Double Play: A-Rod's big moment met with a big shrug

Daan De Kerpel,
8/4/2010 1:42:55 PM
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It took 13 games to do it, but Alex Rodriguez has become the youngest player in baseball history to reach the 600 career home run plateau.

The home run record used to be one of the, if not THE hallowed record in baseball. And yet A-Rod's chase of history has largely been met with a shrug.

The collective apathy to what should be a huge moment in the history of the game could be excused by the perfect storm of length of time between 599 and 600, or even the fact that for whatever reason, Rodriguez just doesn't seem to be universally liked.

But truth be told, those are just window dressing excuses. The real reason why the record - and the chase - hasn't been the moment it should have been is part of the lasting legacy of the Steroid Era.

That period of time has successfully eroded the one thing that baseball has always been able to use to compare one generation of players to others - the numbers. Which, in the eyes of many casual baseball fans, makes it hard to get excited about A-Rod's accomplishment because the No. 600 no longer has any context.

While it would be easy, and frankly probably correct, to start slamming players who have been linked to the use of performance enhancing drugs - and there is a laundry list of them - or taking baseball and the union to task for allowing the Steroid Era to happen, it still would not make things better.

There are tons of things that we still don't know about that period of time and they are things that we might never know.

While hitters seem to take all the flak for their inflated numbers, it should be noted that there were likely pitchers who used them, making the playing field more fair than people who just want to play the 'look how big this slugger got when you look at his picture from 19, and then again at 30' game.

What the fans - and baseball itself - really need is time.

The Mitchell Report - which was supposed to document the Steroid Era - only came out in December of 2007 so we're less than three years into the process of finding the new norm.

So far, baseball writers who hold votes for the Hall of Fame have seemingly drawn a line in the sand, keeping out players from the Steroid Era (with numbers that would otherwise be good enough for the Hall) largely on moral grounds. But as more players with links to performance enhancing drug use start to be eligible for induction, that moral stand might be harder to keep.

With the writers who cover baseball on a daily basis and the game itself not quite sure how to deal with the issue and the numbers, how can they expect their fans to?

A-Rod's quest for 600 should have been a marketing dream for baseball. Instead, it's another reminder of how the game not only let down its fans during the Steroid Era, but itself as well.

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