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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

On Barry Bonds

I told you so. (In a bit of rare self-promotion, the link is to my post in March 2005 to my ballad "Taxing", to the tune of Harry Chapin's "Taxi", about Bonds and the cloud that surrounded him them).

Read here for Michael McCann's take on the Sports Law Blog.

Let's see what the Lords of Baseball and the Knights of the Keyboard will say now. C'mon, Jayson Stark, Tom Verducci, Tim Kurkjian and Peter Gammons, will you take a stand or will you still say you'll vote for Bonds, Palmeiro, Sosa and McGwire for the Hall of Fame because "they would have made it anyway?" All baseball writers should be embarrassed that it took front-page investigative reporters to scoop a story that they saw unfolding before them on a daily basis. Once again, the challenge is paramount -- are you guardians of the game the way the political Fourth Estate helps keep a democracy honest, or are you glorified cheerleaders who are lucky to be able to watch games for a living without writing anything critical about the foundation of the game you cover? Sure, you can challenge front offices for their bad trades or their failure to make trades, you can challenge a skipper for leaving his starter in too long, and you can marvel about why a reliver grooved an 0-2 pitch to give up a game-winning home run. But what can you say about this?

Lords of Baseball, the same question befalls you. Clearly, you benefitted from the Era of Puffed Up Players. There's no doubt about that. People like watching home runs, so you built your parks smaller and you turned a blind eye while your players got bigger and stronger without any explanation. Surely, you can't attribute the bulking up of fully grown men solely to weight training and to the environmental hormones that are present in everything they eat? It had to be more than that, hadn't it? Where are your core values and ethics?

There's a great saying from the first Harry Potter movie. For those of you who aren't Harry Potter fans, bear with me. At the end of the movie, the Gryffindor House (the students live in four different houses -- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin) is last in points for the House Cup. Because of heroics of Harry and his friends, Hermione and Ron, the Gryffindors are awarded enough points to tie Slytherin, the evil empire of Hogwarts (that's the name of the school) houses. Then, the headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, awards an additional ten points to Gryffindor. He awards them on behalf of an accident-prone and unconfident boy, Neville Longbottom, who, at a key part in the movie, told his friends that their taking a matter into his own hands was wrong. As thanks for his counsel, one of Harry, Ron or Hermione knocked him out with a spell from a wand. It clearly wasn't easy for Neville to do what he did.

Complimenting Neville on his courage, Professor Dumbledore said, "It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to one's enemies. But it take a great deal more to stand up to one's friends."

Which is exactly what the game has to do. The game shouldn't lie to the fans or battle the press that matter on this important issue. It has to take a stand against itself, a stand from within for all of us who want to preserve the integrity of the game. It has to say to itself and its players that less is, in fact, more. That inflated numbers are just that -- inflated. And that inflated bodies aren't good and aren't healthy, either for the game or for the young people who look up to ballplayers. It has to take a stand for integrity, even if it means kicking Barry Bonds out of the game.

Enough is enough already. Baseball can't bury this story any longer. The writers cannot ignore it and worry about comparatively silly topics like whether Pedro Martinez is hurting or whether Tommy Lasorda was right it criticizing American players for refusing to play for Team USA in the WBC that is going on right now. Much of this stuff is just small, piddly stuff that fills the gaps between the day that pitchers and catchers report and opening day.

But the Bonds Affair just won't go away.

Nor should it.

Yes, there is a steroids policy, a far weaker one than should exist. And, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, withdrawal from amphetamines, also a banned substance, also will affect players' performances this year. More good stuff. Stuff which, in all likelihood, the mainstream sports media will ignore, at least most of them. Kudos to the Philadelphia Inquirer for going out and getting this story.

But whither Barry Bonds?

Hall of Famer?

Or someone who should be kicked out of the game?


Anonymous Phil the Brit said...

Prof, I like the idea thrown out at the Sports Law Blog of walking Bonds every time he's up: a silent, but eloquent, protest.

Maybe better yet would be to pitch underarm? 'Here you go, Barry, swat another homer you don't deserve. We dare you to stack these up to usurp Hank and the Babe.'

Never underestimate the power of ridicule; vast armies are impotent against it.

8:23 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, Phil. This is a big albatross for baseball, especially because the baseball world seems so divided. Bonds has a bunch of defenders, for a variety of reasons. I'm not sure what should be done here, but baseball needs to get past this. I'm sure that the reaction to Bonds will be mostly negative, throwing a wet blanket on what otherwise should have been a celebration of his accomplishments.

5:33 AM  

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