Friday, July 20, 2007

Bonds Bashes Two Homers, Stands on the Precipice of History

Despite the hopeful wailings of various writers and fans, Barry Bonds broke out of his recent slump by hitting two home runs on Thursday at Wrigley Field in San Francisco's 9-8 loss to the Cubs. He is now just two homers away from tying Hank Aaron on the career home run list--and guess where the Giants are heading to next? Milwaukee, home of Commissioner Bud Selig. Of course, while Bonds is chasing history, Selig is on the case--like Inspector Clouseau. Will Selig be at the games? Will he "boycott" Bonds in deference to Aaron, Selig's friend? Will Major League Baseball perform some kind of ceremony to honor Bonds when he ties and then breaks the record? Who knows? Selig doesn't, that's for sure. At this rate, Selig's long awaited statement about what his exact plans are for the final leg of the home run chase should come out a week or two after it's all over.

I said it before and I'll say it again: Selig is just as responsible for this three ring steroids circus as Bonds, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco or anybody else, so Selig should be sitting front and center when Bonds makes history. Some people, like ESPN's Mike Wilbon, are speculating that the Giants will sit Bonds out so that he can break the record in San Francisco but I agree with a different Wilbon assertion: Bonds thrives on chaos. Therefore, I think that Bonds, regardless of what he may say, would like nothing better than to tie and then break the record in Milwaukee, figuratively telling the Commissioner--whether he attends or not--exactly where he can stick the baseball, the Mitchell probe and everything else.

Bonds is truly a remarkable athlete. He had been in an 0-21 slump before he launched homer number one in the second inning. That shot left the ballpark and landed on Sheffield Avenue, the first time that has happened this season. Bonds finished with six RBI, the seventh time in his career that he has had at least six RBI and his first such performance since September 22, 2006. Two more home runs will not only tie Bonds with Aaron but also enable him to tie Carlton Fisk's record for most home runs hit by a player after the age of 40 (72).

I liked Barry Bonds a lot as a player before his head, body and home run totals exploded. He was flat out robbed of the 1991 NL MVP when sporswriters, put off by his churlishness, selected Terry Pendleton--and this was when Bonds was a fleet-footed, lean player, not the behemoth that he is now. Anyone who wondered how tough it is to hit home runs in San Francisco found out during this year's Home Run Derby; I think that ESPN's Kenny Mayne is still sitting in his little boat in McCovey Cove waiting for baseballs to leave the park.

That said, there is a mountain of evidence that Bonds is a cheater. All you have to do is read Game of Shadows--or even just this excerpt. Bonds' former trainer, Greg Anderson, is languishing in jail because he refuses to testify to a grand jury that is investigating Bonds' alleged perjury regarding Bonds' alleged usage of illegal performance enhancing drugs. We've been through all of this before with the Pete Rose case two decades ago. Rose denied and denied and denied that he ever bet on baseball and many of us wanted to believe him, in spite of mounds of evidence to the contrary. Then, many years later, Rose wrote a book and admitted the truth. Some day, long after he has broken Aaron's record and retired from baseball, Bonds will likely do the same thing. He'll admit that he juiced up and his excuse will be that everyone else was doing it, that he couldn't stand seeing lesser players passing him up. Don't buy it--the book or the excuse.

If I feel so strongly about Bonds then why do I say that Selig should attend these games? I feel just as strongly about Selig. He is the weak-willed enabler who allowed all of this to happen on his watch; the baseball record book has been hopelessly muddled--not just the home run totals, but everything (the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is how many pitchers were/are on some kind of juice). There is no way to ever put the record book back together but this is just one more bullet on Selig's resume, which includes a season in which the World Series was canceled and the infamous All-Star Game tie. Since Selig did nothing to stop the juicers from ransacking the records he should not be allowed to hide from the consequences; fifty years from now, he deserves to have his face appear right to Bonds' bloated head in the pictures that are taken after the record breaking home run clears the fences.

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