Baseball is bigger than A-Rod

Posted Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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greene According to the guy who said he supplied and injected Alex Rodriguez with banned performance-enhancing drugs, his client was driven by the insatiable desire to be known as the greatest baseball player of all time.

It was his plan to gain such lasting notoriety by what Major League Baseball calls lying and cheating. Perhaps by doing more lying and cheating than any other athlete had ever done.

Whatever it took. Never mind that he was among the most naturally talented of anyone who had ever played the game.

God’s gifts were, in A-Rod’s judgment, insufficient. So he would make up for the deficiency through chemistry.

Now Rodriguez has accepted his suspension for the 2014 season. The New York news outlets are full of speculation that his career is over and we won’t see him again take the field for any major-league team.

Ever.

Whatever the outcome, we can already look at how well his goal of taking his place among the elite has worked out for him.

I gained a glimpse of the way that might be developing in a one-on-one conversation with legendary Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson.

Baseball knows him as Mr. October for his post-season clutch hitting during his career that included five World Series championships, being twice named the World Series Most Valuable Player, and 14 times as a MLB All Star.

Reggie has seldom kept his evaluation of players to himself. He talks freely about whether someone belongs along with him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame — an honor bestowed on him with an almost 94 percent majority in first-ballot voting in 1993.

Some might say that his opinions about the talent of baseball players have merit.

It was during a 2011 Yankees series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington when Mr. October sat down next to me and we had some time to chat.

Late in the game Neftali Feliz came on to pitch. Reggie said he had heard a little about the youngster but wanted to know more.

I told him Neftali was a very promising closer who the previous year had set a major-league record for the most saves by a rookie in a single season.

It was irresistible for me to go on and describe how it was Neftali who had struck out A-Rod looking at the plate in Game 6 of the league series the year before and, at that moment, sent the Rangers to their first World Series.

Reggie’s response was unguarded and immediate. “Well he may have very well struck me out, too,” he declared, “but I sure as hell wouldn’t have been just standing there looking.”

It was characteristic of one of the all-time great hitters for him to say that he would have at least swung at a pitch in the strike zone in such a crucial moment in a playoff game.

But behind his words was the clear tone of a deeper feeling about Rodriguez. Reggie would be suspended as a Yankees special adviser the following year for questioning A-Rod’s home run records in the aftermath of his admission of using steroids.

There is no doubt in my mind that Reggie’s feelings are shared by other players, past and present, who will never accept Rodriguez as a legitimate member of the exclusive group of the game’s greatest.

Instead, many will hold him in contempt.

In the end, A-Rod won’t get what he wanted the most. He’s got to be considering his already legendary teammate Derek Jeter being celebrated across the land this year and wondering what might have been, if only 

There are consequences for breaking the rules — as there should be for all things in sports, but especially for the protection of one of the few endeavors in the world that is truly All American.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. mayorgreene@mayorgreene.com

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