Saturday, June 20, 2015

FORG1V3 & Never Forget - the A-Rod & Scherzer Story

Danville, Kentucky -- Friday June 19th through Sunday June 21st, 2015. The weekend that baseball history was made. Two super-stars, on two opposite career trajectories – career trajectories more opposite than those of me, an unemployed sports-writer, and my sons who boast statistics degrees. An aging slugger, chasing redemption and glory in the twilight years of his historic career. A flame-throwing power-arm, brimming with ambition and the urge to silence the nerds who criticized the monstrous contract he signed in the off-season. Leagues apart, but now forever immortalized; the type of players who you’ll describe to your kids as you pop them on your knee to spin yarns about this wonderful game. Their accomplishments are of an opposite nature as well; Alex Rodriguez will be remembered as the man who hit 3,000 baseballs while Max Scherzer will be remembered as the man who by sheer willpower alone refused to let a single Pittsburgh Pirate collect a base-hit, flirting with perfection all the while, just as I foolishly flirt with the staff of the Lexington Chili’s.

A-Rod’s accomplishments were decades in the making. Beginning in 1994 in Seattle, culminating 21 years later in New York. He collected his 3,000th hit the way many of his hits were collected; by blasting them over the Yankee Stadium right-field short porch for a dinger, off former Cy Young Justin Verlander no less. Folks, it’s time to admit A-Rod is one of the greats and belongs in the Hall of Fame. Fresh off of passing Willie Mays on the all-time dinger list and collecting RBI number 2,000 earlier this summer, he’s now the 29th member of the 3,000 hits club, a group more exclusive than the Triple Crown stats-only fantasy baseball league I play in with other Danville old-timers. The only other Yankee to collect 3,000 hits is the Captain himself, Derek Jeter.

I’m not afraid to admit A-Rod is an all-time great, who should be mentioned in the same breath as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, and Barry Bonds. Some nerds would like to put an asterisk next to all of his accomplishments because of steroids. But exactly did A-Rod do? Did he tamper with the sacred tools and equipment of the game, like Tom Brady or the bat-corkers? Are people really willing to deny A-Rod his rightful place amongst the all-time greats because he was brave enough to take the substances necessary to improve his game? The keyword is improve: A-Rod would be a formidable slugger regardless of what he injected into his bloodstream. In my time, that drive to make yourself better was celebrated as the hallmark of a true competitor. The baseball hall of fame isn’t about passing judgement on the morality of players. As is the case with love, war, and obtaining the optimal seating at Chili’s, all is fair in baseball. Ty Cobb killed a man just to watch him die, yet we celebrate his accomplishments by enshrining him in the Hall of Fame. A-Rod is guilty of nothing besides dating Madonna.

Not to mention that A-Rod has accomplished all of this while being persecuted by a front office that is more vengeful than my ex-wife after she found out about my gambling problem. A-Rod is knocking out milestone after milestone, yet being denied the bonuses he so rightfully deserves because the Yankees front office deems his accomplishments “unmarketable.” It’s a lie more preposterous than the Great Society or the New Deal. Yet, despite the constant barrage of asterisks and the denial of his bonuses, A-Rod pays no mind, hitting dinger after dinger, all in search of redemption. It’s time to FORG1V3 & forget.

Scherzer is a man who seeks neither money nor redemption. This past off-season, he got paid more handsomely than a North Kentucky private investigator. He throws a fastball with a heat and intensity that matches the burning desire for glory in his heart. This weekend, he united America by bringing the nation together to watch his quest for perfection. It was a nail-biter at times, as Max nearly let defensive shifts ruin his perfection on at least one occasion. He was 1 strike away from a perfect game before Jose Tabata leaned into a ball to become the Pirates’ first baserunner. I can understand Tabata’s move; he plays to win, and his team needed men on the bases and runs. Yet, it hurts my soul to see men like Scherzer flirt with perfection but fall just short.
In the end, former AL Cy Young Scherzer has secured his place in the baseball pantheon by throwing a no hitter. So far this year, he has constructed an outstanding case to win a Cy Young in the senior circuit as well. Most importantly, he got the W.

It’s been a fantastic weekend for actually watching the game. The excitement that comes from watching a man belt hit #3K or chase perfection simply can’t be measured in numbers or found in a box-score. Pour yourself some Kentucky Deluxe, give your dog a bone, put your feet up and watch history being written.