Boos upon boos upon boos, shortly followed by a bloop single to left. That’s what I wrote down in my notebook while watching the at-bat. Bud Selig had, in his eyes, caught up to the rest of the world, dolling out an unprecedented 211-game suspension to one of the most polarizing and successful players in baseball history. And now the "L Word" is being discussed. For the most part, legacies are for librarians and martyrs, but on rare occasions, like this at-bat, we get to watch history unfold in real time. Only here that didn’t happen, because, again, all I consumed was a bloop single to left. And, of course, the boos.
After rounding first base, Alex Rodriguez processed the Chicago crowd that just had spent the last few minutes vociferously jeering upon news of his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The implication of the aforementioned pending suspension that would remove Rodriguez from baseball all of next season is that this moment, the public referendum that took place at US Cellular Field on Monday night was supposed to mean something. Perhaps an atonement of some sorts. But as A-Rod fiercely stared toward the Yankees dugout, focused as ever, I felt nothing.
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And that’s because nothing had transpired.
It is not as if the suspension to A-Rod illuminated a greater truth. Following news of the suspension, no reasonable person began clamoring, “A-ROD A FRAUD? I knew it!” He’d admitted to PED use in the past, and there was general confidence Out There that he was still using PEDs. Assuming the role as the face of the Steroid Era, more than anything else, is an unfortunate coincidence of poor of timing for Rodriguez. Yes, he was caught and levied a historic suspension, but if Barry Bonds were a few years younger, wouldn’t he have suffered the same fate? What about Mark McGwire? Sammy Sosa? The list could go on and on (and on).
The great unknown is how differently A-Rod’s production would have looked had he not used PEDs and relied only on what his natural ability would have yielded. But fair or not, you could argue that A-Rod was the biggest benefactor of the Steroid Era. At the very least, his résumé should make reaction to his demise fascinating in some light.
The gimmes: three MVPs, the World Series ring and his 647 career home runs (which ranks him fifth all-time, just 115 behind Bonds). In his prime, he was invaluable. A-Rod ranked first in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in six seasons. And yes, that he banked not one but two of the largest contracts in sports history only bolsters the word “success.” Still, to most, this resonated as just another moment, in a sport with plenty of other moments in its history (both good and bad).
In the here and now, I look at it this way: Once tarnished, is a legacy capable of being further sullied? That depends how much you care, and frankly, we don’t have time to care. We’re not indifferent; we’re just occupied with what’s next. Because there’s another Johnny Football controversy to ponder, another fourth-string wide receiver on a 4-12 football team bound to be caught on video making a racist remark, and another level of Candy Crush to conquer.
All told, I’ll remember the suspension for the blip it caused in the news cycle, and the bloop on the field.
Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__