And just when we thought Giants slugger Barry Bonds was in the clear. Or on the Clear. Or was it the Cream? At this point, it’s pretty much anything under the sun that can fit in a syringe.Just after the nationwide buzz about Bonds’ grand jury testimony regarding his alleged steroid abuse was starting to settle down, two San Francisco Chronicle reporters relit the fuse on the steroids powder keg by releasing parts of their soon-to-be published book “Game of Shadows” to Sports Illustrated. The book details – and I mean details – a variety of claims surrounding Bonds’ rampant steroid abuse and even profiles some of his shadier contacts and trainers.
Welcome back to that uncomfortably warm glare of the steroid spotlight, Barry.
But even with this brutal – yet not totally convincing – documentation, the biggest question still remains: Where will Bonds’ place in history be?
Isn’t that really the most pressing issue? Regardless of what drugs Bonds did or did not take, his career will soon be at an end, and Hall of Fame voters everywhere will be at an impasse.
Well, here’s the truth of the matter: Bonds should go to Cooperstown anyway.
The accusations outlined in “Game of Shadows” say Bonds began using steroids in 1998 – still well before baseball commissioner Bud Selig had even addressed performance-enhancing drugs, much less placed bans on them. Though taking medicines without prescription was obviously illegal at the time, Bonds, by Major League Baseball’s legal description, was not doing anything wrong.
Granted, there is a tremendous amount of room for moral interpretation there, but keep in mind that eight years ago, the culture of baseball was hopelessly intertwined with the abuse of steroids and growth hormones. To twist the time-proven adage, what is right is not always legal, and what is legal is not always right. It may sound crazy, but alcohol was once illegal too, and I know a lot of drinkers out there who wouldn’t say it’s immoral.
Even if you can’t rationalize taking or abusing steroids, it’s not like Bonds was just some pinch-hitter languishing in the dugout before his late-career surge to the record books. Through the 1998 season, Bonds already had 411 home runs, 1,216 RBIs, 1,917 hits, 395 stolen bases, 8 gold gloves, 3 National League MVPs and 9 All-Star appearances.
That’s no slouch. So what will we choose to remember Bonds by – his questionable choices late in his career or his sparkling numbers before the breaking point?
More so, how much of America’s collective indictment of one of history’s most prolific sluggers is based on quality of character instead of quality of career? Bonds has always had an acrimonious attitude toward the media and egomaniacal sense of self – but should we be factoring such values into our Hall of Fame equation?
Take Kirby Puckett, for example. Puckett, the lovable bowling ball of baseball ability, ended up in Cooperstown for a variety of reasons – his legendary Game 6, his temperament, his impossibly circular frame. But with Puckett, most of us will choose to ignore his post-baseball sexual assault charges and his alleged extramarital affairs.
If we substitute Puckett’s World Series heroics and award-winning smile for Bonds’ terrific numbers, could we then grant Bonds the same leniency?
For all he’s accomplished in baseball, can’t we take what he has done and use it to look past what maybe he shouldn’t have?
Sports editor Travis Stewart is a junior broadcast journalism major from Sugar Land.