8.07.2007

BARRY SITS ALONE: DO WE NOW JUDGE HIM?

I went out to pick up a pizza, and while I was gone, Barry Bonds hit home run #756. I had been preoccupied with my thoughts and hadn't put the Giants game on the radio, so when I came into the house, the kids juked me pretty good. They had the game paused, ostensibly because the 25-year-old known as 'Boy' (recuperating from surgery) had gotten up to use the facilities. So I thought the whole thing was nearly 'live', and when Bonds drilled Mike Bacsik's 3-2 pitch, I knew it was gone, and I was suitably excited.

They all laughed, because they had seen it 20 minutes ago. I laughed, too: best juke, evah!

I was moved when Bonds, fighting back emotion, thanked his father. In so many ways, Bobby Bonds (and his struggles) made his son the man he is today, warts and all. I was even more moved when Bonds went to the bench on a double-switch, then sat, alone, on the dugout with his thoughts. You could, if you watched carefully, see all manner of shadows dance on his face while his unblinking eyes focused on some private horizon. The corners of his mouth twitched, and he seemed to make an effort to master his emotions, chomping rather determinedly on some seeds.

And, it struck me, that he is alone. Alone, astride the baseball world; alone, in history; alone, with his thoughts, with his memories and--perhaps--even regrets. The game was stopped for ten minutes to pay tribute to the greatest hitter of my generation, bar none. The home town faithful cheered lustily, but it paled before the seven minutes of sustained applause that Pete Rose received when he singled off Eric Show, much less Cal Ripken's 22-minute 'victory lap' after the fifth inning of game #2,131.

And it raises a question in my mind: will we remember Barry as being more like Ripken, or more like Rose? That is, will he eventually become an admired icon or a symbol of corruption? I don't know the answer to that, but I do know this: the Hall of Fame is not a collection of saints, and there are far more venal characters in it than Mr. Bonds. There is no rule that says the greatest hitter of many generation should be personable, gracious, easy-going. Ted Williams was an ornery goat loved by his teammates, but despised by many of the 'knights of the keyboard.' Williams missed winning an additional MVP in 1947 because one writer left him completely off the ballot, when he hit .342 with 38 HR, 123 RBI and 156 walks---and all of those totals LED THE AMERICAN LEAGUE. That's right, the sumbitch won the Triple Crown and finished....second in the MVP voting, because one writer couldn't even list him somewhere on his ballot.

What about the allegations that Bonds may have cheated? I have a hard time taking that seriously, frankly. If he's caught cheating, he'll be fined and suspended for an appropriate length of time, but this wouldn't be the Apocalypse, say it ain't so, Joe. Nor would it be unprecedented that a Hall of Famer cheated.

For example, Whitey Ford wore a special ring that had a rasp and a file on it during much of his time with the Yankees. Gaylord Perry was, um, moist and made a career out of it. Don Sutton apparently preferred sandpaper. All Hall-of-Fame pitchers. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker placed a bet on a game when both were player-managers and were nearly kicked out of baseball for it. Rogers Hornsby had serious gambling problems, to the point where the Commissioner dressed him down privately. Yet during the same era, John McGraw, a Hall-of-Fame manager and one of the dirtiest players to ever play the game, owned a casino in Havana !

Want more? Mickey Mantle, Ed Delahanty, Grover Cleveland Alexander are all Hall-of-Famers: they were also addicted to alcohol during their playing days, addictions which eventually wrecked their lives. Jimmy Foxx was such a raging alcoholic, that he would have a flask on him while batting.

Compared to some of these guys, Bonds is a choir boy. Jealous of the blatant steroid use of others, he might have well used some kind of secret performance-enhancer to aid in recovery, but even if he did, that would neither be illegal nor strictly speaking outlawed by baseball. It would just be cheating, which has a long tradition in baseball.

Besides, it's not just hitters that may have been juiced. The pitcher who gave up #755 to Bonds (Clay Hensley) was suspended for 15 days for testing positive for steroids in the minors a few years back. If any asterisk should be hung, it should be hung on this era, not on an individual player, and certainly not on a player whose guilt has not been demonstrated.

7 comments:

cjm06 said...

very well said

Andrew Haynes said...

I concur. Did you write that, Mr. Hatfield? And if so, would you mind if I shared it with a group I'm in on myspace and a baseball discussion board I'm a part of? (Of course, I'd give them the link to the blog and maybe get some interest in BARB, who knows)

Matt Caskey said...

im not even going to read this or watch his 755 or 756 HR. Its obvious to me and the rest of the world, except giants fans, that he used performance enhancing substances, but lets for the moment say he didnt... should the most coveted and sacred record in all of sports be broken by a man with all this controversy?

All of this non-sense about him being the greatest hitter of all time just makes me sick?

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Yes. I wrote it. It represents my long-simmering thoughts on Mr. Bonds.

I understand the way that Matt feels. I don't know about 'the greatest hitter ever', but I'll stand by my comment 'greatest hitter of our generation.'

Since the book Game of Shadows was published, all Barry has done is hit: .270, 48 HR, 121 RBI, 229 walks in his last 248 games. And that's all since he turned 41. There's no reason to believe that there was any steroid usage during this period. The cat was out of the bag on the BALCO stuff, he's been tested and he's been under unbelievable scrutiny.

How does this compare with the record book? Only Ted Williams hit more HR in a season as a 41-year-old (29 to Barry's 26). By the end of this season Barry will probably have hit more HR than anyone after the age of 41, and he will have done this in far less plate appearances than the guy who's in first at the moment (Carleton Fisk, who played until he was 45 and has 53 career HR after turning 41).

To put it another way: if you throw out the 203 HR Barry hit between 2000 and 2003 (when BALCO was in operation), he still has 553 career HR, good enough for 12th all-time. And he's not done. He can play for another two years easily if he wants to, I reckon.

800 HR is easily in reach. I hope he plays as long as he wants and gives A-Rod something to chase.

ejcMOABS said...

*

ejcMOABS said...

For all of those that say Bonds is completely clean or is NOW! How does his foot, and head size increase in his LATE 30s and early 40s? It is not a normal activity. Also, its a matter of psyche. If a player hits 73 (or whatever the record for a year is now) then pitchers are going to pitch him differently in the next year. Yes anyone can make the argument that contact and recognition cannot be gained from the use of HGH or annabolic steriods, but that contact and recognition translates into balls flying over fences is insane.

Take Brady Anderson. There should be little argument that Anderson's 50 HR year of 1996 was suspicious. He hit only 11 HR in his first four seasons, although he averaged about 250 ABs a season. THen in 1993, he hit 21 in 650 ABs. That was easily his finest season until 1996. Two years after the strike shorted season of 1994, he hit 50 HR in 570 ABs. WHY? HOW? For a deadpull hitter to yank so many out only once in his career, while being around 20 for the rest of his career. In 1992, Camden Yards did open and Anderson's HR totals jumped from 2 the previous year to 21. Jim Palmer has been quoted in ESPN TV shows that Brady was juicing. Although he struck out around 100 times annually, he also walked nearly 85 times too. Although Barry never has K'd 100 times, numbers closer to 80, he always had same if not more walk numbers. But Bonds walked intentionally nearly ten -fifteen times more than Brady.
My point is that yes Bonds is a great hitter with recognition speed, defense, and contact, but he increased his annual HR average of 40 to 73 in 2001. Does that increase the echo of Brady Anderson? Pac Bell Ballpark opened in 2000, receiving rave reviews, but concerns about the RF porch. It should have been harder for Bonds or any lefty to hit homers to RF. Yet, Bonds HRs increased with the new ballpark.

My philosophy is once you CHEAT, then you are out. You do not get to keep records, you do not get to take your team to the post-season and nearly win the World's Series in 2002. Pete Rose cheated by gambling and it tarnishes the game in the same way the strike did in '94. He was kicked out. Why does Bonds get more chances? Is it because he is from California, largest state in population? Is it because he plays in San Francisco, neighboring Nancy Pelosi's district, which also legalized MARIJUANA? There is something seriously wrong with Americans that want to ignore when someone cheats, steals, and tarnishes one of our nation's most herald pastimes. Is Barry's situation a more larger problem that the morales of our nation have become so easy that cheaters are still revered as heroes?

ejcMOABS said...

http://www.baseball-reference.com/a/anderbr01.shtml
for brady anderson

http://syntaxofthings.typepad.com/syntax_of_things/2004/03/brady_anderson_.html
Jim Palmer on Brady Anderson

http://www.baseball-reference.com/b/bondsba01.shtml
Barry Bonds stats