Monday, July 23, 2007

This Man is not a Metaphor

Mac Thomason at Braves Journal tears into Tommy Craggs' Hank Aaron piece over at Slate today. Mac doesn't seem to take issue with the overall premise -- that Aaron is being used as a cloak of sanctimony for commentators who wish to rail against Bonds from higher ground upon which they are currently standing. Nor do I. He was a ballplayer and a man, not a god, and by treating him as such is to look past all of the great stuff about him.

Mac takes issue, however, with Craggs' statements that Aaron was "bland in performance" and "lacked the dizzying peaks that give a career the flavor of personality."

He is right to do so. As Mac points out, Hank was more than the empty symbolism currently ascribed to him, and he was more than the number 755. The man is among the all time leaders in black ink, winning batting titles and MVP votes and leading the league in total bases, doubles, hits, and slugging on multiple occasions. Had he played in a different era, Aaron may very well have beaten Pete Rose to Ty Cobb. As for his alleged lack of Willie Mays' "élan," well, playing in New York tends to do more for one's élan than playing in Milwaukee.

It's my view that the problem with the Slate piece isn't Craggs' fault. The paragraph about Aaron's alleged blandness and lack of flavor and personality smell to me like a Slate editorial addition. Contrarianism is Slate's thing, and while this more often than not leads to interesting analysis, it is often overdone. One need not diminish Aaron's statistical record in order to make the point that writers are unfairly using it as a "rhetorical bludgeon" with which to attack Bonds. It is enough to say that Aaron was truly great and that he is still being used.

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