Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A King of Shame Doesn’t Deserve the Hall of Fame

In my humble opinion, Barry Bonds didn’t shatter Hank Aaron’s home run mark of 755 homers yesterday with the attainment of home run # 756. All he did was help to shatter, once more, the illusion that in the baseball of today there can be truly reliable role models, or heroes. Bonds, McGwire, Canseco, Palmeiro...all these players have done is say to kids, in effect, “Hey, it’s okay to cheat if you want to succeed, at baseball or anything else in life.” They've called into question, perhaps quite justifiably, the integrity of America's national pastime.

In any case, Barry Bonds didn’t earn 756 home runs - he stole them, and not in the admirable way a runner steals a base. I’m quite convinced of that.

Were baseball as demanding a sport as cycling, maybe I’d understand the temptation to get “juiced”. Reaching this record is nothing like competing in the Tour de France, where you must deal with the highs and lows of a countryside, speed tests, and the like. Bonds’ job, at least insofar as hitting home runs is concerned, has consisted of him standing still waiting for a pitcher to throw a high-speed ball toward him. He runs to catch a ball when the other team is batting, and runs around relatively small, unmoving bases when he gets a base hit.

Cal Ripken, Jr. - still my favorite ballplayer of all time - didn’t need steroids to break the consecutive games played record previously held by Lou Gehrig. All he did was suit up each game day, and go out and play his game. When the Orioles had a losing streak, or he had a personal slump, he didn’t need to cheat to get back on his game. He just continued playing, up to and then well past 2,131 consecutive games - up to 2,632. If only I had the dedication to perseverance the all-time “Iron Man” demonstrated in his career, and his life. He earned his spot at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Barry Bonds, though...Barry Bonds, complete tool extraordinaire, cannot be said to have earned much of anything recently. He’s a coward, who instead of building up muscle the old fashioned way, artificially bulked up and set about selfishly pursuing the destruction of a record that, even today, should still stand. And if those eligible to vote Barry Bonds into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown actually do so instead of letting him serve as an example - alongside Pete Rose - of what happens when you do something like this, I think the Hall of Fame would be morally obligated to remove from its motto, which is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations”, the middle part: “Honoring Excellence”.

Whatever his accomplishments before juicing up, in his likely ingesting of steroids Barry Bonds has become a Richard Nixon of baseball - he’s shamed himself. He is, as the NY Daily News declared this morning on their front page, “the King of Shame”. Were he a mensch, he would have stopped his run, or retired, and let someone achieve the breaking of Hank Aaron’s record the natural way - if that is even possible in the baseball business of the 21st Century. That would have been an example that, despite his personality and character, would have earned him some genuine praise and honor.

As far as I’m concerned, Barry Bonds’ “756” is much more deserving of qualification - a notation that the old record was earned one way, the new one a different way - than Roger Maris’s “61” single-season home run record ever was, before Mark McGwire “broke” that particular record with “70” home runs in 1998, itself a record “broken” by Bonds a few seasons later. Ideally, “756*” would, instead of representing the career home-run total to beat, represent the “career home-run total to beat for those thought to be on steroids”. If you’re going to have double-standards, might as well have them make sense, right?

How fitting is it for Barry Bonds to have graduated with a degree in criminology (from Arizona State University) and now be under investigation by federal prosecutors for allegedly committing a crime - perjury? Who knows: maybe one day, Barry Bonds will have essays written about him not just by sports writers, but by those studying crime as an individual phenomenon, or seeking a law degree. It could happen.

Were he indicted today, on charges of being unworthy of praise because he is Barry Bonds, and taken to trial, what would my verdict be?

Barry Bonds would have a lot going against him, if he were trying to save his reputation and challenge such charges. What offenses has, in my mind, he committed? He 1) probably lied under oath (about steroids); 2) he likely cheated to break a long-standing Hank Aaron record (by using steroids); and 3) he was and always will be an asshole. I know the principle is “innocent until proven guilty”, but I’m the judge and jury in the courtroom of my own opinion.

What say me? On those three counts, based on the evidence...hmmmm...lemme think for a minute.

Alright, I’m done deliberating.

He’s guilty, guilty, and...well, guilty by association.

He went to ASU, after all.

And now for something completely irreverent:

1 comment:

Anne & Grayson said...

Congratulations on, once again, voicing my opinion for me, much more eloquently than I ever could have. Outstanding blog.