Peter Gammons is one of the reasonable ones when it comes to PEDs and A-Rod and stuff. You’ll rarely if ever hear him going on about A-Rod being history’s greatest monster (Gammons actually likes Rodriguez). Maybe it’s smarts, maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s both, but Gammons tends to have some perspective about these things. He remembers ballplayers snorting cocaine and drinking and popping amphetamines and stuff and is among the last to say that the sky is falling.
Today’s Gammons column, then, does cause me to raise an eyebrow. It’s a good column — he continues to engage in reason and doesn’t do what so many other columnists do and try to find the newest, freshest ways to make A-Rod out as Satan — but one passage does make me wonder. After noting that A-Rod is playing because he has earned his right of appeal, and noting that MLB probably dreads him in the postseason, Gammons says:
And if somehow he takes off on a month-long tear and heroically carries the Yankees into a one game post-season date with the Rangers, of all teams, he will have done immeasurable harm to the game that he plays so well, a game that provided him the stage he so embraces.
I agree that MLB will hate such a thing (at least when they aren’t paying attention to the TV ratings), but I disagree on the “harm to the game” part. If anything, I think A-Rod playing these past few weeks has done more to help the game than anything. No, not because A-Rod himself is helpful. That’s silly. But helpful because now he is a mere ballplayer. He’s not a symbol. He’s not a martyr. He’s not a monster. He’s not a source of day-in, day-out public scorn like he was over most of the summer. He’s just a ballplayer.
A ballplayer that can look bad at times. A ballplayer that has looked good at times. But a ballplayer who is, by necessity, subordinate to the game. No matter what he does, if the Yankees can’t get good pitching, his season is going to end in September. No matter how good the pitching is, if A-Rod gets hurt or struggles or shows that at 38 his bat just can’t get around on fastballs anymore, he will necessarily be humbled. Even if the Yankees do make an October run, it will be because of many moving parts and good fortune, not because of A-Rod.
We’ve made too much of sports heroes in the past, elevating them to such heights that they’re above the games they play. We’ve tended to do the same thing with sports villains too, making them out to be monsters who can destroy the games they play. Truth is, they can’t. The game will level it all out. Or make the heroes or villains anonymous in the way it is so good at doing.
No one is really talking about A-Rod now, even when he plays. That shows you that the game is just fine, thank you.