Wednesday, August 08, 2007

756*

*Fuck all y'all.

On May 9, Dave Roberts hit a home run in the New York Giants' 5-3 loss to the New York Mets, but according to the AP he "noted afterward that he was heavily medicated"

Two days ago, Scott Rolen hit a 3-run homer against the San Diego Padres causing ESPN's play-by-play announcer to remark something to the effect, "He sure has come around since getting that cortisone shot."

Sandy Koufax needed cortisone shots before just about every start in order to lift his arm. Years ago, Greg Maddux had laser eye surgery to correct his vision and eliminate the need to wear contact lenses. Tommy John's career was saved by an experimental surgical procedure that now bears his name. During the 2004 ALCS Curt Schilling had surgery on his ankle, not to repair to its normal condition, but simply to allow him to stand on it long enough to pitch one game. Wade Boggs ate fried chicken before every game.

All of these players—and many, many others—have used similar medical procedures and pharmaceutical solutions to alter their bodies in a way not necessarily intended by nature. Barry Bonds probably used some sort of drug or chemicals that allowed him gain and lift weights with greater efficiency. My question is: how is that different than anything any other athlete has done to "improve" their body and by extension, their performance?

Steroids don't make you stronger. Lifting weights does. They also don't make you lay off a 3-2 curve on the outside corner. You still have to do the work. Yes, he changed his body chemically. So do dozens of other players every single day, from something as simple as cold medicine to as things harsh as cocaine. So why are steroids so bad? Because they are illegal? Why are they illegal? Because some government bureaucrat said so? Because they're dangerous? So is smoking. Bonds probably put some questionable substances in his body, but how far removed are they from the supplements you can buy off the shelf in any GNC? Why should Creatine be a crime and Sudafed isn't?

Is he a cheater? How? It's not clear that he ever broke a standing rule of baseball and even if he did, how you do break a rule that was not monitored and never enforced?

You know who did break rules that were enforced? Sammy Sosa, Norm Cash, Gaylord Perry, maybe 1,000 other players throughout the history of the game. None of their of accomplishments have ever been erased or declared invalid.

(You know else cheated? The two newspaper writers who ignored one of the most important principles of jurisprudence to bring us this all-important information about Barry Bonds. But all they did was cheat the legal system, not something important like a game.)

Baseball is more obsessed with standards than any other sport, yet the game itself is less standardized than almost any game ever played. The field changes every time you change opponents. The equipment changes with every batter. The strike zone changes with each umpire. The pitcher's mound has changed height. The balls vary, the bats vary, the gloves vary. The season is longer, the leagues are bigger. You don't even have to play the whole game for it to count! No, Bonds' home runs are not the same as Aaron's, which were not the same as Ruth's. But they still happened. Statistics are simply a record of what happened on the field and, like it or not, those 756 pitches were hit over the fence. Nothing will ever change that.

Which brings me to the only part of this whole ordeal that actually upsets me. Bud Selig—the commissioner of baseball for a healthy chunk of Bonds career—has behaved rather despicably. His lack of enthusiasm—no, his outright contempt—for this moment has sent a message to the sports world: Bonds' accomplishment is not special. The last 20 years of this game are not as special as the 100 that preceded them. My entire reign as commissioner is illegitimate.

Because that's what we're saying here, correct? Bonds has never been suspended, never been punished, never been accused in black and white terms of breaking the rules of baseball. But if you believe that his record is illegitimate, then you must as a matter of course, believe that baseball itself is illegitimate. If his stats don't count in your mind, then no one's should. If you want to call 1990-2005, the "Steroid Era" as if it were the "Dead Ball Era" or the "Pre-Jackie Robinson Era" or the "Expansion Era," that's fine (misguided and stupid, but fine), but for the commissioner himself to take the stance that he has, is an affront to the game ... his game. The one he was in charge of. The last 20 years didn't count, because some guys were doing something different than others? Bullshit. But if Bud wants people to believe that, then he and Curt Schilling and Dale Murphy and every other player who could have spoken up and didn't are the ones who have truly cheapened the sport.

The truth is that many fans, for whatever irrelevant reason never liked Barry Bonds, never wanted to admit he was the best player in baseball, and now they've been handed an excuse for their hatred. He's the greatest hitter of my lifetime and if I live another 50 years, I may never see his equal. You don't have to like him, but if you can't appreciate him and what he's done, that's your own damn fault. I'm glad I got to see him in action.

1 Comments:

B.B. Fett said...

Nicely thought-out and written. I enjoyed reading it. Glad to have you back!

8/13/2007 11:06 AM  

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