Marty Cortinas sent me an Q&A about Bonds, and I spent some time on it, so I thought I’d post my response here.
1 – When it comes to politics, no matter what side of the argument you align yourself, you always look at the other side and wonder, how in the world do they view Issue X that way? Isn’t it as clear as day to them that things work the complete opposite? Similarly, I think most every non-Giants fan looks at Barry Bonds and is fairly convinced of his guilt and view him as a poor character, while Giants fans, obviously, revere him. So, is Bonds misjudged or do Giants fans have their head in the sand?
Bonds is both misjudged AND judged fairly. The major sports media outlets have done a terrific job portraying Bonds as the ultimate motherfucker; a bad teammate, a dick to be around, an arrogant asshole, a privileged child of a baseball star, and a jealous, demanding cheater. By doing so, they have reduced the conversation into soundbites and over-simplified questions: “Do you think Barry cheated?” “Do you think Bonds’ should have his records expunged?” “Should Bonds be allowed into the Hall of Fame?”
A clear dialogue is impossible. No one wants to talk about the climate of permissiveness that permeated the game when Bonds did or didn’t decide to use PED’s. No one wants to talk about the absolute fact that all baseball management knew about, and by their silence, endorsed the use of PED’s by any and all players in the game. No one wants to remember the adulation, the astonishment; and the singular joy that the McGwire/Sosa duel produced. And most importantly, the major media writers, broadcasters; and talking heads will not acknowledge that the fans DO NOT CARE AT ALL. The only reason ESPN can run a poll asking whether fans think Bonds cheated is because they’ve run four hundred articles (wrongly) saying that he did. If they hadn’t been beating that constant drum of innuendo and speculation, there’d be no story.
By every indicator you can analyze, baseball has never been as popular as it is now. If Selig and the media would shut up about the “scandal,” it would be gone, forgotten, in an instant. Instead, they keep bringing it up, again and again, a story about how somebody thinks the commissioner should suspend Barry; an article telling us that he could be indicted any minute now; another player thinks he’s a dick…. On and on…. Don’t you think it’s pretty obvious they have absolutely no proof whatsoever that he cheated, that he lied, that he can be taken down? It is to me. But not to Lupica and Verducci and the rest of these custodians of rightness. They will not stop until everyone knows that Barry’s hat is bigger.
2a – Did you read Game of Shadows? What did you think?
I’m at Chapter Six right now. So far, it’s pretty weak. I’m gonna write a review when I’m done.
2b – How do you explain the pictures circa 1990 and the pictures circa 2002? The ever-expanding head size?
Please…. I’m almost the exact same age as Bonds, and I can show you pictures of me at 25 and now, and there’s no doubt every part of my body is bigger, my head, my arms, everything. It’s the stupidest fucking thing in the world to show a picture of a 22-year old and then the same guy at 42 and say, “look, his head is bigger.” Look at pictures of Shac when he was with the Orlando Magic. Look at pictures of Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken…. I could go on and on. Only an idiot would use Bonds’ head size as proof that he used PED’s. There are plenty of stronger arguments to suggest that he didn’t use PED’s…. he’s never suffered any of the typical injuries associated with steroid and PED use, he’s been able to maintain his astonishing production since the inception of baseball’s drug testing program, both Anderson and Conte have refused to testify that Bonds used PED’s, even though it would have benefited each of them to do so….
3 – Why is it that on the road, Bonds is booed lustily, but when he hits a home run, cheers emerge? Are we that wishy-washy a nation?
People are booing him because the major sports media outlets have made it clear that they should. People are sheep. They cheer for the home runs, because –even though they’ve been told to boo the asshole– they still love being a part of history.
4 – Who is a better home run hitter, Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth? Bonds or Hank Aaron?
Ruth will always be considered the greatest home run hitter of all time. When he hit 59, the record was 29. He changed the way the game was played, offensively. It’s interesting to consider that even though everyone has always known that he was the best offensive player ever; it was only after Bill James and then Moneyball that it became absolutely crystal clear that everyone should try and emulate what he did; regardless of talent or ability. Everyone should try and focus on hitting for power, and avoiding swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone; which Ruth did religiously.
Ted Williams is next in line, by the way, not Hank Aaron. It’s Williams, Ruth and Bonds at the top. Williams gave 5 years if his life fighting WWII, when he was the best hitter alive. If not for that, the record would be his, it’d be 800-plus, and Bonds would have at least another season to catch him. For all-time home run hitters, Araron’s barely in the top ten, that’s for sure. Off the top of my head, Mays, McGwire, Foxx, Mantle, and even Sammy Sosa are better home run hitters than Aaron. Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, McCovey…. even Aaron’s contemporaries; players that he blew past in total home runs; even those guys were probably better home run hitters than he was.
Aaron was a good home run hitter who moved to a launching pad of a baseball park entering his age 32 season; exactly when he was beginning the decline phase of his career. Instead of petering out around 550-600 career home runs, like Mays, he was averaging 40 home runs per season for his last 8 seasons. He hit 40 home runs at the age of 39, for crying out loud. Aaron is a crystal clear example of time washing away all of the dirt, and leaving only the statistics; something Bill James wrote about twenty years ago. When he was active, Aaron was NEVER considered the best player in the game. He was perhaps the fourth or fifth best player at any given point in his career; which is why he won but one MVP award. Sure, he got 3000 hits and 755 home runs… If he had played anywhere but Atlanta the last ten years, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
Look at Willie Mays‘ career and you can see the difference…. Mays hit 47 home runs at 33 years old, 52 at 34, 37 at 35, and that was it, only 100 or so home runs the rest of his career. Aaron hit 248 home runs AFTER he was 35. He was durable, competent, and had good power. If the two players had switched teams at age 32, Bonds would probably still be 100 home runs away from his Godfather; who would have easily averaged 50 home runs a season playing half his games in a ballpark where Aaron was banging out 40.
5 – In the context of baseball history, where does Bonds stand? How do you think his image will change over time?
Bonds is the greatest PLAYER in the history of baseball. His accomplishments will stand the test of time, and within the next twenty years, that will become increasingly clear. Besides his 8 Gold Gloves, he owns virtually every single season offensive record that matters, he’s soon to be the career home run king, he’s got over 500 stolen bases, the batting average, the walks, the 7 MVP’s…. I mean, are you kidding me? Bonds OBP has been over .400 for 17 straight years. When the dust clears, and he’s never had a positive drug test, and all there is the supposition, the made up stories, and the backstabbers with their lies and the, “We think this means this….” bullshit…. When all of that is over, and Bonds has been retired for a decade or more, it will be clear to everyone that they shit all over the best player of all time. Was he a dick? A sure as the sun. Did the writers and broadcasters take it too far in their efforts to make sure we all knew that they were gonna save the children? Just as surely.
Will Bonds be at some ballpark someday with writers and fans crying all over the place, with ballplayers getting goosebumps and going all batshit to shake hands with Bonds in a wheelchair, just like they did with Ted Williams a couple of years ago? Take it to the bank.