Sunday, December 05, 2004

Alas, poor Barry....

I must admit that I'm disappointed by the increasing likelihood -- which is teetering on "bedrock certainty" -- that Barry Bonds has been using steroids for years, and probably knowingly, too. Bonds has been my favorite baseball player since his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and unlike some Pirates fans, I've never begrudged him his decision to leave for more money elsewhere (in San Francisco). Back in 1989 or 1990, the Pirates had to already know that they couldn't keep their entire stellar outfield (Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke) together for long, so they could have made sure that wrapped Bonds up with a long-term contract. Instead, they signed Van Slyke, who was gone a few years later anyway. Oops.

But to know at last that Bonds has been cheating, if what he's been using really is an illegal substance, is disappointing to me on a lot of levels. As the Distinguished Mr. Jones points out, should his steroid-enhanced musculature lead to an asterisk beside his record of 73 home runs in a single season? Maybe. Maybe not. And it still seems clear to me that unless Bonds gets banned from baseball, he's still a Hall-of-Famer. His accomplishments even before he became He-Man were lofty enough for the Hall, I think. (And Mike of Mike's Baseball Rants makes the point that there are a number of other factors in Bonds's offensive production -- and offensive production as a whole -- in Major League Baseball besides steroid use.)

The question now is, of course, what did Bonds know and when did he know it. It seems laughable that Bonds, a guy with a reputation for being quite the control freak about his body, would blindly use some supplement without finding out what it was. My suspicion is that one of two things happened:

1. He knew, front and center, and is lying through his teeth.

2. He didn't know, but he knew that something was probably hinky about the whole thing. Here I envision his trainer or source or mule or whomever saying something like, "I've got this great new muscle cream for you. Don't worry about what's in it. Oh, it's legal, of course! just don't ask, though. It'll be better for your image if you can honestly claim you didn't know what was in it." In this case, he's not lying through his teeth, but he's being deliberately negligent, which is almost as bad. It would be the old "Just don't ask too many questions" thing.

Option #2 would be bad; option #1 would be a disaster. But would it completely invalidate Bonds's career (or at least the last five years of it)? I don't think so, really. But it would still be disappointing. It wouldn't matter, really, if an asterisk is placed behind Bonds's name in all the record books, because in most people's minds, that asterisk is already there.

(BTW, I wish I could remember where I read it, but I seem to recall seeing somewhere that steroids wouldn't have that much effect on a power hitter, since the relevant ability isn't the amount of force one can deliver with the bat but rather the speed of the bat, and steroids wouldn't have much effect, if any at all, on bat speed. I have no idea if this is pure hooey or not, though -- anyone else?)

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