A-Roid got to 600 homers this past week, a feat accomplished by only the elite of the elite power hitters in baseball. He did so without much fanfare and tons of scrutiny, under the darkest of clouds which he created by admitting that he had taken drugs that beefed him up, allowed him to avoid or come back early from injuries and ultimately enhanced his performance. He now sits in the pantheon of baseball greatness with the Babe, Aaron and Willie but also in the depths of despair with Bonds, McGuire, Sosa and Palmiero.
Reaching 600 - something that should have brought him even greater glory - and becoming the youngest to do so, should put him on the path to become the greatest home run hitter of them all and assure him a place in the Hall of Fame. But we all know that is not assured for A-Roid is part of an era of cheaters unlike anything we have ever seen in baseball.
Baseball players have cheated since the first teams faced off and pitchers altered the ball with spit or scruffs; they have sought ways of making it through the long hot season, most notably with the speed-takers of the 60s and 70s; and have bet on games, corked their bats and stolen signs. For some reason, steroid ingestion which ballooned up power hitters into Zeus-like creatures who yanked balls out of the park has been the greatest blemish of them all.
What would the Babe think? Would the man who once hit more homers in a season than every other team in the league ever stoop to shooting himself up to make himself even greater? What would Ted Williams have done? Would arguably the best hitter with the best eye in baseball who prided himself on knowing every pitch he ever hit out ever alter his being so he could hit .500 in a season? Would Dimaggio have wanted to hit in 75 or 100 straight games?
Baseball is a game of records and stats. They are the seeds of its vaunted history, the reason we adore the game and set it above football and basketball, poetisize about it, make glorious movies about it, rhapsodize about it.
The Babe, a notorious drunk; Ty Cobb, a notorious jerk; Pete Rose, a notorious gambler and scores of others were never perfect. It is not called the Hall of Perfection. Would Babe, Cobb and Rose have voted A-Roid and his bumped up breathren into their sacred Hall? Would you?
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