To Build a Better Bat
August 7, 2007 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Barry Bonds has broken the all-time record with the benefit of a controversial technological revolution in the game, derided by traditionalists: The Maple Baseball Bat. Using technology and woodworking techniques pioneered by Sam Bat, Bonds helped develop and popularize the bats that are just as responsible for the advent of the Juiced Ball Era as, well, the other thing.
posted by Slap*Happy (192 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
On a related note, Editor & Publisher had an interesting article yesterday about the unfair advantage of Bonds' "elbow armor".
posted by Poolio at 10:06 PM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Plus, his bionic armsleeve thing gives him a ridiculous advantage. Oh, and he routinely took anabolic steroids for several years. Also: he's a complete douchebag.
posted by jonson at 10:08 PM on August 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


d'oh! Poolio beats me on lack of preview!!
posted by jonson at 10:08 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Meta
posted by nola at 10:09 PM on August 7, 2007


Good for him.

Now it's over and we can play ball.
posted by cedar at 10:11 PM on August 7, 2007


We still don't fucking care.
posted by SassHat at 10:11 PM on August 7, 2007


The supposed elbow armor advantage has already been debunked as pathetic bullshit. More comments on SportsFilter.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:13 PM on August 7, 2007


Wait, so Barry Bonds isn't dead?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:15 PM on August 7, 2007


Whatever, baseball got what it deserved- a known cheat holding the most 'hallowed' record in sports. Serves them right for tacitly endorsing steroid use to rebound from the (now 2nd) worst sports labor crisis in American history.

Although because no one cares all that much, attendance is at an all time high and taxpayers regularly approve billion dollar stadiums build with public money, it looks like thier strategy worked just fine.

Yay steroids!
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:16 PM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Reposting my comment from the deleted thread:
Interesting fact: Mike Bacsik was an intern for two sports radio hosts in Dallas 2 summers ago and have since stayed in touch with each other. They've been recently talking about the possibility of giving Bonds an easy pitch so that Bacsik could be the one in the history books. They were supposed to have Bacsik on the show today but decided that he shouldn't talk about laying one up for Bonds on the air before it happened. Now he's supposed to be on the show tomorrow.
posted by puke & cry at 10:18 PM on August 7, 2007


Thanks for posting that follow-up, kirkaracha.... it certainly raises some questions, but I don't know if it rises to the level of debunkment.
posted by Poolio at 10:20 PM on August 7, 2007


Why don't they use aluminum? Tradition or does it give hitters too much of an advantage?
posted by Mitheral at 10:21 PM on August 7, 2007


Cork works better.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 PM on August 7, 2007


I don't see any real debunking in those links, kirkaracha, just more of the same "can't be true!" rhetoric that anybody who looks at sports differently gets hit with. This kind of line, I don't care how many videos you examine or angles you study, that kind of construct does not significantly help the swing, is a classic of the genre. "I don't care what evidence you have, the fact is you're wrong."

I'm not sure if the armor helps, but I'm not seeing any reasonable discussion of it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:24 PM on August 7, 2007


I'm against this!
posted by mazola at 10:25 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


predictions:

barry bonds will be indicted for perjury for denying to a grand jury that he ever took steroids, telling them he thought it was flaxseed oil.

barry bonds will never catch up to the real home run king, japan's sadaharu oh. i don't even recognize him as the american home run king.
posted by bruce at 10:27 PM on August 7, 2007


I think it's accurate to say that the "elbow armor" theory is disputed (as would be expected), but not debunked.
posted by Poolio at 10:27 PM on August 7, 2007


I'm not sure if the armor helps, but I'm not seeing any reasonable discussion of it.

Because it's not worth discussing. It's bs. The home run derby point alone is laughable. As many have said it almost reads as a joke.
posted by justgary at 10:31 PM on August 7, 2007


I'm glad the anachronistic veneration of solid wood that we see in professional baseball has not extended to tennis.

Perhaps Bonds will end up as governor of California one day...
posted by Tube at 10:32 PM on August 7, 2007


Using technology and woodworking techniques pioneered by Sam Bat...

Eponysterical!
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:34 PM on August 7, 2007


I don't really follow baseball, which may explain why I don't find "Because it's not worth discussing." to be a convincing argument.
posted by Poolio at 10:35 PM on August 7, 2007


This is a good post. I never knew about the bat issue, and the photo of the flying broken bat in that USA today link was well-worth the clicks.

I didn't know about Sadaharu Oh either, so this has been an edifying thread already.
posted by serazin at 10:36 PM on August 7, 2007


Eponysterical!

Almost, but not quite, because his name isn't actually Sam Bat.
posted by jckll at 10:38 PM on August 7, 2007


I don't really follow baseball, which may explain why I don't find "Because it's not worth discussing." to be a convincing argument.

It's not suppose to be a convincing argument.
posted by justgary at 10:38 PM on August 7, 2007


It's not suppose to be a convincing argument.

Touche!
posted by Poolio at 10:39 PM on August 7, 2007


There's nothing good about this
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 10:40 PM on August 7, 2007


Almost, but not quite, because his name isn't actually Sam Bat.

Killjoy.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:41 PM on August 7, 2007


I see both
Appeal to ridicule
and
Appeal to authority
in the "debunking of the arm guard" link.
posted by mrnutty at 10:45 PM on August 7, 2007


Wait, I don't understand.

How do they give steroids to a bat?
posted by orthogonality at 10:49 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


How do they give steroids to a bat?

Probably at night.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:55 PM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


I find San Francisco's obsession with Barry Bonds so perplexing and hypocritical. I dunno. People here are supposed to be so liberal and green, and they will put down LA for being so superficial. But then there's this guy who's a giant patronizing asshole and all steroided up... and there are these crazy Giants fans all over town going on about how awesome he is.

I don't think the guy is awesome at all. I'm sorry, but the record he broke was made WITHOUT STEROIDS and WITHOUT Hank Aaron acting like an ASSHOLE. I really don't see how this is something to celebrate...

In my mind Hank Aaron deserves the record more than Bonds does. I don't think they should be put on the same level. AT ALL. Hank Aaron permanently wins if you ask me.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:12 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


The game was different in the Gretzky era...
posted by mazola at 11:17 PM on August 7, 2007


First of all, I don't believe for a second that the armor helps his swing. Sounds like 100% grade A bullshit to me. And no, I don't have any articles to back that up, but I have played baseball for a long time and it's one of the most ridiculous claims I have ever heard.

Second, I don't really see what being liberal and green has to do with enjoying watching home runs. I am from the bay and I am "liberal" and "green" too, and while I think steroids are cowardly, I also love baseball and love the thrill of a broken record.
posted by ORthey at 11:21 PM on August 7, 2007


i watched the video of the 755th on youtube, and it struck me as monumentally sad -- the antipathy for bonds was so palpable and depressing.

even his own teammates could barely muster up enthusiasm for his "accomplishment." their reaction was akin to how a team usually reacts to a regular, everyday home run.

steroids are essentially his monkey's paw -- sure he got the record, but everyone hates him for it. like the old joke of wishing that your dick was long enough to touch the floor, and then having the wish granted in the form of amputation of both legs.
posted by Hat Maui at 11:31 PM on August 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I like home runs. But I am not a fan of people using steroids to make them and then bypassing the achievements of people who DIDN'T use steroids... as though it was an equal accomplishment.

It isn't.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:32 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Living in and near Ottawa was a huge advantage in developing the Sam Bat concept. It's a researcher's dream centre: home of the Canadian patent library, two first-rate universities, the Wood Council, the Canadian Forest Research Centre, the National and other extensive Libraries - all in the centre of the richest deciduous forest of North America.

Golly, eh? Ottawa: a researcher's dream centre.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:35 PM on August 7, 2007


Before and after. Doesn't even look like the same guy. I also don't understand how people can cheer for such a scumbag.
posted by puke & cry at 11:36 PM on August 7, 2007


I like home runs. But I am not a fan of people using steroids to make them and then bypassing the achievements of people who DIDN'T use steroids... as though it was an equal accomplishment.

Different eras. You can't compare them. Bonds is a product of the steroids era. The pitcher he hit 755 off had been suspended for using steroids.

Aaron didn't have steroids. He came from an era swamped in amphetamines. Drugs have been in baseball for decades, just in different forms.
posted by justgary at 11:39 PM on August 7, 2007


Interesting trivia about Mike Bacsik: His dad was also a big league pitcher and had faced Henry Aaron while he was also sitting on 755 homers. (got this from the local announcers in SF)
posted by mach at 11:42 PM on August 7, 2007


Doesn't even look like the same guy.

In the first picture he was what, 21, 22? The second in his 40s. Go to your 20th reunion. You won't recognize some people. Of all the evidence pointing to steroid use, that's the lamest one.
posted by justgary at 11:43 PM on August 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


miss lynnster: are you trying to preemptively drive this thread into the "grar grar that asshole is an asshole" gutter? Of course Hank Aaron is a hero and far less suspect. But I for one don't give a shit about him either way and would rather talk about less hopeless matters.

on preview: p&c... maybe it's inevitable. Oh well. Ottowa? My panacea of bat research? My thoughts turn to you... and little beaver dams made of baseball bats remnants... and the flavor of a baseball mitt on a sunny evening, because I was a right fielder once... and I didn't "look alive" then, and probably won't here either.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:44 PM on August 7, 2007


Yeah, the drug Ruth hit all those home runs on was called "booze."
posted by jtron at 11:44 PM on August 7, 2007


In the first picture he was what, 21, 22? The second in his 40s. Go to your 20th reunion. You won't recognize some people. Of all the evidence pointing to steroid use, that's the lamest one.

Sure, we'll see if my head has doubled in size by then.
posted by puke & cry at 11:46 PM on August 7, 2007


Yeah, the drug Ruth hit all those home runs on was called "booze."
posted by jtron


And against worn out pitchers in the 8th and 9th when today he'd face a fresh reliever. And of course, without facing hispanic, black, or asian pitchers.

Comparing eras doesn't work.
posted by justgary at 11:47 PM on August 7, 2007


Sure, we'll see if my head has doubled in size by then.

Fantastic argument you've got there.
posted by justgary at 11:49 PM on August 7, 2007


Why don't they use aluminum? Tradition or does it give hitters too much of an advantage?

It would get too annoying when game scores run into the double and triple digits.
posted by zardoz at 11:51 PM on August 7, 2007


I don't begrudge him the elbow armor, but it was an obvious advantage that old-timers didn't have. If you can lean into the box without any fear of getting hurt if you get plinked, that's a huge advantage, especially on curve-balls.

Of course, it's kind of a drop in the bucket compared to the 'roids.
posted by bardic at 11:56 PM on August 7, 2007


If you can lean into the box without any fear of getting hurt if you get plinked, that's a huge advantage, especially on curve-balls.

No one fears getting hit by a curve ball. No one gets hurt by a curve ball. It protects against being hit by an inside fastball.
posted by justgary at 11:59 PM on August 7, 2007


re: mechanical advantage of brace--

i find the so-called "debunkings" of the e&p article unpersuasive, but i find some elements of the argument as presented (75-100 HRs extra from a brace?) weak.

but you could make a numbers argument that might be pretty persuasive.

on a very cursory basis, i just did a little math:

HRs per game

'86-'90: .163

'91-'95 (during which time the brace debuts, albeit in non-mechanical form): .24

'96-'00 (more adjustments to the brace): .28
(note that the bulk of bonds' bulking up occurs during this period, so you could argue this is a control for steroid use/size)

'01-'05 (brace adopts current form with full mechanical advantage as described in e&p article): .364

'06-'07: .21 (sure, he still has the brace, but he's hampered significantly by age and injury)

i'm not saying this is in any way conclusive. heck, it's probably not even a good argument, which i'm sure some of you will soon jump in to tell me.

also, the numbers roughly coincide with the maple bat, as well. but hey, isn't endless obsessing over such minutiae the fun of baseball? no?
posted by Hat Maui at 11:59 PM on August 7, 2007


Comparing eras doesn't work.

American baseball's dying fanbase would completely shrivel if the whole statistics-porn thing wasn't there. And I'm speaking as someone who used to be really into baseball.

As for booze, no doubt Ruth (and Mantle, and plenty of others) played while buzzed. But alcohol is the opposite of a performance enhancer. And, everyone has access to it. Bonds paid off the right doctors and trainers and pushers to help him achieve his goal. I think that kind of sucks but then again, that's why baseball is the bottom wrung of major professional sports leagues these days.
posted by bardic at 12:00 AM on August 8, 2007


No one fears getting hit by a curve ball. No one gets hurt by a curve ball.

The whole point of a well-thrown curve ball is to make the hitter think they might need to bail out, early on. But you're right about inside fastballs.

But again, let's say the elbow armor accounted for maybe 50 of his dings. And steroids accounted for almost all of the rest.
posted by bardic at 12:02 AM on August 8, 2007


It would get too annoying when game scores run into the double and triple digits.

Says you. Sounds like great fun to me.
posted by chundo at 12:12 AM on August 8, 2007


American baseball's dying fanbase would completely shrivel if the whole statistics-porn thing wasn't there. And I'm speaking as someone who used to be really into baseball.

Agreed. It's a blast. It just far more difficult than most fans make it. For every advantage bonds had over ruth you can find one ruth had over bonds.

that's why baseball is the bottom wrung of major professional sports leagues these days.
----

How popular is baseball right now?
Saturday was the most well-attended day in Major League Baseball history, drawing 717,478 fans for 17 games, an average of 42,205.

In fact, the last two Saturdays have represented two of the three most attended days in history.

Major League Baseball remains on pace for a fourth consecutive year of record-breaking attendance.


It's no longer the national past time. It is, however, very healthy, and doing quite well with bonds, love him or hate him.
posted by justgary at 12:16 AM on August 8, 2007


Barry Bonds' pet dog.
posted by puke & cry at 12:26 AM on August 8, 2007


Eh, I'm sure Bonds is doing fine with regards to his bank account, but this video is telling -- Bud Selig didn't seem all that elated when he hit 755. If the commissioner of baseball isn't too stoked about it, I'd argue that there are others beside me who think the 'roid thing is still a huge problem (Selig reaction at about 2:15.)
posted by bardic at 12:26 AM on August 8, 2007


beside me who think the 'roid thing is still a huge problem

Didn't say it wasn't a problem (though if you've followed it you already know selig helped create the problem).

I said it hadn't affected attendance, and it hasn't.
posted by justgary at 12:31 AM on August 8, 2007


I remember seeing that, Selig had to be told to stand up and very pointedly put his hands in his pockets.

Bonds is a footnote, A-Rod will have him in no time.
posted by cedar at 12:46 AM on August 8, 2007


No time = baseball years.

They are like dog years, but longer.
posted by cedar at 12:49 AM on August 8, 2007


A-Rod will have him in no time.

7-10 years if he stays healthy and on pace. I guess you consider that no time. And there's talk that canseco will have info on Arod in his next book. I'd be careful to which player you hitch your wagon. It's the steroid era, not one player.
posted by justgary at 12:53 AM on August 8, 2007


In my mind Hank Aaron deserves the record more than Bonds does. I don't think they should be put on the same level. AT ALL. Hank Aaron permanently wins if you ask me.

Maybe you can propose an algorithm so that we can permanently adjust statistics for relative assholeness? Something like home-runs + babies kissed - 3.5*(wives/girlfriends beaten) - number of grumpy interviews = prick-adjusted home-runs?

No one "wins" at these records, especially in a sport that stubbornly resists comparison across eras. It's not like winning a championship and it's not like being elected to the Hall of Fame. And it's not a measure of Barry Bonds' worth as a human. If you don't like the current record-holder, just wait a while.
posted by mullacc at 1:38 AM on August 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Re: aluminium baseball bats

Back when I played little league, hitting pitches with a metal bat was always more stressful on me than when I used a wooden bat. An aluminium bat became a tuning fork that drove every drop of kinetic energy in the ball directly into my hands.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:44 AM on August 8, 2007


Why didn't Mark McGuire catch all this abuse when he juiced his way into the record books?
posted by timeistight at 2:09 AM on August 8, 2007


suck it haters - Bonds is one of the greatest to play the game.
posted by caddis at 4:05 AM on August 8, 2007


When a record comes along—you must juice it
To hit that fastball long—you must juice it
No one gets to fame—unless they juice it

Now juice it
Into shape
Bulk it up
Hit straight
Run forward
Move ahead
Try to detect it?
Good luck with that
posted by Eideteker at 4:11 AM on August 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Mark McGuire is white.
posted by I Foody at 4:14 AM on August 8, 2007



"In the first picture he was what, 21, 22? The second in his 40s. Go to your 20th reunion. You won't recognize some people. Of all the evidence pointing to steroid use, that's the lamest one."

justgary-you're kidding right? Very few of my classmates added 40 pounds of muscle between 22 and 42 yrs. of age. As a matter of fact NONE did. There was one who looked like he gained about 40 pounds of flab though.
posted by notreally at 4:23 AM on August 8, 2007


Pre-season football games start this week! Woot!

I know I know... football players being juiced and medicated within an inch of their lives is a given, but I still loves me some football
posted by papercake at 4:43 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Love how no one has disputed the numbers Mat Maul posted.

Its so obvious he has advantages that are outside the realm of fair play.

His record means nothing to me.

Sideline - No player who has ever been conflicted of steroid use should be allowed to hold any official records or be included in the hall of fame. Those things should be reserved for true sportsman.

I hope the truth comes fourth, and soon.
posted by crewshell at 4:49 AM on August 8, 2007


*
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:49 AM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'm okay with Bonds.
Yeah, he can be a pissy little asshole...but so can I and so are a lot of people. I have no illusions that athletes should be perfect examples of polite society.

As for the alleged steroid use...well...I'm okay with that, too. Frankly, I think the use of such performance-enhancing measures is inevitable in professional sports, especially those sports that trade in individual accomplishments (fastest, longest, most, etc.) Just wait until we start seeing technologies like medical nanotech and custom genetics become accessible. Then the record books will become one big asterisk-fest.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:00 AM on August 8, 2007


You know these comments from people saying they will disregard the record set by Bonds seem eerily similar to the kinds of things people said when the record was last broken by Hank Aaron. They came to be viewed as the bigots that they were.

I suspect these comments will come to be regarded as being of the same quality. The big difference is that they will be archived and searchable and someday some people may have to explain the source of their hostility. I can see it now "Daddy, why did you hate Barry Bonds but not Mark Maguire or Lance Armstrong?"
posted by srboisvert at 6:11 AM on August 8, 2007


"barry bonds will be indicted for perjury for denying to a grand jury that he ever took steroids"

Bush will pardon him, saying "Our long national nightmare is over. Now, watch this drive."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:20 AM on August 8, 2007


"Daddy, why did you hate Barry Bonds but not Mark Maguire or Lance Armstrong?"

Because we knew more when Bonds was breaking the record. There was a book out, Game Of Shadows that went into extensive detail about his associations with steroids. With Mark McGwire, we didn't know quite as much at the time. Now, though, he's not getting into the hall of fame because of what we learned.

Most people don't hate Barry Bonds because he's black. They hate him because he's allegedly an asshole, and because he's done a lot of steroids, lied to a grand jury about it, lied to everyone about it, and still broked a very hallowed baseball record.
posted by inigo2 at 6:38 AM on August 8, 2007


Sports are about joy.
Sports give us an escape.
Sports entertain us.

If you watched that homerun last night, the culmination of years of effort that came in the face of monumental pressure, and didn't feel a small amount of joy or weren't able to forget about the personal pressures of your life or weren't entertained than maybe sports aren't for you.
posted by geekyguy at 6:52 AM on August 8, 2007


Further, re: Sadaharu, for posterity.
posted by cortex at 7:00 AM on August 8, 2007


Maybe NPR will shut up about it now.

Wait, no, there's still Rodriguez' chance to break the record. Fuck. Frank Deford's gonna be milking this for years, I can feel it.
posted by boo_radley at 7:04 AM on August 8, 2007


ESPN showed a clip reel of Bonds important home runs, 100, 200, etc. and he slowly gets bigger over time. He didn't suddenly become mammoth.

Second, People should not be after Barry Bonds. They should be after Bud Selig and all the other a**holes who ended the era of the independent baseball commissioner and put in its place a corporate stooge concerned only about profits and the demands of ownership and not the integrity of the game.

You think Kennesaw Mountain Landis or A. Bartlett Giamatti or even Fay Vincent would have allowed things to get this far? These guys exiled entire teams, Pete Rose and George Steinbrenner for tainting the game. Before the era of Selig, the corporate scallywag, baseball commissioners were able to take and enforce moral stands and helped to insure the game's integrity.

Selig's johnny-come-lately concern about the propriety of celebrating Bond's record is just pathetic. If there should be an asterisk anywhere, it should be on his whole unfortunate era as commissioner.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:05 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


miss lynnster, on the subject of why SF loves Bonds despite him being, well, Barry Bonds - ESPN had an intereting article a year or two back addressing this very issue. It goes back to the history of the last decade plus of baseball in the city.

In the early 90s, the Giants were within a hair's breadth of moving to Florida. The team was kept in town by a last-minute bid by Peter Magowan. One of the first things he did after buying the team was sign Bonds, a signal to the community that "hey, we're serious about this team."

So now you have a newly rescued team, with Bonds as the new face of it. But in the middle of all of this, you still have Candlestick Park. It was one of the worst places to play baseball in the major leagues. The cold winds swirled all over the place in that stadium; it wasn't uncommon for fly balls to be dropped because the winds would suddenly blast them in another direction. (Heck, a pitcher was actually blown off the mound during an All-Star game there.) Finally, in the late 90s, the Giants started construction on their new ballpark. (It's notable to mention that the ballpark was entirely privately financed.) Gone are the cold and swirling winds of Candlestick Point, and now San Francisco has what many consider to be baseball's crown jewel of ballparks. And in right field, you've got McCovey Cove, built specifically as a target for a certain left-handed power hitter - Barry Bonds.

Not saying I like the guy, but I can understand why 'Frisco still loves him.

Oh, and srvoisbert, you can take bigotry out of the discussion. Everyone loved McGwire during the 70 home run season, but that's before the BALCO investigation blew the steroid issue out of the shadows and into the public consciousness. McGwire disgraced himself in front of Congress, did not come anywhere near close on his first Hall of Fame ballot, and very likely may never get in due to the steroids issue. That's what people remember of him now. Two years ago he was a stone-solid lock to get in on the first ballot.

And dragging Lance Armstrong into this is just silly.
posted by azpenguin at 7:09 AM on August 8, 2007


Here some discussion of the maple bat with someone from Louisville Slugger. He claims the maple bats break just as often and their only advantage is that they last longer because they don't "get soft."

Regarding Armstrong, essentially everyone who was ever on the podium with him has been implicated as a doper. And even more than in ball sports (which rely significantly on hand-eye coordination), doping in cycling gives a massive advantage. Now maybe surviving cancer gave him some bizzarre physiological advantage, but his performance among that group of dopers is very suspicious.
posted by exogenous at 7:22 AM on August 8, 2007


You know these comments from people saying they will disregard the record set by Bonds seem eerily similar to the kinds of things people said when the record was last broken by Hank Aaron. They came to be viewed as the bigots that they were.

People don't dislike Bonds because they're bigots, people dislike Bonds because he's a jerk. Aaron dealt with obstacles and racism his entire career. He grew up in Mobile in the 30's and 40's, rose out of the Negro Leagues, was ostracized when playing for the Braves' minor league clubs, faced death threats when he broke Ruth's record, but nonetheless always conducted himself with poise and dignity, was good to the fans, and a generally decent individual. He's a role model, and so people venerate him.

Bond's is known to have cheated his way into the record books, treats fans like garbage, lied to congress, and has a well-know reputation for classless obnoxiousness. Even being a known steroid user, if he was half the man that Aaron was, people would get behind him. But he's not, he's a self-aggrandizing jerk, so people regard him that way.
posted by dseaton at 7:28 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


If you watched that homerun last night, the culmination of years of effort that came in the face of monumental pressure, and didn't feel a small amount of joy or weren't able to forget about the personal pressures of your life or weren't entertained than maybe sports aren't for you.

Oh, sports are for me. Believe you me, baseball is most definitely for me.

That said, I was raised to believe in certain universal truths. I believed in 2130 and now I believe in 2632. I believe in 56, and 61 and 755. Am I supposed to feel joy at watching sacred numbers profaned by a man who brought shame to the sport I love for his own glory and insecurity?

The asterisk shouldn't go next to his phony record...it should go next to his name.
posted by edverb at 7:29 AM on August 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


To me, everything surrounding all this is proof that baseball is still a major part of our country and of our collective consciousness. What Barry Bonds has done is that he's hit more balls over the fence than anyone else - and yet it's garnered such attention and has incited so many (probably great) discussions that it shows that we REALLY CARE about what this record means. And no, it's not just ESPN and major news outlets talking about this.

And hey, that's pretty cool, no?
posted by ORthey at 7:33 AM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I compared Barry Bonds' home run production to the top 25 home run hitters in the National League for every season in his career.

Bonds hits more home runs per year than he used to. So does everyone else. There was a dramatic change in National League home run production in the 1996 season (which is probably the start of the Juiced Ball Era). A total of eight NL players hit 40 or more home runs from 1986 through 1995, and no one hit 40 home runs during four of those seasons. Eight NL players hit 40-plus home runs in 1996 alone, and at least four NL players have hit 40 home runs or more every season since.

During 1986-1995 the average number of home runs by the top 25 NL hitters was between 20.84 and 29.44; during 1996-2006 it was between 31.44 and 40.04. In 1995 the top 25 players hit 685 home runs combined; in 1996 they hit 852. (At the extremes, the top 25 NL home run hitters hit 521 home runs combined in 1992 and hit 1001 in 2001.)

Bonds is consistently one of the best home run hitters in the National League. He's been one of the top 25 National League home run hitters in every season of his career except for 2005, when he missed most of the season with injuries. Bonds hit more home runs than the average NL top 25 every year during 1990-1998, and every year during 2000-2004.

Bonds' presence at or near the top of the list of NL home run hitters is nothing new. He was #2 in 1992, #1 in 1993, #3 in 1994, #4 in 1995, #2 in 1996, #4 in 1997, #9 in 1998, #13 in 1999, #2 in 2001, #1 in 2001, #2 in 2002, #2 in 2003, and #4 in 2004.

Five National League players hit 40 or more home runs in 1998, seven in 1999, nine in 2000, seven in 2001, four in 2002, six in 2003, and six in 2004. Bonds was only way ahead of the pack in 2001. Were those other players juiced, too?

So, well before and after he allegedly starting using steroids, Barry Bonds was consistently one of the top home run hitters in the National League.

Bonds played in 144 games in 1995, 158 games in 1996, 159 games in 1997, 156 games in 1998, 102 games in 1999, 143 games in 2000, 153 games in 2001, 143 games in 2002, 130 games in 2003, and 147 games in 2004 so taking steroids didn't increase his playing time.

The Giants moved to Pac Bell Park at the beginning of the 2000 season, and the stadium was specifically designed for Bonds to hit home runs. Right field is 309 feet. Bonds hit 140 home runs in seven seasons at Candlestick Park (3 Com Park), and he's hit 156 in less than seven full seasons at Pac Bell (AT&T Park).

They hate him because he's allegedly an asshole

When did you meet Barry Bonds? Was he mean to you? Or is everything you think you know about him filtered through sports reporters that are annoyed because he doesn't play the media game?

And speaking of assholes, Bud Selig is a person friend of Hank Aaron's and is from Milwaukee (where Aaron played most of his career) so his behavior when Bonds tied Aaron's record was an unprofessional display of his personal feelings.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:37 AM on August 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


Selig*
posted by minkll at 7:39 AM on August 8, 2007


What Barry Bonds has done is that he's hit more balls over the fence than anyone else

Not yet he hasn't. ;-) Three of Bonds's homers were inside-the-park jobs. Only one of Aaron's was. So Aaron has still hit more balls over the fence.

One consolation I take from watching this 'roided out freak profane the sport is that Barry Bonds will almost certainly never get a ring. He is not, and will never be a champion.
posted by edverb at 7:42 AM on August 8, 2007



Selig's johnny-come-lately concern about the propriety of celebrating Bond's record is just pathetic. If there should be an asterisk anywhere, it should be on his whole unfortunate era as commissioner.


It's true: Bud Selig ruined baseball. From the unbalanced schedule, to the all-star game determining home-field advantage in the world series, to his willful ignorance of performance-enhancing substances, Selig has wasted no opportunity to be a complete fuckup.
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 8:07 AM on August 8, 2007


Barry Bonds is...what's the term?...the whipping boy.

Think back to a time when suddenly all the players were hitting really big and attendence was at an all time high. The team owners were raking in the big dough and everyone was looking the other way.

Suddenly one of the best athletes in the sport wasn't looking all that great in comparison. He was encouraged to beef up like the other players, and so he complied.

Then all the rules changed and suddenly "Oh my goodness! The batters are using steroids?! That is just so shocking!"
Suddenly Barry Bonds is the bad guy. What the heck about all the other players? What about the team owners and officials and the press who were encouraging these big hitters while looking the other way at how it was happening?! You've got to have another target to deflect the public's attention and Barry Bonds was a convenient fall guy.

He was the best before the steroid era and he's the best afterwards. Many Barry critics are either blind or hypocrites.
posted by eye of newt at 8:07 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


eye of newt, you seem to be suffering from serious cognitive dissonance. He's not being picked on because he's convenient; he's picked on because he's prominent. If McGwire was still playing, he'd be getting this. Canseco, too. Giambi got a chunk of it. And more players are getting serious criticism for their alleged steroid use. But when one of the Roid Freaks is breaking a prominent lifetime record, guess what? The man's performance is called into question.

Stop trying to make him the victim here. He fucked it up.
posted by grubi at 8:21 AM on August 8, 2007


Suddenly one of the best athletes in the sport wasn't looking all that great in comparison. He was encouraged to beef up like the other players, and so he complied. [...] Many Barry critics are either blind or hypocrites.

That's a cop out, and you're placing blame on the wrong parties. What Bonds "complied" with (that word "complied" makes it sound so innocent, helpful even) was cheating and he knew it.

As for "all the other players", from Cal Ripken thru A-Rod and David Ortiz up to Ryan Howard and Ichiro, there are many great ballplayers making a historic mark on the game without cheating, thankyouverymuch.
posted by edverb at 8:26 AM on August 8, 2007


My favorite players are the guys who just get on base a lot and then wreak havoc with the threat of a steal, or try to score from first on a single. I'll take this guy (in his prime) over Bonds any day of the week
posted by Mister_A at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


You've got to have another target to deflect the public's attention and Barry Bonds was a convenient fall guy.

This is probably true and confirms my statement earlier (and many others made in this thread)- baseball got what it deserved. Maybe Barry is the greatest player ever, I wouldn't argue against him. But the world will never really know, the entire era is irrevocably tainted, even beyond the normal level of taint that goes hand in hand with MLB throughout its entire history. Bonds, Sosa, McGuire, Palmerio, Selig and countless others all belong in the same sentence as Conseco, and in my opinion if you keep one guy out of the Hall on account of steroids, every other suspected user must be kept out as well. Or else open up a 'Steroids Wing' and embrace the era for what it was.

Also, the hullaballo over steroids in baseball contrasted with the dead silence over steroids in the NFL is really revealing about the nature of the American sports landscape. Baseball really has very little going for it outside of the numbers, the NFL product is so entertaining as to blot out nearly every social problem that it drags with it, including wife beating, drug use and dehabilitating injury- but aparently not dogfighting.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:37 AM on August 8, 2007


I don't know if this has been said quite clearly: Even if steroids were openly available and used, Bonds' feat is something so extraordinary that only a sliver of a percent of people would have the inherent physical and mental prowess to complete this. Beyond that an even smaller percent have the genetic makeup and luck not to get hurt early in their career and to be sustaining a level of play Bonds has been at.

This is a sport where weight training wasn't seen as beneficial until the mid-80s. Steroids biggest help is allowing older players to maintain the same stamina as younger players and to heal at a faster rate. It does more to keep Bonds playing like a 28 year old physically than it does to make a 28 year old a superstar. This is not the case in sports when sheer speed and bulk account for more than skill, such as a lineman in football or a cycler. Bonds peaked not because of steroids directly, but because it simply takes that long for ball players to develop to the height of their game. Steroids simply helped bonds continue the level of physical play of a younger player.

Personally, I don't think steroid use to replace lost hormones is a bad thing, indeed there are aging institutes that juice up men in their 50s-60s. The line between abuse and replacement is very wide, very gray and very hard to regulate.

I think others have made a better case that Bonds is a small part what is wrong with baseball today. I also think he is a douche bag. And one of the best hitters today and possibly history. I wouldn't mind seeing highly regulated use of steroids for older players to maintain the same level of play and have more superstars. Of course there's a lot that needs to change regarding the corporatization of baseball before that can happen.
posted by geoff. at 8:41 AM on August 8, 2007


Ambrosia Voyeur, you're right and I'm sorry. I don't have cable tv so all I heard on tv last night was all Bonds all the time on every channel. I just felt like screaming, so I did it in here. I was cranky. Apologies for pooping on the parties of others.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:43 AM on August 8, 2007


Bonds was a great player, possibly one of the best in history, before he starting taking steroids. I think he could have broken the record without the juice; he would have had to work harder and probably play longer and play in more pain. Instead he went with the juice and took the short cut because everybody else was doing it. With the juice he became the best baseball player ever. That is why I hate Bonds, he could have done it naturally, could have been the one shining example of talent prevails over cheaters, but he didn't choose that path.

Might not be a relevant comment, but I had to say that somewhere.
posted by hexxed at 8:45 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


"They hate him because he's allegedly an asshole"

When did you meet Barry Bonds?


Well, I haven't. That's why I said allegedly. Duh.
posted by inigo2 at 8:45 AM on August 8, 2007


Bud Selig didn't seem all that elated when he hit 755. If the commissioner of baseball isn't too stoked about it, I'd argue that there are others beside me who think the 'roid thing is still a huge problem...

Too bad those "others" don't seem to work inside MLB, since their testing policy - and its penalties - are a joke:
Players who test positive the first time will be suspended for 10 days. Second-time offenders will be suspended for 30 days. A third positive test gets a 60-day suspension and a fourth one year.
If they were serious about de-'roiding baseball, they'd get, you know, serious about it.

And about Bonds being "an asshole"? He's cranky with the press. So what? He doesn't get paid to be nice to the newshounds; he gets paid to hit shit out of the park.
posted by rtha at 8:49 AM on August 8, 2007


justgary-you're kidding right? Very few of my classmates added 40 pounds of muscle between 22 and 42 yrs. of age. As a matter of fact NONE did. There was one who looked like he gained about 40 pounds of flab though.
posted by notreally


How many of your classmates are world-class athletes? How many are arguably the greatest baseball player in baseball history? And you're asking me if I'm kidding? I can't even tell if your comment is a joke or not.

Sideline - No player who has ever been conflicted of steroid use should be allowed to hold any official records or be included in the hall of fame. Those things should be reserved for true sportsman.

I take it you've never actually studied the players that are in the hall now.

Then all the rules changed and suddenly "Oh my goodness! The batters are using steroids?! That is just so shocking!"
Suddenly Barry Bonds is the bad guy. What the heck about all the other players? What about the team owners and officials and the press who were encouraging these big hitters while looking the other way at how it was happening?! You've got to have another target to deflect the public's attention and Barry Bonds was a convenient fall guy.


Nail on the head.
posted by justgary at 8:51 AM on August 8, 2007


rtha, that drug testing policy you quote (which I agree was toothless) has been supplanted with something a little more rigorous.
posted by exogenous at 8:56 AM on August 8, 2007


Metafilter: Where people who know nothing about baseball debate the merits of probably the greatest player to ever suit up.

Christ, this place has all the intelligence of farkchan when it comes to baseball. If you've read Robert K. Adair's "The Physics of Baseball" as a kid, multiple times; if you've pored over stats and sabremetric analysis, read aged books belonging to your father or grandfather about the heroes of their time, if you've watched countless games... then maybe you have some meaningful opinion. Otherwise, you're just regurgitating the pap of disgruntled sportswriters. The maple bat issue is fascinating, because the physics of the thing means that maple bats are part of the way between normal bats and aluminum bats; anyone who's read the Physics of Baseball knows that the trick is not the perfectly hit ball, it's the slightly mis-hit ball that makes or breaks a career; the use of the maple bat could very well account for any marginal discrepancies in Bonds' achievements since 2000 (although, 73 HR aside, his numbers aren't really that different from his earlier career other than the advantage gained by wisdom and experience). Back in Ruth's day, he often used a hickory bat, which while much heavier was also more like an aluminum bat than anything used today. How many of his homeruns, how many points of batting average, do we discount for Ruth's use of hickory against aging white-only non-internationally scouted pitching?

Barry Bonds is the unequivocal homerun king- not Aaron, or Ruth, not Oh or Gibson- and leads or is in the top 10 of almost every. single. career. tatistical. category, from homeruns to walks to RBI to on base percentage to total bases, etc, etc, etc. He was a 3-time MVP before 1998 ever happened with McGwire and Sosa, and is now an unheard of 7-time MVP; he was a perennial 35-40 HR hitter even in that "before" picture, he is the only person to steal 500 bases and hit 500 homeruns... it's NOT because of the body armor, that was thoroughly debunked over at Sportsfilter. And it's NOT because of the steroids, because a) we don't know that he took steroids with any regularity, b) he was always this good even when he was in his early 20's, and c) even if he had juiced up, of which we don't know for sure (his admittance to taking what he thought was flaxseed oil is the only 'evidence'; he's never failed a drug test, etc), it's worth noting that his competition in the homerun charts was also likely juicing, and yet still couldn't amass the longevity and numbers he has done. And in a touch of irony, the pitcher he faced to hit 756 was actually suspended from minor league baseball for... using steroids. Barry Bonds is better than Babe Ruth ever was, by a large margin. But you won't accept that, because you ignorant people only parrot what you've heard on the news.


In a related story, Al Gore took steroids to help invent the Internet.
posted by hincandenza at 8:57 AM on August 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sorry, wrong link above. Here is something along the lines of what I meant. First offense is now a 50-game suspension.
posted by exogenous at 9:00 AM on August 8, 2007


Bonds-haters will have no credibility until they launch a parallel campaign to get Gaylord Perry, master of the spitball tossed out of the Hall of Fame.
posted by escabeche at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2007


Oh come on, Gaylord Perry admitted and even encouraged his image while being an amazing pitcher at the same time. It is the same reason that Armstrong isn't getting hounded for steroid use. Bonds is his own worst enemy. He suffers from a bad PR image with an almost neurotic desire to not improve it.
posted by geoff. at 9:18 AM on August 8, 2007


Mister_A: My favorite players are the guys who just get on base a lot and then wreak havoc with the threat of a steal, or try to score from first on a single. I'll take this guy (in his prime) over Bonds any day of the week
Fair enough, but perhaps it should be noted that:
  1. Bonds has a better on-base percentage over his career than Henderson (.445, #6 all-time to .402, #56 all-time)
  2. His single-season records in on-base percentage, aided by those "we're scared shitless of you" intentional walks, dwarf the long-standing records of Williams and Ruth. Williams .551 OBP in 1941 stood as a pillar of achievement for 61 years, until Bonds shattered in in 2002, and then broke his own record in 2004- reaching base 61% of the time!!! Henderson's best season ever was .439 for Oakland in 1990...
  3. Bonds has reached base more times than Rickey Henderson in his career (5560, second only to Pete Rose, to Henderson's 4th place 5343 times)
  4. Bonds also has more walks than anyone in history (about 400 more than #2, Rickey Henderson).
  5. And while no one's touching Henderson's stolen bases crown, it's worth noting that Bonds has 514 stolen bases, good for 32nd all-time.
Rickey Henderson is the greatest leadoff hitter in history, and a legend of the game. Rickey Henderson also comes in behind to Bonds in almost every statistical category that is Henderson's forte except steals. I don't deny the speedy troublemaking players- like Ichiro today- are enjoyable to watch, but it's undeniable that Bonds is massively more dangerous as an offensive threat.

Again: Bonds greatest player to ever play the game, and so much so that no juice or cream or hypodermic could possibly account for anything more than the tiniest fraction of this accomplishment.
posted by hincandenza at 9:28 AM on August 8, 2007


I remember there being a pretty loud outcry over McGuire at the time.

Saying people are pissed off at Bonds because he is black is absurd. Ridiculous even.

I guess everyone lost respect for Sammy Sosa because he was a brown person too, not because he corked his bats.

As I said, absurd.

Cycling has shown that even if the rules are draconian, people will still try to get the edge illegally. The game is not being enhanced, the game is trying to beat the detection systems.

I really don't know what to think anymore. On the one hand, I think the performance enhancing drugs should be squashed wherever possible and judiciously enforced, especially in amateur competition like the Olympics purportedly are.

But in professional sports, I'm pretty much to the point of saying "whatever goes". If some guy getting paid millions wants to hype up on steroids or meth or cocaine or lick hallucinogenic frogs or masturbate furiously while on the mound, whatever, go for it.

I gave up caring about professional sports at least a decade ago. If it involves a ball, and I want to watch it, I watch college.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:29 AM on August 8, 2007


Sorry hincandenza, I will refrain from further commenting until I, too, have earned my master's degree in baseball.
posted by Mister_A at 9:35 AM on August 8, 2007


h, that was a response to this, not this. You do make a compelling case for Bonds' statistical superiority, but in that first link you came off a little superciliously.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on August 8, 2007


exogenous - ok, yeah, that's a much better policy (though I'd still like to see it as huge suspension + huge fine for first offence, and for second, you're gone).

Maybe this will mark me as someone who'd not hardcore enough about baseball - I love the game, but these guys who play? They're paid to entertain me. That is all.
posted by rtha at 9:44 AM on August 8, 2007


srboisvert writes "'Daddy, why did you hate Barry Bonds but not Mark Maguire or Lance Armstrong?'"

I don't hate any of these guys, I don't have an investment in sports that would make that possible, and I didn't even know Bonds was black until I started reading this thread.

rtha writes "And about Bonds being 'an asshole'? He's cranky with the press. So what? He doesn't get paid to be nice to the newshounds; he gets paid to hit shit out of the park."

He's not bolting wheels onto Pontiacs down at the assembly plant. He's an entertainer and part of his just, IMO, is to project a good image personally, professionally and as a representative of the Giants and MLB.
posted by Mitheral at 9:50 AM on August 8, 2007


I will not be buying one of these, but it sums my feelings on the matter just fine.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 10:01 AM on August 8, 2007


Barry Bonds so-called record is nothing more than a media-manufactured moment of steroid-inspired baseball-record-setting is anything but an inspirational moment in sports. Barry Bonds' false record is only a number, without meaning.

Think back on how many fans felt this way after Henry Aaron broke the Babe's record. Yes, there was racism and other turmoil before Aaron set the new standard, but Aaron's effort was accepted wholeheartedly by baseball fans and the baseball establishment. Not so with Bonds' attempt; for good reason.

My hope is that when all is said and done, this impostor of a record will be expunged from official baseball statistics. It doesn't even deserve an asterisk; it doesn't deserve to be proximate to the great,, unfettered and magnificent accomplishments of Aaron or Ruth.

We all know that Bonds, McGuire, and many others took performance-enhancing drugs that gave them huge advantage over those that chose not to. We should not honor the phony so-called records made by anyone who used slight-of-hand to achieve a goal.

To do so would be to violate the essence of sport, and further erode a value system that has already been eroded to far by so-called sports commissioners and players who would succeed at any price.

This is a sad day in baseball, and sport
posted by MetaMan at 10:03 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


hincandenza writes "Again: Bonds greatest player to ever play the game, and so much so that no juice or cream or hypodermic could possibly account for anything more than the tiniest fraction of this accomplishment."

Assume for the sale of argument Bonds is 1% better over his career because of 'roids. We wouldn't be having this discussion today. Bonds having hit 22 home runs so far and the Giants having played 109 games there is the outside possibility we wouldn't have this conversation until early next year.
posted by Mitheral at 10:09 AM on August 8, 2007


like the old joke of wishing that...
Just so we can be certain of the validity of this analogy, I think we should go ahead and cut Barry Bonds' legs off.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:14 AM on August 8, 2007


I was wondering why fireworks started up out of nowhere in SF last night. I don't follow baseball, as the corporate setup pretty much makes the rivalries as relevant as that between Pepsi and Coke.

I'm curious though: the claims are silly enough that Bonds, with the millions of dollars he's made, is a victim of racism; was this supposed racist attitude prevalent before his steroid use became revealed/obvious, or did it just come after that stuff, the way it did with OJ Simpson and Clarence Thomas?
posted by troybob at 10:15 AM on August 8, 2007


Re: armguards and maple bats

People were saying the same thing in the 1920s after Ray Chapman's death caused the leagues to institute the "refresh" rule any time the ball gets scuffed up.

And you know what? They were right. It shifts the balance of power from the pitcher to the hitter, and the entire game changes as a result. You wouldn't even have power-hitters as a baseball player category if they hadn't changed that rule. Scuffed balls mean more erratic hits, less home-runs, more skillful base-running, etc. ad. infinitum. But home runs sell newspapers, and for some reason a large contingency of the fan-base seems to favor a home run over four singles.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:27 AM on August 8, 2007


I will celebrate Barry Bonds' cheating the very day that Hulk Hogan wins the Tour de France.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:37 AM on August 8, 2007


Mitheral said: He's not bolting wheels onto Pontiacs down at the assembly plant. He's an entertainer and part of his just, IMO, is to project a good image personally, professionally and as a representative of the Giants and MLB.

Nah. I don’t care if he’s charming off the field, as long as he delivers while he’s on it. MLB made it very clear in the post-strike days that they wanted fans back, at any price. The price seems to have included hitting home runs, but not kissing up to the press, and since not kissing up has cost Bonds more than it’s cost me, or other fans, why’s it matter?
posted by rtha at 10:43 AM on August 8, 2007


Miss Lynnster: no worries, you were just the canary in the coalmine.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:49 AM on August 8, 2007


"Comparing eras doesn't work."

WARP3?

And fuck it, Ty Cobb's the best player ever.
posted by klangklangston at 11:37 AM on August 8, 2007


Bonds has been intentionally walked 645 times during his career, more than the next two guys (Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey) put together. He also holds the records for intentional walks in a game (4) and in a season (120). In 1998 he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded, the first time that had happened in 54 years.

In 2004 he was hitting one home run in every 8.3 at-bats, so if he'd been pitched to instead of walked he might've gotten 14 home runs that year. At a rate of one home run in every 15 at-bats over his career, that's a potential 43 home runs.

MLB made it very clear in the post-strike days that they wanted fans back, at any price.

The 1994 strike ended just before the start of the 1995 season. In 1996 it became dramatically easier to hit home runs in the National League. They juiced the ball.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:44 AM on August 8, 2007


Clarifications:

Rickey Henderson also holds the alltime runs scored record. Pretty important one.

Bonds arm brace: even if it did all the super magic funtime things that have been attributed to it, it's not, you know, illegal. Any other player is free to use it.

I don't hate Bonds cause he cheated (and he did -steroids not being prohibited by baseball, they're still against the law, and he hasn't owned up to using them). I hate him cause he's an asshole - and not just 'cranky with the media.' He enjoys tormenting the weakest people in any situation for his own amusement. He is, in other words, a sociopath. Read Jeff Pearlman's 2006 bio "Love Me, Hate Me" for page after page of examples.
posted by docgonzo at 11:52 AM on August 8, 2007


y Cobb's the best player ever.
posted by klangklangston at 2:37 PM on August 8


and people are complaining about Barry being an asshole. Ty Cobb makes him look like miss congeniality.
posted by caddis at 12:02 PM on August 8, 2007


Bonds is his own worst enemy. He suffers from a bad PR image with an almost neurotic desire to not improve it.

Ah yes. The greatest sin of the modern era. Not improving your PR.

The open bigotry is because Barry is a flawed hero. He is a black man who is brilliant at what he does and desperate enough for that brilliance to cheat. We forgive others these sins as long as they are socially acceptable but with Bonds the bigots have an easy out. He is hard to like. So they unleash the pent up hate that would otherwise be considered unacceptable.

http://gpi.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/4/1/21
posted by srboisvert at 12:08 PM on August 8, 2007


One thing to add to the debate:

It is true that comparing eras doesn't work. Ruth never played against Black players, never faced bullpen specialists, etc. The game was totally different, even in Aaron's day. These are all totally valid points and need to be considered.

But: these didn't have to do with choice. Babe Ruth didn't have a choice when it came to facing Black or Hispanic or Asian pitchers (he probably contributed to the climate of racism, but that's another story). Mays didn't choose to face starting pitchers who went much later in games than today's do. Some of today's players, and those in the 80s and 90s, DID choose to take steroids. They had a very clear choice on their hands: take them, or don't.

We talk about different eras, but we need to separate the characteristics of each era by whether or not a choice was involved. The alcohol and amphetamines of old were a choice. Perry's spitballs were a choice. I feel like that's the way we should be judging athletes and their eras, rather than a blind sweep of all the characteristics of each time period.

Bonds is the king of the steroid era. I honestly believe he might be the greatest player of all-time, regardless of steroid use. But the fact that he probably did take them makes him a pretty shitty person, because he didn't have to. He ESPECIALLY didn't have to. He was a freaking prodigy anyway!
posted by ORthey at 12:15 PM on August 8, 2007


Could someone please link to a video clip of Barry Bonds' first career home run (if it even exists online)? I've googled and found a few print-only stories, but I'd like to actually see it with my own eyes.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:17 PM on August 8, 2007


"Bonds arm brace: even if it did all the super magic funtime things that have been attributed to it, it's not, you know, illegal. Any other player is free to use it."

Well, except they're not. Bonds was grandfathered in.

"and people are complaining about Barry being an asshole. Ty Cobb makes him look like miss congeniality."

Spikes up!
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on August 8, 2007


You do make a compelling case for Bonds' statistical superiority, but in that first link you came off a little superciliously.

That's because he knew what he was talking about and almost no one else here does. Tends to make a person tetchy.

I'm willing to discuss Bonds with anyone who 1) acknowledges that, steroids or no steroids, he's either the best player ever to play the game or one of the top two, and 2) doesn't insist that his alleged steroid use be accepted as a given. I have no desire to waste time with people who have nothing to contribute other than "OMG of course he's using steroids just look at him plus he's an asshole and how can those silly San Franciscans root for him!!!"

Bonds is no angel. Very few top sports players are, for reasons that should be obvious. Sportswriters can't stand Bonds, for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball. If you're getting your opinions from those sportswriters and broadcasters, you're wasting everyone's time. At least they're getting paid to blather.
posted by languagehat at 12:27 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


(this may help explain Bonds)
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 PM on August 8, 2007


I'm willing to discuss Bonds with anyone who 1) acknowledges that, steroids or no steroids, he's either the best player ever to play the game or one of the top two, and 2) doesn't insist that his alleged steroid use be accepted as a given.

i'll grant you the first clause in your conditional, but how on earth can the second clause be in any doubt? his own grand jury testimony acknowledges that he used "the clear" and "the cream" and that he thought "the clear" was flaxseed oil.

so are you really arguing that it's actually possible that "the clear" was merely flaxseed oil? come on.
posted by Hat Maui at 12:57 PM on August 8, 2007


Bonds is the king of the steroid era. I honestly believe he might be the greatest player of all-time, regardless of steroid use. But the fact that he probably did take them makes him a pretty shitty person, because he didn't have to. He ESPECIALLY didn't have to. He was a freaking prodigy anyway!

That's where I'm at. The guy's supposedly one of "the greatest players ever," yet still apparently needs to cheat. How is that admirable in any sense? I just don't fathom why it's so okay. He's a bully.

Although that said, maybe he unintentionally got his dude boobs from accidental steroids. In which case, forget everything I just said. Poor guy.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2007


Yeah, I've been taking flaxseed oil for years, and my head has yet to double in size.
posted by troybob at 1:00 PM on August 8, 2007


We should not honor the phony so-called records made by anyone who used slight-of-hand to achieve a goal.

Again, drugs have been a part of baseball before steroids, for decades. So has many other forms of cheating. Your idea is one that sounds great in theory but falls apart when subjected to reality and common sense.

Christ, this place has all the intelligence of farkchan when it comes to baseball.

That's sports on metafilter for you. I'm always amazed with the intelligence shown on almost any subject on metafilter, technology, the arts, history. But when it comes to sports this is what metafilter generally offers:

I will celebrate Barry Bonds' cheating the very day that Hulk Hogan wins the Tour de France.

It's like the worst of sports talk radio.
posted by justgary at 1:00 PM on August 8, 2007


Yeah, I've been taking flaxseed oil for years, and my head has yet to double in size.
posted by troybob


Case point #2.
posted by justgary at 1:01 PM on August 8, 2007


I gave up caring about professional sports at least a decade ago. If it involves a ball, and I want to watch it, I watch college.

Ah, yes, the utterly uncompromised innocence and chivalrous purity that is the modern competition between "amateur" "student" athletes.

Sorry, couldn't resist . . .
posted by gompa at 1:05 PM on August 8, 2007


oh, so offhand jokes are corrupting the discussion because why, they don't take baseball seriously enough for you, justgary?
posted by Hat Maui at 1:06 PM on August 8, 2007


The guy's supposedly one of "the greatest players ever," yet still apparently needs to cheat. How is that admirable in any sense? I just don't fathom why it's so okay. He's a bully.

I don't think any one here thinks Bonds is 'admirable.' We just think he's really, really scary good at what he does and that his so-called cheating plays a minor role in his statistical accomplishments. Acknowledging that his ability to hit home-runs or get on base is better than any player before him is not the equivalent of endorsing him as a person.
posted by mullacc at 1:11 PM on August 8, 2007


Justgary— I'm sorry, if you don't understand why people root against Bonds (or the Yankees or the Sox), it might be you that just doesn't understand sports. I've watched interviews with the guy, and he comes across as a giant fucking douchebag. Obviously behind Cobb in the Baseball Giant Fucking Douchebag Hall of Fame, but I never had to sit through any fellation of Cobb by the media of the day of the magnitude that Bonds gets. And yeah, his win-share is off the charts. Yeah, he's probably had the best career of any active player (I tend to think of A-Rod as the best baseball player today, even though, again, I don't like him). But the steroids are a legitimate complaint (despite all the tu quoque crap about greenies, etc.), and Bonds has seemingly intentionally come across as a surly and petulant cock in every interview I've ever seen with him. Jesus, he wouldn't even hug his kid after his 755th. C'mon. The reason I hate Bonds and not, say, Sheffield, is that a) Sheffield is playing for a team I root for (hey, I'm honest), and b) Sheffield is comically derranged. Sheffield's claims of racism are hilarious (and even more so when sportscasters take them seriously), whereas appeals to racism regarding Bonds come across as sour grapes.

So yeah, I might not have the SABR PhD, but to deny that hey, there is more than stats to this game is to miss just as much as people who think that RBIs matter more than OPS.
posted by klangklangston at 1:16 PM on August 8, 2007


Barry Bonds is a corporation who works for the SF Giants, another corporation. So we're supposed to be respectful why?

And really, bemoaning the lack of intelligence in a discussion about baseball is like lamenting the lack of a classical aesthetic on stage at the Lusty Lady.
posted by troybob at 1:32 PM on August 8, 2007


It's like the worst of sports talk radio.

Sports talk radio is the worst form of talk radio, regularly tapping in to America's ugly undercoating of racism, misogyny and homophobia. For that reason alone, I doubt making fun of cheaters and pro wrestlers constitutes the worst of sports talk radio.

Nonetheless, the worst of sports talk is probably Rush Limbaugh saying Donovan McNabb is overrated because he's black. All that I'm saying is that the once-interesting sport of baseball has become a ridiculous joke because of drug-abusing cheaters like Bonds, much like the once-interesting sport of cycling has become a joke because of juiced-up cyclists.

Perhaps more ridiculous is watching frustrated fans spin their wheels with sabremetrics and flax-seed oils to rationalize the cheating that goes on.

A pro wrestler may as well put on a clown suit and roll on his unicycle along the Champs-Élysées, for as much legitimacy as a home-run record carries these days.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:33 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"much like the once-interesting sport of cycling has become a joke because of juiced-up cyclists. "

Well, you lost me when you started talking about the "once-interesting sport of cycling."
posted by klangklangston at 1:52 PM on August 8, 2007


Dude was one of my favorite players back with the Buccos. I put away MLB after the '94 fiasco. It wasn't until I moved within blocks of Wrigley at the end of the 90s that I caught the bug again. I think the game had moved on, and apparently so had Bonds. It felt like the game had gone completely corporate with all the cash whoring (players and owners both). The tacit approval of steroid use was just one more thing that makes me want to anally rape Selig with a vegetable peeler. The whole McGwire / Bonds / Sosa thing felt like a beer and circus soap opera intended to further increase demand for tickets.

I will always admire the massively talented guy in black and gold as one of the best players of the game. The guy in black and orange, not so much. Kind of like the same way I'll always see the pre-strike years as compared to the current MLB product. The game was never pure in my time and I'm sure the current state of the game is more or less the same as well. It's probably more a narrative for my tarnished idealism than anything. Then again, that's what baseball does best IMO. And before I start sounding like some kind of Ken Burns acolyte, I'll wrap this comment up.

Good on Bonds for sticking with it long enough and hooray for Giants fans everywhere. Fuck Selig in the eye. Repeatedly. As for myself, I don't really have a dog in this fight (heh). Juiced or not, jerk or not, he's got the record for now. He'll get whatever it is he's due in time and my getting worked up about it won't do anything. Besides, I'm off to take my young cousin out to the 'Splatt for a little AAA end-of-summer rain-delay story telling and maybe a little catch in the walkway if the ushers are feeling lenient tonight. It's awesome to see baseball for what it was meant to be: a game that moves slow enough to accommodate obsessive conversations about stats and strategies but still provides moments of explosive, fast-moving excitement.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'd just like to say that when it comes to baseball, I have fully immersed myself in the Haterade. Bonds? Juiced up asshole. Didn't really care about him hitting 756. I mean, the record is now his and I'm fine with that, but baseball ca. 2007 means nothing to me. Has a fair amount to do with juice-heads like McGuire and Sosa and Palmeiro too -- the game just got way too boring during the 90's for my taste.

So it's possible to hate on Bonds because he's ruined the game, but not by himself obviously. I'd place a lot of the blame at Selig's door as well.

So fuck it. Football and basketball are more fun to watch anyways.
posted by bardic at 2:20 PM on August 8, 2007


oh, so offhand jokes are corrupting the discussion because why, they don't take baseball seriously enough for you, justgary?
posted by Hat Maui


No, that's fine with me. I'm use to it. Tired jokes by people who don't really follow sports anyway is pretty much par for the course here. I was responding to someone questioning the level of discourse.

Justgary— I'm sorry, if you don't understand why people root against Bonds (or the Yankees or the Sox), it might be you that just doesn't understand sports.

If this had anything to do with anything I said I would respond.

And really, bemoaning the lack of intelligence in a discussion about baseball is like lamenting the lack of a classical aesthetic on stage at the Lusty Lady.
posted by troybob


Oh please. Intelligent discussion about baseball can be found many places. You can choose to not be part of it, which you've done.

Sports talk radio is the worst form of talk radio, regularly tapping in to America's ugly undercoating of racism, misogyny and homophobia. For that reason alone, I doubt making fun of cheaters and pro wrestlers constitutes the worst of sports talk radio.
posted by Blazecock Pileon


Two totally different topics. As I said before, comments like yours make sports radio the joke it is today.

So fuck it. Football and basketball are more fun to watch anyways.
posted by bardic


So you say you use to like baseball, but not now. But you like it enough to 'hate' bonds. And you said baseball is a third rung sport, even though attendance records are going through the roof. And steroids have ruined baseball, but you watch football, because there's no steroids in football?

Bardic, you never fail to amuse me with your rain man like logic.
posted by justgary at 3:21 PM on August 8, 2007


New York Times Graph
posted by jckll at 3:24 PM on August 8, 2007


Conditions under which records set are under constant change
posted by justgary at 3:27 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


attendance records are going through the roof

It's certainly not dying, but as you noted up above, football and basketball are doing much better.

I paid attention to Bonds hitting 756 because it was a Very Big Deal. I mean, I'm not all that into cycling, but I read about the last few days of the Tour de France.

Basically, I'm offering my opinion as someone who used to be a big fan of the game, but for various reasons (including Bonds, but certainly not only because of him) don't really follow it that avidly any longer.

You? You keep refreshing this thread trying to crap on anyone who disagrees with you that baseball is somehow still the great American sport that it always was.

Go to a local park and watch kids playing sports. Nine times out of ten, they aren't playing baseball.

(Steroids in football don't bother me as much. The game is built around big dudes crashing into each other. The kind of baseball I grew up on was more than just a pitcher/hitter duel -- there was finesse, there was manufacturing runs, there were great utility guys who were always my favorites. Sorry my opinion bothers you so much. I'll let you get back to hall-monitoring this thread for all of us justgary.)
posted by bardic at 3:29 PM on August 8, 2007


Larry Brown says it well: Why I Refuse to Watch 756 and Give Bonds Any Glory.
posted by edverb at 3:33 PM on August 8, 2007


Larry Brown says it well exactly like every other third-rate sports columnist. Every time I'm tempted to look askance at Bonds, I read one of these pathetic rants and think "As difficult as Bonds can be, and as dubious as his excuses about the 'clear' may seem, if it's him against these smug panderers I'll take his side any day."
posted by languagehat at 3:47 PM on August 8, 2007


Sports talk radio is the worst form of talk radio, regularly tapping in to America's ugly undercoating of racism, misogyny and homophobia. For that reason alone, I doubt making fun of cheaters and pro wrestlers constitutes the worst of sports talk radio.
posted by Blazecock Pileon


Giving this line a fair shot Blacecock, pointing to homophobia and racism to show how your comment shines in comparison shows just how badly sports radio and general sports discussion has fallen.
posted by justgary at 3:52 PM on August 8, 2007


Why is it impossible to think that most sports columnists are wannabe jock-sniffers, and that Barry Bonds is a talented ballplayer who used steroids to become a super-human player? And a douchebag to boot, who in the long-run has been a net-loss for the game of baseball?

To indulge in some sentimentality, who do you think American kids are excited to emulate these days? Lebron James? Tom Brady? Or Barry Bonds?

I'll give you two guesses.
posted by bardic at 3:54 PM on August 8, 2007


Justgary, that Celizic article falls apart on so many levels.

He suggests asterisks for Ruth because "no one knew how to pitch to him". He's joking, right?

He sets up a ridiculous strawman regarding A-Rod: "And keep in mind that, barring injury, Alex Rodriguez could blow past the 800 barrier in as few as six years. Should we put an asterisk next to that number, too?" On what grounds? In what universe is that a valid argument?

You assert that the level of commentary on the subject here is equivalent to "the worst of sports radio", and then proceed link to that nonsense? Sheesh. If these comments are sports talk radio, then that article was Idiocracy.
posted by edverb at 3:56 PM on August 8, 2007


Larry Brown says it well: Why I Refuse to Watch 756 and Give Bonds Any Glory.

Languagehat's right. That's drivel that's been written a million times before. Playing to the crowd is easy, where saying it well = play on emotions and agreeing with my view point.

But, you know, think about the youth...
posted by justgary at 3:56 PM on August 8, 2007


"And keep in mind that, barring injury, Alex Rodriguez could blow past the 800 barrier in as few as six years. Should we put an asterisk next to that number, too?" On what grounds? In what universe is that a valid argument?

Arod came from the same era. Steroids was everywhere, not just used by bonds. Canseco is already saying he has dirt on arod.

So it's not a strawman, and the article has much more substance than the one you linked to.
posted by justgary at 4:02 PM on August 8, 2007


To indulge in some sentimentality, who do you think American kids are excited to emulate these days? Lebron James? Tom Brady? Or Barry Bonds?

I'll give you two guesses.


You forgot to include Michael Vick.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 4:03 PM on August 8, 2007


Right, because baseball in America has a really bright future if the only people excited by Bonds' record are middle-aged anonymous internet jagoffs.

(Speaking as a middle-aged anonymous internet jagoff myself.)

Btw, Selig didn't even attend last night's game. You don't think that's even a little problematic, do you? Hank Aaron has the class to make a video appearance congratulating Bonds, and the commissioner doesn't even show up?

Please. I agree that it's unfair to single out Bonds for the crimes of many others, but it's equally assinine to simply hoot and holler that what Bonds did will have no long-term ramifications for the game, and that we should just sweep "the cream" and "the clear" under the rug.
posted by bardic at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2007


Justgary...Canseco has made a nice little cottage industry out of his tell-all exposes , but two things about that. One, he hasn't said anything specific about Alex Rodriguez...he's mentioned a teaser in advance of his next book. That is not substantive. Two -- if he had dirt on A-Rod, why didn't he dish it out in his first tell-all?

Actually, three things. Thirdly, accusations aren't proof. Grand jury testimony, your personal trainer being in jail for refusing to testify, the company you did business with being under federal indictment...those things are substantive. Jose Canseco -- a cheater himself -- throwing mud without proof is NOT the same level of substance as the BALCO indictments and convictions, or Congressional testimony.

But mostly, this is not about A-Rod. Flinging spurious accusations doesn't change Bonds's situation. He's facing possible perjury charges. The argument you're advancing is as nonsensical as any "fair & balanced" debate you care to choose. Just because you have some purported "expert" say it doesn't make it so.

And what pisses me off? "Arod came from the same era. Steroids was everywhere, not just used by bonds."

That is precisely what I mean when I say Bonds stained the game. You are accusing every player of cheating simply because they played in this era. That, my friend, is wrong. If Jeter gets to 4000 hits, will you suggest an asterisk? If Ichiro gets 300 in a season, asterisk? If and when A-Rod hits 757+, asterisk? It is absolutely ridiculous to lump those guys (and others who haven't had their CHEMISTS raided by the federal government) into the same category with the juicers.

Who's fault is it that this is even considered? There's blame to go around, from the players union to Selig to Bonds and Canseco and McGwire and all who benefited...but THEY have dragged the sport through the mud and THEY deserve the scorn. Not every player they point a finger at, like this is some McCarthyite witch trial.

That something was prevalent in an era doesn't mean that all players participated. That's as ludicrous as saying that both teams conspired to throw the 1919 World Series, or that Pete Rose was justified in gambling on the Reds because hey, other managers may have done it too. Nonsense.

Bottom line is...you're rationalizing cheating. And you think we're naive for calling it what it is, as you drag everyone else's name through the mud to do it. It's a disgrace.
posted by edverb at 4:24 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


languagehat, can you elaborate on your criticism of the larry brown piece? i'd like to know your specific objection to what he says other than "pandering." (i mean this in earnest -- i'm trying to figure out where you're coming from).
posted by Hat Maui at 4:48 PM on August 8, 2007


languagehat, can you elaborate on your criticism of the larry brown piece?

Sure. I find it hard to believe that anybody who wasn't simply looking for validation for his own moral outrage could think it was a good essay. Let's look at a few quotes:

Barry Bonds hit his 756th career home run, and did so with no doubt in my mind that several of his home runs were hit thanks in large part to the consumption of performance-enhancing substances.


"No doubt in my mind": who cares about your mind? You're not telling us anything about baseball or reality, just about your own navel.

Tuesday night was not a good moment for baseball. Nor was it a good moment for the country.

So cliched it makes my brain throw up a little in my skull.

Tuesday night was a bad night for the youth of America. It was a terrible moment for kids and parents to experience


So it was not just "not a good moment," it was "a bad night" and "a terrible moment"—awesome! And what about the youth of America for godsake! Will no one think of the children??

And the last thing I want to do is see that man bask in his glory, reinforcing the notion that cheating is the way to win. That's not how I was raised, and that's not what I'll stand for.

How can any adult take this sort of thing seriously? This is the kind of thing sensible people have been mocking for over a century. In the U.K. Private Eye (and before it, Punch) attribute such bluster to "Col. Rupert Fotheringay-Twitt (Ret.), Buttock-on-Tweed, Essex" or the like. "That's not how I was raised, and that's not what I'll stand for": how can anyone read that, let alone write it, with a straight face? There are plenty of useful, thoughtful ways to address the Bonds debacle, but this guy (like the vast majority of sportswriters) is not interested in actual thought, just in saying stuff that will get the guys in the corner bar to bellow "YEAH!" as they order another round of Bud.
posted by languagehat at 5:02 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Intelligent discussion about baseball can be found many places.

I wasn't suggesting it can't be found, just that insisting on a certain standard of discourse when the topic at hand is a pastime would indicate a lack of perspective. Outside MLB, the exaggerated relevance given the topic in everyday discussion should be mocked whenever possible.
posted by troybob at 5:09 PM on August 8, 2007


Rather than type it all in again I'm just going to self-link to where I already blogged about this and shut up.

OK, I won't shut up: in case languagehat has given up on this thread, I have to take a representative passage from the Larry Brown article:

"And the last thing I want to do is see that man bask in his glory, reinforcing the notion that cheating is the way to win. That's not how I was raised, and that's not what I'll stand for."


and endorse the 'hat's judgment that it's the worst kind of sanctimonious blather. To watch a baseball player is not to "stand for" anything. To say otherwise, as far as I'm concerned, is to miss one of the finest features of baseball, which is it's steadfast resistance to being captured as a metaphor for anything else. Baseball is just baseball.
posted by escabeche at 5:12 PM on August 8, 2007


Forgot to preview. Should have known the 'hat wouldn't let me down.
posted by escabeche at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2007


I linked to Larry Brown's piece b/c I sat out the Bonds chase on similar grounds. I didn't get swept up in the whole thing because the premise makes me sick.

Specifically, I agreed with Brown's assessment that Bonds was top 20 already, and that had Bonds not used steroids, we'd probably be celebrating his passing Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time home run list. It's not original, but then it's all been said already.

Sure, there are better ways of saying "this goes against my principles, I will not celebrate a cheater", and I'm sure someone will. But Brown's got it right, even if he's not Roger Angell.

I'd rather be celebrating instead of condemning, that's for sure.

hey LanguageHat, you're only half right...I'd agree with Brown and say "YEAH!" as I ordered another pint of Guinness.
posted by edverb at 5:17 PM on August 8, 2007


thanks, those are good observations. my critical faculties are dulled by my disdain for bonds.
posted by Hat Maui at 5:17 PM on August 8, 2007


guys in the corner bar to bellow "YEAH!" as they order another round of Bud.

That's pretty much the state of sports journalism, right? I mean at its core it is very rah-rah about very inconsequential things, see: NFL Films. I agree with your every point, but it is equivalent to criticizing gossip magazines for being vapid. Romanticizing and glorifying sports and sports heroes, is sort of the trademark of the genre. I mean come on, ESPN has daily coverage of the NFL in July of all months. I just am impressed on how they manage to expand on training week start dates for several weeks, every day.
posted by geoff. at 5:19 PM on August 8, 2007


OK, having trouble letting this go; this time I think I'll just quote another blog post if you don't feel like clicking the link:



Thought experiment. Consider the following two businessmen.

* Businessman A gets an insider tip about company X and makes a fortune selling its stock short.
* Businessman B takes lots of illegal amphetamines, which enables him to work 14-hour days for weeks on end, and, in particular, to carry out supremely exhaustive research on company X’s industry, which eventually leads him to believe that he can make a fortune by selling company X’s stock short; and so he does.

Do you feel differently about A and B? I think most people would call A a cheater and B something else — even though both businessmen did something against the law, which gave them an advantage that was not available to their competition, and as a result got rich.

I think Barry Bonds is more like businessman B than businessman A. Steroids aren’t magic pills that make you better at hitting a baseball. If I understand correctly, they enable you to work harder, to rest less, and to develop your skills to a point beyond what you — in Bonds’s case, beyond what anyone — could do unaided. It’s definitely unfair. But is it cheating?
posted by escabeche at 5:48 PM on August 8, 2007


And furthermore...(gets on soapbox)...

I'm not about to write a doctoral thesis on the way cheaters prosper, or how it was better when I was a kid. But a few paragraphs won't hurt.

It's easy to mock Larry Brown's point about this setting a bad example for kids...but I remember when I was a kid on the sandlot. There was never any question or doubt that Rickey Henderson swiped 130 bases because he was the greatest basestealing talent the world had ever seen.
There was magic in watching Donnie Ballgame hit homers every night for over a week, and tie Dale Long's record. And when Donnie's back started to put him on the DL time and again, there were no whispers of steroids causing fragility. It was just that this great ballplayer had a bad back, and it cut his career short. It was what it was.

I'd collect cards -- McGwire's 84 Olympic card, Bonds rated rookies, and Junior Griffey and all the rest. My friends and I would hold onto them and trade them and debate who we thought would break Maris's record, and who would break Aaron's, and maybe if we'd accumulated enough of that guy's rookie cards to buy our own ballclub someday.

Times change though. We have a cheater in the White House, slinging mud at any who question or challenge the record -- and America yawns. We have a cheater as our home run king, and honest ballplayers face the taint of simply playing out their dreams in the same times as them.

As an adolescent, as the scales fell from my eyes, I realized I was being systematically lied to by every institution I was supposed to trust -- the media, the church, the government, the authorities, my teachers, even my parents.

Baseball was pure, unlike anything else, it was undeniably real. A .300 hitter was a .300 hitter. 40 homers was 40 homers. 100 RBIs couldn't be faked, or spun, or fabricated. No press conference or backdoor contract could turn a mediocre ballplayer into an all-star. It wasn't Karl Rove's spin machine that made Bucky Dent famous, or the Player's Union's PR team that created Kirk Gibson's pinch hit blast and hobble around the bases in Game One. No amount of bloviating from Phil Rizzuto could turn Andre Robertson into the great shortstop we all thought he'd be. Cal Ripken didn't need an army of bobbleheads on the sports shows to interpret his greatness, all you had to do was watch the guy.

I curse Barry Bonds and the rest of them for denying the little kid in me and everyone else even that one pure, untainted joy. They marched -- chemically enhanced -- over everything I hold dear.

At least I had baseball, for awhile, and now even that's tainted. What will my kids have?

Mock this emotion if you want...but I guarantee it's more real than anything Barry Bonds represents. It may be trite, but at least I came by it honestly.
posted by edverb at 5:50 PM on August 8, 2007


Rather than type it all in again I'm just going to self-link to where I already blogged about this and shut up.

A great post, and I endorse every word.

thanks, those are good observations. my critical faculties are dulled by my disdain for bonds.


I'm really glad you said that, because as irritated as I sometimes get with you, I consider you one of the sharper tacks in this particular drawer, and if I can make an impression on you, I figure I can't be entirely out in left field (as it were).

Mock this emotion if you want


I'm not mocking the emotion at all—it represents something basic about the appeal of baseball—but I'm mocking the cheap milking of it by a hack writer. Love of children is one of the most basic and laudable things about humanity, but that doesn't make me like a screenwriter who peps up a lame script by putting the heroine's five-year-old kid in mortal danger.

And baseball has never been pure. It's just kids who think of it that way, and so will yours. And they'll grow up mourning the loss of that purity, not realizing it's just that they've grown up.
posted by languagehat at 5:56 PM on August 8, 2007


Baseball was pure, unlike anything else, it was undeniably real.

Baseball has never been nor will it ever be "pure."

Ruth played in an era where minorities were not allowed to play in the major leagues. How does that fit into your model of pure?

Whitey Ford is in the hall of fame despite being famous for using an illegal pitch - the spitball. Is that your idea of purity as well?

During Aaron's era there was rampant amphetamine use. "Greenies" people used to call them. Do you think that taking amphetamines so you can perform better after a double header is pure?

In addition to steroids, Bonds has played in an era of expansion and smaller ball parks. He certainly isn't the only one who has seen a huge increase in home run totals.

Baseball, like anything else, is filled with saints and sinners. It's filled with people who have cheated their way to the hall of fame and people who "did it the right way."

I appreciate your honesty but unfortunately it's nothing more than nostalgia for something that never was.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 6:07 PM on August 8, 2007


Baseball was pure...

See, this is a big part of the problem.

No, it wasn't. Like the 1950s in America were never a better, simpler, time; like kids used to have RESPECT for the elders, etc.

A little nostalgia goes a long way. We all remember things from our childhood as being simpler, or purer; things have a golden light cast over them.

From the article justgary linked to earlier: Go back to 1968 and Bob Gibson’s incredible 1.12 ERA...the record was set in the Year of the Pitcher when the strike zone extended from armpit to the bottom of the knee and encompassed half a zip code, and the mound was 17 inches or more high — it’s 10 inches today.

Now, was Gibson a cheater? Not according to this metric. He played the game the way it was being played when he played it. But should he get an asterisk?

::::runs out the door to go to Giants game::::
posted by rtha at 6:07 PM on August 8, 2007


Ah, yes, the utterly uncompromised innocence and chivalrous purity that is the modern competition between "amateur" "student" athletes.

Sorry, couldn't resist . . .
posted by gompa at 3:05 PM on August 8


I didn't say that at all. As time has worn on, I simply enjoy watching college level athletics more. That's all. No sanctimony or philosophy at work here. Just simple preference.

Note that I am not a sports fanatic or devotee. I usually watch 1 college football game per weekend in the fall. I try to catch some of the Sweet Sixteen. I practically always watch the Super Bowl. I try to catch at least one or two games of the World Series. I watch maybe 2 golf tournaments a year (the Masters and something else), and I used to watch Wimbledon and the French and US Opens every year for nigh on 20 years, but stopped a few years ago.

One of the most fun sports events I've ever been to was a girls high school basketball tournament over a 3 day weekend. These players were very good... for high school girls. Many of the games were absolute nailbitters, with these non-professional athletes missing shots that are 95th percentile in the pros. Several games literally came down to the last shot, which given the talent level, was far from assured.

Professional sports often (not always) become boring for me. The players are so good, their techniques so refined, that the games almost seem decided before they are begun. And for some reason I don't understand, not being a devoted fan, momentum seems to matter much more at the pro level than it does in college. In college ball you regularly see amazing rallies and come-from-behind victories. In pro, it doesn't seem nearly as common. Note, again, I am not a devotee, I have no stats to back any of that up. It's just my impression.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:27 PM on August 8, 2007


I shouldn't mock and shouldn't post during a Ritalin crash. Sorry.
posted by troybob at 6:33 PM on August 8, 2007


Barry hating seems more a reflection on us as a society than on Barry. Should I name 10 nostalgic players who also were assholes but get the modern love?

If the argument is he needs an asterisk because he's suspected of wrongdoing that un-leveled the playing field the Baseball Encyclopedia will need another 300 pages to accommodate the asterisks required. If we are going to put an asterisk on Barry does Bob Gibson get one for his 1.12 ERA while pitching on a mound 7 inches higher than today, anyone ever see the gloves those pre-1960's shortstops wore that barely covered their fingers and sometimes not even stitched together - how many more hits did all those decades of hitters get then versus what they would face against Ozzie Smith? Does everyone who played in WWII get one for playing against a depleted talent pool?

Does everyone who played the game before April 14, 1947 get one for playing in an artificially depleted talent pool? By definition pre-1947 baseball was not a meritocracy. How many home runs would Ruth have or RBIs Gehrig have if the best blacks and Latinos hit, defended, and pitched against them instead of the less talented whites that filled their slots? You say Ruth and Gehrig and Ott and Alexander's talent would have proved them great anyway, and I agree, but you don't extend that courtesy to Barry.

If you decide to ratchet down the vehemence to the argument that he CHEATED and the record is tainted (we'll assume that he did cheat by breaking federal law and using steroids to get bigger), no one seems to care one bit that 300 game winning Hall of Famer Don Sutton scuffed the ball his whole career. The cast off from Gaylof Perry's spitball would get the dugouts wet, where's the outcry? Didn't a Pirate pitcher in the early 70s pitch a no-hitter on acid? Take it away from him? Don't get me started on Ty Cobb. And those guys are the ones we know of who did ILLEGAL actions, there are dozens of other's who added or tweaked their numbers we can suspect. No crying in baseball over them? Only Barry?

From what I can tell, scuffing or spitting a ball WILL change the movement on the ball and get you to fool the batter more, therefore more outs and outs mean wins, steroids will get you more muscle mass but being larger will not increase your hand to eye coordination and make you a better hitter, it will only make you hit the ball a little further - but you still have to hit it. You say those extra 10-20 feet make the difference between a number of home runs and outfield outs but then you won't bring up the increased number of rookie pitchers every year and number of small home run friendly fields built (not "stadiums" but "Park" or "Field," 11 built since 1998, and he's in new, smaller than Candlestick, AT&T Park for 81 games a year the last 7 years.)

I used to pitch very very well and a scuffer or spitter might have put me in a different league; but steroids aint putting my bat on the ball.
posted by Kensational at 6:55 PM on August 8, 2007


Pelosi lauds Bonds.
posted by delmoi at 6:58 PM on August 8, 2007


escabeche writes To watch a baseball player is not to "stand for" anything. To say otherwise, as far as I'm concerned, is to miss one of the finest features of baseball, which is it's steadfast resistance to being captured as a metaphor for anything else. Baseball is just baseball.

And then you go on to offer a pretty labored metahpor about businessmen. Weird.

Sorry to break up the little self-congratulation circuit you and languagehat have going, and I'll admit, you both have every right to dislike sports writers. There are very few that I enjoy myself. But how does this have anything to do with Bonds' drug use? Your argument is frankly quite lame. It's really not even an argument -- "'Roids don't really make you a better hitter." Um, yes they do. Basic laws of physics and all that -- bigger muscles allow you to put more impact onto the ball, said ball goes farther.

I've admitted that Bonds was made into a scapegoat for everything wrong with baseball since roughly '94. And yet, this really doesn't absolve him of juicing to inflate his HR numbers. Languagehat is desperate to try and turn this into an all or nothing issue -- either you a) endorse the views of asshat sports journos and hate on Bonds, or b) you embrace the greatness of Bonds and realize that hey, he was just doing what he needed to do.

Why not realize that both the system of MLB, from Selig on down to the sycophantic press corps, and the individual -- a bloated, sneering egomaniac in the forms of Bonds -- kind of both suck, and the game of baseball is basically in a lose/lose situation here.
posted by bardic at 7:07 PM on August 8, 2007


"When did you meet Barry Bonds? Was he mean to you?"

Barry Bonds hit me in the balls 756 times. Though three of those were inside-the-pants jobs.

(Asterisk of sounding stupid, what's with the asterisk?)
posted by Eideteker at 7:12 PM on August 8, 2007


As time has worn on, I simply enjoy watching college level athletics more. That's all. No sanctimony or philosophy at work here. Just simple preference.

It was meant only as a gentle dig, but still, Ynoxas, my apologies - I conflated you with a sanctimonious rabble in my memory who've too often equated collegiate athletics with unadulterated goods. For the record, I've barely ever in my life sat through an entire NBA game, but the Final Four hooks me every time.

posted by gompa at 7:24 PM on August 8, 2007


languagehat, although it pretty much goes without saying that they don't come much sharper than you, i'll go ahead and say it anyway. so color me glad, as well, that we've had this exchange.

back to the bonds topic, i think it boils down to his being the kind of total package asshole that's nearly as rare as his talent -- there's cheating, of course; lying under oath; a sneering hauteur with respect to his dealings with the public, the sports press, and his teammates; the unsavory details of his personal life (despite that knowledge of which is an unfortunate byproduct of his notoriety), which give the indelible impression of a controlling, angry egomaniac (in particular, i was disturbed by the voicemails (and associated allegations of threatening behavior) his former mistress made public, which reminded me of one orenthal james simpson); in short, there's really nothing to latch onto about the guy that's at all redemptive, aside from his towering statistical achievements which are to some degree chemically enhanced. he's the perfect storm of sports assholes.

this is not to say that a given sports figure has to be a 'good guy' to merit our respect for his/her accomplishments, but rather, we can't be expected to root for such a colossal jerk, especially when it's almost certain that he's been blatantly cheating for nearly a decade. even if he is one of the two or three best players to ever play (which i think is true, steroids or no).
posted by Hat Maui at 7:30 PM on August 8, 2007


Babe Ruth hit 6 home runs in 1917, 26 in 1919, 54 in 1920, and 56 in 1921. Steroids!

Roger Maris had never hit more than 39 home runs in a season. Then he suddenly hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth's record. He hit 33 home runs the following season and never hit more than 26 home runs again. Steroids!

Hank Aaron hit 26 home runs in 1956, 44 home runs in 1957, and 30 home runs in 1958. Then he hit 30 home runs in 1964, 40 home runs in 1965, and 23 home runs in 1966. Then he had a suspicious late-career spurt in home run production, hitting 44 in 1969, 38 in 1970, 47 [OMG!! CAREER HIGH!!] in 1971, 34 in 1972, and 40 in 1973 before dropping to 20 in 1974. Steroids!

especially when it's almost certain that he's been blatantly cheating for nearly a decade

No, it isn't. The allegations are that he used steroids starting after the 1998 season. I don't think it's plausible that he used steroids after baseball started testing in 2004.

i think it boils down to his being the kind of total package asshole that's nearly as rare as his talent

You're right! Barry Bonds is the only asshole in the history of baseball!
posted by kirkaracha at 7:59 PM on August 8, 2007


Hank Aaron:
I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball's career home run leader. It is a great accomplishment, which requires skill, longevity, and determination. Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball, and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now, and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement. My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dream.
Matthew Yglesias:
Yes, it appears that during the period when Major League Baseball had no steroid policy, he took steroids. And the day when MLB invalidates all the other records from the Steroid Era -- rescinds the World Series titles and the division penants, takes back the Cy Young awards and the Golden Gloves, etc., etc., etc. -- I suppose it would make sense to take Bonds' achievements away too. But until that happens, the records are the records and he played better than anyone else.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:59 PM on August 8, 2007


ESPN showed a clip reel of Bonds important home runs, 100, 200, etc. and he slowly gets bigger over time.

Video (not ESPN's) of Bonds' milestone home runs.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:13 PM on August 8, 2007


You're right! Barry Bonds is the only asshole in the history of baseball!

not what i said, at all.

I don't think it's plausible that he used steroids after baseball started testing in 2004.

oh, well, since you think it's not plausible, it must not be. after all, no one has ever managed to beat a drug test by, say, using someone else's urine or using steroids in the off-season (maybe so as to recover from a season's worth of wear-and-tear, bonds' stated steroidal m.o. if you believe his former mistress).

re: hank aaron quote -- that's what you'd expect from a man of class such as aaron. your point is he's gracious? duh.

re: matt yglesias quote -- a) why the fuck should i care what a political blogger from the atlantic monthly says about bonds? and b) even if i should care what he says, everything in that statement is completely wrong-headed and illustrates yet another reason why what bonds has done is so toxic: the attitude that "they're all doing it" and "it's the steroid era" -- way to tar every great player that doesn't use steroids (there must be some that don't, right?) with the barry bonds "so what? it's the steroid era" brush.
posted by Hat Maui at 8:18 PM on August 8, 2007


So it's cool that Bonds does it, because other people do too.

Thing is, that sort of logic is unimpeachable.

Kind of like people after Abu Ghraib who said "Well, it wasn't as bad as under Saddam!"

Fine. Lots of guys juice. So let's cut to the chase and stop with the farce that is MLB drug testing. Some leagues do take it a lot more seriously, and people have the right to take their ticket-money elsewhere.

(It was odd to see people paying money to go into stadiums to boo Bonds, I'll admit.)
posted by bardic at 8:36 PM on August 8, 2007


(back from the game - nice and foggy and we won! I mean, even our pitcher hit a home run!)

(It was odd to see people paying money to go into stadiums to boo Bonds, I'll admit.)

Naw. They paid money to see him hit a home run - that's why they cheered when he did, and left the stadium whenever he got taken out of the game. They just booed cuz they thought they were supposed to.
posted by rtha at 10:50 PM on August 8, 2007


Languagehat is desperate to try and turn this into an all or nothing issue -- either you a) endorse the views of asshat sports journos and hate on Bonds, or b) you embrace the greatness of Bonds and realize that hey, he was just doing what he needed to do.

No I'm not, and I happen to believe that very few things in life are "all or nothing": I'm Mister Shades of Gray. I happen to think the following things:

1) Bonds is indisputably a great hitter, perhaps the greatest ever. Corollary: I enjoy watching him hit, and I find it hard to understand how any baseball fan wouldn't.

2) There is a lamentable history of racism in baseball, which undervalues the achievements of black players in all sorts of ways, from yammering about "natural athleticism" to muttering about "showboating" and "not knowing the traditions of the game." Corollary: I am automatically suspicious of reservations expressed about the achievements of black players. (I'm old enough to remember when there were teams that had never had a black player, and lots of fans who thought it should stay that way.)

3) Steroid use is deplorable, as much for its effect on the players' health as for its tossing a monkey wrench into the (not, strictly speaking, existent, but worth trying to maintain as an ideal) purity of the records of the game. (Check out the top four home run leaders in 1884: nobody had gotten over 20 home runs in a season before, and nobody would again for years. It so happened that the White Stockings that year played in a ballpark with an extremely short outfield fence.) Caveat: It's not at all clear to me that steroid use, viewed purely as a disturbance in the field of stats, is so much more terrible than juicing the ball, corking the bat, or any of the other myriad ways players, teams, owners, et al. have found to mess with the "natural" playing of the game. I think there are a bunch of irrational and occasionally unpleasant (see 2 above) factors involved in the over-the-top outrage of so many fans and commentators about this particular infraction.

4) I believe in "innocent until proven guilty." You can holler at me till you're blue in the face about how obvious it is what Bonds has been doing; I remember similar things being hollered about Lance Armstrong. I'll believe it when it's proven; until then, I maintain an open mind, which is not the same thing as believing that Bonds is pure as the driven snow.

5) "Barry Bonds is an asshole." I'll take this seriously from anyone who has personally experienced said assholery. (Hands?... I didn't think so.) Anyone who believes it on the sayso of sportswriters resentful because Bonds doesn't play the sucking-up game is a fool. I've seen a number of stories indicating that Bonds is actually quite a nice guy in private. I'm sure he can also be a jerk, as can we all. But my basic take on it is that he's a human being who loves playing baseball and doesn't feel like going along with the media game, and he's gotten tremendous amounts of shit for this, which disposes me to take his side. Caveat: None of this has anything to do with the subject. Baseball, like life, is full of assholes; even if he is a thoroughgoing asshole, so what?

6) Sportswriters are a craven, ignorant bunch of cretins who can't write their way out of a paper bag and wouldn't be able to make a living as real reporters. There are, of course, honorable exceptions, but I think my description fits the crew who are hollering about what a bad, bad man Barry Bonds is. Again, this disposes me to take his side. Caveat: None of this has anything to do with the subject either.

Executive summary: I think the scandal is overhyped and Bonds is getting a bum rap.
posted by languagehat at 6:33 AM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


A lot of people gain three shoe sizes in their thirties. Bruce Banner, for example.
posted by mecran01 at 6:44 AM on August 9, 2007


What languagehat just said, well, except for point 6).
posted by caddis at 6:48 AM on August 9, 2007


I believe in "innocent until proven guilty."

But, as noted above, "[Bonds's] own grand jury testimony acknowledges that he used "the clear" and "the cream"". So guilty in a court, no. But admitting he used steroids? Absolutely.
posted by inigo2 at 6:59 AM on August 9, 2007


well, except for point 6).

Well, point 6 is clearly over the top. Sportswriters can be fine when they're writing about the actual game. When they descend to cheap moralizing, they sound like drooling cretins and they piss me off.
posted by languagehat at 7:33 AM on August 9, 2007


I was thinking about all of this on my way to the Giants game last night.

In a way, I'm glad that I came to my love of baseball quite a lot later in life than many people (here and elsewhere) seem to have. I grew up in Boston, and since I think it's probably illegal to live there unless you at least pretend to care about the Sox, I cared about the Sox. But I never paid that much close attention - it was the '80s and it was all about the Celtics.

Anyway. I don't have any childhood associations of going to baseball games with my dad, or playing Little League, or listening to games on the radio in the car. I have no nostalgic attachment to it. For me, it's a beautiful, beautiful game that gets more interesting the more I watch it and learn about it. I wish it weren't tainted by steroids. But I also wish we didn't hold these men - who are paid millions of dollars to do something they love - up as some sort of ideal to which we should all aspire. We invest in them a purity of spirit that no human being can possibly attain.

They are supremely talented, extraordinarily well-paid entertainers. They go out night after night to perform for us, and for the most part do it well. If I go to a concert and the lead singer is high - but still puts on an amazing show - I'm not going to get bent out of shape because the bowl he smoked might have given him some sort of edge that night. I recognize that in sports, players who use substances that give them an advantage over others who don't use is extremely problematic, and I'd like to see MLB actually, really do something about it. A cultural change has to come about as well, though, via fans, and I don't know how that will happen.

And everything the 'hat said.
posted by rtha at 8:53 AM on August 9, 2007


I've read quite a few defenses of Bonds of the brand that steroids are just a fact of the sport, and everybody's doing them, and in the past they did this or that drug, and it's like any other form advantage that players might use, and if he did steroids it was during a time when they weren't illegal & etc.; but I don't see this reconciled with the fact that, if this/these were indeed the case, why Bonds would need to lie about it at all--and not only lie about it, but then try to confuse the issue with bogus claims of racism (which I consider the most harmful thing he has done) and how the sports and sports journalism industries have it out for him (despite that those entities have elevated him and made him wealthy).
posted by troybob at 9:12 AM on August 9, 2007


, steroids or no steroids, he's either the best player ever to play the game or one of the top two

Best player playing today? Quite possibly. Best player ever? Sorry, no. You're going to have to define your criteria more specifically.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:40 AM on August 9, 2007


You're going to have to define your criteria more specifically.

There's an entire chapter about this in Baseball Between the Numbers. An excerpt:
...between 2001 and 2004, Bonds won four consecutive MVP awards, two batting crowns and a home-run title, and broke the single-season records for home runs, on-base percentage, slugging average, and walks. He hit 209 home runs during that stretch—equaling Ruth's total between 1927 and 1930, the best period of his career—with a .349 batting average. His on-base percentage for those four seasons was .556, higher than Ruth's mark in his single best season (.545 in 1923). His slugging average was .809, a figure Ruth topped just twice in his career. It was the most impressive run of sustained success that a baseball player had ever recorded...

Can we now call Barry Bonds the best player of all time? Is he even better than the Bambino?

That depends on how you choose to settle the argument...
They go on to discuss the environments the batters played in, the technologies available, the color barrier, and other factors, devising statistical adjustments to account for each, and conclude that Bonds has superior on-base skills (and of course baserunning, though it's hard to know how much that affects win totals) and Ruth superior power. It's pretty much a tossup. If you want more, read the book; they go into every aspect in excruciating detail.
posted by languagehat at 10:19 AM on August 9, 2007


I love watching videos of Bonds' homeruns, but mostly because of watching the pitchers: their heads always spin around and they sort of don't look like major leaguers anymore.
posted by ORthey at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2007


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