Saturday, July 16, 2005

61* Still King in Baseball

If baseball has any sense of decency and integrity (which, on its face, makes this whole point a non-starter), Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and yes, Mark McGuire's season home run numbers can remain as is - and the asterisk that once denied Roger Maris the respect he deserved as a great ball player who had an extraordinary year (because of idol worship of the Babe), would be given the designation *achieved without the assistance of performance enhancing substances." No doubt about it, Roger Maris is still the man.

In other words, he earned it. He maximized his gifts, honed his skills and matched that with the moment. And this is not about whether I'm a Yankee fan or not (and I'm not). It's about an era of the sport that has not lived up to the best of the legacy it was entrusted. But really-- Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in the same lineup. Are you kidding me?

It's not that current ball players are bad guys. But when the records achieved by Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron are shredded as they are, somebody's got to say "yea, but the game's a bit different." It truly is not the same game being played.

This weekend, Jack Nicklaus finished his professional golf career. In his mid 60's, feeling like he's no longer able to compete, he'd rather walk away than be ceremonial in the game he championed. Tiger Woods is halfway to Jack's major tournament victories. That is the record he covets more than any other. And make no mistake, Tiger is a phenom. But Jack is the first to say that the game is not the same as it was in his time. Equipment is different. Courses are different. The game is much more about power than creative finesse as it was then. Still a great game to watch, just different. And as dominant as Tiger can be in today's game, even if Tiger surpasses Jack's record, to think that Jack was second in 19 of the majors he didn't win bespeaks a level of skill in a game the likes of which we'll not see again. And while we honor what was, it really is o.k. to move on. I think that's Jack's witness in letting go.

So, too, can it be said of baseball (and maybe so, too, can it be said of life - what's that t-shirt say? "Baseball is Life"). Change is not bad. In fact, it is necessary. But change never forgets where it came from - and the nature of the change pays honor to the ones who went before.

And of this point there can be no doubt - honor, integrity and character must remain constant.

For without them, you cheapen the legacy left you by those who've gone before, and you've left nothing of meaning for the ones who follow you to pick up. In "churchspeak," we're called to be good stewards of what we've been given.

Like I said, Roger Maris is still the man!


Anonymous said...

Roger Maris is the man. And while Jimmy Dugan said that there's no crying in baseball, I don't imagine he would have ever envisioned baseball stooping lower than the dugout.

Stay off the juice, baseball.

Tiberius said...

The easy thing to do is to remove the asterisk - for all time - next to Maris' name... and add it to any of the records for Bonds, Sosa, Maguire, etc. That would probably be as much of a deterrent as any congressional investigation and (lack of) sanction it could impose. Maguire's tears when he broke Maris' record should have been tears of guilt and shame.

BTW... Bud Selig needs someone to give him a new set of jewels (his fellow owners removed them when he became commissioner). What a wimp... and how damned stupid to have baseball policed by one of its own.