Classy Can Be Weird in a Classless Society
It's really hard being a Yankees fan, but I can't help it. I got this way simply by growing up in the American League and watching the Yanks of Mantle, Maris, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin, Whitey Ford, et al. It was hard hanging with George during the Winfield, Mattingly, Guidry, Goose years, but the team has almost always displayed true character, no matter how vile the ownership and management seemed.
But lately George has mellowed, and the fact that he has allowed Joe Torre to continue through the ups and downs of this most professional of teams makes one believe that growth is possible, even at an advanced age. Maybe Seinfeld humanized the guy.
I like the Yanks a lot, even at 13-and-1/2 back of the Red Sox. Yeah, they are a bunch of rich "overdogs," and sure, they are corporate and imperial (I loved Phil Mushnik's joke that Roger Clemens was seeking to pitch for Houston when the Yankees were traveling), but I like this group of personalities. Derek Jeter, who just broke Joe DiMaggio's record for hits, has the best attitude in baseball, projecting heroic enthusiasm and a fantastic love of the game, while Hideki Matsui appears as a noble samurai warrior. Jorge Posada is a stoical phenomenon and an utterly complete player, while A.Rod is a magnificently complex athlete and human being. Mariano Rivera combines hall-of-fame play with hall-of-fame class. That's just the cream of this group of casual superheroes.
But right now I'm really feeling sympathy for Jason Giambi, who is, apparently, in hot water for being perhaps the only one of the players publicly linked with chemical abuse to have apologized in any way or owned up to his errors. As Bonds cruises toward an embarrassing date with destiny, and while Mark McGwire has been bizarrely silent since breaking the all-time home run record, dropping off the face of the earth, and while players like Gary Sheffield (see the issue of GQ currently on stands) employ double talk to skirt the issues, it is clear that the record-breaking boom of the nineties was broad and involved many, many players. It is also clear that chemicals such as amphetamines have been a mainstream part of the game since long before Jim Bouton chronicled the 1969 season in Ball Four.
I admire Jason Giambi's courage, not only in getting off performance-enhancing drugs, but in recovering from major injuries and illnesses, and returning to top form as a feared hitter and a real gamer. But more than that, I admire the fact that he has been a man about these issues, while everyone else, from the commissioner to other suspect players and their teammates, pussyfoot around them.
It seems that Jason Giambi has failed a test for amphetamines in the last year, but he has been a man about it, and he is the only person to state that players using prohibited substances should have apologized for it. Meanwhile, the giant egos continue to deny any wrongdoing, or expect us to believe that they were so naïve as to have no idea that the various exotic treatments they underwent that yielded such spectacular results might have contained prohibited substances. Garbage! If the relatively forthright Giambi, who has apologized over and over for admittedly vague sins, is punished while Barry Bonds is rewarded, and the others in spectacular denial get off free, it will greatly amplify the stink that hangs over baseball.
The day that Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's record, Pete Rose should be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. They should just put his plaque in the phone booth.