Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bonds owns record, but debate lingers

August 11, 2007


It's over. Barry Bonds is the all-time home run leader, and early indications are that baseball will continue to be played, possibly even in daylight - if the sun comes up.

Records only matter if we think they do. When you hear that Hank Aaron's 755 home runs constituted "one of the most hallowed records in sports," ask yourself this: Who did the hallowing? We did.

If you see Bonds as the home run king, that's your prerogative. Me, I see him as an all-time great player who would have finished with about 600 homers if he had stayed clean. Records, like money, can't buy class.

By now it is an accepted fact that Bonds used performance-enhancers. Not even the super-sized, super-strong Bonds could shove aside this mountain of evidence. His defenders are left with a canard: "Steroids can't make you hit a baseball."

This is true. It is also true that a rod can't make you catch a fish. This is about artificial help. Steroids, like spitballs, help players improve their performance.

Bonds had more natural talent than any player of his generation, and thanks to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, he apparently had access to the finest performance-enhancers anywhere. The result was inevitable.

Bonds is surly, narcissistic and detached from reality - but still not nearly the baseball-wrecking devil he has been made out to be.

Bonds did not cause baseball's drug problem. He simply took advantage of it.

I'm not remotely defending Bonds. He had a choice and made the wrong one. But he is no more responsible for baseball's steroids mess than Jason Giambi, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco or the dozens of players who surely injected but have not been caught.

Bonds is not necessarily the worst offender. He is merely the most successful one.

There is no need to demonize Bonds - his actions are bad enough. But people continue to demonize him anyway. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has hired former U.S. senator George Mitchell to conduct a so-called unbiased investigation into steroid use in baseball.

I'll save both men some time, and I won't even charge for my work.

This is what happened: Major League Baseball had no rules governing steroid use. Many players used them. Some later admitted the drugs boosted their performance. MLB eventually got shamed into instituting a drug policy.

I ask: How is that all Barry Bonds' fault?

I would like Bonds to admit what he did. I would like him to say the drugs he took helped him become a better player in his late 30s than he had ever been before.

I would also like Selig to admit that he is more responsible for what happened than Bonds is. After all, Bonds' job is to help the San Francisco Giants win. Selig's job, at least in part, is to protect the integrity of baseball. You tell me who failed worse.

And while we're at it: Players Association leader Donald Fehr is supposed to represent the players' best interests. That should mean more than lining their pockets. He, too, failed.

Bonds got his record, Selig continues to run a highly profitable sport and Fehr is still in charge of a powerful union. All they surrendered were pieces of their reputations.


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