Read Dave Zirin’s latest column about Barry Bonds. I order you. Zirin’s written a lot about Bonds, and he isn’t what I would call a staunch defender of Bonds so much as a staunch defender of the notion that the knee-jerk vilification of the guy is moronic.
Essentially, Zirin makes the point that Bonds isn’t on a team right now due to collusion on the part of club owners—in other words, he’s being blackballed. Indeed, AT&T Park (and I haven’t been there lately to confirm this with my own eyes, and even if I had been, I probably woulda just sat in my seat and confirmed it via turning my head) is now devoid of anything associated with Bonds: no big ol’ banner proclaiming his home run kingitude, no portrait on the left field wall, no good team, certainly no retired number, etc.
And as much as the Giants would love to distance themselves from the guy, apparently, so would the rest of Major League Baseball. Now, Zirin is hardly the first person to bring up the collusion angle—I am—but to be fair, I ought to point out that in any given year, you can pretty much count on all club owners to collectively refuse to dish out seven figures to any 43-year-old player with bad knees who can’t play defense anymore and who’d be likely to contribute maybe 20 or 25 home runs. In other words, on that basis alone, I don’t blame clubs for not signing Bonds, and I find it odd that the Players Association has Launched An Investigation into this matter—sort of a hoot in itself, as Zirin points out, given that “In 2003, [Bonds] became the first player in thirty years to not sign the Player’s [sic] Association’s group licensing agreement.” (Normally I would only “sic” someone if he or she was a complete boob and made a really stupid spelling, grammatical, or factual error, and I wanted to act all superior. I usually see it rendered as “Players Association,” though “Players’ Association” probably would be more correct. Since you asked.)
I love the San Francisco Giants, and my heart tells me they can do no wrong. My brain tells me otherwise—quite often, really. For instance, I find it awfully hypocritical of the Giants to pretend Bonds doesn’t exist, given—assuming (as I do) that Bonds is guilty guilty guilty—the tacit approval and encouragement by the front office of the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Now it’s as though they’re making Bonds out to be a big fat cheater, but they were perfectly happy to turn a blind eye when he was hitting loads of home runs and walking 232 times in a season. (Understand that, as I’ve said before, I really don’t care about performance-enhancing drugs except to the extent that they could harm an athlete or, by extension, his loved ones. I do not believe that such drugs can turn a 40-homer hitter into a 70-homer hitter, and I certainly do not buy the notion that if a player hits even one tainted homer, that nullifies all his honest ones. Thus, I do not care whether Bonds used or not, and I’m grateful for having been able to watch the guy be amazing for 15 years.)
Even stinkier is Major League Baseball’s apparent stance on the matter: again, tacit approval and encouragement, on the premise that “Chicks dig the longball.” Is someone gonna tell me that the people who run the sport didn’t know players were using? Is someone gonna tell me—believably, I mean—that wasn’t okay with them?
Peter Magowan said, in a radio interview the other day, that Bud Selig is the greatest commissioner in baseball history. After spontaneously and vigorously throwing up on my shirt, I thought about just what that might mean, and it pretty much comes down to “bottom line,” which, obviously, means more mmmmmmmmmmoney—again, essentially, because of the chickitudinal preference for the longball. Home runs positively affect the bottom line... ergo performance-enhancing drugs positively affect the bottom line. Oh, and pitchers striking batters out a lot—it would be wrong of me to forget to mention Roger Clemens here. (I also don’t care whether Clemens has been using. He’s always sort of annoyed me, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t put together a Hall-of-Fame career.)
This whole thing is just one reason I roll my eyes every time some Bonds- or Clemens-basher blithers about how this player has Sullied The Virginal And Pristine Grand Old Game. Gimme a break. Major League Baseball stinks from the top down. By miles, the best things about Major League Baseball all take place on the field.