I was impressed with the sampling of various columns I read following Bonds’ milestone. Most acknowledged the record while putting it into the context of the rumors and suspicions.
Barry Bonds’ record may be a tribute to something else. Therein rests the problem. The vast weight of evidence, some of it admittedly circumstantial, suggests his usage of performance-enhancing substances. This is, of course, unfortunate. He was going to the Hall of Fame when he weighed 190 pounds, before his body underwent a transformation in what amounted to early middle age.
Michael Witte speculates that Bonds’ elbow armor has helped him a great deal:
For years, sportswriters remarked that his massive “protective” gear – unequaled in all of baseball — permits Bonds to lean over the plate without fear of being hit by a pitch. Thus situated, Bonds can handle the outside pitch (where most pitchers live) unusually well. This is unfair advantage enough, but no longer controversial. However, it is only one of at least seven (largely unexplored) advantages conferred by the apparatus.
There was a time, regardless of how you felt about Bonds, when you couldn’t ignore the width and breadth of his talent. Those were during his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates and early in his Giants career. Now you can’t ignore the width and breadth of his cap size.
It is true that if Bonds were clean, but still a disagreeable or disrespectful guy, a lot of people still would have preferred that he hadn’t broken Aaron’s record. Rickey Henderson wasn’t exactly embraced when he broke Lou Brock’s record for career stolen bases, then held the third base bag above his head and exclaimed, “Today, I am the greatest.”
You can trust your eyes in baseball. An error is an error. A missed bunt attempt is just that. What you see is, well, what you see. A pitcher who is throwing 88 mph at the end of one season and is magically hitting 98 on the gun the next spring? That’s just not humanly possible, at least not without some form of help. Same goes for home run hitters, and Bonds tops this list.
After the game, Bonds was asked whether his home run record is tainted, and he answered bluntly. “This record is not tainted at all,” he said. “At all. Period.” That is what he believes. Either way, the word “steroids” is going to appear in the first two paragraphs of Bonds’ obituary — fairly or not, whether you like it or not.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman, who has said he will vote for Bonds on his Hall of Fame ballot in five or six years:
Perhaps one day baseball or the feds will catch up to Bonds. But if they do, it won’t be in time to save Aaron’s record, or baseball from an all-time record that deserves an asterisk but will never get one.
And now, we are left to reflect on the man, the moment and the significance of it all. Bonds has millions of fans, as his selection to this year’s All-Star game indicates. His supporters are vocal and relentless. But there are millions of fans today, too, that are completely, radically disgusted at baseball and at the idea of Bonds, of all people, holding this important record. They call him a cheat. They call him a disgrace. They call this whole thing a sham.
CBS Sportsline’s Scott Miller, who punctuates each mention of Bonds:
What once was the most cherished record in all of sports lost its luster at 8:51 PT on Tuesday night, Aug. 7, when Bonds* blasted the home run that had never been hit in 100-plus years of major league history, career No. 756, on a full-count, fifth-inning fastball from Washington pitcher Mike Bacsik.
Sportsline’s Gregg Doyel bashes all of baseball, so he’s not that nice a guy, but you could tell that from his doofy headshot:
Bonds is an accused steroid user and convicted jerk whose record will be acknowledged warily by some and not at all by others, none of which seems right. He joined on Tuesday night a long list of perceived bad guys — scumbags and racists, cheaters and gamblers — atop baseball’s most cherished individual lists. Bonds doesn’t stick out. He fits in.
In the rush to revisionist history, some will try to sweeten this lemon of a moment. But with the notable exception of weepy Giants owner Peter Magowan, most were left feeling predictably ambivalent, cheering with the mute button on.