Longing For The Days Of The Asterisk
I’m old enough to remember the asterisk, that provocative symbol that was a big part of the baseball world during the summer of 1961, when it became clear that Roger Maris had a very real chance of breaking Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 60 homers per season. As Maris came menacingly closer to the famous mark, a debate raged over the validity of a new record. After all, this was the season that the American League increased its membership from eight to ten teams, necessitating a change in its schedule to accommodate the new clubs.
Now teams would play 162 games, instead of the long-standing 154, which was in place when the Babe reached his lofty total in 1927. Would Maris have to hit 61 homers in 154 games to break the record, or would he be permitted to do so in the new 162 game format? The ruling stated that if Maris needed more than 154 games to exceed 60 homers, the new mark would have an asterisk attached to it. A great deal of controversy, debate and righteous outrage that had surrounded this matter before this decision was announced, was exacerbated by it.
But this post isn’t about the past. It’s about the present. As I write it an announcement from Major League Baseball about the fate of players embroiled in the Biogenesis matter is imminent. Who used steriods? When did they use them? What was the players’ relationship to the Biogenesis Lab? How did they find out about it?
At the forefront of the drama is Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee third baseman who has made a home for himself in tabloid headlines. He’s this moment’s poster boy for the use of enhancements. He’s a headache for MLB that now seems intent on riding the game of performance enhancing drugs once and for all. All signs indicate he will not go quietly. Will he be suspended for a season? What about two? Will he appeal? Will there be a lawsuit? Since Rodriguez trends toward the extreme, will there be several of them? I wouldn’t be surprised to see that in a tabloid headline soon. It’s clear to see that the New York Post expects more controversy, as evidence by its July 31, 2013 sports-page headline, shown here.
Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder who has already been suspended for the remainder of the season, is a part of the story, too. I won’t repeat it in extremis here, However, I will note for my readers who are casual baseball fans that he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player for the 2011, just edging out Matt Kemp, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who came in second, having missed the big prize by a tiny number of votes cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Should Braun’s MVP Award be taken away and given to Kemp? After all, Braun cheated and Kemp did not.
Questions like these are casting a pall over the world of baseball. They are being “asked and answered” in New York City, and the whole ugly, putrid mess smells all the way out here in San Francisco. How I miss the days when a baseball controversy was waged over the use of an asterisk. I’m sick of steroids, enhancements, Biogenesis, baseball players who look like power lifters, long-established, cherished records now gone, users who lie and all the rest of it. Please, Major League Baseball, clean up this stinking mess once and for all. If that isn’t clear, let me put it another way:
Stop raping my lover.