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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Basic Biittner : It's just a game - get over it, already

Monday, August 20, 2007

(Photo)
Last week, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants became the all-time career home run leader in post-Jackie Robinson American Major League Baseball history (Japan's Saduhara Oh hit more than 800, and the Negro League's Josh Gibson hit who knows how many?) when he clubbed his 756th big league "tater." Many people are very upset about this because of the strong suspicion Bonds (and many others) were using steroids and other substances for several years (generally believed to be roughly 1998 - 2004) in order to hit the ball harder, for longer distance, and more frequently. Bonds - in the middle of a Hall-of-Fame career and with three league MVPs to his credit at that time, - greatly increased his home run totals for a few years, including a record-breaking 73 in 2001. He also inceased his record-breaking number of MVP awards to an incredible SEVEN, won his first batting title, and set records for most walks and most intentional walks in a career.

Bonds' physical appearance has obviously changed his from his earlier years with the Pirates, too. He is obviously more muscular, though his well-known training habits in the off-season probably have something to do with that. His head is also much larger, though, and I don't think that's an effect of pumping iron, or a natural part of the aging process (at least I hope not!)

No - though he denies it, and may well never be found guilty of using steroids, Human Growth Hormone , or other substances (which were not against baseball rules in those days) - Bonds' physical appearance, increased power production, and the fact that his former friend and personal trainer is in prison for refusing to answer questions abut the slugger and steroid use - have certainly raised suspicions.

But you know what? 755 was just a number, and whatever Bonds' final HR total winds up being is also just a number. And baseball, as much as I hate to say this, is just a game - THE game, in my opinion - and Barry Bonds is one of the greatest natural talents to have ever played Major League Baseball - a true "five-tool" player who could hit for average, hit for power, run (over 500 career stolen bases), throw, and field (seven Gold Gloves). His walk totals are not just because of all the intentional passes he's received in recent years, because opposing teams are afraid of him, he also has a very good "eye" at the plate.

I certainly don't condone cheating, but there are certainly a number of players already in the Hall of Fame - Gaylord Perry, Ty Cobb ,and Whitey Ford come to mind - and several with other problems like abusing alcohol and/or chasing women - think Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx and Grover Cleveland Alexander for starters- and some who were just plain unlikeable SOBs - none more so than Cobb. Players who didn't get along with the press? Try Ted Williams and Steve Carlton.

Again, bottom line - IT'S JUST A GAME . Personally, I feel that Bonds (when he meets the retirement criteria), as well as Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, should ALL be in the Hall of Fame. It is for FAMOUS All-Star players (and winning managers and executives) who have achieved their fame through their feats on the ballfield.

While they're at it, I think Billy Martin and Thurman Munson should be in the Hall, too. They were great at what they did, as well as famous (or infamous). Perhaps a small area of these gentlemen's Hall of Fame plaques could say something about their not-so-stellar feats, too, if someone insists. But let's celebrate achievement in the game, and admit that no Hall member, past, present, or future, is/was a perfect human being.

By the way, I feel that Hank Aaron 's taped tribute to Bonds on the Giants' scoreboard when he broke the Hammer's record was a very classy gesture. Too bad Commissioner Selig wasn't able to follow the lead of his old Milwaukee pal and at least acknowledge the feat in public. Bud needs to realize that such an act would not have necessarily been construed as his approving of steroid use. He is, after all, the "head Honcho" in baseball, and should embrace his game and history.

When all is said and done, I feel that Selig and the owners will bear at least as much of the blame for the so-called "steroid era" as the players. They had to know that something "shady" was going on, but as the homers continued to leave the yard - and the attendance at games continued to increase, they chose to bury their heads in the sand and gladly rake in the money.