Last night, Barry Bonds hit number 756 and broke what has been called “The Greatest Record in Sports”. Now, I know, this blog usually deals with politics, but really it deals with America, and baseball is America’s Past-time. I try not to be judgemental, but its human nature. Sometimes we’re right, and sometimes, like the Duke Lacrosse Rape case, the judgement is terribly wrong.I am a huge baseball fan, I grew up with the sport and starting playing organized baseball when I was 5. I remember the excitement of McGwire/Sosa in 1998 and how it brought fans back to the game. It is unfortunate that less than 10 years later, that moment may now stand for everything that is wrong with the sport (and sports in general- go google this years Tour de France and see how many doping stories come up). That moment, that attention, that fanfare, may have been the final decision for Bonds to use steroids. I say use there as a definitive because Bonds did admit under oath to Congress (which was leaked) that he did use a steroid cream but he did not know it was a steroid. What I did is went back and looked at his stats and his baseball cards, and this is what I’ve found.
Here is Barry Bonds’ rookie card:
A very young, and thin Barry Bonds. Bonds was actually a guy who was a serious threat in his early career. He had decent power, not like you see today, but he also had great speed. He was guy who could hit for average, hit homeruns, steal bases, and yes, play defense- including several Gold Gloves. From 1986 to 1998 (McGwire/Sosa) Bonds hit 40 hrs 3 times- 1993- 46, 1996- 42, and 1997- 40. This is what Barry Bonds looked like in 1997
I point this out because many people show Bonds 1986-7 and then show Bonds 2007 and the obvious response is of course he’s going to get bigger over the course of 20 years. Well, Bonds did get bigger, as he grew as a man, but not freakishly bigger. Then came 1998, and Bonds was out of the spotlight, and into the shadows. ESPN reported that when Bonds showed up to camp in 1999, his teammates were calling him the Incredible Hulk. So it’s not 20 years, but actaully only 2 years in which bonds sees a dramatic increase in size (and power numbers). People will argue that Bonds only hit 34 HRs in 1999 but you need to look inside the statistics. Only 3 times before, the afformentioned 40 HR seasons, did Bonds hit more than 34, he did it in 1999 in only 102 games and fighting injuries throughout the year. This is how Bonds looked in 1999, just 2 short years after our last pic, and the season after the breaking of Maris’ 61.
Bonds went on from 1999 to 2004 to hit 34 (100 games), 49, 73, 46, 45, and 45. That is, in 5 seasons from 2000-2004, 258 HRs or just over 1/3 of the record 756. During this time, Bonds also enlisted the help of the “trainers” at Balco labs. I’m not going to go into Balco, you can look them and Victor Conti up. Bonds now was getting towards and into his 40s, and he continues to grow. This is how Bonds looks now
Now, to me, whether or not Bonds is proven guilty, it does not matter. Now some will argue with that, saying that if it’s not proven, he deserves all the respect, so let me explain myself. It doesn’t matter because history will always go back and show this black cloud- The Congressional Hearings, Balco, 1998, the banning of Rafael Palmero, how Hank Aaron didn’t show up to see the record, and how Bud Selig did everything he could to distance himself from it. The record has a taint to it, and it always will. It’s tough to get excited about it. Its a shame, because Bonds truly is a great player, with or without the power numbers, probably the best of his generation, and one of the all-time greats.
As the old saying goes- “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck” applies here with “1998, difference in size from 1997 to 1999, the involvement of Balco, and career numbers while approaching 40″. It all says to me- it’s a duck!
A look at the changing Bonds as he swings for number 756
Then and now