What to Make of A-Rod in the 600 Home Run Club
A-Rod hits 600
600 is the New 500?? Really??
Well, no, it isn't.
Of course it isn't and anybody jaded enough to think it is hasn't really figured out what they want from their baseball experience. Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way shall we?
A-Rod took PEDs...
Yes, he's admitted to it and we've all pretty much moved on. Guess what, while it does matter, it doesn't matter as much as you might think. Do they make you stronger, sure they do. Do they make home run hitters out of warning track power hitters, well, no, not necessarily. What we know is that many players took "something" and lets face it, most of them didn't really benefit at all. Did David Segui all of a sudden turn into Mickey Mantle?? How about the 80 or so other guys in the Mitchell report???
No, they didn't - almost nobody did.
The only players stigmatized are the ones who arguably didn't need the help to begin with. Mark McGwire hit 49 Home runs as a rookie in 1987 - and he was a fresh faced stick of a guy at the time. Roger Clemens was throwing gas the moment he hit the big leagues. Barry Bonds was one the best (if not THE best player - all apologies to Ken Griffey Jr.) players in the game. These guys really didn't need any help. The other 100 guys we know of benefitted a bit, but nobody had any sustained success beyond their normal success.
Alex Rodriguez was, and has been, one of the best players of his era, with or without steroids or PEDs.
Hitting home runs is largely considered the most difficult thing to do in sports. It's not about pure strength and it's not about having a great hitting eye. These things matter of course but it's a combination of strength, hitting prowess, swing mechanics and a little bit of luck. As a batter, you have to have all of these things in order to hit home runs and strength is just one part of it (and not the most important).
There are lots of strong people in sports, lets give them a bat and see if they can hit the ball 400 feet consistently. Baseball is a skill sport and hitting is arguably the most difficult thing to do. Remember, the guys we consider good at hitting FAIL 70% of the time. Imagine on top of that trying to hit the ball over the fence 400 feet away - 600 times...
I'm not an A-Rod apologist, I'm not even a fan. I think his persona leaves much to be desired. All that aside, 600 home runs is a monumental achievement and taking PEDs didn't get him there by themselves. He didn't come from out of nowhere and start hitting home runs - he's always done that and he started very young which has given him a great shot to pass Bonds at some point.
As a baseball fan, you need to decide what it is you want from your experience. Do you want your baseball pure? I hate to say it but, good luck. Every generation had something that players took. We can't pick and choose. Are amphetamines any better than steroids?? By all accounts, they were just as prevalent during the 60's and 70's as steroids were in the 90's and the early 2000's. Where is the line drawn?
In my opinion, (this is all just my opinion by the way) we should applaud A-Rod for a great achievement and then be happy again when the next player gets there (likely to be Jim Thome some time next year). It isn't an easy thing to do no matter how you want to think about it and takes a special player to do it.