Baseball, the ultimate game of failure, in turn makes the pastime the ultimate game of outrage.
Be they batters jawing with umpires or breaking bats over their thigh, managers uprooting first base to fling into right field or hold hostage in the dugout or fans letting out a guttural, 90-decibel boo at the sight of a derided player, the angry juices flow in what was designed as a mellow, pastoral game.
Lately, it’s been too cold to get angry through much of the country, plus we’re way out of season. Yet the most misplaced outrage in baseball was experienced in Chicago over the Cubs’ introduction of an innocent-looking, cartoonish mascot.
Yep, a modern-day Teddy Ruxpin got so many folks up in arms, you’d think mild-mannered Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had personally insulted each and every one. Just the mere concept of the Cubs introducing “Clark,” a juvenile bear who won’t even be dancing on the dugout or harassing the umps, got blood vessels bursting at the collective temples.
Twitter was set aflame. An ESPNChicago.com story on Clark drew more than 800 responses of fans who could not be limited to 140 characters. The Chicago Tribune’s sports section concocted a Page 2 sports cartoon showing Clark’s battered evolution through more losing seasons until 2019, when his cute face finally morphed into that of Abe Vigoda of “Fish,” “Barney Miller” and “Godfather I” renown.
Imagine if the snarky crowd really got worked up over a real issue, like baseball godfather Theo Epstein’s inability to rebuild and contend at the same time – as the Atlanta Braves always do. Theo would be hightailing it back to Brookline if the spotlight turned on him. Better yet, let the hoi polloi really throw up a wall of anger – against Alex Rodriguez, who likely has been exposed as the worst kind of slimeball in big-league history.
I saw the “60 Minutes” report on Anthony Bosch’s breakdown of his apparent co-conspiracy with A-Rod to game the game, subverting all the PED testing rules and boost the greedy Yankee to exclusive membership in the 800-home-run club. Good questions, Scott Pelley, you’re not just a blow-dried “CBS Evening News” anchor.
If Bosch and the text records are to be believed – and the weight of evidence leans that way – then what A-Rod tried to do was worse than the Black Sox Scandal and Pete Rose’s gambling issues. The moral outrage of the baseball masses should be mile-high in throwing up a wall to the game he conspired to corrupt. The defrocked star should get no closer to a field than Madonna’s luxury suite or that of a comparable 1 percenter who sniffs jocks.
Rodriguez is potentially worse than baseball’s two best-known scandals simply because the prohibitions and penalties were laid out clearly in front of him. A second positive test for PEDs would basically wreck a season. Three strikes, you’re banned for life. And, still, he apparently plowed ahead.
By comparison, the Black Sox was almost like a “Major League” movie with a comic cast of characters: a penurious owner, bumbling fixers, and bumpkin ballplayers. Woody Allen or Mel Brooks could’ve written the script. We still can’t be sure if the supposedly bribed players tanked it. The Sox weren’t exactly swept by the Reds.
Rose? He never fixed a game. A compulsive man top to bottom in his life, from baseball to sex to betting, he couldn’t help but lay money on his own team – to win.
Rose’s problem was initial denial. If he could have submerged his ego and listened to legal advice, he would have admitted sin and thrown himself on the mercy of the commissioner, just as guilty parties always get a shot at a lesser sentence by their admission to the judge. Plead innocent, fight it all the way, you get the book thrown at you. Rod Blagojevich never understood the concept, so the goofball guv’s cooling his heels in a federal prison via the maximum sentence.
A-Rod seems far more sinister than these examples. Bosch told “60 Minutes” he felt threatened by A-Rod’s posse. Why did A-Rod need a group of acolytes, who came off as gangsterish?
Most galling is the lack of outrage – on A-Rod’s part. If he’s truly innocent, why not the angry denial with counter evidence? In this respect, he’s the latter-day O.J., who never was outraged, either. If he’s truly innocent, then throw it 90 mph back at your accusers and beat your chest until it hurts. Go nuclear.
A colleague of mine even suggested if PED use was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, A-Rod should have all his numbers stricken from his record. I don’t know if you can do that, but it’s certainly a legit expression of necessary outrage.
Hot-stove leagues used to be about the latest third baseman or third starter acquired by the local nine. Now it’s mass overkill against an innocent mascot compared to a seemingly popgun response against a man no longer welcome in Major League Baseball.