brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell

8Mar/060

I don’t buy Bonds…

I often listen to sports talk shows while commuting (especially now that I'm on hiatus from my commute time podcasts and baseball season is coming up) and today the AM waves were all atwitter with news of the Sports Illustrated cover story excerpting the upcoming book by Chronicle sportswriters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams presenting documentation that Bonds used a variety of performance enhancing drugs beginning in the 1998 season.

You can read this summary if you like on sfgate.com.

Juiced or not, Bonds was clearly an incredible baseball talent.  Prior to the 1998 season, Bonds had amassed 371 career home runs and 417 stolen bases in 12 years in the majors, with seven Golden Gloves and three MVP awards.    The new book claims that in 1998 when Mark McGwire broke the single season home run record, that Bonds was jealous of the attention that it warranted, and resolved to do something about it.

None of this is really all that new, but on the radio fan after fan called in, and I found their comments to be irritating in a number of ways.

  1. Some fans called in saying that nothing was proven and that Bonds didn't use steroids.  Since even Bonds himself admitted to using steroids (unknowningly, as he claims) this seems to be an absurd assertion.
  2. Others called in to say that while Bonds may have been using steroids, lots of other athletes have used performance enhancing drugs like Lance Armstrong, McGwire, or Palmero, and nobody is crying about them.  This seems to be the most childish argument: "everyone else is doing it, and they aren't getting in trouble".   This in no way exonerates Bonds from responsibility.
  3. Others called in to say that it seems hypocritical for Bud Selig and baseball management to come out against steroids, since they clearly benefitted from the hysteria created by McGwire, Sosa and Bonds for hitting homeruns.   While I agree, again, this in no way exonerates Bonds from responsibility for his actions.
  4. Others called into claim that since it wasn't illegal, nothing should be done.  Well, actually I agree.  But just because there is no legal or contractual course of action doesn't mean that Bonds' actions were appropriate.
  5. Another group called in to say, "yeah, it's bad, but what are you gonna do?"  My philosophy: when people cheat, take your ball and go home.   Just simply refuse to play with them.

I won't be cheering for Bonds any more, even though he helped treat me to one of the most exciting baseball moments I've ever witnessed.  It's not like I think he's a total sham: as I mentioned, he's an amazing talent.  When he set the single season mark for home runs, he seemingly hit everything that came over the plate, and didn't swing at anything which didn't.  He was uncanny in his ability to put the bat on the ball.   But go back over each of those 73 hits.  If the performance enhancers he was taken add ten feet to the length of his hits, how many homers would have simply been long outs deep to right?  Could he have captured that particular record without the boost?

He'll almost certainly pass Ruth, a chubby guy who smoked and drank.   He may even pass Aaron.   He'll be undoubtably enshrined in Cooperstown as the greatest homerun hitter (and maybe the best player) of all time, but you won't get any cheers about it from me.   You see, when you play a game, you should play fairly, or not play at all.   The story of Bonds will always be one of phenomenal talent, tinged by the scandal of doing whatever it took, ethical or not, to gain baseball's highest honor.  I think he's cheapened the game, irrevocably harmed the integrity of the game.  He's not solely responsible, but he is responsible.

I'd cheer if he failed to break Ruth's record, because then we wouldn't have to bring up this sad chapter in baseball everytime home runs are mentioned.

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