If you want to know what it feels like, on a small scale at least, to be Barry Bonds, just write a column about him. You get cheered, you get booed, you get hailed and you get vilified. You get the entire spectrum, mostly without a consensus.
For the most part, my column on Bonds' 756th homerun was met with positive reviews, but there was also certainly plenty of anger. That's fine. I long ago grew tired of Bonds' pursuit of records because, as I wrote, I consider the entire quest fraudulent and the number of people responsible for it overwhelming. All it had become was a bickering contest, exploited by extremists. So I didn't write a column about Bonds for 18 months.
But then I wrote again (hopefully for the last time) and then you wrote in – nearly 1,000 in 36 hours. So here's the People's Voice …
BARRY BONDS (Hollow, not hallowed," August 7, 2007)
The man doing time for the BALCO drug caper stated that Barry Bonds had no knowledge of any illegal substances that he may have given to Barry as part of his training regiment. No one in the court system, no investigator (public or private), no sportscaster/journalist, no doctor … no living person can say with any definitive certainty that Barry Bonds knowledgably abused any controlled substance. No drug test has ever returned a positive result for Mr. Bonds.
Yet you count yourself among the many who have tried and convicted Mr. Bonds of steroid abuse, without any definitive evidence other than your feeble intuition.
Alvin L. Monroe
San Ramon, Calif.
I called the folks that believe Bonds is clean either "devout or dim" and I would have to write a book to refute all of the ridiculous and often factually ignorant defenses of the man. I'll leave that to "Game of Shadows." But I will address the four most common bits of foolishness that poured in.
1. The claim, articulated here by Alvin, that "Barry Bonds had no knowledge of any illegal substances" and that no one can say Bonds "knowledgably abused any controlled substance."
This is all true. And for the sake of argument, I'll buy Bonds' unlikely arch that he thought the "the Clear" was flaxseed oil. For the purpose of this debate intent means nothing. So whatever he wants to say, he can say. But it doesn't change the fact that in grand jury testimony, as Alvin notes, he did take "The Clear." Knowingly or not, what's the difference? It was in his system as he clubbed 73 home runs. He benefited from it. So where's the debate?
2. Steroids were not banned by baseball.
Yes they were. People seem confused about this, but they were banned in 1991. Baseball didn't test until 2005, which is why the column places equal, if not greater, blame on Bud Selig (who came out worse than Bonds in this whole deal) and the players union that blocked it. But it was still banned.
3. He never failed a drug test.
That's because they never tested him before 2005. And even if they had, THG was designed to avoid detection. The blame here, again, is on baseball. But how that is a defense for Bonds is beyond me.
4. Steroids do not help someone hit a baseball.
According to the chemist who created "The Clear" for Victor Conte, it sure does. His name is Patrick Arnold, he served time for making this stuff, and here is his recent questioning by Bob Costas on HBO:
Costas: In addition to size and strength, you believe steroid use can help a baseball player with not just greater power but greater bat speed (and) hand-eye coordination, that it could account in a rise in batting average as well as home runs?
Arnold: No doubt in my mind. That's what the test results showed.
Costas: So people who say it can't help you hit a baseball are dead wrong?
Arnold: They just don't know the facts.
Arnold went on to say Conte told him Bonds' "reaction time" improved and likened one effect of the synthetic designer steroid to putting a player "in the zone" it provided such advanced focus. But hey, what does he know, he only invented the stuff.
I could go on, but it’s a waste of time. If you still want to believe he was clean, go for it. I get that for many people, this is just entertainment and who cares. Baywatch was once the most popular television show in the world and, needless to say, not everything was real on that. But spare me the unintelligible arguments that he was clean.
Seriously, why does everyone think this is such BS? Sure the dude juiced, but think about Aaron's record. 1. Pitchers were a joke compared to the dogs that pitch today. 2. Corked bats were a common occurrence. 3. All due respect (maybe?) who says Aaron didn't juice? Did they even test back then? 4. People actually used to think a curveball was an optical illusion (till some pitcher weaved a ball through three stakes) I'm not saying I agree with steroid use – actually very against it, but answer me the context questions of the record with some decent answers and I may be persuaded.
No question cheating is and has been rampant in all of sports and Bonds certainly faced plenty of pitchers who were juiced too. Did Aaron take drugs or cork his bat? Only Aaron knows for sure, but unlike Bonds there isn't a mountain of evidence claiming he did. In fact, there is none. Questioning Aaron is like questioning Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics because sprinters juice today.
In terms of level of competition, this is a mixed argument. Some claim that Bonds faced weaker pitching due to expansion and he played in smaller ball parks. However, Aaron didn't have to play against many foreign born players. The influx of top talent from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Japan – to name just three – has changed the game too. The AL starters in July's All-Star game had just one American born and raised player, Derek Jeter. Bonds deserves credit for this.
Dan, Great column on Bonds' HR record. You really nailed it. You spelled it out for those of us who have endured juiced balls and juiced players ever since baseball's comeback from the last strike. Baseball wanted to win the fans back, so it looked the other way and allowed honorable, decades-old records to be crushed, not just broken, in a manner that only the uneducated or the unbending fan could appreciate. It's refreshing to see that there are still sportswriters who have the temerity to tell it like it is.
Los Angeles, Calif.
There is no proof of his guilt other than he stated he used a cream, yet never failed a test. Why is it that people like you continue to come up with ways to show your ignorance in this age of information. You attack Bonds as if he has been convicted of something.
I'm all for jurisprudence, but since Bonds is unlikely to ever be charged with anything involving this – he may face perjury and tax evasion counts – this is what we have. This isn't a murder rap or the Michael Vick case. There will never be a day in court. All we can go on is what we know. Again, as you put it, "he stated he used a cream." Fine, so what's the debate?
Just a note to tell you that I think your story on baseball, "juice", and Selig Co., covering baseball of late, is absolutely the greatest piece of journalism I have ever read, and I am 79 years old, and a fan of America's Pastime all of my life. Thank you for being so honest, and dedicated to sports writing.
New Bern, N.C.
Thanks, I appreciate the sentiment. But if that's the greatest piece of journalism you've ever read, you need to read more.
Back in 1974, I was lucky enough to be at Atlanta Stadium to witness Hank Aaron's home run that broke the Babe's record. It was an incredible and unforgettable moment for Hammerin' Hank, for baseball, for the Babe's memory, and for every fan of the game.
This week when the Dallas Morning News trumpeted Mr. Bonds record-setting HR with the tall headline "Hammered" above his color photo, I took the time to review the story with my three children, ages 10, 8, and 6, to explain the difference between the joy I felt for Hank Aaron's honest accomplishment and the emptiness that I feel for Mr. Bonds, the cheater. The important lesson to take from this non-event and the hypocrisy of MLB is simple: True joy in life cannot come from ill-gotten gains at the expense of competing fairly. Mr. Bonds, Mr. Selig, and MLB all struck out.
Were you one of those guys who ran out on the field to pat Aaron on the back? I love that video. One guy is wearing a sports coat. Seriously, who wears a sport coat in Atlanta at a baseball game? Aaron at first looks understandably nervous – two white dudes running at him. But in the end it was great. The Giants may have put on an impressive show – fireworks, vibrant billboards and music – but what's better than two guys, fully aware that they would probably be arrested, getting so excited they ran out on the field anyway.
Dan, you're a bigger idiot than I thought.
St. Helen Mich.
Dan, you could not be more correct about Barry Bonds.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Hater. Hater. Hater.
You hit the syringe right square on the head!
I hail your courage when every other writer I've read is being diplomatic about Bonds et al. But with all due respect to honest Americans I believe the entire American society is built on cheating. Sorry, but it's the truth.
Nigeria in Africa
You are correct, Nigeria is a far more honest place. By the way, you have a distant relative who once lived in America. He left you some money. Send me your bank account number and I'll wire the money in.
All I'd like to know is, what were you saying about Mark McGwire when he broke the single season home run mark? I didn't see too many sportscasters making claims that that record was a joke.
I get that people roll their eyes when someone such as Mike Lupica screeches each Sunday morning about Bonds and fails to note he wrote a schmaltzy tome on McGwire and Sosa called "Summer of 98" ("a feel great book!"). I promise that if we one day find out that in 1966 not all the starters for Texas Western were black, I'll disavow "Glory Road" and never mention it again.
But what do you want the rest of us to do? I didn't write at all about baseball in 1998. I watched that home run on TV with my then roommate, and we joked that McGwire's arms looked ready to pop off his body.
But if I did cover that game, you apparently would have wanted me to call out McGwire and bring up his suspicious physical stature. You would have wanted me to predict that while everyone is having fun, it would only take a few years before that night was viewed as a farce, that the accomplishment would be considered worthless by nearly all future fans.
Well, that's what I wrote this time. And that's all I wrote. I don't hate Bonds. I didn't say Bonds should go to prison or be banned from baseball. I don't hate Selig or Donald Fehr or anyone else. I pointed out that very soon no one will take what happened seriously. Because it wasn't serious.
So, essentially, I did what you would have wanted me to do back in 1998.
You're right about the fact that this will be a difficult point in baseball history to define to that of future generations. I believe that this era of baseball should almost be set aside from records, and have its own set of records separate. But you, I, and the rest of the world know that this is not a perfect world, and that isn't going to happen. In a perfect world, Hammerin' Hank would still be the rightful Home run King, and Roger Maris would still have his mark in the history books as well. Instead, they're bumped aside by juiced bodies that have no business representing a game of such magnitude and pride.
The one point you analysts perpetually miss in the Barry Bonds saga is that no one in the history of baseball has been pitched around more than Barry.
True. Although, he had essentially made a mockery of the game and there was nothing anyone could do but walk him. So he brought a lot of those walks on himself.
I have always despised you and your articles. However, I have to be honest when I say that this was a fair interpretation of what has gone on in Major League Baseball.
Fair Oaks Calif.
Barry Bonds, bringing the world together one Yahoo! Sports reader at a time.
These articles are getting extremely boring.
Baton Rouge, La.
I couldn't agree more. Consider this, once again, a Bonds-free zone.