12.07.2004

Roids and Roses

In the past few years sports commentators, writers and bloggers including the bloggers of the Confines have heaped praise on Barry Bonds. The man changed the game to the point that he almost singlehandedly put his team in the playoffs. In the past four seasons Bonds hit a home run in 7.9 at bats, shattered the all time walk record. Bonds' performance over the past four years turned statisticians on their collective heads. He was far from my favorite player but I still called him the best hitter since Ted Williams.

Until this..

I'm lucky in a way. This hurts a bit less for me. I was introduced to baseball through the Twins of 1987 and 1991. This is an organization which last had a player hit 30 or more home runs in 1987. So its easier for me to pass judgement from afar, confident that my team is clean. I don't have the complications of being a Giants fan, or much of a Bonds fan for that matter. Even for me, however, what Bonds did to baseball surpasses everything except what baseball did to itself in 1994.

Bonds was never popular in the way which Sosa and McGwire were. Barry wasn't supposed to break the record set in the now cannonized summer of 1998. Bonds ignored the media, and they made him pay for it, helping to make Bonds one of the most unpopular players in the game. At the same time Barry was forced to deal with his father Bobby Bonds waste away from cancer. Although Bonds has damaged the game more than any single invidual player, he is no monster.

In the 1980's the Pete Rose scandal rocked the game. Rose disgraced the game. There is no doubt of that. Rose did not however, throw the credibility of every hitter in the game into question. Rose did not draw other managers into betting on baseball (at least that I'm aware of). Rose disgraced himself alone, and baseball could retain an appearance of intregrity.

Bonds' sin is not simply that he was a player who took steriods, it is that Barry Bonds took steriods. Bonds was already a hall of fame player before he began to take the steriods. Bonds was the son of a great player, godson of an even greater player. Bonds was the heir to the mantle of Mays and Aaron and he threw it away. Bonds drew other players to the same deplorable means of ascent which he has used to unprecdented effect.

From the San Francisico Chronicle:

"One week after Bonds testified, New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi and his brother Jeremy, both former Oakland A's, described in detail how they had injected themselves with performance-enhancing drugs. The Giambis testified they were drawn to Anderson because of Bonds' success.

Other players who admitted their use of performance-enhancing drugs were former Giants Armando Rios, Benito Santiago and Bobby Estalella. The players said they had come to know Anderson because he was Bonds' trainer.

A sixth witness, Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield, testified that while he trained with Bonds in the Bay Area before the 2002 baseball season, Bonds had arranged for him to receive "the cream," "the clear" and "red beans," which the prosecutors identified as steroid pills manufactured in Mexico.

Sheffield said he had never been told that the substances were steroids. Bonds also was using "the cream" and "the clear," Sheffield said. "Nothing was between me and Greg," Sheffield testified. "Barry pretty much controlled everything. ... It was basically Barry (saying), 'Trust me. Do what I do.""


I don't know for certain is Sheffield is telling the truth, but it doesn't really matter. The pattern is very clear. Every single player associated with BALCO was drawn into it by Bonds, either directly (as Sheffield testified) or indirectly as with the Giambi's.

Bonds' accomplishments of the past four seasons are now relgated to the scrapheap of history. Everything which Barry might well have ligitmately accomplished is now nothing. A possible astrisk would become Bonds' scarlet letter. The effects of what Bonds' has done to the game is far worse than anything which Pete Rose did. While Rose compromised his postion as manager, Bonds ruined the credibility of all any player who nears the hitting prowess which he displayed over the past four seasons. Throughout the events of the past four years I have remarked that baseball seemed to be one of the last vestiges of the promise of America: that all people will be able to rise as far as talent and hard work can take them. Amid the corproate scandals, prison abuse, debt, and religious intolerance baseball remained above the fray, untainted in my mind.

No longer.



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