Tonawanda News — Of course it is impossible to ignore the name at the top of this most recent list: New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
When McGwire was slapping all those home runs in 1998 A-Rod was a much younger man, though even then he’d been in the league for five seasons. He and the guy I’d nominate as the greatest player of his generation, Ken Griffey Jr. — who did it clean — were playing for the plucky Seattle Mariners.
A-Rod represented for my generation what others must have thought when they first set eyes on Willie Mays or Hank Aaron — the knowledge you were fortunate enough to be watching the career of one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Aaron’s career home run record was the target almost immediately for Rodriguez. He looked like the kind of player who would, if he avoided injury, hit 40 home runs for 20 years and demolish Aaron’s career mark of 755.
I remember sitting at a junior high cafeteria table enthusiastically predicting he’d become the greatest slugger of all time.
Ironically enough, 2013 is A-Rod’s 20th major league season. If I’d have been right at age 15, he’d have done it two years ago.
Alas, that will never come to pass. What I didn’t realize all those years ago was A-Rod possessed all the emotional maturity of the 13-year-olds like me who idolized him. Vanity has made easy work of one of the greatest talents ever to swing a bat.
Now it’s plain to see Rodriguez is every bit the unhinged professional athlete incapable of filling the void where the demons ate away his soul. Now it’s plain to see he’s an actor starring as a version himself — except this is real life, not the glorifying Hollywood film playing in his head.