The New Home Run King

It was, all in all, a fairly majestic moment, regardless of how you feel about Barry Bonds. He got The Natural treatment, fireworks exploding as he circled the bases. But for most baseball fans outside of San Francisco, it was a bittersweet moment at best, a sad recognition that a classy warrior like Hank Aaron was being passed by an arrogant ass who had used steroids to improve his power.

But baseball has always been a game filled with cheaters. In fact, it is part of what we celebrate about the game. Pitchers have used Vaseline on the tips of their caps since they invented Vaseline, and used a nail files for reasons that had nothing to do with manicuring. Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross was suspended for 10 games in 1987 for having sandpaper in his glove. In 1961, Norm Cash won the AL batting championship with a .361 batting average, way above his career average. After he retired, he admitted that he had corked his bat that year. In the late 1960s, the Chicago White Sox kept their baseballs in a humidor for weeks, so that they would be heavy and help their pitchers. If a grounds crews doesn’t soak the area around first base when a renowned base stealer has come to town, it’s not doing it’s job, and in the 1950s the Phillies grounds crew added a little incline to the third base line, so Rickie Ashburn’s numerous bunts would all stay fair. Hell, last year, Kenny Rogers was shown to have stick ’em on his pitching hand when he shut down the Yankees in the ALDS.

The point is that there has always been cheating in baseball, and there always will be, so it is a little disingenuous for fans to claim they hate the record due to the cheating. Keep in mind, too, that plenty of the pitchers Bonds was facing over the past ten years were on steroids too, including former Phillie Ryan Franklin. (To me, that outrageous body armour he wears to the plate is as much of an advantage as the steroids were.) I don’t see anything being wrong with hating Bonds setting this record because he is a pompous ass, despised by everyone who comes near him, but don’t hate it because he cheated, unless you are prepared to hate probably 50% of major league ballplayers in the late 90s.

As for Bud Selig: He has been commissioner during two of the biggest scandals in baseball history, the 1994 strike and the steroid scandal, and has failed abysmally on both accounts. He has as much to do with this debacle as Barry. He knew that, after the strike, the home run would be the only thing that would bring fans back to baseball, so he turned a deaf ear when the whispers got real loud concerning steroids in the late 1990s. Now he’s got to buckle up and take his medicine like a man. He claimed that his following of the record was a “Herclanean task”, as if he were following Bonds from Kabul to Kamchatka, and not from LA to San Diego. Pathetic. He wants to look like he’s all about cleaning up the game now that steroid monsters raise more suspicion than cash, so he was off setting up a meeting with a chief steroid investigator when Bonds broke the record. An absurd performance from the man whose employees couldn’t get suspended for a single game for using performance enhancing drugs until 2002, and didn’t start testing for them until 2004 (which raises the question: how could you get busted without getting tested? Would the commisioner have to walk in the locker room the moment you stuck the syringe to your butt?) In comparison, the Olympics began testing for steroids in 1972. Victor Frankenstein has created the monster, but runs and hides when it unleashes it’s power.