On this day after Barry Bonds hit home run 756, I feel compelled to write on the topic. But I write not to praise Barry Bonds. Nor do I write to condemn Barry Bonds. I'm writing about the media's take on Barry Bonds.
(A brief aside: Barry Bonds is the best player that I've ever seen play baseball. And anyone who watched him play in his first decade would recognize him as one of the best five-tool players ever -- he won multiple Gold Gloves for his defense and throwing, he hit for average and for power, and he was a very good base runner who also stole lots of bases.)
I write on this because of sentences like this: "It is now officially a day of mourning. Black bunting should hang from every ballpark in America. A riderless black horse, its saddle empty, its stirrups filled by a pair of Hank Aaron's cleats turned backward, should be led around every warning track tonight.
"The greatest record in sports has fallen to a liar and a cheat."
And, as remarkable as this might sound, it's got to be noted that none of the Chron's great scribes are responsible for that hyperbole. It comes from Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
But I can't ignore the Chron. My buddy Richard Justice opines on his blog: "If you're okay with cheating, you're okay with Barry Bonds. If you believe that sportsmanship and honor are important, you probably have a problem with Bonds."
Then there's Justice's column, which is one of those where he talks about the great enduring spirit of baseball and how Bonds has defiled its memory.
I've got two names for Mr. Reeves and Mr. Justice: Pete Rose and Gaylord Perry.
Pete Rose is baseball's all-time hit king. Pete Rose is also a convicted liar, and he also cheated -- Rose was nailed for amphetamine use back during his days with the Phillies (unlike steriods, amphetamines, an illegal substance, has always been banned). Rose took the amphetamines to help him get through games -- they served as uppers with the thought that they provided energy. And after Rose confessed to gambling on baseball, I don't recall hearing any cries from the Justices and Reeves of baseball to strip Rose of his hit mark. Pete Rose will never be confused with men of honor and integrity, but his marks still stand.
(Yeah, I know, he didn't use 'roids which helped to make Bonds a better player and supposedly helped him to hit the ball further and to recover faster from aches and injuries. But Bonds supposedly did this so that he would be a better player which would help to make his team better. Rose bet on baseball games to make money -- his betting didn't make the Reds better, and it's arguable that it could've helped the teams he managed lose games.)
(And I know that Rose is banned from baseball, but his records are still on the books, and there are many who still want to celebrate his achievements.)
And if you want to talk to me about honor and integrity and sportsmanship, then you better be ripping Gaylord Perry's plaque out of the baseball Hall-of-Fame. Perry's admitted to throwing the spitter, a pitch which has been banned since the 1920s. And if not for the use of the spitter, it's doubtful Perry would've stuck around long enough to get his 300 wins. But Perry's violation of the rules seems to be an okay thing. It's something that's laughed about. And it's used to show his competitive sprit. The same goes for Hall-of-Famers Whitey Ford and Don Sutton.
So, how is this different from Bonds?
Which, I guess, brings me to my final point. Justice, as he does so often when people mention Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemens, writes: "As for Bagwell and Clemens, I don't know that either took performance enhancing drugs. I don't know the evidence against Bagwell and Clemens.
"Bagwell's body did change dramatically during the steroid years, so it's reasonable to assume he used steroids. Clemens is a tougher sell for me. His career has been remarkably consistent. He won Cy Youngs before steroids were in the mix and after testing began. If he took them, they didn't do much for his performance."
I've written on this topic several times, but I guess I need to address it again. Just because Richard Justice ain't looking for evidence doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The reason so much is known about Bonds is that the Feds raided the BALCO lab. A couple of reporters with the San Francisco Chronicle started poking around with what the Feds were doing, and since it was known that Bonds was a client with BALCO, they found some pretty damning things.
Last season, a pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks was busted by the Feds regarding steroid use. In an affidavit obtained by the Los Angeles Times, this guy named Roger Clemens as another steroids user. Now, you might think that an enterprising reporter like Justice might follow up on this, do a little leg work maybe, and go see what he could find.
Nope. Nothing happened. But the evidence is out there. And if someone were to really start looking, maybe lots more could be found, like all of the stuff that's been found about Bonds. But that would require work. And reporting would interfere with the radio shows and the appearances on Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption.
As for the Cy Youngs before-and-after argument. I guess that I really shouldn't mention that Barry Bonds won Gold Gloves and MVPs before the 'roids, too. And anybody who watched Clemens pitch his last several seasons with the Red Sox should note some improvements as well. So, Richard, get a new argument.
I'm sick of this whole thing. So, let's watch the hyperbole. A game that celebrates Pete Rose and Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton and Whitey Ford shouldn't be turning its nose up at Barry Bonds. And when writers start blathering on about honor and integrity and sportsmanship, perhaps they should do a little more work because baseball celebrates the liars and cheats. Perhaps that's why it really is America's Game. – John Royal