A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Adrian Beltre

Today is a day for celebrations... not the kind like Alfredo Simon of the Baltimore Orioles has, complete with gun firing wildly in the air and giving decent gun-owning citizens a bad rap, but this is not mainstream America, and it seems that New Year Celebrations in the local parks of Dominican Republic are more like Kabul than Ephrata (the town I live that is smack dab in the middle of Amish country, the suburbs, the rural towns, the isolated housing developments, and the crime-ridden streets of Reading, PA. Yep... we've got it all, and I'm sure we've got our fair share of shooters to go with the street fireworks, but fortunately, this year, we didn't have anyone shoot their brother in law and his son.
Not knowing Newton can be deadly for those closest to us as we have to know that bullets will crash into the earth after they're fired into the air, but Simon seemed to miss that one, and when the bullets ended their flight... one dead and one wounded.
Fortunately, he surrendered and is looking at 3 months in the pokey according to one report, which is nice because that means he can come back and give the Orioles a new look. I'm sure Buck Showalter will be proud.
Yes... today is a day of celebrations for Roberto Alomar, and though I'm sure that his friendship with John Hirschbeck, the umpire he spit on, is truly best friends forever in only the way that an altercation can make two guys buddies, there is something that said... "is this in the best interest of baseball that this guy is in the Hall of Fame?"
I'm glad that Hirschbeck's son hung out with Robbie in the same way I'm glad that Juan Marichal delivered the eulogy for John Roseboro. Making amends is a part of life. We need to move on and come to an understanding of one another.
And when it all comes down to it, what is the crime for which baseball numbers don't add up to the Hall of Fame? Using a spitball? Refusing to play with African Americans? Being a drunken womanizer? Working for a casino? Swinging a bat at a catcher who threw by your ear? Racially instigated attacks on players and / or fans? Betting on games? Being involved in gambling? Cocaine usage? Amphetamines usage? Steroids usage?
As was by Ross Newham, formerly of the LA Times:
“Somebody said we are not the morality police, but yet I think we are. If we aren’t, who is? Part of our job is that we are custodians of the game’s history. I do look at the larger picture, and Palmeiro had a lot of good years, but that brings back to my feeling that otherwise he would be worthy of the Hall of Fame.”
And so the writers pick and choose who gets subjected to the rules of entry into immortality, we start to see a pattern of peripheral baseball writers and commentators like Bob Costas who cry themselves silly talking about how they could have missed the huge biceps of stars while they celebrated their achievements in the nineties and early 2000s. And Ken Burns gives him the video time to do so (while neglecting Albert Pujols from Inning 10, but that's another story). Now, they're going to make up for it... out goes McGwire, Gonzalez, and Palmeiro (so far).
But baseball didn't rush to judge Palmeiro when he went from the wild ride of the baseball steroids hearings (March 17, 2005) to his 3,000th hit (July 15, 2005) to his steroids suspension (August 2, 2005).
And 5+ years later, we still want to believe him... well, sort of, not really.
At least he wants us to believe him.
But baseball never bats their eyes when it sends him to his grave. They use him for celebration and not even three weeks later he is guilty and punished for using steroids. Of course, the fans hated him more and he never recovered, eventually vanishing into the same obscurity his career began in.
"I have never used steroids. Period."
And then there is the 2011 version...
"I am disappointed, obviously I am disappointed, I thought I would get more support. But I am grateful that I get to stay on the ballot for at least another year. Maybe I'll go up, maybe I'll go down. I thought I was worthy of a better showing than what I got, but I had a black mark against me my last year in baseball. That is hard to overcome. I know there were some voters that said, 'He's a Hall of Famer, but he tested positive. I can't vote for him.' That's the reality of it. And it is something I have to live with."
But this is a day of celebrations and after 14 years, Bert Blyleven can be the first "Flying Dutchman" in Cooperstown, and if it's only 287 wins and 3701 strikeouts keeping him out for that long, then who is good enough for first ballot election? I'm sure that Barry Larkin wants to know, but he like all the other players of the dead era (the one where most of my better condition baseball cards are from) is a victim of inflated numbers.
But is Blyleven really in that same category? He had some good ERAs, he won 2 World Series rings (one in each league), and he played for 21 years.
However, he was never sexy and stylin' in the way of some baseball players, and for that, let's celebrate with Adrian Beltre today since he'll be getting as much as $96 million for 6 years of service with the Texas Rangers.
And isn't that what it's all about?
Never mind that he has a career average of .275, which would be much lower if not for the 2 contract years where he played exceptionally (48 home runs and .334 in 2004 AND 28 home runs and .321 last year). So if it's another inflated total for a player that the fans can root for and wear his jersey... yep.
That said, next year's celebration won't be about sexy image - it will be about having to elect someone, but we'll hold off until the first week of 2012 to discuss that.
In the meantime, we'll wonder about all of those players from the glory years and the black and white pictures who seemed to exist before the media scrutiny and the chance to screw up big time, like Willie Wilson who in referring to his cocaine bust said,
"People think the game is glamorous, but I never wanted the attention—good or bad. I felt a lot of pressure trying to satisfy the club, the public, my parents. People wanted me to be a role model; even the judge said so when he sentenced me. I always felt your parents should be your role models. But I never blamed anyone else for what I did. The Royals have done a lot for me, and I don't want them to think about me now. I just want them to have a good season. I'll be staying by myself more when I return. I'm not going to yell or scream anymore, just do my job. I wish that's all there was to baseball."
And maybe that's true, and maybe it's not, but for guys like Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe who should be in the Hall of Fame, it's not time to celebrate yet. And for many of the players who never made peanuts in their careers, it's not time to celebrate.
But such is the sadness of the great game of baseball. Some achieve and shine while others are left on the fringes for those of us who truly love the history.

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