Monday, November 19, 2007

That Makes the Score 275 million to 763


Well, it appears to be settled: Alex Rodriguez is staying. And, thanks to the almost-certain fact that Barry Bonds will never play again, we now know the number A-Rod is chasing. It's no longer 350 million, or even 275 million.

The number A-Rod is chasing is 763 -- even though it's really 756. Just 244 homers more, and we won't have to use the words "the real record" anymore. Not about career home runs, anyway. If he stays healthy and averages 41 homers a year for 6 more years (late September 2013, when he'll be 38), he's got it.

(UPDATE: As it turned out, that wasn't even close.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rewriting the Record Book *


Note: The following was written before it was revealed that Alex Rodriguez had used steroids while with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003.

The following are baseball home run records. They do not require asterisks.

Most home runs, single-season: 61, Roger Maris, 1961.

Most home runs, single-season, right-handed hitter: 58, Jimmie Foxx, 1932, also Hank Greenberg, 1938.

Most home runs, single-season, National League: 56, Hack Wilson, 1930.

Most home runs, single-season, National League, left-handed hitter: 58, Ryan Howard, 2006.

Most home runs, career: 755, Hank Aaron.

Most home runs, career, left-handed hitter: 714, Babe Ruth.

Most home runs, single-season, San Francisco Giants: 52, Willie Mays, 1965.

Most home runs, single-season, St. Louis Cardinals: 49, Albert Pujols, 2006.

Most home runs, single-season, Chicago Cubs: 56, Hack Wilson, 1930.

Most home runs, single-season, Arizona Diamondbacks: 38, Jay Bell, 1999.

*

The entire list of players who have hit 40 home runs and stolen 40 bases in the same season:

Alex Rodriguez, 1998 Seattle Mariners
Alfonso Soriano, 2006 Washington Nationals

That's it. Only two.

*

American League Most Valuable Player, 1988: Mike Greenwell, Boston Red Sox.
National League Most Valuable Player, 1996: Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers.
National League Most Valuable Player, 1998: Moises Alou, Houston Astros.
National League Most Valuable Player, 2001: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals.
National League Most Valuable Player, 2002: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals.
National League Most Valuable Player, 2003: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals.
National League Most Valuable Player, 2004: Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles Dodgers.

*

Of course, these are neither officially recognized by Major League Baseball nor capable of being enforced by me. And there may be others who will have to be stripped of records and awards, just as B---- B----, M--- M------, S---- S---, J--- C------, R----- P-------, L--- G------- and K-- C------- have been.

But those players whose names I have obscured above did not deserve those awards, and should be stripped of their records.

"When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name
he marks not that you won or lost, but how you played the game."
-- Grantland Rice (1880-1954)

OK, that flies in the face of things I've said about Alex Rodriguez. But he is now miles ahead of those others, regardless of whether he ever hits 62 homers in a season, or 74; or 756 home runs in his career, or 763.

But after being indicted yesterday on four counts of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice, charges that would bring, if convicted on all, a maximum of 30 years in prison -- and they wouldn't have indicted if they weren't pretty sure of a conviction -- we can be pretty sure that B---- B---- will remain stuck on 762. Even if he's acquitted (fat chance), who would risk the radioactive publicity they'd get by signing him?

2007: Perhaps the strangest year baseball has ever had, from the home run record chase to "As the A-Rod Turns"; from the Mets blowing a big lead to the Phillies taking advantage of it, instead of the historical other way around; from the Rockies winning 21 out of 22 to the Red Sox violating the once-every-86 years rule.

I'm glad I went through it, but I hope we never go through a year like it again.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

And Are We Just Supposed to Forgive? Maybe


So, A-Rod threw himself on the mercy of the court. Or, to use another analogy, came in sackcloth and ashes. And we Yankee Fans are just supposed to forgive, simply because he’s one of the greatest players of all time?

There is precedent, though:

June 1925: Babe Ruth is a fat, overpaid bum who ate his way out of the lineup. September 1927: The Babe hits a record 60 homers and is the greatest player who ever lived.

April 1938: Joe DiMaggio is an ungrateful smart-aleck kid who should be thankful he has a job in this time of Depression, instead of holding out against the greatest of all baseball teams. October 1939: The Yankee Clipper is the MVP and everybody loves him.

October 1955: Mickey Mantle is a moody kid who strikes out too much, gets hurt too much, and dodged the draft in the Korean War. (He was actually 4-F, but some people thought he, or the Yankees, had gotten a doctor to “fix” that.) October 1956: The Mick wins the Triple Crown, the MVP, and his homer wins Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game, and he becomes the most popular player in baseball.

September 1961: Roger Maris is a surly guy and a .270 hitter who doesn’t deserve to break the record of the great Babe Ruth. October 1961: The Rajah hits Number 61 and gets a standing ovation.

June 1977: Reggie Jackson is a hot-dogging, egotistical, disruptive influence who is publicly questioning his manager and should be traded. October 1977: Boom, boom, boom, and a lot of baby boys, and a few baby girls, are soon named “Reggie.”

November 1995: The new manager is "Clueless Joe." October 1996: The new manager is Saint Joseph of Sheepshead Bay.

April 1996: How dare Tino Martinez, this outsider from Seattle, replace the great Don Mattingly? October 1996: Oh, that’s how, by winning a Pennant and a World Series, which Mattingly never did.

September 1998: Roger Clemens is a headhunting punk. October 1999: The Rocket wins the clinching game of the World Series and we cheer him.

I can’t do one of these for Alex Rodriguez, because it would require several entries, his approval rating going up and down like a yo-yo.

My first choice would still be to see him go, because he is still, fairly or not, a convenient symbol for the Yankees not winning the Pennant in each of these last four seasons.

But maybe he is showing that winning and being a Yankee are more important to him than money and Scott Boras are. I’m staying tuned…

But Hank Steinbrenner did the right thing. He said, “We don’t want anybody who doesn’t want to be a Yankee,” and A-Rod, by coming with hat in hand and Boras nowhere to be found, said, for all intents and purposes, “Wahhhh! I wanna be a Yankee! Please, sir, I want some more! I’ll even take less money for it! Please, gimme one more chance in Pinstripes!”

I’m reminded of the end of the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” – appropriate, since it seemed that’s where he was headed: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”

But I’m also reminded of a Temptations song, which could be sung by A-Rod to the World Series trophy: “Unimportant are all the things I can do, 'cause I can't get next to you! No matter what I do!”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sgt. Torre's Lonely Hearts Club Band


Sorry that it's taken me so long to get back, but now I'm gonna get back to where I once belonged. Which is a pretty good segue:

The Yankees re-signed catcher Jorge Posada. That's one load off my mind. Now it looks like they're going to lock up Mariano Rivera, and then we'll only need one more starter (which we may already have, among the kids) and a 3rd baseman (don't get me started).

Somebody -- I won't say who, but he roots for The Other Team -- recently suggested that Posada is the "Ringo" of the Yankees' 1996-2003 dynasty. It's gotta be the nose and the ears, since it can't be the hair. And let's be fair here: Ringo Starr was a great drummer, and I don't want to hear that Keith Moon of The Who or John Bonham of Led Zeppelin were better: They were better, but they weren't Beatles.

So if Jorge is Ringo on the Yankees, what would he be on the Mets? He'd be either John or Paul, since the Mets are the Rolling Stones of New York: Call 'em "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band" all you want, but that doesn't make it true. Also, like the Stones compared to the Beatles, the Mets' drug problems have been more embarrassing than the Yankees'.

Mariano would be George Harrison, since he's the one interested in religions, which may let him out of being John Lennon; or maybe Bernie Williams was George, because he's the one with the guitar that gently weeps; Andy Pettitte has a Lennonesque nose; and Derek Jeter is Paul, not just because his shortstop play and his clutch hits are so lyrical, but because nobody except Paul McCartney has ever walked into a New York sports stadium or arena and made more teenage girls scream.

But does that make Joe Torre producer George Martin? What does it make Brian Cashman? Brian Epstein? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I wouldn't want to compare Ed Sullivan, Murray (the K) Kaufman or Bruce Morrow to George Steinbrenner -- especially since Cousin Brucie is a Brooklynite and a proud Dodger-turned-Met fan. (But then, nobody's perfect.)

I realize that, on their 1965 and 1966 tours, the Beatles played Shea Stadium, not Yankee Stadium, despite the Bronx ballyard having more seats. CBS was liberal enough to let the Fab Four play on The Ed Sullivan Show, but not on the field of the team they then owned.

Then again, it didn't do the Mets any favors: They finished 10th in '65 and 9th in '66. (Ten-team, single-division leagues back then.)

But, in the years since, John was photographed in a Yankee cap, and Paul has been to a number of games at The Stadium. These things tend to work out. We can work it out.

Unless "we" are the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez. I don't care how repentant he is over the Scott Boras debacle over the last three weeks: He only wants to be a Yankee for the money and the publicity. He hasn't got a clue as to what being a Yankee means.

He's not Eric Clapton, or Elton John, or Billy Preston, or Ravi Shankar, or even Harry Nilsson. (All of whom had musical associations with the Beatles, while they were together or individually.) You know what he is? He's Michael Jackson. He had the duets with Derek/Paul, and the individual success, and the pretty face. And now, all the "plastic surgery" in the world can't restore his image, and he's a weirdo.

Although, as far as I know, not a criminal. And even if you take away the criminal investigations against Jacko, he's still weirder than A-Rod will ever get -- I hope!

Jacko must -- I hope he does -- want to return to the days when the jokes were far less malicious. Like this one: Did you hear the Mets signed Michael Jackson? Just what they need: Another guy who wears a glove on only one hand for no apparent reason!

(UPDATE: Michael Jackson was still alive when I wrote this.)

Of course, the Mets are bad. It doesn't matter if they're black or white: When it came to losing in September, they decided, "Don't stop 'til you get enough." They were really off the wall. And now Met fans would like Tom Glavine to beat it. Maybe they should start with the man in the mirror.

Hmmmm... Does this make Don Mattingly Pete Best? Or maybe it makes him Cliff Richard.

(NOTE: This was before Cliff Richard, like Michael Jackson, was accused of being a pedophile.)