Burwell: A light shines in baseball's darkness

2013-08-13T06:10:00Z 2013-09-11T17:19:19Z Burwell: A light shines in baseball's darknessBy BRYAN BURWELL bburwell@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8185 stltoday.com

The sports world is all over the place with what to do about performance enhancing drugs in all its fun and games. There are moral crusades from media pulpits and fire-and-brimstone retribution from Bud Selig. There are yawns of disinterest and gulps of distrust from battle-weary fans who don’t know what to believe anymore. And now there’s outrage and unsubstantiated accusation splattered across the public airwaves, and no matter how deeply rooted in truth it could possibly be, just feels like so much graffiti being hurled on a wall.

What are we supposed to believe anymore? What are we supposed to trust anymore?

You want to know what’s so completely messed up about PEDs in sports?

Alex Rodriguez passed Stan Musial on baseball’s all-time RBI list over the weekend.

A-Rod – a phony of monstrous proportions – has no business surpassing Musial in anything. It makes me ill. It bothers me that a man who is currently appealing a 211-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, could under the cover of due process, be allowed to pass any of the game’s greatest names. A-Rod doesn’t deserve to be climbing up the record books, passing bigger, better, more deserving names. He doesn’t deserve to be in the same conversation with Musial, much less passing him on any historical list of achievements.

And yet, here he is doing just that. He is a scofflaw, with a figurative boot on his wheel, mocking baseball history. We know it’s not legitimate. We know that he has just scrawled all sorts of graffiti on the record books, and we don’t have anything to clean up the mess other than with our own conscience.

A-Rod is everything that is wrong with this. Seeing a headline that puts him in the same sentence with Stan Musial or Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle or Frank Robinson is something that makes my head spin, my stomach growl and my conscience ache.

And then I see something else that happened last weekend and I find a way to smile again.

Ken Griffey Jr. was placed in the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

That was the perfect antidote to whatever A-Rod has wrought.

A lot of people may have forgotten how good Ken Griffey was. Maybe there are kids today who have no memory of his legacy. We can’t allow that to happen.

Griffey was someone we can all believe in. I want everyone to remember every one of those 630 home runs Griffey hit, because they are the rare ones that were not fueled by a mad scientist’s illegal brew. Every one of them was hit with nothing more than the strength of Griffey’s pure natural abilities. This was all about his family’s rich baseball DNA.

Griffey came to Seattle 26 years ago as the first overall pick in the 1987 baseball draft, and it didn’t take long for all his brilliant gifts to grow to their full potential.

He was legitimate. He was spectacular. He was this breathless wonder who made anyone who was too young to see the greatness of a youthful Mays or Mantle comprehend the wonder of these geniuses in their primes.

He could climb a wall like Spider Man. He could elevate and defy gravity like some hang-gliding basketball player. He brought that sort of jaw-dropping athleticism to baseball’s sometimes pedestrian game.

But because he came along during the height of baseball’s PED era, his accomplishments were muted by the noise of Big Mac, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. They stole the spotlight, grabbed the headlines broke all of the most sacred records.

They did it with chemicals.

He did it with his own talent.

I believed in Ken Griffey Jr., I believed in every one of his hits, homers, amazing catches. He belongs in the company of Mays and Aaron and Mantle and Robinson and Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio and all the other superstars who flourished on the diamond before baseball discovered all these chemical elixirs.

We talk a lot about A-Rod these days and all the others who keep getting caught. We question everyone and anyone who muscles up, drives home runs at obscene rates and does things with so much power and skill, or comes out of nowhere to become a star.

We question everything and we should. We see records being broken and no one cheers. Instead, we wait to exhale and delay our belief until after the drug tests come back.

That’s the way our sports world is now.

Thankfully, Ken Griffey reminds us of how it used to be, how it should be again if we’re lucky.

Bryan Burwell is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Read his columns here.

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Bryan Burwell

Bryan Burwell covers a wide spectrum of sports as a columnist for the Post-Dispatch.

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