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Archive for Sunday, June 17, 2007

Commentary: Put Bonds’ accomplishments in perspective

Commissioner should show for record-breaking home run

June 17, 2007

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Barry Bonds hit in Fenway Park for the first time this weekend, and there is just something cool about that.

I know, I know. There is supposed to be absolutely nothing cool about Bonds these days. I understand where most of the media and, perhaps, most of the baseball fans in America stand on this issue.

If you make it to page 300 of "Game of Shadows" and still don't believe that Bonds began using steroids after the 1998 season, I am going to say that you probably skipped quite a few pages.

But for a short time - and I mean the time it takes Bonds to hit nine home runs and surpass Hank Aaron, which might be more like two months - baseball needs to put that issue aside.

I am dead serious.

Commissioner Bud Selig needs to tell Cardinals manager Tony La Russa that Bonds deserves a spot on the All-Star team for the game that will be played in the San Francisco park that Bonds almost personally sold out for years.

Selig needs to belatedly announce that when Bonds gets to 754 home runs, he will attend every Giants game until Bonds hits No. 756.

He doesn't have to throw Bonds a parade. He doesn't need to order fans to cheer for him. But baseball needs to recognize that the game's biggest all-time record is about to be broken.

After that, we can return to the daily discussion of steroid use if we must. We can debate Bonds' place in history, his worthiness of the Hall of Fame and all the rest.

I still intend to vote for him, although I reserve the right to change my mind over the next several years before Bonds becomes eligible. At the end of the 1998 season, Bonds had more than 400 home runs, more than 1,200 RBIs, eight trips to the All-Star game and three Most Valuable Player awards.

There is not a retired player with those credentials who is not in the Hall of Fame.

Now, what Bonds allegedly did after 1998 disgraced the game, stained his reputation and quite possibly encouraged young athletes across the country to take steroids or human growth hormone.

If you think that disqualifies those credentials earned through the 1998 season, I will listen to that argument.

But that's later.

This is what's happening now.

A record that Aaron appeared to put out of sight more than 30 years ago is about to fall. If the man succeeding Aaron got there illegally, he also got there by doing what he saw his peers doing before him.

Consider this:

Since the start of the 2005 season, 176 players (all but 16 of them minor-leaguers) have been suspended for violations of baseball's drug policy. Almost all of those were for performance-enhancing drugs.

That's just the number of those caught after players knew they would be tested.

How many do you think were using steroids before baseball banned them?

And - here is the key - how many of those users hit like Bonds? The obvious answer is none.

Even today, nearing 43, he leads the National League in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

We immediately suspect home-run hitters of being cheaters but rarely consider it in the case of pitchers. And yet 56 percent of the players suspended since 2005 are pitchers.

Where's the stigma?

In his controversial and completely undocumented book, "Juiced," Jose Canseco accuses Roger Clemens of asking him about steroids. Clemens has denied that.

But pitcher Jason Grimsley, suspended for performance-enhancing drugs a year ago, said in an affidavit that trainer Brian McNamee, used by Clemens even after the Yankees had fired him, had told him how to obtain anabolic steroids. Grimsley also reportedly named Clemens and Andy Pettitte as users of performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens was still using McNamee as recently as last month. He has since cut ties with the trainer.

That evidence, sketchier than the leaked grand jury testimony that appears to condemn Bonds, does not haunt Clemens. As he pitches into his mid-40s with almost the same skills he displayed a decade ago, his records are not regarded as tainted.

Maybe they aren't. And maybe Bonds' records are.

But we don't know that now, and we have all the time in the world to consider those subjects later.

For now, the best hitter of the past 40 years is playing in a magical baseball park in pursuit of baseball's grandest record.

You don't have to clap for him. But it's disingenuous for the commissioner and the rest of baseball to look the other way and try not to even notice his accomplishments.

Baseball owes Bonds this moment.

Bud Selig needs to briefly put aside any suspicion that surrounds Barry Bonds as the Giants star prepares to break baseball's most revered record.

Comments

ocoile 7 years, 6 months ago

I have a suggestion that will seperate the "clean" players from the "dirty" players. It's so simple, and it's fair to everyone. In the record books, put an asterisk ( * ) by the names of every player who was proven to have taken "performance enhancing drugs." When comparing records of players, that asterisk will point out players who cheated in baseball. OR, put a "permanant" asterisk by their names. That will clean up baseball fast.

Oscar M. Coile Byron, Ga.

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