Only Baseball Matters

Archive for May, 2006

…. Sick and tired

I am. Sick and tired. Sick and tired by all the anti-Barry crap. Sick and tired of the endless “in the old days, so and so was a true gentleman,” or some other version of that horseshit about Aaron, or Mays or Ruth or whoever. Sick and tired of the sanctimonious, the righteous, the “God save the children’s”. For crying’ out loud…. Let. It. Go.

In as simple a way as possible, Stick & Ball Guy reminds everyone what so many seem to have forgotten:

Superstar athletes are human beings.

Some are assholes.

Some aren’t.

Some are great people.

Some aren’t.

Ruth wasn’t the devil. He also wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. He was a huge drinker, at a time when alcohol was about as legal as steroids are today. He was a womanizer, cheating on his wife constantly. He was a glutton, a problem in the clubhouse (he and Gehrig famously didn’t speak for years), he was considered, at best, a pain in the ass, by every team he played for. To suggest that Ruth, Aaron, or Mays or whoever was somehow exempt from being a human being borders on ignorance at the highest level. No hero is without flaw, as none of us are.

Reading this “Mr. Nobody” telling us what Bonds’ legacy will be, is a clear and depressing reflection of how far our journalistic standards have fallen, (And I know we’re talking about a sports journalist. Ten or fifteen years ago, SI wouldn’t have printed a piece like this on toilet paper.)

In the meantime, the greatest player of our generation has to go to media school so that he can come across as a nice guy for the media:

…. Bonds said it would hurt if, after he is done playing, an asterisk was put next to his records.

“It would hurt. I would be disappointed,” he said. He also said he didn’t know if that would happen but in his heart he believes it will happen.

However, he told Gray that he doesn’t believe Major League Baseball is attacking him personally by investigating steroid use; he thinks baseball is doing what is best for baseball by looking at the whole period.

Bonds talked a lot about how he’s trying to change and be a happier person. He’s working hard to react better to questions that he considers stabbing. He said he wants to be liked.

Yeah, I would too, if every single day, another sports report came out telling the world what a dick I was; regardless of whether I was or not. See, that’s the part no Bonds attacker wants to confront:

It doesn’t matter anymore if he is or isn’t; if he did or didn’t. The shameless personal attacks, the singling him out, how Verducci has conveniently forgotten his thousands of words telling us how “everyone’s using steroids” ….. What an embarassing chapter in baseball’s history. You want to blame Bonds for this? Please. Blame SI. Blame ESPN. Blame Lupica and his friends. Blame Selig. Blame everyone, before you try and tell me it’s all on Barry. Interesting how the media didn’t go after McGwire (or Sosa, for that matter) until after he wasn’t in front of them every day. Then again, he was a great clubhouse guy, right?

…. Alone in second

Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth, hitting his 715th career home run today. As only the second man to surpass the greatest player in baseball history, Bonds has put the icing on the cake of his career. Next up is Aaron, at 755, a seemingly insurmoutable 41 home runs away for the sore-kneed gimpy Bonds. The surging Giants fell to the Rockies, but the story was Bonds.

…. As Bonds circled the bases, banners from the light towers on each side of the center-field scoreboard were unfurled. The one on the left field side showed a portrait of Bonds swinging a bat. The one on the right showed Aaron swinging a bat above the number 755.

Bonds slowly circled the bases and was greeted at home plate by his son Nikolai. They hugged and his son picked up Bonds’s bat. Then Bonds greeted several teammates, who congratulated him. He took two curtain call bows from the dugout as the game was delayed.

When Bonds jogged onto the field for the next inning to play left, another banner this one on the left-field fence was uncovered. It said “715″ next to a picture of Bonds, Aaron, Ruth and Willie Mays.

UPDATE: I thought I’d throw out a few more opinions on Bonds’ accomplishment. Here’s Lupica, on rails, as usual:

…. Aaron was never as unpopular as Bonds is outside of San Francisco, because he was and is too good a man. But he wasn’t close to being the darling of baseball in his prime. Mickey Mantle was the glamor boy. Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson might have been the two most thrilling players of all time. There was always the shadow of Ruth, a shadow the size of the Stadium. Then Roger Maris got to 61. Aaron never got to 50, much less 60.

Only now, because of who passed Ruth yesterday, does Aaron get the honor he deserves, even when elements of the media try to play you for suckers and make this about race; the African-American slugger who first beat Ruth is the symbol of what we still want our home run hitters to be.

Which means clean.

So now, Aaron, long considered a second class home run hitter, who reached Ruth only because of the luck involved in his late career move to the home run friendly confines of Atlanta, is held up as a paragon of virtue by the Lip. Oh, and by clean, Lupica must mean, if you don’t pay attention to all of the speed the ballplayers of Aaron’s era were taking.

I once thought Lupica the greatest sportswriter of my generation. Perhaps he once was. Today, he’s a shill, ignoring facts and distorting reality as it serves his efforts to appear the most righteous, the most upstanding member of the sportswriting community. Rush Limbaugh would be proud of Lupica, unbelievably including Mickey Mantle in his tale of athletic virtue, (Mantle, who apologized for being a drunken asshole for most of his career, was highlighted as a two-faced lout, willing to do anything for an edge in Jim Bouton’s Ball Four). Lupica stands out as the king of right, even as we re-read about Bonds denigrating Ruth, (widely acknowledged at the time to be a tongue-in-cheek effort)

…. Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury wrote for the July 18, 2003 edition of that newspaper explaining how it was obvious to anybody in the room that Bonds was playing around, that he was not serious when he said it.

(thanks to Obsessive Compulsive for the link)

Meanwhile, real writers are actually looking at statistics and analyzing facts in their efforts to hang an asterisk on Bonds, and finding themselves unable to do so:

…. At least one analyst even doubts that the rise in home runs is sufficiently remarkable to require any explanation beyond sheer chance. The cluster of six 61-plus home run seasons by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Bonds from 1998 through 2001 is entirely consistent with the randomness of home run records, according to a 2006 paper by Arthur De Vany, an emeritus professor of economics at UC Irvine who runs a consulting firm.

“Steroids do not come into the picture,” he wrote, “nor is there any need to invoke explanations that go beyond the natural variation of home run hitting, at-bats, chance, and the laws of extreme human accomplishment.”

Statisticians are wary of giving steroids credit for the offensive explosion not only because their effects are hard to pin down, but because of other changes in the game. In his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” published in 2001, Bill James, perhaps the best-known sabermetrician, listed six trends contributing to 1990s offense, of which only one ó the rise of strength training ó could even remotely be connected to steroid use. The others included changes in bat design that enhanced bat speed, changes in pitching and hitting styles that increased opposite-field home runs and, especially, a wave of new, hitter-friendly ballparks.

Seven of the 10 most hitter-friendly parks in major league baseball in 2005 (ranked by comparing home and road statistics by the home team) were built in the 1990s or later. At the top of the list is Denver’s Coors Field, a high-altitude stadium so offense-enhancing that the Colorado Rockies led the National League in home runs in four of their first five years in the park; in 1997 the Rockies out-homered the runners-up in the category (the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves) by 65 homers despite finishing third in their division.

Others conjecture that the relationship between pitching and hitting has lost its equilibrium. “I have a general impression that pitchers have reached some sort of physical limit,” Traven said. There’s evidence that fastball speeds have reached a plateau short of 100 mph, while hitters still have room for improvement. “It may be chemicals, but also technique and training,” he said.

Major league expansion in 1993 and 1998, which added four teams, may have diluted pitching. Bradbury has compiled figures showing that the range of earned-run averages from worst to best among pitchers has reached a historical high. “If you have hitters taking advantage of lesser pitchers, you’ll have an uptick in offense,” he said.

You think Lupica or Verducci or any of these other Chicken Little’s care about anything like facts or science or reality? Not a chance. All they care about is making sure you and I know how important their anger and their opinions are. All they want to do now is let us know how important it is for them to protect us from ourselves. Good thing they’re here, to let us know how Bonds doesn’t like kids or believe in Santa Claus.

…. We are family

As a SF Giants fan, I’ve said it many times, and in many different ways, but ESPN’s Brian Murphy says it best:

…. WE can think what we want about Bonds. WE can be disappointed by his guilt. YOU, on the other hand, don’t understand the history, the journey, the ride we’ve been on. YOU don’t remember the 90 losses in 1992, the potential St. Petersburg Giants. YOU weren’t there that day when Pacific Bell Park opened, and the Giants had the prettiest park in the land, the House that Barry Built. It’s family. WE can talk about our family, judge our family. YOU, on the other hand, are an outsider. You are not family. You are not to judge.

Thanks to reader Jay for the link.

…. An Interview with Jeff Pearlman

Hank Waddles, aka, the Broken Cowboy, has interviewed writer Jeff Pearlman. I have just finished reading Jeff’s book, Love me Hate me, (subject, Barry Bonds), and thought it would be a good segue into Hank’s interview. My review of his book is short and sweet:

It is a detailed, concise, and throroughly depressing view of a man who seems gifted in only one way, as an athlete. Bonds’ inability to interact well with other human beings is legendary; but Pearlman’s book paints a picture of him that borders on sociopath. Bonds apparently has no idea of how to be thoughtful, or kind, or forgiving. He insults and demeans everyone around him, almost from birth. In his book, Pearlman says he interviewed over 500 people in an effort to create the most accurate and compelling portrait of Barry. As far as that goes; Bonds comes across as the biggest asshole in history.

It’s not a book that compells me to read it more than once, but it is a must-read for a true Giants fan.

And now, here’s Hank’s interview:

…. A few weeks ago Jeff Pearlman was kind enough to spend part of his day talking to me about his recent Barry Bonds biography, Love Me, Hate Me. Following the themes addressed in the book (review forthcoming), our conversation focused on Bonds the person as well as the baseball player, and we also talked about steroids for a while. Enjoy…

I think Iím almost as interested in the process as in the resulting book. In your acknowledgment section you spoke a little bit about it — the 524 people you interviewed, the investigators you hired, etc. — what was this whole experience like? When you did you first get the idea to write about Bonds, and how long did the research portion of the project take?

Jeff Pearlman:
It took about two years overall. I started the whole thing about two years ago. I got into it with the idea that Iíd interview everybody. I didnít know what everybody meant, but I wanted to interview everybody — anyone who had interaction with Bonds, the people who knew Bonds best. I didnít even think about interviewing Bonds himself, because I knew he probably wouldnít talk, but I wanted to interview everybody who knew him. And the truth of the matter is, when you write a biography interviewing the main subject doesnít matter that much, because people have skewed visions of themselves. You really learn more about someone by talking to the people who know them well and interact with them. So that was my goal. The best thing for someone in my position is word of mouth, and you just start. Who knows Barry Bonds? You talk to his first grade teacher, you say, do you know any other teachers? You talk to the Cub Scout den mother, oh, do you know any of the other kids? One name usually begat five others, and five begat ten, and I ended up with 524, which is a pretty good number.

Yeah. I obviously havenít written a biography, but that seems like a really big number. Based on what youíve heard, or what you know about, did you go above and beyond, or is this kind of par for the course?

Itís probably above and beyond, but Iím not sure. My first book, I wrote a book about the Mets, and I interviewed about 150 people. I probably shouldíve done more, looking back, but I donít know. The thing is this. A friend of mine is Leigh Montville, who has a Babe Ruth book coming out. Babe Ruth is dead, so thatís more of a historical analysis. Youíre not gonna get a million new stories about Babe Ruth now because his contemporaries are dead, but Barry Bonds, his contemporaries are all still alive. I know that sounds real simplistic, but it makes you interview more people than a biography of someone whoís been dead for a long time.

That makes sense. Something thatís always intrigued me about professional athletes, especially the great ones, is that they mustíve been insanely dominant as kids when they were playing against people who grew up to be teachers, say, instead of linebackers. What kind of an athlete was Bonds back when he was just Bobby Bondsís kid?

Oh, he was great. Great. He was only Bobby Bondsís kid for a very short time because he was such a good athlete that he kind of jumped off the page at you. He was four years old, actually two and a half years old when he shattered his first window. His mom used to go down to the window pane store all the time because he was breaking so many windows with a wiffle ball off of a bat. He went to a school called the Kerry School, which was his elementary-slash-middle school. He was the catcher in baseball, he was a great catcher, strong arm. He was the star forward in baseball. He was above and beyond, Iím not doing it justice. He was the fastest kid, he was the strongest kid, he was the biggest kid, he was the quickest kid. Across the board, he was he best athlete. Nobody you talk to is really surprized that he is a major league ballplayer. It would be hard to expect 700 home runs, but he was just so advanced, so beyond everybody else, he was legit. He was the kid. You know how every school, or every school district has that kid? He was the kid, times a thousand.

Growing up like that, not only as the greatest athlete anyone had ever seen, but also as the privileged son of a major league all-star, it almost seems like the end result is obvious. Again, Iím not talking about the seven hundred home runs, but it might have been something of an upset if Bonds had turned out to be polite, well-adjusted, and compassionate. How did his experiences as a player at Serra High School and Arizona State affect the man he would become?

I think the first place you have to look for him is his dad and his godfather, too, Willie Mays. He was watching these two guys who were just adored by the public, these two guys who were worshipped by people. When you see that great athleticism equals worship and adulation, that registers with that eight-year-old kid. So he learned from a very, very early age that if you perform athletically, everything will be taken care of for you. When he was at Serra High School, he was the kid who during batting practice would be napping in the outfield. He was the kid who wore his dadís jerseys during practices, who would expect that his glove would be run out to him into the outfield…

He was a major leaguer already…

He the major league attitude at fourteen that takes others at least another ten years to get. You learn from an early age that if you walk the walk, people will treat you a certain way. Itís hard to blame him. I always say itís kind of hard to blame him for being who he is. Heís easy to dislike, because he is dislikable, but itís hard to blame him because this is what he was raised to be, essentially.

I think thatís my feeling as well. There are a lot of great guys, Iím sure, but itís almost expected that heíd turn out this way.

Like David Bell, as an example, was raised in a major league clubhouse, and heís a great guy. Aaron Boone is a real good guy. So itís not that itís hopeless, but I think your odds of becoming normal… I would be interested to see what Celene Dionís kids are gonna be like one day, you know? Itís not a normal way of growing up. You donít learn to interact with people normally, you donít see your parents coming home from a nine to five job exhausted and cooking dinner. It doesnít work that way. You have your dinners made for you. Barry Bonds signed his first autograph when he was, like, ten. Just for being the son of.

Wow. I have to admit that there were times when I cringed when reading something Bonds had said or done. Before reading this book, to be honest, I would sometimes dismiss some of the stories youíd hear about Bonds. You mentioned the incident reported in Ron Kittleís book, about Bonds saying he wouldnít sign autographs for white people.


When I first heard that reported in the press, it didnít even occur to me that it might be true, because I couldnít imagine anyone actually saying something like that.

Itís so funny you say that, because as soon as I heard that, I knew it was true.

Really? I was gonna ask you that, because my perspective is obviously different from yours, so I was wondering — what was your response to all this? Were you shocked by anything you heard, or was this, based on your different experiences and perceptions, was this what you expected to find out?

Good question. I didnít expect the depth of bad behavior, I would say. You hear a guy is a bad guy, you hear heís difficult, and you see instances… Like for example, the one thing that blows my mind in the book, two grounds keepers for the Pirates die… did you read the whole book?

Oh, yeah, I loved it.

Thanks. Two grounds keepers from the Pirates die, and they hold this auction and Bonds refuses to sign autographs. Brian Fisherís son has cystic fibrosis and thereís a fundraiser…

This is what Iím talking about.


I canít imagine a human being reacting that way.

I know, itís hard to believe a human being that big of an asshole.

What about the good things he did? Sometimes it seemed like he could actually go out of his way to do the right thing. Was that what was surprizing to you? Were you surprized by those things?

No, because I think everybody has humanity in them, you know? I was more surprized… you hear the story about the grounds keepers, and you think, god, thatís a crappy thing to do. And then you hear the thing about Brian Fisher, and you realize the guyís done it more than once! Thatís whatís surprizing sometimes. I can understand you being a jerk to someone, but he really can totally emotionally distance himself from situations and detach himself, not just distance himself, but detach himself from the feelings of other people and not read the feelings of other people. And the depth of that, his ability to do that, Iíve never come across anybody like that. Weíve all met jerks in our life, and Iím not even saying he is a jerk… Well, itís unbelievable to me.

I think what surprized me is that, kind of like how we were talking about his upbringing, I can completely understand that there can be an athlete or an entertainer or whoever, when you have microphones in your face every day, and people questioning you every single day, I can understand how you could become a jerk. You could get tired of that, and you could — to the press — really be a jackass. But in these situations where itís someone he knows coming to him saying people have died, can you help us out? And he responds that way. Thereís something deeper going on.

I agree with you. I agree with you a hundred percent. If you ask me what surprized me, that did surprize me. You hear one story, and you think maybe itís an isolated incident. You hear two, and you think, well maybe heís had two bad days. Then you hear seventeen of them, and you think, man, this is a different kind of guy. He just handles things in a different way, sees things in a different light, doesnít have the emotional maturity. You can only hear, ďOh, nobody knows what itís like to walk in my shoesĒ how many times before you realize that, if I was walking in your shoes, I still wouldnít handle that situation that way. There could be a million people asking me for my autograph when I find out that some grounds keeper died and he didnít have health insurance and all I have to do is sign three baseballs to make his life a little easier, I have to question the person that doesnít make that move.

Another thing about his personality, I think people generally feel a need to make connections, you know, when youíre talking to somebody new. For instance, you mentioned that you became friends with Brian Johnson?


Immediately I want to tell you that, hey I once played basketball against Brian Johnson. With Bonds, though, it seems the opposite — he even denies connections that actually exist. Is this just a superstar trying to maintain distance from his fans, or do you feel like thereís something — I know Iím asking you to kind of psychoanalyze a little bit — but do you feel like thereís something more going on with Bonds?

I do. Yes, thereís a distance thing. One thing that really interested me in the book, and I almost wish I had gotten more into, is how when guys are traded all of the sudden he opens up to them. Darryl Hamilton spends two years as a Giant, they barely talk, and then he gets traded and Barry says, ďI love you, man,Ē and gives him a hug.

Itís like he doesnít have to worry that now thereís a friendship.

Right, but I also think thereís an element to Bonds that heís always thinking in his head, ďWhat is a superstar? How is a superstar supposed to be perceived? How is a superstar supposed to handle this situation?Ē When Richard Hoffer of Sports Illustrated in 1993 comes to do a profile of Bonds and Bonds blows him off for eight days in a row. Now, thatís not just him being too busy, because if he was too busy he was busy picking scabs and watching Growing Pains or whatever on TV. He wanted to give this impression that I am haughtier than you are, I am higher than you, youíre gonna have to wait for me, and I know youíre gonna wait for me. Itís not that he wants to be guarded, he wants to give a certain impression to people. Bonds tries to tell people that he doesnít care what people think. To me, itís just the opposite. He cares tremendously what people think, and heís working hard to show that he doesnít care. Itís almost like heís doing reverse psychology on himself.

Yeah, I thought it was interesting — there was a point in the book where you talk about when players were leaving from the hotel to the bus to get to the game on the road, talking about how all the players would just kind of hole up in the hotel to avoid the crowds, and Bonds would stand on the sidewalk just so that he could wait for the crowds and then tell them to get the hell out of his face.

Vintage Bonds. Vintage.

I think you did a great job in the book of really driving home the fact that Barry Bonds was a phenomenal player long before he became the Bonds we now know. What was he like as Pirate, during those days before he was chasing history as he is now?

Do you mean personality-wise, or playing-wise?

Just as a player, just on the playing field.

Oh, unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. Thatís the thing. To me, he was a better player as a Pirate than he has been as a Giant, because he was so multi-facetted. The only thing he didnít have for him was an arm. Even the guys who hated him — Van Slyke, R.J. Reynolds to some degree — nobody denies the fact that he was ungodly as a baseball player. The saddest thing to me about the steroid thing isnít, ďoh, the youth of America,Ē which sucks, or other areas that are terrible about it. Whatís saddest to me is he was just driven by greed. If he had just never touched the steroids, he still couldíve been one the ten best baseball players of all time. And that whole legacy, those Pittsburgh years are now just totally forgotten. They arenít even a factor anymore, and thatís sad, because he could do everything when he was a Pirate. Absolutely everything as a Pirate. When he came up with the Pirates, he was a terrible, indifferent outfielder, and pitchers hated having that guy playing center field behind him. When he moved to left, and he started feeling a little jealous over Andy Van Slykeís defense, he became the best left fielder in the game. He went from being a horrible outfielder, to the best left fielder in baseball, and probably one of the ten best left fielders ever in baseball, defensively.

That, of course, brings us to San Francisco and everything that he has become. I donít think you can look at Barry Bonds without thinking of three things, all addressed significantly in your book. First, his personality; second, his greatness as a player; and finally, the steroids. You can make this answer as long or as short as you like. How sure are you that Bonds took performance-enhancing drugs?

A hundred percent. A hundred percent.

There are two issues I wanted to talk to you about concerning steroids, both of which you addressed in the book. First, and I loved that you had this in there, about the role of the press. For the last year or so, reporters have been like rabid dogs pursuing this story, but where were they in 1998? Do you think they were in denial?

Well, first I have to say ďtheyĒ includes me, so I canít bash the media and not include myself. I was not there either. I was a baseball writer at the time, too. I think there are a few things I have to say. One of the guys I interviewed is a great writer, great guy, Jeff Bradley from ESPN the Magazine. Jeff was saying that when he would be in these meetings in Ď98 — and Jeff Bradleyís brother, Scott, played with the Mariners as a catcher — and Jeff Bradley would be in these magazines at ESPN the Magazine saying, ďThis is all bullshit. Maybe we should do something about this.Ē And I gotta say, at [Sports Illustrated], there were times when I brought up, or [Tom] Verducci would bring up, or different people would bring up steroids, and ďdonít you think we should be looking into this more?Ē And there wasnít that much interest. I think a lot of writers were beginning to be skeptical of it, but I donít know, there was this big love train going on with McGwire and Sosa, do you remember it? It was almost like we all drank the Kool-Aid. It was just happy-happy time.

For me, definitely, Iíve been a huge baseball fan all my life, and during those times when youíd hear people talk about steroids, I just didnít want to believe it. Even though Iím 35, thereís still a part of me that looks at these baseball players, even still today, the same way I did when I was ten. Thatís from a fanís perspective, so I wonder: is there some of that still with reporters?

I will say this. I donít know if the fan thing is so much. Bill Madden, a guy who writes for the Daily News, I think I quote him in the book. He said something thatís stuck with me which was, nobody who covers baseball is happy covering this stuff.

Yeah, you did mention that.

Right. Nobody wants this stuff to happen. A lot of these guys it tears apart, myself in a lot of ways. It hurts you in a lot of ways, because this is a game you love. When baseball players act like weíre outsiders, you know, what are we doing in the clubhouse? Weíre not outsiders. Weíre as much insiders as they are Ďcause we freakiní love this game, too. Nobody wants this stuff to happening to baseball. It tears them up. So I donít think writers were ignoring it. I think part of it was ignorance; I just donít think we knew a hundred percent what was going on. And I also think we just got caught up in it all, you know? The game was sinking, McGwire and Sosa come along, they go crazy… Yeah, Sosa used to be a pretzel and now he was the Incredible Hulk, but he was hitting home runs, and I donít know, it just wasnít there. People werenít talking about it. I donít know.

Second, tell me what you think about this argument. Iíve speculated that it might be a bit hypocritical to criticize Bonds and others for taking steroids. Being a professional athlete is nothing but performance enhancement. Weíre talking about a sport in which pitchers have tendons from cadavers sewn into their elbows and batters have surgery to improve their vision beyond 20/20. Whatís your response to this slippery slope argument? Iím not looking for you to say, yes, steroids are okay, but where does it fit in that spectrum?

The number one thing for me, is steroids without a prescription are illegal, factually illegal. So youíre talking about breaking the law. They say in Christianity that all sins are the same, so whether you rape a kid or you steal a gumdrop, itís the same thing. But to me in baseball — Iím not a religious guy, by the way, I just use that example — to me in baseball, itís not all the same. Gaylord Perry…

I like that you added that. I agree completely with that whole thing. Iím sorry to step on you but…

No, no. Gaylord Perry is totally different to me. He didnít break the law. Thatís the thing that bothers me, the argument where people say steroids werenít illegal in baseball. Yeah, they werenít illegal in baseball, they were illegal in the United States of America. You can go anywhere in America, play a pickup game of baseball and use pine tar on your bat, and they canít arrest you for it. But anywhere in America, when you use steroids without a prescription, you will get arrested for it. The laws of the United States umbrella major league baseball, not vice versa.

I found it interesting that in the midst of your talk about the steroid issue, you were still able to step back from it and discuss the historical numbers Bonds was putting up at the time. Five or ten years from now, do you think weíll be able to make that division between what Bonds did on the field and what heís alleged to have done to get there?

No, itís hard for me to make the division. I did it because I didnít really know another way to go about it. No matter what happens, the asterisk is there. No matter what happens, heíll be known as a steroid guy. If he gets into the Hall of Fame, it has to be on his plaque in Cooperstown. Maybe it wonít be, but it should be. Itís him. Barry Bonds and steroids now are linked like anything else.

Baseballís clearly struggling with that issue also. He hit his 711th home run the other night, and itís a matter of time until he passes Babe Ruth. Just today I saw that Selig says there will be no celebration, and his argument is that heís not setting a record, but itís not like heís passing Harmon Killebrew or something. My guess is that if there were no suspicion, this would be a huge love fest going on.

Definitely, definitely.

So what do you think baseball should be doing? Whether itís Ruth, or if he hangs on and next year heís chasing Aaron?

Very, very, very, very tough. Selig pretty much dug his own grave here by just ignoring the problem for too long. Itís funny, when he held the press conference when he named George Mitchell, he started the press conference and I was convinced that he was gonna start the press conference by saying, ďIím gonna be honest here. Weíve screwed this up, we have not done a good job here, and thatís why weíre taking action.Ē Instead he does the exact opposite. He opens up by listing his accomplishments on steroids, which is just laughable. What can they do now? I donít know what they can do now. If I am Selig, this is what I do. Number one, I donít count Bondsís record because we just know for a fact that he cheated to do it. Factually, he cheated to do it. I donít count the McGwire/Sosa records, because we didnít know. Itís like track and field. They donít go by blood tests anymore. They donít need a steroid test anymore to ban you from competition because some things are just so crystal clear obvious. You have an appeals committee where you let the guy appeal a suspension or whatever. [In baseball], youíre just bastardizing the record book. Thatís all theyíre doing. The record book is a joke now. And it kills me, guys like Griffey, McGriff, even a guy like Shawn Green, guys who have had very good careers who didnít use — Frank Thomas — and are now just like afterthoughts in the whole baseball thing. Thatís very upsetting. I donít know what he can do, but if itís me? I donít count the records.

Finally, two questions. Will he catch Aaron?

I donít think so. I just think heís too banged up more than anything. I think he even knows thatís a can of worms. I think Bonds knows thatís a can of worms he does not want to open.

Last one. You addressed this a little bit in the book. If you had a Hall of Fame ballot, whether itís today or, if he retires and itís five years from now, would Bonds get your vote?



He would not. Thereís a clause people donít always mention in the criteria for Hall of Fame voting, basically a morality clause, a ďgood of the gameĒ clause — which was used against Pete Rose — and to me what Bonds has done to the record book… You know, Iím still amazed, I still donít understand, and this book is not a slam Bonds book, you read it, itís not a kill Bonds book…

Yeah, I described it someone yesterday. Someone asked me, ďWas it a hatchet job?Ē And I said, well, yes it was, but I donít think thatís how it started. I donít feel like there was an agenda, it was only a hatchet job because that was the only way that it couldíve turned out. That was my feeling.

Right, thatís his life. Right. I just donít know how heís able to look Hank Aaron in the eye, or Willie Mays in the eye, or Willie McCovey in the eye, or any of these guys. I just donít know how you do it. Itís the same thing with McGwire. How did McGwire, how did he go up to Marisís family, after all Maris went through to break that record? Itís just amazing how completely devoid of compassion these guys are, and morality.

I feel like thereís something about being an athlete, and Iím certainly, certainly not speaking from experience, but if youíre an elite athlete, and your whole life has been driven towards being the best you can possibly be, I bet that deep down these guys believe that theyíre not doing anything different than twenty years ago when guys started to work out for the first time. Maybe thatís naÔve to think, and Iím not making excuses for them, but I think thatís how McGwire looks the Maris family in the eye. Heís being the best that he can be, even if heís getting help from a bottle.

You just summed up why I am happy my daughter has no athleticism.

I think it would be kind of scary. For instance if youíre an Olympic sprinter, and your whole life is based on ten seconds four years from now, I guess Iím glad I never had to make those decisions.

I guess, I donít know. This is weak, but I ran cross country and track in college, and I feel very confident in saying that if someone came along and said hereís a drug thatíll make you faster. Itíll make your testicles shrink, itíll put acne on your back, itíll increase your head size, and itís illegal, but itíll make you faster, Iím pretty certain I… You know I actually get made when people make the argument, ďWell, what about if youíre a low level minor leaguer, and youíre not good enough to make it and then this steroid comes along. Whatíre you gonna do?Ē Iíll tell you what can do. You go to freakiní college and you get a job in another field. If youíre not good enough, youíre not good enough. Iíve wanted to write for GQ. I never got asked to write for GQ. Iím not gonna cheat or find some way to write for them. Itís a bad example, but you donít have to cheat. Some things in life are not meant to be. Iíd love to have a great physique. I donít have a great physique. Some things you just donít do. You just donít do it. Itís wrong. Some things are WRONG. Thatís what bothers me about this. We have lost our compass of right and wrong, a lot of people have. People make the argument that steroids werenít banned by baseball, but theyíre still wrong. Is that how lost we are, that itís not obvious, completely obvious that they are wrong? And if they werenít wrong, wouldnít you be bragging that you were taking steroids, not trying to hide it from everybody?

I agree, thatís a good point.

It pisses me off, makes me mad. I feel like this isnít the kind of stuff that Iím trying to raise my daughter in where right and wrong is just whether you get caught or not, essentially.

…. Ruth’s record

Barry Bonds finally caught the Babe, hitting his 714th home run yesterday, in a win against the Oakland A’s. For some perspective on the accomplishment, here’s Mike Lupica:

…. With Bonds, we are caught in this terrible place, as fascinated as we are by him, because he is a terrible guy. We are caught between belief and disbelief, knowing what a great player he was, what an amazing talent he was, before he got this big, before BALCO, and this book “Game of Shadows” made us believe the worst about him. The way we believe the worst about players playing now, without the kind of evidence the writers of “Game of Shadows” got on Bonds.

It should have been a fine baseball day yesterday, even if Bonds only went into second place on the all-time list. It was not. Because it was him, on this home-run Saturday in baseball. It was history, all right, just the wrong kind, from the wrong guy.

And here’s Murray Chass:

…. Bonds is easily the most controversial player in baseball today, maybe the most controversial in baseball ever, maybe the most controversial in any sport. The steroid scandal has elevated him to that status. Has he or hasn’t he? Did he hit a significant number of his 714 home runs because he used steroids or other illegal performance-enhancing substances?

We don’t know. We suspect he did. Most people probably think he did. If a substantial percentage of his 714 were chemically aided, maybe he doesn’t deserve to be placed in Ruth’s class.

Ruth ate hot dogs and drank beer. If either helped him hit home runs, more players should have followed his example. They might have fattened themselves, but they would have been better hitters.

It’s not likely, though, that Ruth’s diet played a role in home run history. If Bonds used steroids, they undoubtedly have.

One argument has been set forth that is designed to mitigate the accusations that Bonds would not have hit 209 home runs in a four-year period (2001-4) without using steroids. Pitchers, the argument goes, have also used steroids and would have been tougher for Bonds and others to hit. In other words, they might have all been cheating, but they were doing it on a level playing field.

And here’s me:

Congratulations, Barry. There can be no doubt that it took a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication and sacrifice and pain to get to this point in your career. So much has been written about all of the perks you enjoy, the size of your entourage, the recliner; that it is easy to forget that, steroids or not, you work as hard as any athlete in any sport ever has, and have for going on two decades. I will continue to marvel at an athlete who is willing to pay the price to get the most out your ability, even now, 20 seasons into your career. An athlete that has every reason in the world to retire, to quit and finally relax, out of the spotlight; but refuses. Whether you pass Aaron or not, it has been quite a ride.

…. Talk talk

Jim Adams is mad about the state of the Giants pitching staff, and he doesn’t care who knows it:

…. It also doesnít bother me that the Giants have allowed more runs than any NL team, despite having spent the last three years bragging about all their great pitching prospects, and that they play in a good pitchersí park, and that they spent $21 million on a ďproven closerĒ (Benitez) after 2004, and that they brought in a gold glove catcher and a gold glove shortstop after 2004, and that they traded away two prospects for a ďproven setup manĒ (Hawkins) during the 2005 season, and that they spent $27 million on a ďproven frontline starterĒ (Morris) after 2005.

No, what really bothers me is that all this can happen and no one loses his job Ė not the manager, not the general manager, not the pitching coach, not the director of the farm system, not the minor league pitching coaches. How can you devote so many resources to preventing runs, and then fail to hold anyone accountable when you fail miserably at what you were trying to accomplish? Can anyone explain this to me?

I can’t. Sabean is on about the same pace Bonds is right now, something like 1 for his last 20 when it comes to making deals to improve the team. Old, older and oldest are the only adjectives anyone uses to describe this team anymore, other than medicore. Personality disputes were allowed to be more important than winning, and a championship caliber team was broken up, a championship caliber manager was thrown away, and so was any real chance to win a title.

How many different ways can a team screw up? It’s not like they didn’t spend money. They spent reams, millions upon millions of dollars virtually donated to players who did little more than show up and be “good citizens” to cash their paychecks. For years, I complained about the horrible, albatross of a contract JT Snow’s agent had bamboozled Sabean into. Sabean couldn’t wait five minutes to throw the same kind of money away on Alfonzo. Develop pitchers? How can you develop pitchers without draft picks? No team, NO TEAM can win a title without developing front-line talent.

The Giants have, what, two front-line players on the team that they’ve developed? Lowry and Feliz. And Feliz just went 20 for 30 to raise his average to .270. As Jim has pointed out before, Feliz is older than A-Rod. ’nuff said.

I asked for accountability each of the last three seasons as the team has come out of spring training in a coma. Is there a plan? Sure. Avoid paying money to draft picks and pick up “veterans” off the scrap heap untile your team degrades into an overpaid collection of Crash Davis look-alikes. That’s what we’ve got.

Coaching? Schmidt has had problems with his velocity for most of the last two seasons. Anyone know why? Two years, and Righetti and the rest of these clowns can’t fix it. Cain comes out of Fresno after, what, three seasons, and looks like this? Thank God Matheny saves 100 runs a season, because otherwise we’d be looking at 100 losses.

…. Friends in high places

Check out the new look at the Stick and Ball Guy, and while you’re at it, you might find his latest post on Babe Ruth illuminating:

…. According to The Baseball Hall of Shameís Warped Record Book, by Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo and Bob Smith, the Bambino fell ill one year attempting to inject himself with extract from a sheepís testes. This effort by more than a few athletes of his era to seek the healing and strengthening properties of testosterone prefigured the craze for steroids. When Ruth fell ill from his attempted enhancement, the media was told that Ruth merely had ďa bellyache.Ē This was believable since Ruth was a glutton, famed for eating eighteen-egg omelets.

I’ll say it again, any athlete dedicated to winning will look into any and all means to do so. This little tale about Ruth is no surprise.

Another take on Bonds’ pursuit of Ruth can be found at Armchair GM. Here’s a taste:

…. Ruth’s monolithic greatness has, wrongfully, been diminished. I say “wrongfully” because while many of his marks have been eclipsed, it has required a group effort (and a druggist or three) to pass them.
Roger Maris hit 61 home runs, but never came close to 714. Aaron had 755, but never once cracked 50. The list goes on. To claim that Bonds’ march toward 715 is less than special because Hank Aaron already got there is simply ridiculous. For better or for worse, he is passing baseball’s first and only true legend. Had he done so cleanly, there would be no excuse for not marking the occassion.


Finally, the Commissioner wants me to let my readers know about a new baseball discussion site, Talk Baseball. I think you can figure out what’s up there.

…. Hammin’ it up

For those of you who’d like to hear my voice, I was on AOL Sportsbloggers Live, earlier today. Here’s the link. I certainly was guilty of repeating some of the BS I sling here, and it was funny to hear the different ways people can pronounce my name.

Anyway, take a listen. I thought I did pretty well, actually.

…. Stumble, bumble, fumble and glum

The Giants are 14-14 after yesterday’s 8-4 loss to the Brewers. The whole league seems to be batting .400 with 80 home runs and ten thousand RBI, but the Giants boast one of the weakest lineups this side of Triple AAA. Of course, who really expected it to be different?

Matheny, Feliz, Neikro, Vizcaino, Sweeney, and Vizquel are all the same player. Ray Durham spends all of his time in one of three places; the DL, months-long slumps, or 20 game-hitting streaks. He’s now in the midst his third consecutive slow start, and that, along with Bonds’ inability to get back to normal, Steve Finley hitting like a 40-year old, and Moises Alou breaking down again, and you’re looking at one of the worst offenses in the entire league. That Sabean and Magowan could sit down and decide that these are the players they want, with all of the good, young players out there, is beyond belief.

And, yes, I’ve heard about Sabean tapping an unwanted resource, these old/older players. This team has taken that approach to its absurd conclusion. Every day it seems we hear about another record; oldest starting outfield, oldest infield, oldest lineup, oldest this, oldest that. How about best? Best catcher, best right fielder, best infield? Best #2 hitter, best lineup? El Lefty Malo put it best when he said that the Giants have four #8 hitters in their lineup every day. I’m supposed to believe that this team can compete with the Cardinals or the Mets or the Astros? In what universe?

Ahhhh…. I knew this coming in. From the end of the 2002 World Series through today, the Giants have gotten worse and worse, position by position. Randy Winn and Jason Schmidt represent the two deals Sabean has pulled off since ’02 that have worked. I don’t have the time to complain about the $70 million dollars he wasted on Alfonzo, Neifi, Reuter’s extension, JT Snow, Double Play AJ. How about Armando Benitez, well on his way to becoming a $27 million dollar garbage can. Could a little research into his workout habits have given us some indication that he was another Livan, working on burritos instead of weights?

Where is the silver lining for this team right now? It’s pretty obvious that if Bonds does start hitting again, teams will not let him beat them. And why should they, with Mark Sweeney batting fifth?

…. Pay attention

Last May, I attended a press screening for the movie Up for Grabs. It was a terrific movie that I laughed my way through. For a Giants fan, it has to be considered a can’t miss hit. Here’s what I said last year:

…. In a way, some of the highlights made me feel a little sad, because that energy and excitement is somewhat diminished. The constant carping and moralizing by announcers, talking heads, sportswriters and the dummies we voted into Congress about how steroids has ruined the game, how these great ball players have ruined our lives and dashed our hopes….. You know, for me, it’s not these ballplayers who’ve ruined it. It’s all the moralizing and demonizing and finger-pointing…. it’s the ruinous, irresponsible innuendo and speculation that’s really hurt the game.

When you see Up for Grabs, you’ll remember. You’ll remember what these players gave us. You’ll remember how it felt to be there when they did it. I was there for about ten Bonds home runs in 2001, (including, I think, number 57). I remember. I was there for Bonds’ 660th (actually, it was his 600th). These were magical, incredible, amazing moments in sports history. Watching Bonds hit #73 literally brought tears to my eyes, made me shiver. I watched McGwire hit his 62nd home run, watched him hug everybody in sight. Watched him skip around the bases like a little boy, high-fiving the Cubs players as he rounded the bases, and the Cardinal fans go absolutely berserk. Magical. I’ll never forget it. McGwire doesn’t owe me an apology. He doesn’t owe me a Goddamn thing. I owe him. I owe Bonds.

Now he’s a cheat, Bonds is a cheat? They hurt me? Ruined baseball for me? Verducci is ruining baseball. Bill Madden telling me that he’s gonna make sure that McGwire’s name goes down in infamy, he’s ruining the game.

Mike Wrankovics, the man who made the film, has sent me an email telling me that you can see it tonight, 11pm, on Spike TV. I don’t get Spike TV, but you might. Check it out if you can.

All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
San Francisco Giants, Major League Baseball, or any other organization mentioned herein.

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