The venerable Professor Adams has once again taken the time to enhance this little blog. His comments bear front page notice, so here you go:
John, I agree 100% with your take on the media’s coverage of Barry. Here are three quick thoughts that might make people feel better:
1) As Bill James has repeatedly pointed out, as time passes the element of a player’s image that decays most rapidly is the part that relates to how the media covers him – i.e. whether folks like Rick Reilly or Skip Bayless portray the player as a good guy, a prima donna, a clutch player, a steroid user, or whatever. What endures are the player’s statistics. During his career Ted Williams received EXACTLY the same treatment from irresponsible sportswriters that Barry Bonds receives today: they portrayed Williams as a surly, self-centered thug who was only out for himself; and at the time the public bought into the writers’ descriptions, to the extent that Williams was the most unpopular player in baseball. Yet by the 1980s Ted’s playing-day image had evaporated, and the public viewed him as a heroic individualist who was perhaps the greatest hitter who ever lived. Twenty-five years from now, I wonder if one fan in a hundred will remember (or care) what the Rick Reillys’ of the world were writing in 2004. So while the irresponsible media coverage is maddening while it lasts, I take heart in knowing that Barry Bonds’ on-field exploits will be remembered, long after all the current newsprint about him lies in the compost heap.
2) “The mills of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” I am confident that eventually the truth will come out about whether Bonds has used steroids, just as the truth came out about Pete Rose and gambling, and about which baseball players were using during baseball’s drug “crisis” in the 1980s. If Bonds is clean, the steroid story will gradually fade away, and the fact that it provided copy for a few dozen sportswriters in 2004 will mean nothing. If Bonds has used, then the finger-pointing and innuendoes from Reilly, Bayless, etc – well, they still won’t have been fair, but at least it won’t be like a terrible injustice has been done.
3) Bonds himself is handling the media coverage of the steroids story quite well: he goes about his business and doesn’t seem to pay much attention to what the sportswriters are saying. I know that if it was me, I wouldn’t be handling this whole brouhaha so calmly – but then again, this may explain why Barry is an all-time great and I was a college bench-warmer…
Thanks for stopping by, Professor. Listen, I know I could end up on the wrong side of my defense of Bonds. When Pete Rose confessed, I got a lot of emails reminding me that I had been defending him for two years. While on the surface that may seem true, in reality, that’s missing the point. I was defending Rose’s rights, not Rose. He was treated terribly for years, with one writer after another proclaiming his guilt, without even having read the Dowd report, let alone actually knowing anything.
I’m not saying Bonds hasn’t juiced. I don’t believe he has, but I know exactly as much about it as Turk Wendell or Rick Reilly; which is to say, nothing. In light of that, it would be unethical for me to assert that I know any such thing, as so many of these writers have done. I am astounded that their editors allow them to do it.
It’s a disgrace the way Bonds is being treated. This whole affair is shameful.