Bonds: He got it; now go away
Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead.
Whoops, wrong lead for a big moment in Giants baseball history. That was Red Smith after the greatest home run ever hit ” Bobby Thomson downing the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 3 of the 1951 National League playoff.
Barry Bonds’ 756th homer Tuesday night, breaking Hank Aaron’s supposedly-hallow mark ” at least hallowed until the Giants slugger neared ” is big, but not an earth-shaking moment. Actually, for the Giants, that moment was Oct. 17, 1989, the World Series earthquake, but we digress.
People will not look back 30 years later and remember where they where and what they were doing at the exact moment Bonds struck 756, like they do with Bill Mazeroski, Hank Aaron’s 715th and Kirk Gibson. Or maybe they will because it seemingly took forever.
Many legitimately will question whatever number with which Bonds finishes his career based on alleged steroid use. Some just don’t like Bonds ” and a few in this group are the same people who didn’t like Aaron when he passed Ruth, but now hold him retro-actively as a model of all ballplayers.
While I do believe that he took steroids ” people just don’t have power surges like Bonds did late in his career ” I’m more in a third category.
Thank the deity of your choosing that it’s over. I’m happy that he’s statistically cemented his place as one of the best to play the game, but enough is enough.
Thankfully, it is done.
Bonds is unquestionably a Hall of Famer. After the 1998 season, up to which point we believe he was roid-free, he had 400 homers, 500 stolen bases and eight Gold Gloves. Without steroids, it’s completely reasonable to think that he would have hit another 100 home runs from 1999-2007. With 500-500, he’s in.
Steroids doubtless increased his power, turning warning track shots into dingers. Performance enhancers help athletes recuperate from injury more rapidly. Bonds’ longevity in the game, allowing him to amass these homers, was probably augmented, though he did miss most of 2005 season with a bad right knee.
But don’t pull out the asterisk. It’s not necessary and it wouldn’t be applied properly.
Fans know that we’re in the Steroid Era now, and yes, we’re still in it. While Mark McGwire is done and Sammy Sosa and Bonds are in their twilight of their careers, baseball’s testing system is woefully behind the curve.
Major League Baseball can’t detect HGH, human growth hormone, better known as “the clear.” Players can use it without detection and it logically follows that it’s being used.
We also won’t know the impact of the Steroid Era until it’s over in 20-30 years. The focus has been on the hitters. It’s naive to think that pitchers didn’t or aren’t using it right now. That is not to excuse Bonds’ actions, but we don’t have a clear picture of how rampant steroid use is.
Putting an asterisk next to Bonds’ records (his 73 home runs in 2001, as well), not to mention those of McGwire and Sosa, just hangs the steroid blame game on a few individuals when the entire sport is to blame. Not trying to be maudlin, but I’d like to see how this generation of baseball players lives out its collective lives. We’ve seen it in football with the premature death of Lyle Alzado and others who used performance enhancers. This, unfortunately, could be a much truer indicator of steroid use during this time.
In the meantime, fans know that Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs without steroids, and ended up showing some serious class ” at last ” by videotaping a message to Bonds in advance of No. 756. They know that Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961 without any help, a record which looks better with each passing year. An invisible asterisk in fans’ mind is enough.
Now what for his Barry-ness? As a Giants’ fan, I hope San Francisco cuts the chord. Bonds’ chase of Aaron has eclipsed what has otherwise been a dreadful season for the Giants. In fact because of the pursuit of the record, most of the nation has gotten to see what San Francisco baseball fans already knew ” we stink.
As an organization, the Giants have been building around Bonds for the elusive “one last run” far too long. The team’s brush with a World Series title in 2002 was an aberration. The team hasn’t been competitive for the last three years, and I’d like to see the Giants win a title before I die ” their last was in 1954 in New York. The Giants are pitifully old and slow with the exception of an excellent young starting rotation. (If you’re looking for an early fantasy pick for 2008, take Matt Cain. The Giants simply refuse to score runs for him.)
San Francisco has re-signed general manager Brian Sabean to a two-year extension. That would seem to indicate (knock wood) that the Giants don’t hold him responsible for the fact that Bonds is old, though even a Bonds in his prime couldn’t save this hapless bunch. Sabean has built solid squads when not hamstrung by an old Bonds from 1997-2003. He can do it again.
In the meantime, the Giants should announce on Sept. 1 that they will not be renewing Bonds’ contract. San Francisco, under owner Peter Magowan, has been a classy organization when it comes to honoring its legends. (If you saw the All-Star Game’s salute to Willie Mays, you get the idea.)
The Giants should fete Bonds in September for all the positive things he has done for the franchise. They should retire his number to be appropriately placed between his godfather, Mays (24), and Juan Marichal (27).
Bonds would be smart to call it a career after the season. (He has a lifetime-services contract already with the Giants.) Yes, he wants 3,000 hits which he will not reach this year. But there’s nothing left for him to do, and honestly, there’s not much he can do in his physical condition. He’s simply not the player he was in either of his primes ” pre-steroids or on the juice.
But having observed Barry, sadly, he won’t stop. What’s more, there will be a team or three which will offer him a contract for 2008, if merely for the attendance spike alone.
So to paraphrase Smith, the story likely is not done, and unfortunately, the story on many levels will never end.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.