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In Defense of Barry Bonds

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Message Mickey Z.
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Barry Bonds is enormously wealthy, enormously talented, enormously arrogant, enormously black, and just plain enormous. For many folks, he's the convenient scapegoat for more than a decade of alleged steroid abuse in Major League Baseball. However, there's still the bothersome little detail of "proof." Books have been written, disgruntled friends and lovers have leaked stories, and sportswriters-seeking retribution for years of dealing with Barry's notorious condescension-have tried the San Francisco Giants star in the press...but no smoking gun exists. Sure, the circumstantial evidence against Bonds is damning, but what about Lance Armstrong, another top athlete with an equal amount of anecdotal "proof" following him around like a white...I mean, black cloud? Yet, for much of America: Barry is a pariah and Lance a hero.

Of course Bonds is juiced, right? Of course he's cheated on his wife and on his taxes. Of course the game-and the whole damn planet-would be better off with him behind bars. But even assuming he did what countless other major leaguers did-indulge in performance-enhancing drugs-here's a little incentive to help you re-think your Bonds Bias:

1. Steroids or not, Bonds was a first ballot Hall of Famer before his breakout 73 home run year in 2001. "Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player since Babe Ruth," says sportswriter, Dave Zirin. "He is the only player in history to have 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. He averaged a 30/30 (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases) for the entire decade of the 1990s, and he is the only player I've ever seen who can change the game with every swing."

2. Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to its ever-expanding stars. As long as the fans were happy and television deals rolled in, no one in power acted to stop the steroid binge. Now, with fans whipped into a frenzy and Congress smelling a photo op, Barry Bonds is the perfect patsy.

3. Like it or not, Bonds played on an even playing field. If steroids have indeed tainted baseball for the past decade or so, by definition, Barry has faced innumerable pitchers powered by juice. This hasn't stopped him from rewriting the record books.

4. Steroids or not, as Zirin explains above, Bonds is by far the best hitter of his era. For example, no one else who has been publicly linked to performance-enhancing drugs has hit over 600 home runs (never mind 721 and counting) during the so-called steroid era...not Jason Giambi, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero, Gary Sheffield, Jose Canseco, Pudge Rodriguez, etc. On whatever even playing field you choose, Bonds stands well above the crowd.

5. Every era has its asterisks. The great Babe Ruth played against athletes that, in general, were not as big, strong, fast, or well-conditioned as they are today. Ruth never played against black opponents. The Sultan of Swat didn't have to travel coast-to-coast over 162 games and face late inning relief specialists every night. The Bambino had none other than the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig (and a virtual Murderer's Row) behind him the lineup. In fact, Ruth played regularly for the best team in the game.

Since Bonds is the player so many love to hate, he's guilty till proven innocent in the court of public opinion. I say that even if we eventually do learn that Barry was not afraid of needles, he shouldn't take the fall for baseball's folly and he should ultimately be judged within the context of the era in which he played...and utterly dominated.

Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at
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