Thoughts on Barry Bonds
I’ve allowed myself plenty of time to get past the emotional, knee-jerk reaction to the whole Barry Bonds situation. However, since he’s likely to hit #714 this week, I thought I’d finally weigh in.
On a purely technical level, Barry Bonds’ record should be allowed to remain intact because the rules of Major League Baseball have virtually ignored steroid abuse when it clearly stared them in the face. Therefore, Bonds took advantage, juiced up, and smacked all those homers.
On a moral level, Bonds’ record of 73 homers in a single season, and his homers over the last five to seven years, should probably be expunged from the record for his blatant disregard for the game and his body.
Barry Bonds is not a stupid man. He knew full well what he has done ever since he grew up at Bobby Bonds’ side, watching the game from an insider’s point of view. He saw players dope up and use whatever substances they could get away with to put a little extra zip on the ball or stay awake for a day game after a night game. Bonds knew enough to hire a good agent and get the best deal possible when his time with the Pirates was up. Bonds knew enough to get a trainer to help develop his body.
To sit there, in a grand jury room, and say he didn’t know what he was putting on and in his body (the “clean and the clear”) is disingenuous. More than enough evidence has come out that Bonds made a determined point to pump up and regain a spotlight he had ceded to Sammy Sosa and more importantly, Mark McGwire. (And yes, on the same grounds Bonds’ numbers should be expunged, so should McGwire’s since his use of Andro was also getting away with doping on a technical matter.)
What amazes me is that guys like Bonds and McGwire resorted to chemical enhancements when clearly neither needed it. Bonds was one half of the dreaded Killer Bs, along with Bobby Bonilla, that made the Pirates a threatening team. McGwire smacked a terrific number of homers with his leaner physique while playing alongside doping king Jose Canseco.
Still, all of the blame for this mess has to be laid at the feet of the owners. They allowed an independent Commissioner’s Office be turned into a stooge’s room that ignored this problem and allowed it to get out of control. As Congress had to step in back during the 1980s drug scandals, Congress had to haul players before them a year ago. The owners, instead, should have been in front of this years ago and dealt with it. They watched the Commissioners of football and basketball take a get tough policy and make it work. Instead, they let Bud Selig run things and run them badly.
As a result, Bonds will get away with eclipsing Babe Ruth, but only on paper. In the hearts and minds of baseball fans — a unique subset of humanity that can equate sports with poetry – Babe Ruth will remain the greatest hoe run hitter of all time. They will tip their hats to Hank Aaron for surpassing him (also without juicing up) and establishing the American record for career homers.
Bonds did himself in with a surly attitude, refusing to put himself out there to the community, doing the good deeds that match the on field career, and antagonizing the press. He brought this all down on his bald head. I’ve seen some columnists ruminate over the racial factor and I don’t see it. Not at all. Bonds could be black, white, Latino or Asian and still be reviled for his antics.
In my head, I’ve already consigned Bonds’ record to a parallel universe and will not be acknowledging the feat this week because, after all, most of those homers weren’t earned.