Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Broken Bonds

Barry Bonds will probably try to slant the release of the new book, "Game of Shadows," as another media witch hunt.
Granted, the media does go on their share of witch hunts. We get overzealous, we make snap judgments, we drag names through the mud when it's not warranted.
This isn't one of those times. For the sake of posterity, for the sake of intergrity, for the sake of one of the most cherished records in sports, this story needs to be told. By someone.
The pathetic part is that two San Francisco Chronicle reporters have to do what Major League Baseball's front office should have done a long time ago: rat out one of baseball's most blatant steroid abusers. But Bud Selig and his cronies are far too ineffectual to do that.
Rafael Palmeiro and Jason Giambi nothing. Bonds is the fish that needs to be fried.
Prior to 1998, Bonds was far more Kenny Lofton than Babe Ruth. He was a 40 homer/40 stolen base man. He was a Gold Glove outfielder. Since then, he has bulked up to gargantuan proportions and has turned into a slow, lumbering slugger with a 73-homer season to his credit. All this as he approached and passed 40 years of age.
Now, he has 708 home runs, six shy of Ruth and 47 shy of Henry Aaron. The likelihood of Bonds passing Ruth and staking his claim as No. 2 on the all-time homer list is a near-certainty. If he stays healthy, reaching Aaron by season's end is not out of the question.
If Bonds hits 48 homers during this season, purportedly his last, baseball will be faced with having a ratted-out 'roid freak as its all-time home run king.
Without steroids, it is entirely possible that Bonds could have reached 500 career home runs, still part of an elite club. But Bonds wanted the biggest prize of all. He apparently subscribes to the widely held notion in sports that "if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying."
Bonds is far from alone in holding that notion. But nobody appears to have embraced it to the degree of Bonds. "Game of Shadows" alleges that Bonds absorbed steriods in almost every form imagineable: injected, swallowed, drops under the tongue, skin cream, and then some. The book's authors apparently have the BALCO records to back it up.
If it's all true, I shudder to think what type of health problems Bonds will develop in the next 10 years. We all should remember former Brown Lyle Alzado, taken way too soon by brain cancer that likely had its roots in steroid abuse.
Baseball goes out of its way to try and stay true to its wholesome image. They celebrate father-son outings to the ballyard and the shoeless Dominican boy who becomes a big-league star.
But Bonds, I fear, is the real baseball. They'd rather turn a blind eye to a man who is singlehandedly delivering an indelible black eye to the sport, in the name of a home run chase that makes the turnstiles click and ad revenue stream in.
Everything about this seems manufactured. The home run chase, the propaganda, and above all, Bonds' body.
Baseball fans tend to grow up with a romanticized image of the game. It the reason why change is largely viewed as an enemy. Baseball is supposed to be pristine, religious, like James Earl Jones described it in "Field of Dreams."
But behind the dreamscapes are men in suits and a slew of 'roided-up players counting their dough. It's hard to tell whether Bonds is the cause or the result. What is known is that he's a huge cog in the system, and it's time we knew that for certain.

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