Thursday, August 09, 2007

756

I haven't posted about Barry Bonds because I couldn't think of anything original to say. (I know this principle doesn't keep me from posting unoriginal ideas about a handful of other subjects every day. Shut up.) Bonds, at least in the past few years, which have come to dominate our thoughts about a very long career, has come off as a scary-talented, cold, paranoid jerk. He's notoriously hard to root for, and I wasn't rooting for him, but his breaking Hank Aaron's record reached a point of inevitability long before he actually did, so getting worked up about the actual event seemed silly. I also don't care all that much that he was likely juiced for a few years. I've always thought this was baseball's problem, and that the sport and its brilliant leadership is to blame for any unfair play. How hard is it to officially outlaw certain substances and test for them? I agree with Chris DeLuca of the Chicago Sun-Times, who wrote:
Put an actual asterisk next to Bonds' name and you might as well do the same for every World Series won in the last 20 years -- unless someone can prove that every member of those championship teams, including the 2005 White Sox, was 100 percent clean.

The fact is much of Bonds' work from 1999 to 2004 -- during a time many of us believe he was juiced -- can't be touched by an asterisk. Baseball had no policy against steroids during this time. You can't break a rule that wasn't there.

Selig points to the little-known provision that using any illegal drugs is a violation of baseball rules. But none of the players caught with marijuana or cocaine or amphetamines in the history of the game has an asterisk next to his numbers.

Look at Detroit Tigers infielder Neifi Perez, the former Cub who is missing 80 games -- maybe the rest of his career -- because he ingested amphetamines, performance-enhancers that were as common as bubblegum in clubhouses during Aaron's era.
So, now for the original part. Or at least a contrast that I haven't seen elsewhere, though I'm sure it's been made. Click to this video, and about 20 seconds in you can watch Aaron hitting his 715th home run, which surpassed Babe Ruth's previous record of 714. Immediately after contact, he starts running toward first base like it was any other homer, even though it wasn't. I won't even link to Bonds' 756th, but you've probably seen it. If you haven't, it's all over YouTube. The moment after contact is a moment, like almost every other in his recent past, that is drenched in self-regard. That's his legacy as much as 756 is his legacy. I'd say he's earned both.

2 Comments:

Anonymous nutso said...

Amen on all counts.

Deep down, I don't think the average fan cares as much about steriods as the headlines would have you believe. And I really don't think the average fan 50 years from now is going to care about Bonds' steroid use. He'll be seen as part of an era. In 50 years, there will be steroid that will make the steroids of today look like Flinstones vitamins. I think an asterisk next to Bonds name for steroids would be myopic in many ways (I think I'm sharing theses with DeLuca here)

What I'm afraid will get lost in the shuffle here is just what an uncool guy Bonds seems to be. As the sin of steroids washes away, history will leave only the name Bonds and the number -756 (or I guess 798? 814? Whatever). I guess I wouldn't mind if 50 years from now the all time home run list looked something like this:

Bonds(*) 812
Rodriguez 783
Aaron 756
Pujols 722
Ruth 714

(*) - asshole

11:01 AM  
Anonymous JPW said...

Very well put, ASWOBA.... and: a hilariously apt "comment", Nutso. I will simply add that Bonds confirmed his lack of character (to anyone who still gave him the benefit of the doubt) by failing to mention or otherwise acknowledge Aaron during his post-756 on-field speech (and yes: I'm aware Aaron has criticized Bonds publicly, but so what?). It's always painful when a person of high achievement is totally lacking in class.

I just wonder to myself: isn't it a better legacy to be a terrific guy who played a great game and made one's kids unabashedly proud than to break a record with shady behavior that will forever cast doubt upon one's "natural" abilities? Mark and I agree that Bonds should have gracefully retired at 754 or 755, acknowledging the issue of steroids and performance enhancers and opening the debate about their use while citing Aaron's greatness and humbly pledging to help the sport in whatever way he can for the future of his son and baseball lovers everywhere. Talk about class. That would have been something. Anyone agree?

11:25 AM  

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