…. 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.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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