Now that Alex Rodriguez has hit home run number 600 in his luminous career, we baseball fans have to decide what to make of his achievement.
He now stands seventh on the list of most career home runs behind Messrs. Bonds, Aaron, Ruth, Mays,Griffey Jr., and Sosa, and with all those who ranks ahead of him now retired, Rodriguez has a chance to challenge for the very top of that list.
But we know he took drugs to enhance his performance during some early years with the Texas Rangers.
What we can never know is how those drugs affected his home run production.
Thus we have to decide whether he should be given the respect that we afford such older achievers as Aaron, Ruth and Mays.
There are serious questions about the purity of the performances of Bonds and Sosa about whom there are powerful indications of the same kind of cheating as Rodriguez has admitted.
Baseball loves these issues. We argue over whether Peter Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame. Neither seems likely ever to make it.
And so we will endlessly argue over the “true” home run King.
If one dismisses any one who admits to have cheated and those about whom the suspicion is very solid, then we should continue to venerate Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth as the greatest of home run hitters and put the others in some lesser class of honor.
For me the advice of the eminent Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis is useful. He wrote--”Sunlight is the greatest of disinfectants.”
We do not need any asterisks to diminish or get into proper focus the records of those who cheated. Let their records stand.
For we who have the benefit of sunlight also have the disinfectant of their performance. The sunlight of our knowledge can be counted upon to burn away much of the shine of these illegitimate numbers.
There is no need to do more than let the public know the truth.
Thus, Alex Rodriguez has hit 600 homers. But he cheated at some point. End of story.
Fay Vincent is a former CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries and from 1989-92 served as the Commissioner of Baseball.
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