756

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.

756

0 thoughts on “756

  1. ibfamous says:

    “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.”

    Actually, it might help if you did think a little… Bonds admitted he took a hybrid steroid, although his claim is that the lab that he sought out, a lab which specialized in undetectable drugs tricked him into taking these banned substances. Just ask his former trainer and childhood friend Greg Anderson… oh yeah, you can’t, he’s in jail because he can’t tell the truth (if he does Barry’s screwed, if he lies he goes back to jail on perjury charges. And Barry lets him rot away while the flashbulbs pop, what a great guy). And A-Rod breaking the record is not guaranteed, you see, people who don’t do steroids usually succumb to injury and a natural decline in their skills, so, don’t give Barry the benefit based on his perceived short tenure as the homer champ.

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  2. kris says:

    I think that to say race has anything to do with it (for the vast majority of baseball fans) is unfair. I mean, Henry Aaron is black after all. I think it has to do with his personality a bit, absolutely. But I also think that you look at a guy like Cal Ripken, who played hard every day, or a guy like Henry Aaron, who dealt with death threats when it *was* about race, these guys who are true class acts…and now, Barry Bonds’ name is among their names. It’s disappointing.

    But, even this non-A-Rod-loving Yankee fan is looking forward to the day when he (hopefully) shatters this record.

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  3. don’t give Barry the benefit based on his perceived short tenure as the homer champ.

    ibfamous: I don’t; I give him the benefit based on the fact that he hit 756 home runs. I’m not going to claim that he didn’t cheat, but the fact is, he’s a product of his era, and he really did hit all those home runs. We have to evaluate his achievement in context, and I think it’s a mistake to either lionize or demonize him.

    Also, you’re a dick.

    I think that to say race has anything to do with it (for the vast majority of baseball fans) is unfair.

    Kris: You’re right; I don’t think anti-Bonds sentiment among fans is primarily driven by race. I do think it’s a part of his relationship to the media, though. I don’t have a lot of evidence for it, but it’s my impression.

    Bonds cheated; he shouldn’t have done. He also hit a hell of a lot of home runs. Those two things are both true, and baseball has to be able to handle both of them at once.

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  4. kris says:

    Without a doubt. I’ve heard some interesting sports talk on the subject. Those balls that landed in the bay…no doubt, they are homers…they’d have been homers. It’s the ones that landed in the 2nd row in right field…that just made it over the wall…those are the ones you wonder about.

    You can also argue that baseball did this…the league asked for it. The steroid era put butts in the seats, so to speak. The fans they lost with the strike came back for McGuire and Sosa and Bonds (and Cal, my hero after Mattingly). And baseball didn’t want to put a damper on the money and the resurgance by investigating steroids. Bud Selig needs to stand AND CLAP because it’s on him. If he had a problem with the cheating (and I argue that he should have), it needed to be addressed 10 years ago, not now.

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  5. It’s the ones that landed in the 2nd row in right field…that just made it over the wall…those are the ones you wonder about.

    Or even more, as ibfamous so politely points out, it’s not even that steroids might have helped him muscle a few out of the park, it’s that steroids may have made it possible for him to still be playing long enough to break what is in part an endurance record.

    Bud Selig and his predecessors asked for this, absolutely. Selig is a dink.

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  6. If Selig were smart and not egotistical, which has never been the case (see the 2002 Milwaukee All-Star Game), he would pull a Paul Tagliabue and get the hell out now. Tagliabue left, arguably while he was still popular and capable of being the commissioner, forcing Roger Goddell to clean the messes of gun-toting players bustin’ caps in strip clubs and dog fighting rings being orchestrated by someone who should have been the sport’s Michael Jordan.

    I am interested to see what kind of reaction A-Rod evokes, since he has become something of a pariah since arriving in New York. He is 11 years younger than Bonds and already 75% of the way to Bonds’s numbers, so he could be looking at 1,000.

    What really bothered me about Bonds breaking the record is that Aaron had achieved it through endurance, as has been noted, and not through gaudy numbers. He never hit more than 47 homers in a season. Of course, Ruth, who did have four seasons of 50+ homers, played in 400 fewer games than Bonds has and 700 fewer than Aaron had.

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