Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gentlemen, Get Out Your Asterisks:
Bonds Hits Tainted 714th Home Run to “Tie” Babe Ruth
By Nicholas Stix

Barry Bonds hit his “714th” home run yesterday, against the Oakland A’s.

On Fox, Tim McCarver was even more pathetically pc than usual. “And you’d think there’d be positive thoughts behind that home run, but there are almost as many negative ones.”

McCarver was talking about other people’s thoughts, not his own.

I don't know if it is due to the greater relative freedom local broadcasters have (at least to pontificate over non-home team players) over national corporate drones, but Gary Cohen, one of the regular Mets announcers at cable's Sports Net NY, has engaged in some straightforward commentary about Bonds, based on what is known about the Bonds case.

The only solace we can take from Bonds' case is that he (probably) isn't going to pass Hank Aaron. On the other hand, I half-wish Bonds would make a serious run at 755, because it would either force the phonies in the Commissioner's Office and Congress to confront Bonds' reported perjury, tax evasion, and purchase (via barter) and use of illegal substances, or would humiliate them.

(Bonds reportedly got his illegal drugs from Victor Conte, who ran the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) for free, in exchange for making celebrity endorsements for Conte’s worthless zinc and magnesium supplement, “ZMA.”)

On the eve of the season, Sports Illustrated’s Jacob Luft quipped,

“Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire, Bonds. That's your cast for George A. Romero's next B movie, Zombies from the Steroid Era.

When the book Game of Shadows : Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports was published in March, it corroborated what any honest baseball fan by then already knew to be true: That Bonds’ late-career home run and slugging percentage records, and yearly batting averages that were up to 80 points higher (.370) than the lifetime batting average the then 13-year veteran had had from before he “bulked up,” was due to felonious cheating. Miami Herald sports columnist Greg Cote satirized Bonds thusly,

Bonds has denied the allegations in the book, denied the existence of the book itself, denied he has ever ingested anything into his body at any time, including oxygen, and also denied his name is Barry Bonds.

When a baker's helper is caught (or confesses to or refuses to testify under oath about) committing crimes – including crimes involving illegal drugs – the authorities arrest and prosecute him. Why is it that the authorities have consistently said they aren't interested in prosecuting players for buying (or bartering for) and using steroids? According to Game of Shadows authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, Bonds also committed perjury, by denying steroid use to a federal grand jury, and tax evasion, by earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for signing baseballs at memorabilia shows, and not declaring the income to the IRS.

Oh, I just remembered – most of the laws that apply to you and me don't apply to professional athletes.

And yet, Pete Rose not only was prosecuted for income tax evasion, but went to prison for it. And unlike Bonds, Rose had nothing to show for his crimes. Rose was a compulsive gambler who lost millions of dollars betting on sports. The tax evasion charges were because he sometimes won on his bets, although he lost much more frequently. (Because the bets were illegal, Rose didn’t get to deduct his losses from his taxes.)

Let’s see. Pete Rose commits tax evasion on net losses, and goes to jail. Barry Bonds allegedly commits tax evasion while making a tidy net profit, and isn’t even charged.

What, pray tell, distinguishes Barry Bonds from Pete Rose?

But if Barry Bonds approached Hank Aaron's magic number, would the authorities stand back and allow him to make a mockery of baseball's most hallowed record? Probably, because they are scared to death of being called racists. But Hank Aaron wouldn’t remain quiet.

Did you ever see what Frank Robinson looked like in his playing days? I'd long ago forgotten, but during a recent game on TV, the producers showed a video of Robinson, in his 15th or 16th season (1970 or 1971), hitting a home run in the World Series for the Orioles. He didn't have a drop of fat on him, and was much leaner than today's leading sluggers. He was Perfectly Frank. Nothing about him came from an illegal syringe, cream, fluid or pill.

Speaking of Frank Robby, I stand with him on the record books: The entire statistical career record of a player who was caught at any time using steroids should be erased.

That practice needs to be applied to the career stats of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi and Gary "I-didn't-know-it-was-steroids" Sheffield, and players to be named later.

Robinson earned every one of his 586 dingers, and is still in fourth place on the list of legitimate All-Time Home Run leaders, behind only Aaron, Ruth, and Mays.

In a scorched-earth attempt to defend Bonds, some folks have claimed “everybody’s doing it.” They seem to think that such a defense will intimidate critics. But it merely calls forth an equally scorched-earth response: If the seemingly Herculean feats of a generation of ballplayers in comparison to their predecessors are based on fraud, then we need to erase that generation from the record books.

But the “everybody’s doing it” crowd are liars. Look at Greg Maddux’ body over the years, and tell me he’s been on the juice. Or Pedro Martinez’ spindly build in younger days, and his current combination of boniness and paunchiness.

There are a number of other great, veteran players of recognizably human dimensions: Mariano Rivera. Manny Ramirez. Derek Jeter. Tom Glavine. Carlos Delgado.

The Legal All-Time Home-Run List (Top 20) reads as follows:

Hank Aaron, 755
Babe Ruth, 714
Willie Mays, 660
Frank Robinson, 586
Harmon Killebrew, 573
Reggie Jackson, 563
Mike Schmidt, 548
Mickey Mantle, 536
Ken Griffey Jr. , 536 (active)
Jimmie Foxx, 534
Ted Williams, 521
Willie McCovey, 521
Eddie Mathews, 512
Ernie Banks, 512
Mel Ott, 511
Eddie Murray, 504
Lou Gehrig, 493
Fred McGriff, 493
Stan Musial, 475
Willie Stargell, 475.

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