I almost always agree with King Kaufman’s take on baseball, so I thought I’d quote this bit from his column after Barry Bonds’s record-breaking home run:
I’ve been thinking and writing for a while now that Bonds is getting a little bit of a raw deal, that he’s become the scapegoat for a whole era of drug abuse and cheating, that to dismiss his achievements as steroid- and human growth hormone-fueled is overly simplistic because we don’t know what effect drugs have on baseball performance and we don’t know which players and which pitchers were on the juice when.
But that doesn’t mean I — a home fan, after all — can enjoy this moment any more than most anybody else. I believe Bonds’ record is legitimate, that he really did hit all those home runs, that a lot of our reaction as a society to the steroid mess is in-the-moment hysteria — why aren’t we equally upset about amphetamines?
And Bonds’ record still feels somehow unreal to me. I’ve got an asterisk going.
Bonds probably deserves all of the doubt and controversy around the home run chase; it certainly looks like he took steroids. But I can’t help but think that a big part of the anti-Bonds sentiment comes from the fact that he’s a (black) athlete with a bad attitude who hates to talk to the media. 756 home runs is an accomplishment, in some sense, no matter how he got there, and it’s a real shame for baseball that here we have a magical number that doesn’t quite seem as magic as the ones that came before it. (And this number isn’t unique in that. Quick, without looking it up, what’s the current single-season home run record?)
Of course, in seven years, this whole thing will be moot when A-Rod hits his 780th.