By Tim Baffoe--
(CBS) On Monday night, I retweeted the following:
Then I woke up Tuesday to this:
I had to laugh. That's the reflex still for so many people today. Enough people still get so hot and bothered by seeing certain names atop baseball stat lists that newspapers cater to those thinking with their gall bladders and troll those who can compartmentalize.
It feels good to try to claim some superiority over the really great professional athletes. Nationally, Pete Rose is anew the poster child for greatness gone astray. Just as he had kept himself out of trouble long enough to build up some equity — again — for potential official baseball forgiveness and reinstatement, it became clear on Monday that he's a habitual liar who can never be trusted.
Rose is an ass, and that's hardly debatable, and now this village idiot gets to once again be kicked around until sensibilities return to pristine, delicate status. Alex Rodriguez has been a clown, too, with some similar hubris and refusal to be honest about PED use until anything but would have been farcical. He doesn't get to move on, though.
Until this week, Rose was constantly in a state of debatable redemption. Like Barry Bonds (the greatest hitter of my lifetime), A-Rod (a top-20 hitter of all time) doesn't seem to get that opportunity in the eyes of most. Although whenever a bunch of crusty old baseball fans and writers like to pile on a guy like A-Rod, I'm inclined to then find him sympathetic rather than villainous. While Rose stammers through not being truthful this time around, he will continue to be the bigger joke.
But at what point is the joke on you for having such strong feelings about either or both of those guys or any other ballplayer who "didn't do it the right way"?
Are you compelled to point out that steroid stats mean nothing to you as though they're unicorns that only exist on paper and not in actuality? Pause for a minute and think about how illogical that stance is -- or how even more silly it is if you would figuratively high-five a newspaper for headlining the first 3,000-hit man since 2011 with "3***" while voting him a bigger disgrace than Rose.
Yeah, Charlie Hustle's hit count never really gets invalidated the way an A-Rod's does. Because the former always ran the bases super hard and always seemed affable and merely committed the crime of betting on baseball while coaching it and apparently now while playing it. That's totally different from enhancing one's body illegally to augment the desire to be the best hitter possible and win games.
But there again is when you become the punchline, carving out qualifiers for one baseball discretion against another, arguing for Rose's inclusion in the Hall of Fame but not A-Rod's, even though the latter is the far superior baseball player. Or you're arguing for neither to be in a joke of a museum that likes to pretend some stuff in baseball just didn't happen. Like the tacitly-league-endorsed Steroid Era, which some of have called the game's greatest shame. Not the half of the 20th century that didn't allow black people to participate — nah, just glorify and paint up the Negro Leagues to the point where people forget that it was segregation. Baseball-as-ideal will always recalibrate itself in the face of its own hypocrisy.
There's hypocrisy like the 2015 All-Star Game, which is in Cincinnati and is supposed to feature Rose in the festivities. He will be locally cheered as he always is. As of this writing, 62 percent of respondents in one Cincinnati poll think Rose should be considered for the Hall of Fame. Less than a year ago, 81 percent of ESPN pollers said he should have his baseball ban lifted.
Rose will never get in to Cooperstown, and neither will Rodriguez (just ask Jorge Posada), because even if plunking hitters with fastballs for affronts to the game is mostly gone out of style, baseball is still about grudges. And weird emotion-driven double standards.
Look at the silliness with which we choose to disown players. Rose will likely be uncomfortably smiling and waving before an exhibition game that determines home-field advantage in the World Series. Meanwhile, Sammy Sosa can only imagine being loudly cheered at some ceremony — Sosa-centric or not — at Wrigley Field should the Cubs stop pretending like he never existed.
Fans are also wishy-washy when a cheater starts reaching milestones and holy numbers. A-Rod is icky, but Nelson Cruz caught little grief last season in Baltimore or this year in Seattle while hitting a bunch of non-threatening dingers. Anyone at U.S. Cellular Field pointing out how Tyler Flowers and Melky Cabrera have been popped for PEDs? Ah, that's right, they aren't very good.
The strange soup of deeply flawed subjectivity, inconsistency and intense feelings in which we brand certain baseball players with certain scarlet letters would be sad, if it wasn't so laughable.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.
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