Friday, March 24, 2006

Say it ain't so...Barry?

It's a Game of Shadows, so they tell us. Who are they? They are Mark Fainaru-Wadu and Lance Williams are the they, two investigative reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle that together, broke a series of stories on BALCO, the company who brokered several steroid based workout regimens for athletes, and at the top of the list, the Home Run "King," Barry Bonds. The book was released yesterday, and for all intensive purposes, gives the public a clear look at the creation of Barry Bonds the home run champ. In essence, it turned Bonds from the greatest five-tool ballplayer into...well...just a tool.

Game of Shadows is really a misnomer. Regardless of what Bud Selig wants us to believe here, and it's evident over the years that Selig has led the charge to pass off steroid abuse as a rumor, Bonds and several others' "alleged" transgressions were far from the shadows. Anyone with eyes and a brain could see the changes for many players over the years. For all the mistakes that these ballplayers have made, the biggest gaffe in all of this was and is being made by Bud Selig. Selig could have put an end to all of the speculation years ago with tougher testing...but waited until the ridiculous grand jury speculation in which several "usual suspects" were subpoenaed by Congress to inform them of reported steroid abuse? What did we get there? Rafael Palmeiro's finger pointing, and Sammy Sosa's use of a translator to buffer his insipidity, and Mark McGwire's pleading the fifth to every question asked of him, and Jose Canseco...pointing the finger at several players...stating that not only did they use, but he helped them. Of course, we all already knew without knowing, and it's extremely hard to believe that Selig didn't know more. He's either the stupidest man on the planet, or a guy used to ignoring phone calls about late bills...but either way...his pausing not only makes baseball look ridiculous...but has put asterisks next to every major league record broken over the past 10 years. It also casts a shadow over every player in today's era that plays past his prime, or comes up with a season out of nowhere. Fair or not, these players pay the price. And then, there's Barry Bonds.

I'm not going to necesarily talk about what I think about Bonds, although you are going to get some of that here. You can't NOT talk about your feelings on a guy that has been an enigma since he burst onto the scene in 1985. My focus today is the Why's of the matter. Why did Bonds take steroids, and why does Bud Selig continue to allow him to ruin the game?

It chronicles Bonds from 1998 until 2004, as he decided to change from the greatest all-around player of an era, to perhaps the greatest PLAYER of all time. It all started in 1998, as Bonds watched Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battle all year for not only the home run crown, but Roger Maris' vaunted 61 Home Run record that had stood the test of time for 40 years. Bonds quietly put together another great season, with 37 home runs, 122 RBI's and 28 stolen bases...he also became the first player in MLB with 400 home runs, and 400 Stolen Bases . No, this wasn't his best season for sure, but it WAS a continuation of a great run for bonds: 30+ homeruns over the past 7 years, 100 RBI's in each season (not including injuries), and a low of 28 SB's over that same time period. His batting average low was .291, and high, .336. Bonds very simply was spectacular. Of course, his career was so marred by personal idiocy, that much of what he did was already overshadowed, but in 1998, it was nearly as though he didn't even exist. Thus began Bonds' relationship with know...the one in which he said they gave him "cream" and "clear" and that he had absolutely no idea what they were. This coming from a guy who had always kept his body in tip-top shape, a cathedral. No, he wasn't Mr. Universe, but Bonds was, if nothing else, one of those players whose motor was in overdrive in the offseason. But yeah, like the Selig blinders, Bonds decided to tell us and a Grand Jury that he didn't know what they were giving him...they just gave it to him...and he used it. But that's getting ahead of the story.

Bonds showed up in 1999 15-20 pounds heavier than in 1998. No, it wasn't completely unheard of {granted, most players came in with 15 pounds of fat),but it did leave most scratching their heads at how much BIGGER Bonds was. This wasn't fat, it was all muscle. In April, Bonds was hitting like normal, high average...good power, but tore his triceps tendon. you think adding on 15 pounds of muscle in a couple of months might have had something to do with it? Bonds ended up missing most of April, all of May, and a part of June, but in 102 games...still managed 32 dingers. Not to shabby, but nothing out of the ordinary.

He came back in 2000 even bigger, but avoided injury. In 144 games that year, Bonds powered out 49 homeruns, his most ever. And the kicker? Bonds just turned 37 years old. When most careers were ending, Bonds had "found" a way to improve, while most players his age were deciding which type of wings they preferred. Bonds also garnered even more will to improve. Despite his 49 dingers, 107 RBI's, and .306 average, Bonds lost out the MVP award to Jeff Kent. First McGwire and Sosa, and now one of the players he hated the most...Jeff Kent.

The magic came in 2001. Bonds came into the season hitting the cover off the ball...and in only 476 at bats (due to 177 walks--most intentional), Bonds broke McGwire's record of 70 Home Runs, with 73 of his own, 137 RBI's, and a career high .370 average. Of course, Bonds expected the McGwire like circus of 1998. What he got was something far less than that. 1. Bonds is a prick. 2. McGwire JUST broke it. You can imagine how Bonds must have felt about that. The best thing about the steroids though? It swelled his head probably to the actual size he thought it should be. Bonds followed those seasons with ONLY 46, 45 and 45 homeruns, before injuries caught up with him, and he missed most of the 1995 season.

Through it all...we've had to listen to him not only deny the use of steroids, but act like the media portrayed him unfairly...and blah...blah...blah...blah...

If you know anything about Bonds...that's an old story. But back to the point. Bonds is primed to pass Ruth, and potentially Aaron over the next year. Normally, this record chase would be heralded as the greatest thing to EVER happen to baseball, even if Bonds IS a giant prick (he is). Unfortunately, what we are left with is another absolute joke...which is a culmination of 10 years of jokes. McGwire's record and Sosa's chase are surely questionable...and what about Brady Anderson in 1996...50 home runs when his previous high was 21...or Kevin Elster...who in the same year as Brady hit 24 dingers after a 10 year career that produced a total of 36 homers up to that point. Was it a live ball? Was it steroids? Do you know any pitchers who's careers have gone past a normal point of being good? Is it good genes? Is it a good workout? Is it steroids? I'm not saying guys like Elster or Anderson used it could have been a live ball year...or was it?

No, I don't blame Bonds for the ruination of a sacred game. I DO blame Bonds for being a complete and utter jackass...and the best part of his swelled head syndrome is that he still figures to pass Babe Ruth this year, and he is just the type of guy that will enjoy passing the Babe while everyone knows he cheated doing it. Call it the Bonds 'Get Back' for all the perceived snubs in his many years (of course...he's won the freakin' MVP award 7 even though he was jobbed when Terry Pendleton beat him, and probably Kent...he still was appreciated). The thought of the bloated cheat passing perhaps the greatest legend in ANY sport is not only sickening...but ridiculous. But don't blame on Bonds for being a dickhead. At least he's consistent, and we'd expect this.

Blame Bud Selig...who could have ended this 10 years ago...but lent a blind eye to the eye-popping numbers, zit covered backs, and balloon proportined heads...when he saw the fans showing up in droves to see the homeruns. What we're left with now is unprecedented, a group of players that have broken numerous records that had stood the test of time...who stacked the deck to do it. The worst part about the whole spectacle is that every time we all look at that HR longer will Maris, or Ruth or Aaron be at the top...but we'll get a lifelong reminder of how horrible Selig was, and how he ruined the game. We'll get a reminder of how Selig not only lent a blind eye, but promoted a group of lying cheaters. And the worst part about it? How many kids RIGHT NOW...are saying...hmmmm...I could do that...and not get caught. And guess what...we haven't even talked about the health issues. Let's ask Lyle Alzado about steroids...oh wait...that's right...he died from using them...but you get my point.

Blame Selig for NOT EVEN INVESTIGATING THIS! Rose bet on baseball while setting the MLB hits record. His record is in the hall...but Rose isn't. Hopefully, Selig will wake up and either stop this travesty, or do the right thing when it comes down to it. Rose's record deserves to be in the hall...but Rose doesn't. Bonds? He would have been in the hall if he retired in I have no problem with him being voted in somewhere down the line. But whereas Rose's hit record was legit...Bonds' isn't. Give him the Hall...Just don't give him the record.

I keep coming back to that day in Congress...when all those players and management sat there...McGwire and Sosa and Palmeiro and Canseco (Bonds, of course, wasn't there). There they all sat. McGwire and Sosa...the stars of 1998...who we KNEW would dispell the rumors. Palmeiro, one of the seemingly most respected players in the game today, and about to pass not only 3,000 hits, but 500 homeruns...and Selig...perhaps able to use this meeting to make up for lost time. You know...make up for all that crap he's been dishing out for his entire term. I keep looking back at that meeting now over a year ago and keep shaking my head... think...that the one guy sitting at that table telling the truth...was Jose Canseco...

So congrats are perhaps the only guy that could make Jose Canseco sound sane in this house of insanity.

And Barry...salvage something out of this...come clean...and the graceful thing...if it's in you...unfortunately... don't do anything gracefully...

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