Eric Neel has perhaps a most intelligent and thoughtful look at the Bonds situation:
Let me ask you a question: As a baseball fan with a sense of history and an appreciation for the game played at the highest level, which of the following scenarios disappoints you more?
1. Barry Bonds using something to dramatically improve his already-high level of performance and to substantially prolong his baseball career.
2. Mickey Mantle using something that dramatically lowered his once-high level of performance and substantially shortened his baseball career.
…. Mantle, who was further limited by chronic leg injuries, by his own admission began drinking alcohol heavily early in his career. In his 1986 autobiography, “The Mick,” he said he “got a bellyful starting in 1952,” and after being diagnosed with liver cancer in 1994, he urged fans: “don’t be like me.”
At age 32, in 1964, Mantle posted a .303/.423/.591 line, including 35 home runs and 111 RBIs, and finished second in American League MVP balloting. In the last four years of his career, from ages 33-36, he averaged a .256/.386/.455 line, 21 HRs and 53 RBIs over 1,569 at-bats, including a career-closing 1968 season in which he hit .237 and managed a career-low (excluding 1963, in which he played in just 65 games, and 1951, in which he played in 96) 18 home runs.
Which hurts more?
Witnessing what otherwise might never have happened?
Or longing for what might have been?
I made a similar argument vis-a-vis Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. about two years ago:
…. you could argue that Griffey let his fans and teammates down by missing so much time. Cincinnatti fans certainly had to have felt let down, after trading away key members of the team to get him, and then signing him to a huge contract that limited the team’s ability to deal with his missing substantial time.
Griffey’s been in a Reds uniform since 2000, and has played a full season but once, his first with the team. Since that first year, he has hit a total of 63 home runs while playing 317 games out of a possible 648, less than half. And yet, his Baseball Reference page is sponsored by Poisk, who writes, “500+ ‘All Natural’ Home Runs…. Now that’s something to be proud of.”
Something to be proud of apparently doesn’t include being there for your teammates, or the fans, or being able to do your job every day. Why is that a good thing?
I could give a shit about whether it’s sacriligious to have this conversation. You wanna talk about this in terms that really matter? You wanna frame this debate in a way that impacts the future of the game, a team, or a player? Face the facts, first and foremost. Face the facts.
Whether Bonds did steroids or not, he absolutely and clearly did every single thing he could possibly do to be the best. If he chose to use PED’s during a period of time when it was not against the rules of his sport, he did it to improve his performance, to be better, to be the best. He did so in a sport that has asked, in fact, demanded exactly that from it’s participants for over 100 years.
For as long as professional baseball’s been played, professional baseball players have done whatever they could to win, to be the best, to get the most out of their careers. That is the climate of any professional sport. Be the best, play through pain, work harder, longer, be stronger, faster.
But today’s custodians want to make sure you understand that you can’t make these decisions on your own. You can be the best, go for the gold, go the extra mile; but only in the way we want you to. We’re gonna decide what’s best for you, we’re gonna decide how and in what way you do so. And in Bonds’ case, we’re gonna do it after the fact.
It is the highest form of hypocrisy. It is a shame, and it is a travesty.