James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Case for Bonds

Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron's carrer home run record tonight. Assuming he is guilty of steroid use/abuse, along with everyone reasonably accused of the same, I believe Bonds, by the very fact of using steroids, advanced the best interests of baseball and deserves to be in baseball's Hall of Fame.

Here's the situation: steroids apparently elevated Ken Caminitti into an MVP. Steroids also gave Jose Canseco not just an MVP season, but a near-Hall of Fame career. Steroids also allowed Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to put up not just record-breaking stats and MVP-level honors, but Hall of Fame numbers. And also gave Rafael Palmeiro Hall of Fame numbers. We can also assume that Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas, two of the other premier hitters of the last twenty years, never took steroids.

What Bonds does is, he answers the "what if" question. Held in higher regard than even Griffey and Thomas, a reasonable question must be asked: is Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa can put up these numbers, what would a sure-fire Hall of Fame hitter like Bonds have done? Thomas and Griffey had too many up-and-down and injury-prone seasons since the ridiculous McGwire/Sosa years of 1998-99, and weren't doing steroids anyway.

But Bonds?

He took steroids, and surpassed even Babe Ruth as the most dangerous and feared hitter of all time, at the very age he should have been declining. Since he had earned Hall of Fame credentials even before taking steroids, we don't have to answer the what-if question.

Barry Bonds, an undisputed Hall of Fame-caliber hitter before ever taking steroids, had sick, cartoonish stats never seen before in baseball when he did take steroids. He became the best hitter ever at the very age he should have been declining. Whereas without steroids he would have cracked the elite 600 home runs club, with steroids he shattered the single-season mark and prolonged his career long enough to break the all-time record.

Steroids could elevate good talents like McGwire and Sosa into players with seeming Hall of Fame credentials. But those achievements are overshadowed by what Bonds, a legit Hall of Famer, did when he took steroids. He was much, much better. He was too good, in that walking Bonds always seemed safer than pitching to him.

So while I think Bonds's claim on the all-time record is "tainted" by steroids, that's not the point. The point is Bonds proved that steroids can allow an individual player to be literally too good for the game, which makes a steroid crackdown necessary.

The last several years of Bonds's career goes to show what an all-time great can do with an illegal edge. It is a sign that if baseball doesn't crack down on steroids, future great hitters will shatter the single-season and career marks of the all-time greats. And that will destroy much of the appeal of the game. Bonds's contribution to baseball will not be the home run record, but that he proved baseball should be played by humans, not super-humans.

2 comments:

  1. An anti-drugs diatribe on an Anarchist blog? Geesh. How about letting players who want to use steroids assume the consequences of that use?

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  2. This doesn't have anything to do with government.

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