After frantically searching the interwebs for a different Mickey Mantle, we have to confirm, sadly, that this can only be the legendary Yankees outfielder standing before the court of public opinion.
In a modern era defined by genetically enhanced sluggers and clouds of accusations hanging over some of today's best players, this one hurts.
We know that cheating, in some capacity, is an unspoken tradition of sorts in baseball, dating back to the spitballers in the first half of the 20th century. But most of these cases are attached to guys who are already unlikable. Pete Rose—whose game-used bat was also the victim of this same expert's DNA scanner a few years ago—immediately springs to mind.
Darren Rovell @darrenrovell
Grey Flannel Auctions is selling a 1964 Mickey Mantle used bat that it says is corked http://t.co/HyPAbONIM15/3/2013, 6:39:42 PM
But this is entirely different. This is an accusation against a man and a player whom aspiring athletes worshiped and baseball junkies enshrine as the gold standard of sluggers. Mantle is a unanimous selection for the Mt. Rushmore of Yankees, which is no small task considering their storied history.
Surely, a situation like this calls for reflection upon the accused's career. Granted, this was a bat used in Mantle's age-32 season, so he was on the downswing of his prime. But he still hit .303 with 35 home runs and 111 RBI that season and finished second in the MVP voting.
So make what you will of the time frame that this bat was used in and feel free to draw your own conclusions about the seasons (or games, even) prior and beyond. But the suspicion lingers when the proof is there and the numbers are huge.
It's been theorized that cork in a wooden bat doesn't help the ball to go any farther and might actually deaden the impact. But many players who have corked likely did so in order to achieve the use of a lighter, longer bat that allowed them to swing harder and reach more areas of the plate.
Regardless of the actual effectiveness of bat corking, the fact remains that it is illegal, both in baseball law and moral code.
Rose won't get a second chance, despite never betting against his own team, because he broke a cardinal sin in baseball.
But it's easier to write off a guy who was classified as a jerk than someone whom everyone aspired to be like. Mantle will forever be a legend, no matter what shortcuts he may or may not have taken.
Of course, Mantle has been dead for nearly two decades. But does this mean the Yankee great gets a free pass for being one of the best for over 60 years (the days from his debut as a rookie until the news broke today)?
It may be wrong, but it may be all we have.
Mantle may have stuck his loyal fans with the burden of knowledge that he wasn't who we perceived him to be. It's up to the ones who care to discuss the issue of whether Mantle's legacy is tainted. Do we give The Mick the benefit of the doubt? Do we carve an asterisk into his plaque at Cooperstown?
Probably, and definitely not, respectively. It doesn't mean that's the right outcome, but it's the only one.
To the outside observer, the name "Mickey Mantle" will forever echo glory and stand for all that is right in sports. To the diehard fans, the name may now catch in your throat. Or, if you so choose, it may continue to ring clear. (Do we know it wasn't a one-time fluke? Do we know this isn't a hoax?)
The ultimate decision of whether or not this incident taints his legacy is, individually, ours to carry.
Mantle isn't here to defend himself, but in the sense that Mantle is one of the greatest players to ever grace a baseball diamond, he will remain immortal.