Once, not all that long ago, they were baseball's dual kingpins.
When one spoke of Junior, he spoke of A-Rod. When one spoke of A-Rod, he spoke of Junior. They were the otherworldly Mariners, linked by power, speed, grace, guts and numbers. So what if the superstars didn't much care for one another? If Griffey thought Rodriguez to be too cocky? If Rodriguez thought Griffey to be too aloof? They were bonded by production and, by God, the production was awfully good.
And now, in the year 2009, Griffey and Rodriguez are linked once again, this time as two men facing the undeniable fade-to-black conclusions to their careers. Oh, we could easily dismiss Griffey's return to Seattle, which some say has been corrupted by numbers (.200, two home runs, five RBIs), reminiscent of
Junior has declined because (gasp!) it is what aging, non-HGH-using homo sapiens do. We gain weight. Our hair grays. Our reaction time slows.
In the case of Rodriguez, however, there is no gift wrap. He is fading to black because (as opposed to Griffey) the skills haven't abandoned the man -- the man has abandoned the skills. At 34 and preparing to return from the disabled list, Rodriguez is still one of the game's two or three most-feared hitters. And yet, whether he plays for another season or another decade, Rodriguez is done. Finished. Kaput. Over.
According to the material leaked from
Less than a year ago, people were not merely speculating how many career home runs he would hit (
Now, with the latest revelations, the comparison to Pitt seems ludicrous. Instead, Rodriguez brings to mind a slightly different fabled theatrical figure -- one who, 20 years ago, took America by storm. At the time, we fell in love with
Then, we learned the truth. Spuds, a lady-killer in ads, was actually a girl. Her real name was
Turns out, ol' Spuds MacKenzie was nothing special after all.
Just another dog.