In a past life I had a dream of becoming a sports writer. In part it was due to the influence of Jim Murray. The man could take words and make them sing and dance in such a beautiful way. I am not half the writer he was, not even close to one quarter. But the nice thing about writing is that is one of those skills that can improve with age and with practice.
The same is not necessarily true of hitting a 90 MPH fastball. There comes a point in time in which your skills begin to diminish and you are no longer able to do what you once did. Most baseball players begin to see this change some time in their mid to late thirties. Rarely do you see their skills begin to improve.
Barry Bonds seems to be the exception to the rule.
As a fan of the game I’d like to celebrate this. I’d like to look at Barry with a mix of awe and envy and wish that I could do what he does. The problem is that I cannot.
I cannot because he plays for the hated Giants and as a Dodger fan that is not something you do. Ask a Sox fan if he’d like to get a Bucky Dent jersey and see how he responds and you’ll get a sense of what it means. As an aside most Sox fans I know never speak of Dent without using the middle name they gave him, Bucky F*ing Dent.
But it is more than team loyalty that prevents me from trying to appreciate Bonds. By all accounts he is a surly and often obnoxious man that walks around like he has a chip on his shoulder. The persona he portrays to the public is not one of affection.
Still, that is only part of the equation. When I add in another factor it becomes even tougher to really get behind him.
And the truth is that part of me feels badly about that because I don’t see it as a black and white issue. Bonds played during a time that can be called the steroid era. It is a given that the explosion in home runs we witnessed is not just due to bigger players, league expansion or other soft ball explanations.
Bonds has never admitted to taking steroids and to the best of my knowledge no one has proven that he has taken them either. In theory one should be innocent until proven guilty, but that doesn’t apply everywhere.
And here is what we know. Major League Baseball hasn’t embraced him. He is on the verge of breaking one of the greatest records in the game and people don’t want to talk about it. Hank Aaron refuses to attend or acknowledge it and until recently the commissioner has refused to discuss whether he would try to be in attendance when Bonds breaks the record.
The lack of support from within the MLB bothers me. I think that it speaks volumes about this. It is just disappointing to see Bonds do this. I had always kind of hoped that Junior would do it.
I suppose that it is still possible that he might, but that seems like a bit of a stretch now.
The one thing I know for certain is that records are made to be broken. Bonds will have his time in the limelight. Regardless of whether he took steroids or not he is one of the great players of the game, I’ll grant him that. But sooner or later someone like A-Rod will come along and take the record away.
I just hope that whoever does it has more to show for themselves than Bonds.