The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

On 715

Barry Bonds hit his 715th career home run Sunday, against Byung-Hyun Kim of Colorado, at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

I do not condone the use of steroids strictly for the purposes of performance enhancment - that is, building more muscle so you can do some activity better.

I do not consider Barry Bonds to be a model citizen, nor would I ever want my kids to be like him.

I personally think that he is one of the biggest horse's rumps in the history of the game of baseball.

That being said: he's done something that no one else in his era has done. He's done something that has been shown to be near impossible to achieve in practically any era. His performance as a baseball player has been astounding.

The problem, of course, is that there is the 800-pound gorilla hanging over his career. And that 800-pound gorilla isn't going to go away.

The gorilla is the question of steroids. Did he take them? Did he do so knowing what they were? Did he take them out of spite for guys like McGwire and Sosa? Was it all about the money? Did he care that they were illegal - at least in terms of federal law, not in terms of baseball rules? Does he care that we care?

All of the answers to these questions are shadowy, anecdotal and hearsay - though some of the answers come from people who have some semblance of credibility.

And as to that last question - well, we all know that he doesn't. He just plays the game because it's his job.

So. We're stuck with the following question: what do we do with his 715 home runs?

Throwing them all back isn't the answer. You don't rewrite the record books. You can't. You can count things differently - a walk was considered a base hit in some eras of the game, but that doesn't mean it actually [i]was[/i] one. But you can't say that X number of his home runs [i]shouldn't[/i] have gone over the fence because of steroids. There's no way you can do that. Some of those home runs went over the fence because the wind was blowing out at Wrigley that day, or the opposing team had a minor league callup making his first appearance, or he was playing at Enron/Minute Maid and they had to pitch to him.

Putting a big old asterisk next to them isn't the answer, either, because then we need an asterisk next to Ruth's record, stating "all of these home runs were hit when over a third of the American population was denied the ability to play in major league baseball because of the color of their skin." You could do the same for practically everone else in the 500+ homer club: Mickey Mantle's 536 home runs would have an asterisk - "hit 216 against inferior pitching during the expansion era in the American League". It wouldn't stop.

The only thing you can say is this: It's 715 home runs. It's one more than Babe Ruth hit during his career, and 40 less than Hank Aaron hit in his career. That doesn't make him a better player than Ruth, nor does it make him a better human being than Aaron.

It only means that he has hit 715 home runs.

I've got my opinions about Barry and whether or not he's a Hall of Famer. I don't think he's going to be banned from the game - unless he is REALLY dumb and either gets involved with gamblers, or is stupid enough to take banned substances three times in a row after being tested.

As screwed up as his personal life may be, I don't think he's going to do anything like that, as it would jeopardize his future "earning potential."

It wouldn't surprise me if he got little support in the Writers' voting the first year he was eligible. It also wouldn't surprise me if he was elected on the first ballot.

And he has 715 home runs.

Just because you, or others, don't like him doesn't mean you can ignore that fact.

I've seen a couple of writers suggest that MLB's response to Barry reaching this milestone is the mantra, "It is what it is."

They're right.

And 715 is all it is.