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That sports thing.

Okay, so, I am officially not getting it.

1. Barry Bonds has not been proven (by a court of law, by MLB's internal testing, or by his own admission) to have taken steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs.

2. Even if he did take them (which, sure, in my completely uninformed and without admissibility to any governing or regulating body opinion, he probably did), they were not against the rules of Major League Baseball for the majority of his career, when he hit the vast majority of his home runs.

3. Despite the fact that Bonds, if he did use performance-enhancing drugs, is hardly the only MLB hitter to do so, he is the only one to have come even remotely close to breaking the all-time home run record.

So what's the big deal?

Even discounting the ready availability of steroids, HGH and the like, Bonds played in the era of the bandbox ballpark, the expansion-diluted pitching staff, and the (allegedly) juiced ball, but he's the only hitter who takes this kind of shit. Every hitter who ever played for the Colorado Rockies ought to have an asterisk next to their name, but they won't get one. I don't remember this kind of bullshit in '98 when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were vying for the single-season home run crown; far from tainting the purity of the game, they were praised as the saviors of baseball. And yet everyone 'knew' (as much as they 'know' about Bonds), even then, that McGwire and Sosa were probably juicing. And today, when there's little doubt -- McGwire is damned by his own hand and the testimony of others, and Sosa's catastrophic collapse and suspicious taste in friends has created more than enough reasonable doubt -- they don't catch nearly the heat that Bonds does, despite having broken another supposedly sacrosanct record. Bonds is and was a better player than both of them; McGwire was always a one-dimensional crusher and Sosa's home run hitting came at a time when every other aspect of his game was on the decline, whereas Bonds was always great, a terrific runner and a canny slugger, a fantastic fielder and a smart hitter who knew what swing to use when. He won a stunning three MVP awards before he became known as a home run hitter.

It's enough to make you think that his real sins are things like hating the press, being short with the fans, and failing to be properly deferent and respectful. None of which, last time I checked, earn you an asterisk.



Aug. 8th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
Apparently, San Francisco is one of the worst places to hit home runs in the modern era.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm trying to think of a "San Francisco Values" joke here, but it's just not coming.
Aug. 8th, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
I was wondering what your take on this would be, and I was right.

Here in SF, Bonds doesn't necessarily get a complete free pass, but also the fans and broadcasters here have been watching him play for over a decade, and know how good he is on a day to day basis.

He's 43 and still considered a dangerous hitter, that's a fact. Any pitcher who makes a mistake against him most likely will pay for it. His swing is considered almost perfect. His eye-hand coordination is arguably his most valuable weapon.

Your last paragraph is correct. He is a grouch. He hates stupid questions. But he isn't short with all fans, there are many stories about his graciousness with Giants fans, believe it or not.
Aug. 8th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC)
That's... but... I... woah. You've completely turned me around on this. Well said!
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:26 pm (UTC)
the ghost of Josh Gibson
The day the Commish's office erases or asterixes all pre-integration records is the day I start listening to all the anti-Bonds & steroid era bullshit.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:31 pm (UTC)
Re: the ghost of Josh Gibson
yeah, good call.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
There is no worse crime on the planet Earth than breaking a sacrosanct baseball record while being a complete dick about it.

Say what you will, but I see this as a clear improvement over the attitude, held widely a generation ago, that simply being a non-white guy was enough to earn you death threats for going after the big homerun crown.
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:04 am (UTC)
You know, I'm not ready to call racism on any of this, but I do have a feeling that at least some of this heat is because Barry Bonds is the wrong kind of nigger.

I 'splain: Jackie Robinson properly gets called a saint for doing what he did. But consider: was there anything wrong with the hundred other guys who might have been offered the same gig, save for saying "Uh, no, I have no intention of eating Whitey's shit for the rest of my stress-shortened life, fuck you very much?" No, there certainly was not. And I got nothing against Hank Aaron -- the guy was fucking great -- but I can't shake the notion that racism still being very much alive in baseball (exhibit A: John Rocker), a lot of people 'forgave' him for breaking the record because he was deferent and respectful and quiet. Something Barry definitely is not.

So how come Barry gets shit on? It can't be JUST because he's a self-absorbed, arrogant jerk with a massive sense of entitlement; I mean, I don't see no asterisk next to Mickey Mantle's name.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC)
Man, I cannot speak to the controversy one way or t'other - believing as I do that sports fans are a kind of semi-intelligent mold spore, and like a mold spore I may survive an encounter with one or two of 'em but not a gihugical cloud of 'em - and keeping in mind that all I've seen of this so far has been ESPN's enthusiastic blowjob of a video tribute, BUT I suspect that if there really was less criticism of McGwire and Sosa it may've been because those two were conceivably in competition with each other, whereas Bonds was chasing a long-revered record solo. He might've been a lightning rod for impotent outrage, hooray.

As an aside, if it makes Aaron aficianados feel any better, it doesn't look like anyone is having the gall to beat the career record for extra base hits any time soon...
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
>I suspect that if there really was less criticism of McGwire and Sosa

I dunno if you were following baseball at the time, but man, there's no question there was less criticism of them -- less as in none. To hear the press tell it (and who else tells it?) those two paused between home runs to shit blueberries and fart cancer cures and every tater they smacked placed a golden brick protected by Jesus fairies in the impregnable wall of baseball's integrity.

>if it makes Aaron aficianados feel any better, it doesn't look like anyone is having the gall to beat the career record for extra base hits any time soon...

Word to that. And honestly, this whole defending-Hank's-honor stuff is just a dodge, a beard that makes hating Barry more respectable. Aside from the fact that Hank still gots all his money and the respect of every fan who ever lived, who thinks the world is gonna suddenly forget he ever existed because some numbnuts hit one more home run? Nobody has forgotten Ted Williams, and he hardly holds any records of any kind. Does the world shrug and go "Who? Never heard of him" at the mention of Babe Ruth's name? Bah.
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC)
You know, the thing is, I could SWEAR I heard some'a the same criticism levelled at McGwire at the time, at the very least, because he had arms like a granite cannon. Letterman and the Daily Show cracked a few at his expense, in any case.

So, I was watching ESPN jump over chairs for Bonds on one TV at the gym, and Fox News report the thing - with expert commentary - on the other. The Foxpert commentary was delivered by the usual type of high-cheekboned, dead-eyed grinning she-mess they usually deliver for these kinds of puff pieces, some entertainment or cultural review reporter or something.

To my delight, she was asked about the fan who caught the record-breaking ball (She opines "He was carried out, a bloody mess - you have to ask yourself, is it worth it?" Haha, lady, haha) and went on to say "The comic book reader who bought the McGwire balls ..."

The comic book reader. I love that she not only got the occupation wrong, but somehow thought she was describing something relevant about the guy by telling us what he reads. Instead of McFarlane, I picture some guy with his nose buried in a copy of Jughead's Jokes, handing a million dollars over a counter and getting a baseball shoved at hi. He accepts it mutely, and walks away ...
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)
HA HA! Maaaan, aside from the accuracy (I mean, it's not like Todd actually writes comics anymore), I totally picture it being a Reggie-type rich brat, just buying whatever's under the glass. "Let's see now...I'll take that 'Amazing Fantasy', with the, er, the spidery chap on the front...and that copy of 'Captain American' #1...however many of those Max Fisher Super-man reels you've got, a couple of those pictures of the swamp monkey or whatever he is, yes, The Pogo...and, oh, let's say that baseball, I'm sure I can put it in the vault somewhere. Many thanks, shoppie, now back to your funnybooks!"
Aug. 22nd, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
Remember Mark McGwire and andro? It was a fairly huge deal, even during the home run chase. Sure, he got less criticism than Bonds, and would have been cheered even if he hit the homer on the road, but to say McGwire (I don't remember much about Sosa, he sort of lost his charm after the odd corked bat incident) received zero criticism is incorrect.
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)
That's the thing that kills me about "controversies" like this. It's like as though the people that are outraged believe that there's never been a profession with higher ethical standards than professional athletes.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:00 am (UTC)
The career record was always a bigger deal than the single-season record.

McGwire and Sosa have also taken heat since the steroid rumors became steroid allegations became steroid depositions and seized records of steroid sales. They've taken less of it, because McGwire has been retired and Sosa has been barely associated with baseball. McGwire missed the HoF this year because of steroids.

Bonds is a shit, especially to the sports reporters, who are the pettiest bunch of weak-chinned approval-seeking jockstrap sniffers after political correspondents and law students. Of course that's going to affect his reception, and it's going to make people less charitable about his breaking of a cherished record.

Barry was probably the greatest non-pitcher in baseball. I don't want an asterisk after his name, but I wish that a nicer guy had broken the record.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
Miles Davis and Pablo Picasso were assholes too. I don't see anyone trying to put an asterisk beside Kind of Blue or Guernica.

The problem with baseball cultists is that they believe things wouldn't be as bad as they are if it were still 1929. They're right of course -- things were a whole lot worse back then.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:30 am (UTC)
Yeah, but nobody ever called Pablo Picasso an asshole.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
well nobody who lived anyway.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:03 am (UTC)
Read "Game of Shadows" and you'll get it a little better.

Yeah, I know everyone's juicing and no one called Sosa and McGwire on it, but that doesn't make it right. Now that McGwire has admitted it, he's not coming anywhere close to getting enough votes for the Hall.

I agree that he's a great all around player and he didn't start juicing until after Sosa/McGwire's homerun faceoff, but the defense smacks of "everyone else was doing it, so it's okay" to me. And you know, maybe he'd be getting a bigger pass from the general public if he wasn't a jerk, but maybe not. No one's cheering for Jason Giambi these days, either.

I can't get excited about some rich kid of privilege with innate, special talents deciding it wasn't enough and cheating to outdo everyone around him so he could break the record of a poor kid who had to fight through horrible racism to get a major league team to even look at him, much less achieve greatness.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
that was from me. stupid livejournal keeps logging me out.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:13 am (UTC)
"* Personally, I have no idea whether or not Barry Bonds has used anabolic steroids during the course of his career, nor do I think the evidence marshaled thus far on the matter is conclusive, either way. But I do find it interesting that many are calling for the placement of an asterisk next to Bonds' name in the record books, especially should he eclipse Ruth, or later, Hank Aaron, in terms of career home runs. The asterisk, we are told, would differentiate Bonds from other athletes, the latter of which, presumably accomplished their feats without performance enhancers. Yet, while it is certainly true that Aaron's 755 home runs came without any form of performance enhancement (indeed, he, like other black ball-players had to face overt hostility in the early years of their careers, and even as he approached Ruth's record of 714, he was receiving death threats), for Ruth, such a claim would be laughable. Ruth, as with any white baseball player from the early 1890s to 1947, benefited from the "performance enhancement" of not having to compete against black athletes, whose abilities often far surpassed their own. Ruth didn't have to face black pitchers, nor vie for batting titles against black home run sluggers. Until white fans demand an asterisk next to the names of every one of their white baseball heroes -- Ruth, Cobb, DiMaggio, and Williams, for starters -- who played under apartheid rules, the demand for such a blemish next to the name of Bonds can only be seen as highly selective, hypocritical, and ultimately racist. White privilege and protection from black competition certainly did more for those men's game than creotine or other substances could ever do for the likes of Barry Bonds."

-- Tim Wise "What Kind of Card is Race?
The Absurdity (and Consistency) of White Denial"
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:14 am (UTC)
Well said. One point of difference. It's true that McGwire and Sosa were being worshiped when they were at their peak, but that's certainly not the case now that the pervasive used of performance enhancers is understood. These guys are getting what they deserved. McGwire didn't get into the Hall of Fame (and may not?) even though his numbers put him there. Sosa (and Palmeiro, while I'm naming names) will probably suffer the same fate. They've all lost respect and hero status. I don't think it'll hurt Barry as much though; as you mention, he was a great player before anything suspicious happened.

I'll give him due for being the all time HR leader, but it's with the understanding that different eras in baseball really can't be compared. Ruth or Mays or Aaron might've had a lot more homers had they played in the Coors Field/Great American Ballpark era, with shitty pitching and an emphasis on power to boot. Works with all numbers. I certainly don't think Nolan Ryan or Johan Santana are any less immortal pitchers just because they're not going to touch Cy Young's 511 wins.
Aug. 9th, 2007 03:51 am (UTC)
More like Lord of the gays if you ask me
You know who need an asterisk? Motherfucking Gaylord Perry. That dude used all kinds of performance-enhancing substances -- saliva, emery boards, Vaseline -- that were explicitly illegal under baseball's rules, and he wrote a book about how he got away with it in the middle of his career. And then he goes and breaks Walter Johnson's career strikeout record and winds up in the Hall of Fame. At least with Bonds, there's a level of uncertainty as to how much steroids might have helped the record itself (instead of simply prolonging his career by stifling injuries); if you gob on a ball there's no doubt it'll be harder to hit.
Aug. 9th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
Re: More like Lord of the gays if you ask me
Amen to that. Thing about Gaylord - which is a characteristic that has been talked about in these comments - is that, gol durn it, he was a jokey, likable guy. Sure, he threw the spitball like it was 1929 and he was Burleigh Grimes (look it up). But he was just so blatant about it - that book was called Me and the Spitter, after all - that people shrugged it off.

I'm not at all condoning what Gaylord did. Spitballs are illegal and create a very obvious advantage. But Gaylord wasn't an "uppity nigra," which is how Bonds is perceived, so he gets a pass by the baseball-watching public. Also, Gaylord wasn't anywhere near the pantheon of greats like Ruth, Mathewson, Cobb, Cy Young, et al. Barry Bonds steps around their sacred ground on a regular basis.
Aug. 9th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
I think it's mostly because Bonds is such a cock to everyone. It really reduces the capacity of the public to give him the benefit of the doubt.