapping if my beloved Yankees walk off the field with a victory that night. Ultimately, winning is the only thing that truly matters. The personal statistics mean nothing come playoff time. So take the title, A-Rod. It's yours. Just don't be surprised if the boos floating out of the right field bleachers seem a little bit louder this year. No one cares about the MVP awards and batting title plaques. Until you learn to swing the bat in October, you will forever be seen as perhaps the greatest player never to win the most meaningful prize: a championship. The author is a Columbia College first-year.
Columbia Spectator Staff