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Monday, May 2, 2016

Basic Biittner: Quit Pickin' on my man Barry

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A certain Associate Publisher here , who shall remain nameless (hint: his name rhymes with "small truck"), has been a leading basher of Barry Bonds (how's that for alliteration?) for several years now, calling him all kinds of names. He certainly has the right to do so, because 1) we live in a free country; and 2) it' s his paper. It is at the risk of losing my job, then, that I herein make this bold confession: I have been a Barry Bonds fan ever since he played at Arizona State University, and have remained so throughout his years as a Pittsburgh Pirate and San Francisco Giant. I was also a huge fan of his late father, Bobby, and was thrilled when he played for the Yankees one year. Both father and son were, at their peaks, complete ball players who could do it all - run, throw, field, hit for power, and (sometimes) hit for average. Towards the end of his career, Bobby moved around from team to team, and vague rumors began to circulate about him. Basically, all I could figure out was that he wasn't the friendliest cuss in the world. Despite his being the first Major League ballplayer to steal 400 bases and hit 400 home runs in his career, the senior Bonds has received very little support for Hall of Fame induction.

The second player to steal 400 bases and hit 400 home runs was none other than Bobby's son Barry, who later became the first (and only) player to steal 500 bases and hit 500 home runs. In addition to these facts, another thing father and son Bonds seem to share is a lack of respect for their accomplishments. Barry has always gotten a bad rap from the press, who say he's surly and uncommunicative, which I'm guessing began as some writer's associating him with his dad, and thinking "like father, like son."

In recent years, of course, Barry Bonds' reputation has continued going downhill, fueled mostly by the unproven charges that his beefed-up body, in addition to his year-round rigorous physical workout, was the by-product of his ingesting, shooting, or spreading on his body some kind of illegal substance which allowed him to set a single-season home run mark, and be on the verge of breaking the career home run mark. I am of the school that taking steroids does not enable one to hit a lot of home runs. It may make the balls you hit go further, but Bonds' very keen eye at the plate, and his ability to draw walks- both intentional and unintentional- certainly can't be attributed to steroid use. If anything, I would think ingesting such substances would make it more difficult for one to judge the strike zone. Ted Williams often said the most difficult feat in sports was to hit a round ball, traveling at 90+ mph, with a round bat. Being on drugs would make that even MORE difficult.

As for being surly, I think Bonds' TV spot with Hank Aaron a few years ago was one of the funniest I've seen. He's also been an engaging guest on late-night talk shows, and who can forget his showng up in drag at Spring Training during a eam "American Idol" spoof a couple of years ago? The guy also has his own web site, where he discusses his feelings and activities. I think he just doesn't converse with sports writers the way they think he should. He certainly isn't the first to have a less than cordial relationship with the press Remember Steve Carlton? I'm glad the writers overcame their non-relationship with Lefty, and elected him to the Hall on the first ballot, and I hope they will do the same for Barry Bonds.

I have been fortunate enough to visit the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown three times, and hope to return at least once more. It would be very strange to visit a place which supposedly honors the best in the game's history, and not have the following players represented in the Hall - 1) the leading home run hitter of all time; 2) the all-time leader in base hits and games played; and 3) a player who is considered to have been the best natural hitter of all time.

Unless Bonds, Rose, and Shoeless Joe Jackson are actually proven guilty of breaking some law which affected their play, I feel they belong with their peers in the Hall of Fame.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner