"The fault, Dear Brutus..."

At the Confines, we've all weighed in on the Bonds issue. You readers know where we stand, and you're aware that I said I wanted proof. That proof has been plastered across the front page of every sports section of every paper in the country. The only possible exceptions are here in Minneapolis and St. Paul where we're mourning a fatal tragedy, not one of character.

I still see genuis in his swing; I still watch his at-bats in rapt attention, but something has changed. I'd held on to my "shadow of a doubt" arguments, and now that they're gone, I don't know what to think of him.

The media blitz has been brutal, and while I agree that the truth needs to be told, I have nothing but contempt for the writers who used this man as a meal ticket for the last five seasons, only to tear him apart now for the sake of a story. Let's be honest, this isn't about the sanctity of baseball, or we would have seen these sorts of accusations and stories in the press during the McGwire / Sosa race. This isn't about the protection of the most unreachable record in all of sports, all-time home runs, or we wouldn't have seen all the fanfare for the tens of milestones Barry has passed in the last few seasons. And this most certianly isn't about a feeling of betrayal, since no one seem to be hurt that this went on.

This is about revenge. Not necessarily the books themselves, although I reserve the right to comment after I have a chance to look at them myself. Most of the articles written are knife-twisting character assassinations. The venom and bile that has been unleashed in print and on the web could fuel a chemical weapons plant. How they've all forgotten that none of them published a damn word detailing steroid use until Jose Canseco wrote a book. As I think the Texas Rangers must have said many times, if we're depending on Jose Canseco, we're in real trouble. The writers were even slower and tamer than Congress in demanding answers from players on the steroid issue. But now they're shocked and appalled by Bonds, damning him as the worst cheat in baseball since the Black Sox. He may go down in history more hated than Pete Rose.

When I look at this, I don't see a chance for revenge against a star who, true, was frosty and combattive in his dealings with the press. I see Shakespearian tragedy. Bonds was a man with enormous talent, a true five-tool player who had already accomplished amazing things. But when he saw the media fall in love with Sammy and Mark, he wanted a piece. He was a better player, a better athlete, fielder, base stealer, runner and thrower. The only thing he wasn't better at was hitting home runs. He's the only 400/400 player in history, and furthermore, the only 500/500 player in history. But those records weren't enough for him.

I thought this article put it all nicely into perspective. Bonds wanted to be the media darling so bad that he was willing to radically chemically alter his body to do so, but it was no worse than McGwire, or Giambi, or Palmiero. He did cheat, but Caminiti put the bar at 75 percent of players. He was not alone. Bonds' competitive drive, that had made him so great was the same thing that brought him down in the end. It's reminiscent of Henry Bolingbroke in Richard II, when Bolingbroke kills and deposes a good king over a matter of pride and percieved injustice. Barry played the game brilliantly for 16 seasons, with nothing more that mortal blood in his veins, and a love of the game in his heart. It was his love for himself and how he played the game that led him away from that. That hubris is classical tragic flaw, and while such subects are treated with great tenderness and understanding by Shakespeare, they are not by mainstream sports writers. 'Tis a pity.

There are a few open-minded articles out there, but most reporters are having a field day, trotting out the articles they've worked on for years, titled "F@*% Barry Bonds (all the way to the bank)." Look, I don't think this guy is a hero, or even a particularly nice person. But I don't think he's the poster child for steroid abuse, and I don't think assassinating him in print is a noble act by the press. The MLB, the Player's Association, the press and the fans covered their eyes and ears. It should have been clear to us years ago, but no one wanted to pull back the curtain.

We now look down on Bonds for taking the easy way out, but didn't we all? His fault lies in himself, as ours do in ourselves. We entered into a confederacy of ignorance with the press and the MLB, that has been falling away bit by bit for the last few years. His fault, and ours, lie not in the stars, they are in ourselves.

You may not believe it, but I didn't realize that this post would go up on the Ides of March when I decided on the title. However, I will end on a note that is decidedly less than Shakespearian. There was a Simpsons episode a few years back where Bart takes a drug for ADD and discovers a conspiracy orchestrted by Major League Baseball. Mark McGwire shows up to placate the townspeople and asks them the following question:

"Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?"

Now we all know the answer to that question.


Quick Notes: March 3, 2006

Best Line by a writer this week - from The Hardball Times Offseason Rankings: Middle Third by Ben Jacobs

The only hope for Cubs fans is that Dusty Baker finally realizes that Perez isn't any good, which basically means there's no hope for Cubs fans.

Best Line by a writer last week - from A's Nation The Numbers Game by Blez

11,110: The number of times that the term Moneyball will be used in reference to Billy Beane throughout the season. Seriously, this book is going to be etched on Billy's tombstone.

11,109: The number of times people will misunderstand the general theme of the book.

11,108: The number of times it will be Joe Morgan.

My guess for the other time? Kruk.

Best Line by a player - Mike Mussina, on the DH

"When I lose something off my fastball, am I allowed to pitch from five feet closer?"

Best Award of the week - Sportszilla, Athelete Most Likely to Wind up on a Reality Show

If it wasn’t for the fact Rickey’s been hanging around independent minor league teams, Rickey would have probably already have made an appearance. Rickey can’t get enough of Rickey. That’s why Rickey will one day realize Rickey deserves to be beyond baseball and try Rickey’s hand on TV. Rickey will appear on “Celebrity Survivor: Sri Lanka” just to show the world that a 50 something year old Rickey is more in shape than a 27 year old Sasha Cohen. Rickey will tell her Rickey doesn’t fall on the big stage and will show her Rickey’s World Series rings to prove it. Rickey will win because Rickey is patient and will wait out all the competitors. Rickey will lull them to sleep with uninspired play, then turn it on and show them all Rickey’s boss. Then Rickey will do talk shows and say how if Rickey can win on Survivor, Rickey still deserves to be playing major league baseball. And sadly, since multiple teams will probably be starting a guy with on base percentage around .310, Rickey will be right.

Just a few random thoughts.

People really, really hate Barry Bonds (which he makes very easy to do). The bile that has leeched out of ESPN online in the last few weeks has been blacker and more poisonous that the fluids running through Dick Cheney's heart. Independent of anything else, we've been taught since we were children that is is not acceptable to root for players to be hurt, and this is a horrible message to be delivering to our kids. The steriod message is also bad, but I'm still one of those people who wants incontrovertible proof, and I haven't seen it yet. This is part of a larger trend of the public and sportswriters pressuring aging atheletes to retire. Rickey, above, is another, and the same thing happened to Jerry Rice. Just let these guys play; we owe them that much for everything they've given us.

The WBC is not going to catch on unless ESPN and MLB do a better job of promotion. There need to be team profiles, and for the love of god, announcers on every game. I watched the Korea / China Taipei matchup on MLB.com and there wasn't any commentary at all, not even in Mandarin (or whatever other language it would have been in). If these aren't fixed next year, I won't bother watching anything but the televised games.

Spring Training coverage makes breakfast fun again. I catch some of the rerun in the morning and it's so nice to see the boys of summer gearing up. One month to go.