I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not so much that the modern, neo-narcissist ballplayer is such an abysmal human being but rather that they suffer mightily in comparison to the giants who came before them.
Thus, when we contemplate the antics of one Manny Ramirez, the shenanigans that appear fairly predictable in our current times ultimately seem like something far less than that when considered in some kind of historical context.
The playful anarchist in me wants to kind of surreptitiously applaud his whimsical welcoming press conference when he insisted on having an interpreter to translate his Spanish into something suitable for USA Today. But the old-timer in me, who for reasons of good common sense is typically in charge, can’t shake the realization that a Henry Aaron, or an Al Kaline or a Bob Gibson wouldn’t dream of doing something so immature and disrespectful.
Disrespectful, I concede, is pretty harsh, but it’s that looming, omnipresent respect for the game of Major League Baseball that seems to carry such enormous weight with generations past and yet might be an afterthought to some of the modern guys.
While money can be blamed for a good deal of this mentality, I don’t think it should be the only culprit listed. Virtually all of the modern stars have been millionaires nearly from the time of voting age, and I think a pervasive sense of entitlement is an inevitable byproduct of that.
That’s one of the reasons I like to latch onto when rooting for some of the modern guys: finding that 21st-century slugger who brings with him some reverence and acknowledgment of all that came before him.
I also think that there’s a huge, perhaps difficult to quantify but still significant price to be paid by those who fall victim to the “me first” trappings of the modern game.
While I suppose they would insist that such things make no difference whatsoever to them as they bank their millions, I believe that their place in the hallowed history of MLB will end up being something far different from what it is for many of those from earlier generations.
Manny may just be the most visible practitioner of the antics, but I don’t think history will look that fondly at a player of his admittedly staggering talent being shunted from one team to team to another in such ignominious fashion.
That’s no way for a Hall of Famer to be remembered.