Barry Bonds cheated. He is not a nice guy. This column is not to prove these two statement false. This column is to place the real blame. The man was the greatest player in the game, including during the great home-run race of 1998, but suddenly no one seemed to notice. Do I feel sorry for Barry Bonds? No, but I can see where he was coming from.
First, let me try to put you in Barry’s shoes in a way that’s more down to earth.
It’s fourth grade and you are the smartest kid in class. You know this and every one else knows this as well. Of course, you do your best to let everyone know you’re the smartest, which is why you’re not the most popular kid in class. You get A’s in every class – not 100 percent, but close.
Then there’s Billy and Joe. Billy and Joe are not the smartest kids in class. In fact, they’re nothing but average in all of their classes but one: math. Math is the one class where they can compete with you, but you take pride in knowing you are the best at every other class and math is only a small part of the day.
One day during a math test you look to the other side of the room to see Billy and Joe using calculators. You think the teacher will surely catch them and punish them. When the test comes back and they both scored 100 percent, the teacher pats them both on the back and gives them a smile. “Great job, you two!” he says so the whole class can hear. He returns your test, a 92 percent, without so much as an acknowledgement.
Weeks go by and Billy and Joe continue to use their calculators and the teacher keeps patting them on the back. Not only that, but all their friends and fellow students are astonished at the perfect test scores. The teacher must know they’re cheating, you think. It’s obvious. Doesn’t anyone care that they still score C’s in every other class?
No one cared. No one cared Billy and Joe were still average students overall and you were still the top student in the class.
When the next math test comes around, you decide you’re going to cheat too. You’re going to use a calculator. Billy and Joe get the same pat on the back from the teacher, but he only looks at you suspiciously when he returns your 100 percent. No pat on the back and no kudos from your peers.
The tests go on and on and you don’t miss a point. In fact, you not only ace every test but start handing in extra credit assignments that put your grade even higher than Billy and Joe’s, despite their cheating. While Billy and Joe’s hair is tousled by the teacher and peers, you only receive glares and suspicion. Soon enough the teacher keeps you after class and asks how you’re doing so well. Isn’t it obvious, you think. I thought my teacher was okay with cheating. I knew if I cheated, I could do even better than Billy and Joe, and I did. You made it clear it was okay to use a calculator by applauding the works of Billy and Joe, so I just did the same thing only I’m not applauded because I’m not as popular as those two.
Barry Bonds probably looked at the growing number of players using performance enhancing drugs (PED) in the nineties and realized he didn’t need to risk his long-term health using them as he didn’t need them. Then 1998 came around and Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs and Sammy Sosa slugged 66. Sure, they could hit more home runs than Bonds, but could they replicate his defense or his baserunning skills or his plate patience? No. They had more power and that was the only category they were stronger. Why? They were cheating.
They were cheating and they were being applauded for it. Not only was the entire nation watching every game they could, but the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, couldn’t get enough of the two sluggers. Not only were they breaking a 37-year old record, but attendance was skyrocketing in almost every ballpark across the nation and there were dollar signs dancing in his head. Bud Selig would go on to become the most profitable commissioner in the history of the game. Unfortunately, he may also be known as the most crooked commissioner – a boy who sees a friend steal candy and tells the police he saw nothing knowing he’ll get a share of the load later. Yes, Selig is behind the resurgence in baseball after the strike of 1994, just like Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis helped bring back the game after the Black Sox scandal. Of course, Landis was also a racist man who made sure the game was never integrated under his watch.
Selig was able to finally get players tested for PED during his tenure, but it wasn’t until the student he didn’t like broke all the records.
If you don’t think Barry Bonds should be in the hall of fame because he cheated, fine. If you want to think of Hank Aaron as the real home run king, fine. But remember how you felt during the 1998 season when McGwire and Sosa were chasing history. It seemed okay that these two men, who seemed to be freaks of nature, were breaking records because it was fun. They were fun to watch and had good attitudes.
I had a good feeling Bonds was cheating. Despite this feeling, if there was a Giants game on TV, I did my best to watch it. I loved watching Barry Bonds hit. I knew he was a bit of a jerk and I was pretty sure he was using PED. I have to look at myself before I criticize the man from afar. I wasn’t perfect and neither is he.
Innocent? No. A human being? Yes. If I had a ballot, I’d put an “x” in the box next to Mr. Bonds.