Thursday, July 19, 2007

Celebrating Barry Bonds

This has nothing to with the Tigers but the Barry Bonds home run chase is one that all baseball fans are following closely whether they admit it or not and whether they like it or not. After missing 3 games with sore knees, Barry Bonds ended a 0-21 slump with 2 homers (numbers 752 and 753 lifetime) and 6 RBI today. This left him two home runs short of Hank Aaron's record of 755. Unfortunately, for the Giants, it wasn't enough to beat the Cubs who edged them 9-8.

Most of the mainstream media and many of the independent bloggers seem to dislike Bonds very much and don't consider his home run total to be legitimate. My feeling is that it's likely that hundreds of players used steroids over the years and that Major League Baseball did nothing to stop it until recently. I also feel as if baseball was happy with the increased offense which steroids may have produced. Fans love the long ball and baseball was not about to do anything to stop it. That is, until it became a hot topic that threatened to soil the image of the game.

The baseball world, including the media, seems to be focused mostly on Barry Bonds and a few elite sluggers but the problem extends far beyond that. Judging from the results of steroids tests in recent years, it seems clear that many of the users have been marginal players including pitchers. In fact, more pitchers than batters have tested positive. The notion that lesser players stood by and watched while a handful of big sluggers improved their game was always a silly one to me anyway. Professional athletes are extremely competitive individuals and they would not let others get that kind of advantage.

That being said, I do not condone illegal drug use and abhor the idea that many players may have felt pressured to take steroids in order to keep up with the competition. I am very glad that they have some drug testing programs in place with strict penalties. It's not enough because there is no test for Human Growth Hormones and some other drugs. However, I think it at least starts to get the point across that use of steroids is now taboo in professional baseball.

The players, management, media and fans need to move forward now. Nothing can be done to change the past and no one person or small group of people is to blame. For many years now, baseball has been dominated by home runs more than any era before it and it's not just a few players. Just about everybody is a home run threat now. There are many reasons for that - smaller ballparks, smaller strike zones, increased weight training and yes steroids has probably played a role as well. It's just another era like the dead ball era, the 30s era and the 60s era. The "steroids era" has been different and it's been entertaining just like eras before it.

What about the home run record you say? Bonds is going to set the most hallowed of baseball records. It doesn't matter. You can't compare players from different eras using raw statistics anyway. Every era is unique. Players in the early part of the 20th century would lead the league with fewer than 10 homers. The 1960s saw plenty of homers but batting averages hit rock bottom. Steroids use or not, Bonds breaking the home run record does not make him a better home run hitter than Aaron or Babe Ruth. We don't really know who was the best home run hitter. All you can really do is compare players to players of their own era.

The home run record really does not prove anything except that Bonds is probably among the greatest sluggers of all time. The home run race should really just be about entertainment. Bonds is arguably the best all around player of his era and a very entertaining one. He may be the best player who ever played although I still lean towards Babe Ruth in that debate. I enjoy watching Barry Bonds play and I'm going to celebrate the record chase. It's a memorable time in baseball history and we should be savoring it, not be fighting it.


  1. Lee,

    I with everything you say, from steroids to comparing different eras. The only thing I would debate on is the best all round player - to me its Willie Mays.

    Great Blog, please keep it going.
    Dan (dg7558 at yahoo dot com)

  2. Dan,

    Mays is certainly one who deserves consideration as the best all around player ever. The reason I say Babe Ruth is because he was also an outstanding pitcher at the beginning of his career. To me, that gives him the edge over players like Bonds, Mays, Cobb, etc.




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