Archive for May, 2007

Let me off the anti-Bonds bandwagon

May 9, 2007

Is there a media outlet somewhere that isn’t bashing Barry Bonds as he draws closer and closer to Henry Aaron’s all-time home run record?
I’ll admit, I use to be a torch carrying member of the media throng and, apparently, government investi­gators, that are out to run the man out of baseball, into obscurity for his alleged cheating and into a jail cell for perjury.
Then, I start­ed thinking.
Major League Baseball didn’t start testing for steroids, or any other performance- enhanc­ing drugs, until 2003. So, while he may have been afoul of the law, he was within the rules of the game in 2001 when he hit his 73 homers.
Was it right? Of course not. Do I think less of the man — and his achievements — because of the very likely scenario that he took human growth hormones? Yeah, I sure do.
He’s never tested positive for anything, but there is no reliable test for HGH. The man has gone up three shoe sizes since 1998. That ain’t natural, folks.
But here’s the key thing for me. Was he the only guy cutting corners?
You think that, perhaps, some of the pitchers serving up those bombs were equally guilty of the same thing?
With the recent revelation that former Mets’ bat boy Kirk Radomski has been aiding a federal investiga­tion into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, I started wonder­ing. He says he provided steroids, human growth hormone, ampheta­mines and other drugs to “dozens of current and former Major League Baseball players and associates.”
He’s one guy in one clubhouse. How deep does it go?
Are you going to wipe half the league — and their stats — out of the league history books if it comes down that 50, 100 or 200 players were guilty of doping? Where do you draw the line?
I blame baseball for using the summer of 1998 (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s assault on Roger Maris’ homer record) to reignite interest in the game following four years of labor strife between owners and players that turned off fans.
Baseball, I suspect, knew that a “better playing through chemistry” philosophy was running rampant in the game, but didn’t care as long as it lured the fans back to the park.
That summer, many believe, got under Bonds’ skin. He hit .303 with 37 homers and 122 RBI while steal­ing 28 bases. He finished eighth in the MVP voting that season (Sosa won the honor) and I think it ticked him off.
He averaged 41 homers a year from 1999 to 2006, a remarkable late-career surge for a man that will turn 43 in July.
So when Roger Clemens signs the richest one-year deal — almost $155,000 a day — in baseball history this week at almost 45-years-old, why is he regarded as a marvel when Bonds is automatically labeled a cheater?
The man was a sure-fire hall of famer before his homer binge, and I think he’s the best player of his gen­eration and one of the best five ever to walk onto a baseball field.
So, when he breaks the record, I’ll be watching. And if I ever get a hall of fame vote, I’ll give it to him.
I hate the fact that baseball had a steroid era, but it happened. And he was the best player on the stage that was in place at the time.
You don’t have to love the man, but he’s earned his place in history.