In the biggest sports story west of Nevada, north of Los Angeles, but south of Oregon, Barry Bonds* has yet to step into the batter box for the San Francisco Giants this year. Attendance is down at SBC Park, and many fans complain daily about not having “the best hitter in the history of the game” playing. However, in just about every other Major League city in this country, the fans reaction to Barry* not playing is one of glee. Could it be that Barry* strikes such fear into the heart of opposing fans that they would rather see him out of the game? Hardly. Believe it or not, outside of the city of San Francisco, cheating is not an acceptable means to attain victory, or in Barry’s* case, baseball records. I for one believe that Barry* being out on the DL is a good thing for baseball.
With the steroids controversy swirling around baseball during spring training, one had to wonder how much the topic would dominate and overshadow the 2005 season. Indeed the big story opening day was how Alex Sanchez was the first player suspended under MLB’s new drug testing policy. Forget the fact that the Boston Red Sox were taking the field as the defending world champions for the first time in 86 years, or even that this was MLB’s opening day after two of the most exciting seasons in the last decade. I will admit it was a big story, being the first of its kind, but to have it dominate baseballs’ opening day was a rather ominous start to the 2005 campaign. (On a side note, was I the only one who barely recognized Sammy Sosa when he stepped into the batters box this year? Did he not eat in the off-season? I almost mistook him for a Dominican refugee for crying out loud. He looks a good 15-20 pounds lighter than he has been in the past, and I don’t buy that it’s the different color uniform, either.) The first two months of the season have been pretty good overall, and with the exception of the 8% decline in homeruns, there has been relatively little talk about players and steroids this year.
Back to Barry Bonds*. Is there anyone out there who thinks that if Barry* were playing this year that steroids would not be the main focal point of baseball? Instead of admiring what Roger Clemens has been able to do at the age of 42, or smile at the fourth place Yankees, or even discuss the merits of “Billy Ball” as the Athletics get hammered day in and day out, every at bat for Barry* would be accompanied by the talk of steroids. After every home run hit (and judging from history, it would be numerous), the questions would begin, the asterisks would be pulled out, and opposing fans would rekindle a chant that was once only reserved for Jose Canseco. And imagine the bind MLB would be in if Barry* hit number 715 or 756. Could they celebrate and honor it the way they did for Cal Ripken Jr. when he broke Lou Gherig’s record? Or will it be too unpopular for baseball with Hank Aaron refusing to attend and publicly stating “any way you look at it, [what Barry* did] is wrong.” As with most issues today, San Francisco would find itself on an island hanging onto ideals that the rest of the country is unwilling to accept.
Barry Bonds* is bad for baseball. Anyone who uses an illegal performance enhancing drug while playing sports, is bad for the game. Not only will they bring shame on themselves and their families as Barry* has done, but they will also bring shame to the game. I know Barry* (and most players today) thinks he’s bigger than baseball, but that title will only go to one man in the history of the game, Babe Ruth. The Babe is the only man who ever played the game that was himself, larger than the game. Babe Ruth saved baseball after the 1919 Black Sox scandal by hitting more homeruns by himself than most teams combined could hit. He single-handedly revived the game by sparking interest in it once again. In a time when baseball appeared to be peaking, Barry Bonds* seems to be the anti-Babe Ruth. The steroids controversy grew largely out of investigations into him and BALCO. He single-handedly gave baseball a black eye. If Barry* returns and sets the all-time homerun record, thousands of former major leaguers will roll over in their graves if his name in the record books does not include an asterisk. I hope that he does what is right for the Giants, for himself, and for the game, and retires.
* Will hopefully accompany every mention of Barry’s* name in the future.
 ESPN interview in December 2004. <http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1939208&CMP=OTC-DT9705204233>