If they’re not playing the game of Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench, of Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, of Willie Stargell and Ricky Henderson, of Thurman Munson and Lou Brock, of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays … if they’re not doing that, the game’s connection to its past is lost.
Already it’s been strained by the expanding noggin and immortal on-base and slugging percentages of Barry Bonds, bullied by the unnaturally strong forearms of Mark McGwire and assaulted by the age-defying effectiveness and sociopathic zeal of Roger Clemens.
Yet, because baseball has gotten it right — and the players union has gotten out of the way — for the last several years, it has recovered in a way that may not be as exciting as the great home run chase of 1998, but that is far more real.
Now, at least, we can give Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown the benefit of the doubt and Chris Davis’ 38 home runs the appropriate amount of wonder.
When I spoke to Cochell and saluted him for being better to the game than I’ve been since the days I covered his team, I didn’t only tell him that I can’t make myself watch it any more.
I also told him it’s still my favorite sport to read about, talk about and listen to on the radio. Because I don’t have to watch it to honor it.
And none of that would be true if baseball had given up on itself and given in to the freak show it had become when McGwire, Clemens and Bonds appeared first to be cheating time when what they were really doing was cheating the game.
So when they throw A-Rod out forever or for the rest of this season and maybe all of the next one, and when they deliver justice to Cruz, Colon and Peralta, it will not be a sad day for the game.
Their misdeeds may be mourned. Not their departures.
The game, its past and present, demands justice.
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