Billy Madden's tribute to Tom Seaver, who is recovering from Lyme disease and will throw out the first pitch Tuesday at the All-Star game. The Daily News wasn't always so supportive of Tom Terrific. In fact, its lead baseball columnist from the 1970s, Dick Young - Madden's predecessor - ran Seaver out of New York, trashing his Met career and even attacking his wife.
Well, today, here's Madden in the Daily News ripping A-Rod in ways that would put a smile on Young's dusty corpse. (The Village Voice, years after Young's death, satirized his style in a segment called "Dateline: Hell.) Of course, today's official rule among writers is to never speak of A-Rod unless you condemn him. And I shouldn't lump A-Rod into the same kettle as Seaver, who was never accused of juicing. But for pure unadulterated hypocrisy, I think today's writers can measure up to the greats of the past.
In today's attack, Madden says:
1. A-Rod will never play for the Yankees.
2. His rehab is a charade, so he can collect the remaining 4 years on his contract.
3. He isn't any good.
4. MLB might punish A-Rod for "procuring and/or compensating the attorneys for the
witnesses they have been interviewing," (in order words, mounting a defense.)
5. He should be banned from the game permanently.
Alex Rodriguez has become a constant embarrassment to
baseball and a living, breathing, still-playing symbol of the steroid
era, which continues to plague the game and dog Selig’s legacy. The sooner he goes away — for good — the better off everyone, including A-Rod, will be.
So there you have it. A writer who has broken many exclusives, straight from the Yankee brass, is firing silver bullets at the last twitching corpse of the 2013 season.
As Yankee fans, we're supposed to board the A-Rod Hate Wagon and support the team on its quest to escape the contract that it foisted upon him. Our job is to forget everything that has happened over the last 20 years. Once the "living, breathing, still-playing symbol of the steroid era" goes away, we will all be free.
Just forget. Let MLB ban him, and forget.
Next winter, the Yankees can sign a couple new Travis Hafners and settle into a comfortable mediocrity, chasing the annual Wild Card slot, until eventually, we stink enough to accrue high draft picks and build a winner the Washington Nationals way. Just forget A-Rod was ever here. Forget the Yankees were ever the gold standard. Forget. And who knows, 30 years from now, maybe some enterprising Daily News columnist will phone A-Rod at his assisted living facility and say how great it is to talk with him again!
Meanwhile, the 2013 season looms like one of those NFL games where the replacement refs throw a flag on every down, and then call pass interference on the final play, literally dictating who wins.
And then is the other little stinker issue, the one so conveniently avoided, if we can get rid of A-Rod. With steroids as rampant as they have been for the last 40 years - (the allegations go back to Mickey Mantle in the '60s) - what was known within each organization, up to the owners themselves? For years, outsiders took one look at the Giambis, the Clemenses and the Cansecos and recognized unbridled steroid use. But the writers somehow pretended not to notice. And in the 1990s, when baseball homered its way back into post-strike popularity, the only sound the owners made about steroids was the flap of eyelids winking.
Talk about a "charade?"
I've never known a star like A-Rod. I can imagine a self-absorbed monster, witnessed up close, is no pretty sight. He probably has earned every ugly paragraph ever written about him. Still, when guys repeatedly get savaged by sportswriters, those of us who are old enough to remember Dick Young cannot help but wince.
He started as a great writer, one of the first to patrol the clubhouse. Some even say he birthed the modern sportswriter profession. Then he drank his own Kool-Aid - with gin. Young stopped trying to hear the other sides of stories. He ripped Jim Bouton for "Ball Four," even though it was basically the same stuff Young had once championed writing about. He attacked the unions, which he hated. He called Howard Cosell "Howie the Shill," and his bashing of Eddie Murray was borderline racist. When Seaver publicly complained that the Mets owners weren't trying to keep their stars - (no truer words were ever expressed, by the way) - Young became the Mets' snarling attack dog. In columns, he not only ripped Seaver but he started in on Seaver's wife, Nancy. And so it went: Seaver left New York, saying he'd had enough.
That didn't stop Young. He relentlessly pounded Seaver as "greedy," because the guy wanted a better contract. Then - as if to prove God has a sense of humor when it comes to shameful boars - in 1981, four years after running Seaver out of New York, Young broke his contract with the Daily News and moved to the Post - for more money.
He started as a great, ended as an embarrassment. Sound familiar?
Maybe Madden is right. Maybe A-Rod is in this for the money. I still wouldn't fault him. The Yankees have plenty of money. To let a columnist poor-mouth on behalf of the Steinbrenner twins - that's borderline Bond supervillain stuff. But I suspect A-Rod is somewhat of a nutcase, by now. He doesn't need the money. He just wants one last chance at the game, the crowds, the glory. I bet he'd chuck all the money for one last good year. Because after baseball - considering his tarnished image - it's going to be a long drought. How much can you sit by the pool?
Finally - (yeesh, this screed went way too long, I apologize) - I am amazed at how happily baseball - a game whose popularity revolves around history - is so determined to erase the existence of its stars. The Hall of Fame will never include Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens and now Alex Rodriguez - the best players of their generations, with or without drugs. We have an industry bent upon devouring its stars. Soon, Bud Selig will be taking a victory laugh, while the media cheers and a new set of sluggers compete in the home run derby. How many of them will someday - when they're making too much money - be hounded from the game?
Something here is horribly wrong, and the writers who feed that sickness are just as guilty as any player who ever jabbed a needle into his body. Where have you gone, Red Smith, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...