Even subtracting for steroids, Bonds is the best of all time.
When one thinks of Barry Bonds, you can only name a handful of athletes that have achieved what he has in his career. You can start with Babe Ruth, Muhammed Ali, and Michael Jordan, and then you have to admit Barry takes a back seat to no one else. Contrary to what most people think, none of those three were universally loved by the media during their playing days.
In 1993, at the peak of his playing career, Michael Jordan had a Bonds-like scandal that affected his career with the press. Jordan was caught with evidence (checks) linking him to lowlifes. He was forced to admit running up huge gambling losses in poker and golf.
Jordan didn't exactly embrace the media, at this point. He didn't grant friendly interviews to out-of-town reporters. He displayed the same evasive measures that Barry Bonds displayed in his state-of-the-world when he showed up at spring training.
Although Jordan didn't answer questions that didn't pertain to things on the court, his father James told reporters this: "He doesn't have a gambling problem. He wouldn't be doing that if he couldn't afford it. He isn't that stupid. What he does have is a competition problem. And if he didn't have a competition problem, you guys wouldn't be writing about him."
Michael Jordan lost his father soon after that, to a gruesome murder. Then, Jordan stepped away from the game.
Barry Bonds doesn't have a steroids problem. He isn't that stupid. What he does have is a competition problem. And if he didn't have a competition problem, you guys wouldn't be writing about him.
Those are my words, because Barry's dad, Bobby, passed away in 2003 to cancer. The difference between Barry and Michael is this.
Barry Bonds isn't walking away from his late-career scandal. Like Jordan's gambling problem, however, it will diminish in time and Bonds will be remembered for his exploits on the field.
I considered Barry Bonds as baseball's all time greatest player, and even taking into account and subtracting for his "cheating", Bonds should be considered the game's greatest player.
Cheating has always gone on in pro sports, especially when the stakes are so high. When it is done by popular players, there is a "wink-wink" about it, and it might be called "gamesmanship". Think about it. When Sammy Sosa was caught with a corked bat, no one dismissed his entire career. When Gaylord Perry was caught applying substances to the baseball (and he later admitted all following his career) his career numbers weren't stricken, or reduced. Bonds may have hit home runs off pitchers who were on steroids.
Baseball didn't have a steroid policy in place until 2002 . And besides, Bonds grand jury testimony was that he took a steroid cream, but didn't know what it was.
So, Dan Rather gets a pass for a late-career scandal in which he "trusted" his underlings, but Barry Bonds does not?
So much of this has to do with resentment towards Bonds. African American journalists have written that it's because people don't like Bonds. I believe it. Mark McGwire mostly gets a pass from the American public.
People don't want Barry to break Babe Ruth's and Hank Aaron's home run records.
Why should I give Babe Ruth, and others from earlier eras, the benefit of the doubt. Jim Bouton wrote in his 1970 book "Ball Four" that if there was a pill that he could take that would take five years off his life--but guarentee him 20 victories--he would take it. He said everyone would have taken it. I asked Bouton about steroids recently, and he said that the only reason players of his era didn't take steroids was because they wasn't available.
Tony Gwynn is on record saying clubhouses were strewn with amphetamines, commonly referred to as "greenies". They enhance performance by allowing players to combat the hard-living nightlife. How do we know who is clean and who isn't? We don't.
After much reading, I have decided the best thing steroids could have done for Bonds was in recuperative powers. He was able to stay in the lineup, which added to his career totals. But steroids didn't help him with his amazing hand/eye coordination. Or his patience. Or his baserunning. Or his fielding.
We can't dismiss everything he did the last couple of years. So take away 20 percent of the last three or four years. Take away 20 percent of the last 20 percent of his career. An A+ student got caught cheating. Doesn't mean he's still not the smartest kid in class.
If you want to take away 50 homers from Bonds' total, fine. He's still the best of all time. But then, take away from Babe Ruth, because he was pitched to with a livelier, brighter baseball than earlier eras. Take away totals from Roger Maris, because expansion and smaller ballparks aided home run totals. Take away totals from Reggie Jackson, because he hit a lot of home runs as a designated hitter. Take away totals from all the modern players who have vision-corrected surgery, which wasn't available to players from earlier eras.
I love all the sportswriters who wrote that Barry "cheated" us, and "cheated" baseball. No, Mickey Mantle cheated us. He had a God-given world of talent, and (admittedly, in his later years) squandered it by abusing his body with a hard-living lifestyle. Barry Bonds has worked hard in the weight room from the day he entered the major leagues.
Bonds has never taken the easy way out, and walked away from controversy. I don't know if he has a steroids problem. I do know he has a problem with the media. I do know that he has a competition problem. I do know that he is the greatest player of all time.