Monday, July 23, 2007

Barry who?

Barry Bonds is two home runs away from tying Hank Aaron's all-time home run record of 755, three from breaking it. Barring a huge anomaly, Bonds will accomplish this feat before the middle of August, if not sooner- maybe next week.

In my mind, if Bond's breaks the record, it is illegitimate. It is all but certain Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs for a 3-5 year period- a period that saw his statistics go through the roof at an age (35...believe me, things start breaking down at this ripe old age) when players are historically in a steep statistical decline. He gained 43 pounds from his early days in Pittsburgh and the list of evidences for performance enhancing drugs go on. If you haven't read the Sports Illustrated article on Bonds, you should. Even if only a fraction is true, it's enough to keep from acknowledging Bonds as the new home run king.

Here's my take on what should happen to Bonds and his legacy: On a personal level (the level he cares about so much) he should be stripped of his home runs from 1999 to now. I'm not suggesting his team should be punished, such a thing is impossible and impractical. I'm just suggesting Bonds not be rewarded for breaking a sacred record because he juiced. This might surprise you, but I think Bonds should still be in the Hall of Fame, provided he confess his guilt in this area he has denied for so long. Even taking away his last 250 home runs gives him 500 home runs. Additionally, before his juicing epoch, he was close to a .300 hitter with a hoard of RBI's and stolen bases. Before 1999 he was an 8-time all star. In the field Bonds is a 5-time golden glove outfielder before he became slow and muscle-bound. He has won silver slugger awards as well as the coveted MVP award before juicing. Barry Bonds was a tremendous player before he chose to take steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. His only real career deficit is the lack of a World Series Championship (a true team accomplishment, something Barry doesn't care as much about). I think he is Hall of Fame worthy just based on his pre-steroid stats and accomplishments.

He has chosen to make a mockery of the game by denying his drug use. Clearly he knows how illegitimate his latest accomplishments are, what else causes him to lie about taking enhancers? I think he was motivated to roid up because of Mark McGwire's obvious usage, so he justifies it that way. Still though, as the son of Bobby Bonds and godson of the great Willie Mays, he must realize his name will be put in a revered place in baseball lore. He has to know he doesn't deserve that- not when his record-breaking numbers are artificial.
It's sad for sure. The league doesn't have power to do much about the past, but it does have a chance to guard it's legacy. This can be done by disallowing Bonds last 250 or so home runs. He deserves a place in history, just not the one he is about to obtain if considered the new home run king.
see new opinion poll on the right column


GUNNY said...

There was some discussion on Baseball Tonight last night about Bonds and the desire for him to get the record at home.

Steve Phillips said he has to or you sit him on the road. Otherwise he will be embarassed by all the boos that come his way when he breaks the record on the road, which would also be embarassing for baseball.

Baseball won't strip his bogus homers, of course, so it puts the fan in the awkward position of not liking a guy who was a great player before juicing and then turned out to be a bad guy and a 'rhoid warrior.

So, what do the Hall of Fame voters do? Based on his prejuicing play, he could get in, but do you punish him where MLB did not?

So, I like the idea of stripping his homers, though it won't happen, and liked your post, except the empty accusations about Cardinals great Mark McGwire.

Hater in the house!

AJF said...

On the McGwire front, that's another post for another day. I'm no hater, but he's a cheater. I was in St. Louis for three years and went to many games. The year he "broke" the record I followed him like a hawk. I hate to admit that I teared up when he hit the record breaking home run. It felt awesome at the time. I like the Cards (even despite their fluke of a World Series win last year), however, McGwire is a similar disgrace as far as I am concerned. Why has he ducked out of sight? Shame? I hope. The difference between Bonds and McGwire is that McGwire isn't as good an all around player as Bonds. No way he should go to the Hall.

I am a lover...not a hater...but McGwire was a cheater.

shanaclan said...

it's a complicated issue. i still think the babe's record should be up there if records are to mean anything. there are a lot of factors in play. check out baseball prospectus book called 'baseball between the numbers'. a bunch of guys who are paid to analyze ballplayers on nontraditional stats to better evaluate. like analysts for wall st, they sell their research to front offices of ballclubs. they have a chapter on who's better the babe or bonds. they make a case, factoring steroids, that bonds is closer than you'd think to the babe, yet the babe is still the all-time best.

not sure how to react when 756 comes. this comes the same time we hear about the nba ref gambling, pga and steroids, vick and the nfl, cycling and their drugs. all major sports are starting to look like the wwf.

jdogg said...

I'm not tracking with you on McGwire. He took androstenedione, which was at the time completely legal to use and was available over the counter, for goodness sake. I don't think you can call a guy guilty of cheating for taking an (at that time) legal, over the counter product. If all he took was andro, which is all anyone really claims he took, then he didn't break a rule and I don't see how he can be a cheater. If somewhere down the road creatine and some chemical in protien shakes is declared illegal, you can't fault all the guys who used it when it still was legal. What am I missing?

AJF said...

McGwire didn't just take Andro. No way. No how. Check is stellar senate testimony- "I'm not hear to talk about the past..." He was asked about taking steroids, he refused to answer. Hmmmm..I wonder why. Listen, I know even steroids weren't illegal in Baseball back then (98ish). It is illegal to get them without a prescription, but that's not my concern. WHat is interesting is the apparent concience McGwire has. For many below average players roids and the like keep them in the game. For average players, they become great (Cansenco), for already great players (Bonds and to a lesser extent, McGwire) they become super human. I think even the players themselves know it's lame. When confronted with a simple question- did you take roids, etc.? They won't answer. They know they don't deserve to be in the company of Hank Aaron, etc.

AJF said...

T- Now you're talking a different matter, comparing Bonds to the Babe. I realize the difficulty in crossing generations. Certainly Bonds would have been incredibly successful playing without steroids in Babe's day. Babe would have done very well, also, with a personal trainer pumping him with roids too...

Bonds was on the way to being an all time great, no doubt....too bad he wanted more.

jdogg said...

Speaking of 'roids... have you seen any recent pics of Carrot Top? Dude, that's wrong on so many levels.

shanaclan said...

i couldnt help but post this quote from a favorite of mine. this is from ryne sandberg's HOF induction speech:

"When we went home every winter, they warned us not lift heavy weights because they didn't want us to lose flexibility. They wanted us to be baseball players, not only home run hitters. I played high school football at 185 pounds and played big league baseball at 182. I'd get up to maybe 188 in the off season because every summer I'd lose eight to ten pounds. In my day, if a guy came to spring training 20 pounds heavier than what he left, he was considered out of shape and was probably in trouble. He'd be under a microscope and the first time he couldn't beat out a base hit or missed a fly ball, he was probably shipped out. These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third, it's disrespectful to them, to you, and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up. Respect.

A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn't work hard for validation. I didn't play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that's what you're supposed to do, play it right and with respect. If this validates anything, it's that learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light at the dug out camera."

AJF said...

J- Whoa, I googles Carrot top + Steroids...freaky...awful

T-Great quote. Sandberg is a true great. I got to watch him play when I was in Chicago. Dying breed...

William Perry Guilkey said...

Homeruns are exciting but I'd still rather watch #5 (in Kansas City that can only mean one person) stroke a double to the gap. However, I do celebrate one particular homerun (it happened one night in the Bronx in 1980 off a reliever named Goose). 2nd deck wasn't it? I still really like the game, but haven't loved it since the early 1990's.

jodgg said...

Not that it is really worth much especially in a blog disagreement, especially about something I don't really care about like baseball, but if I were McGwire and my lawyers told me not to talk I'd have kept my mouth shut regardless of what I thought. Congress was in the middle of a wild usurpation of power and heaven only knew where that would end. Guilty or not I'd have kept my trap shut.

Frontier Forest said...

I’m sick and tired of the overpaid bums and the rampant corruption surrounding professional sports! Roll models? What a tragedy for our youngsters! I don't play golf but seems to be the only sports where integrity, honor and acting morally responsible s still counts. Okay Tony, I don’t follow soccer.

William said...

Sincere food for thought . . .

Steroids are bad . . . period.

Some questions to ponder . . .

Do steroids give a player more "bat speed"? Probably

Do steroids give batters a better eye to see the ball? Doubtful

Do steroids help a batter make contact with the ball once it has been seen? Perhaps

Do steroids give the ball more explosiveness off of the bat after contact? Likely

However, steroids do not have anything to do with the following . . .

1. People argue that pitching is diluted. I strongly disagree. Until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, the only people pitching were Caucasian and American for the most part. That meant that the "pitching pool" was made up of the best pitchers from a population of just under 200 million. Nowadays, Major League Baseball is truly global. That means that it is feasible to select the best pitchers from a population of over 6 billion. I would argue that it is more difficult to become a major league pitcher today and therefore one would need far superior talent in this day and age to be a pitcher.

2. Pitchers today are specialists. The days of throwing 30+ complete games as a starter are over and gone. That means that Barry Bonds has to face between 2-4 pitchers per game. This has a serious affect on a hitter's timing and rhythm. It requires a lot of talent to make the adjustment to hit a new and fresh pitcher. That is why the Yankees can pay Mariano Rivera millions to throw less than 12 pitches on any given night.

3. Today's ballparks are geared for hitters. Remember the year of the homerun (1987)? Remember all the talk of "juiced balls"? The fact is that fans like homeruns. This has caused the game to change. I remember when baseball was a pitcher's game. In the 1970's there were games between Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver that were low scoring affairs with no homeruns. That would not "fly" with this culture. The youth today (MTV generation) live in "sound bites" and the homerun is baseball's ultimate "sound bite." A 1-0 pitcher's duel would bore young people to death. Sad but true. Baseball knows this, so to generate offense, they lowered the pitcher's mound and moved in the fences. This is not new. Yankee Stadium has had a short, right field porch since the days of Ruth (60 homeruns one year) and Maris (61) and Mantle (54). Ruth and Maris were left-handed hitters and Mantle was a switch hitter. Poor Joe Dimaggio (a right-handed batter) hit many balls that died in the cavernous center field of Yankee Stadium. Barry Bonds has made the most out of the short fence in right field in San Francisco as the kayakers in McCovey Cove can attest. Baseball wants offense and Barry Bonds came on the scene in the era of offense and has made the most of it.

Did Barry use steroids? I am almost certain that he did. Are they the sole cause of his success? I am certain that they are not. Is Barry surly? Yes. Would most of us be happier if Derek Jeter or Lance Berkman or Albert Pujols or (insert favorite player here) were breaking the record? Probably. The truth is that 755 homeruns is a lot of dingers and is a celebration that should be bringing joy to baseball. Unfortunately steroids has tainted a glorious record. Barry is definitely a first ballot hall of famer (in my book). However, while he may have the most homeruns in baseball history (unless you count Saduhara Oh or Josh Gibson), he is definitely NEVER going to be the "Homerun King" in my book. While this is true, we cannot attribute it all to steroids. Hitting a golf ball is hard. Hitting a baseball from Randy Johnson (a lefty), when you are a lefty (Bonds) is brutal. I would not want to "dig in" at all on one of those at-bats.

I say all of that to say absolutely nothing. This whole post is an assortment of contradictions. Much of baseball (and life for that matter) is.

Postscript--My all-time starting nine (all eras)

First Base: Lou Gehrig
Second Base: Jackie Robinson
Shortstop: Ernie Banks
Third Base: George Brett (biased)
Catcher: Johnny Bench
Right Field: Babe Ruth
Center Field: Joe Dimaggio
Left Field: Barry Bonds
Starting Pitcher: Nolan Ryan

If I had to have one win and needed a pitcher . . . David Cone