Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bonds & 756: A Call for Consistency

This is not a post that is spiritual in's just a soapbox of mine. Despite the passion that this post may seem to express, it's really not that big of a deal to me. I just think we're often shortsighted when it comes to controversial issues like this. now the entire connected world knows that Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's 33-year-old career home run record Tuesday night. Personally, where I stand on the issue is quite different than most. I applaud his effort. I celebrated the achievement last evening. I smiled when he hit it.

Many baseball fans chose long ago to not "recognize" Bonds as the HR champ if he ever passed Aaron; I would like to choose to not "recognize" the last five Iron Bowl match ups between Alabama and Auburn, but that doesn't change that Auburn has officially won all of them.

More importantly, in my opinion, is how so many people in America have not only thrown Bonds' record out the window, but also consistency and common sense.

Don't get me wrong: cheating, lying, deception, harming your body drastically are all things that violate God's will for our lives. I'm not in anyway condoning any use of substances he may have allegedly depended upon. Bonds (nor McGwire, Sosa, etc.) is not a role-model of mine. If I had children, I would push them toward respectable athletes like Ken Griffey, Jr., Derek Jeter, Brett Favre, and Hank Aaron. That's where I stand on Bonds.

Here's where I stand on the record: it stands. It stands with a period and not an *. Here are several things that should be considered before throwing Bonds (and his record) into oblivion:


It looks pretty obvious Bonds used some substance(s) to get bigger, have better vision, and essentially knock more home runs. For those who insist it should be footnoted in history that Bonds used steroids (despite the lack of positive evidence), I have one question: why is this the only accomplishment questioned? Why not place asterisks on all of the World Series trophies from 1998 through 2004? If we're going to label those years the "steroid years," then it's very likely the Yankees (3 championships), D-backs (2001), Angels (2002), Marlins (2003), and everyone's darling Red Sox (2004) probably had juiced players in their lineups. Should the record books show that the Cardinals (NL runners-up) played in the 2002 World Series instead of the Giants, who clearly benefited from Bonds' drugged dingers? Pull that NL pennant down from AT&T Park, and sew a big fat asterisk on it! Yes, Pete Rose is paying his dues for gambling by not being in the Hall of Fame, but he still has his hits record...without an asterisk. Couldn't he conceivably have included an opposing pitcher in his bets: "You throw me a hanging curve, and I'll give you 20% of what I win tonight." Consistency must be considered if we're going to asterisk 756.

Additionally, the reason steroids are considered a big no-no is because they give a player an "unfair advantage." An unfair advantage over whom? If I cheat on a test in high school, it's unfair to the teacher and to the other students. If a whole class of students cheats on a test, its an unfair advantage over the teacher. In sports, your competition is the opposing team. Juicing may not be healthy; it may not be ethical; but let's not call it unfair until we know how many players were doing it (since they're all competing against one another). If a batter is facing a 'roided pitcher and hitting it to 'roided fielders, who themselves will in turn be 'roided batters themselves in the bottom half of the inning, the only way it's unfair is if the batter is clean! Rick Sutcliffe talked about a conversation he had with Wally Joyner not long ago. Joyner says he feels guilty looking back on his career...not for doing, but for not doing. He feels almost as if he let his family (more money, etc.) and teammates (more production) down! I'm proud of his integrity, and that answers the question, "what ever happened to Wally Joyner?", but clearly Joyner knows how widespread this problem was. When there's no way to know how many juiced pitchers Bonds faced and how many juiced homers the Giants' opponents hit, it's inconsistent to claim he had an unfair advantage.

Finally, if we know Bonds and all these guys used steroids, they need to be arrested, not asterisked. Millions of Americans are outraged because Bonds cheated and took away Hammering Hank's record. Yet, no one seems to care that steroids were (and are) illegal!

The Record:

Here's why all of a sudden fans have become concerned with "ethics" in sports (they really don't care, it's just this issue): they don't like Bonds. The media has continued to paint him as a jerk. Based on the way he treated poor Pedro Gomez at the press conference last night, it seems like that picture might be somewhat accurate. The truth is that people don't want to replace one of the classiest athletes ever in Aaron with one of the jerkiest in Bonds. If pitcher Mike Bacsik was the one breaking the home run record (as he said he dreamed of doing), the media would have less of a reason to dig up and emphasize any controversy...because he has a good media personality. Changing who is atop the home run list doesn't mean that we have to do any's just a number. If you like Aaron because he's classy, and did things the right way, then keep liking him. Why should you let a pompous, juiced, egomaniac change your opinion?

Similarly, it's a generational thing. Bringing up Bacsik again, if someone with his personality (a good one) would have broken the record, there would still be a lot of people who didn't like it. Because "they don't play ball like they did when I was growing up." Or "baseball's not the same for me anymore." Or "that kid will never replace Aaron in my mind." 33 years ago, some people pretended like race was an issue with Aaron trumping Ruth. For those lunatics, race wasn't really an issue, they just didn't to see their hero (Ruth) replaced with someone else (Aaron). It's a lot easier for people to say they don't like Bonds having the record "because he used steroids" than because "he's not Hank Aaron." 30 years from now, no one will care about steroids as much as we act like we do now.

Finally, comparing such a specific record across generations cannot be done equally. Not only did Bonds appear to have a scientific advantage, he played in smaller stadiums, in more games per season, and against thinner pitching staffs. Likewise, Aaron played in more games per season and in smaller ballparks than did Ruth...and he didn't pitch either. I can't remember the guy Ruth passed, but clearly something wasn't equal. Ruth broke the all-time record with his 129th home run. He would go on to hit 586 more. If we claim Bonds' isn't the real home run king, we could equally claim that Aaron never was the real home run king, etc.

Add an * if you must, but Bonds broke the record. I just hope that we can begin to view sports and the world around us reasonably and consistently...and without *'s.

1 comment:

10 Minute Book Reviews said...


Well stated, but I think the * should be there. I have said for a long time that my problem with the use of steriods is that they are illegal (as you stated).

Bonds is the home run "king," but he did cheat--and break the law--to get there. That should be enough to warrant an *.