To the point week of 8/9/07


AS I WRITE THIS COLUMN, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants is about to come to the plate in an attempt to break Hank Aaron’s all time record for home runs hit in a career. His “tour” through baseball this season should have been a victory tour, but instead it’s been either a subject of laughter or ridicule – whichever you prefer.

After tying the record on Saturday in San Diego, Barry Bonds chose to sit out Sunday’s game so that he could break the record in front of his home fans. After enduring the Barry Bonds circus for the past couple of years, the Giants fans at least deserve to watch history in person.

At some point Barry Bonds is going to break the record, but the real controversy that continues to swirl around the record is whether or not baseball officials should place an asterisk next to Barry Bonds’ final home run total.

You’d have to being living in a cave not to know that Barry Bonds has been at the center of a controversy over whether or not he took performance enchancing steroids – and whether or not those steroids (if he did take them) helped his power totals.

The central question: Would Barry Bonds being breaking this record if he hadn’t done steroids?

It’s a good question, but first you have to acknowledge some truths:

First, Barry Bonds has never tested positive for steroids. As you stop laughing, you should remember that many athletes have tested positive over the past couple of years – including, ironically, the pitcher who served up Barry Bonds’ record-tying homerun in San Diego.

Second, you have to believe that at some point Bonds would have signed with an American League team and spent several years as a designated hitter – where his body would not have been worn down by having to play in the field, which would have possibly added more years to his career – so he may have gotten to the record, anyway.

Finally, Barry Bonds hit more baseballs over a fence than any other person in the history of the game. I’ve always heard that hitting a round ball with a round bat is the toughest thing to do in sports. If that’s true, then Barry Bonds has been pretty good at that, and I don’t think steroids would help his eyesight or reflexes.

One of the main reasons that people are upset about this record is not the issue of steroids, but it’s the issue of personality.

Specifically, Barry Bonds’ personality – which makes Donald Trump look like a standup comic.

If Barry Bonds was jovial and likeable, the press and fans would simply pass all of this off and brush it to the side and would cheer like crazy.

But he’s not.

So we’re not.

But you have to admit: you’ve been watching.

From the moment that he tied the record, you keep an eye on ESPN to see if you can catch a glimpse of history. It’s sort of like coming up on a car wreck, you don’t want to look, but you do, anyway.

The home run is mythical because we as fans have made it that way. In the early days of baseball, the home run wasn’t held in high esteem, and not very many were hit.

In fact, Roger Connor finished his career in 1897 as professional baseball’s all time leading home run hitter. He concluded his career with 138. Today, some players have hit that many in two or three years.

We’ve also made the record uniquely ours. We consider baseball “America’s pastime”, so apparently the game’s not played in any other part of the world. Sadaharu Oh, the great Japanese player who never played professional baseball in the U.S., retired with a total of 868 career home runs. Do we recognize his record even though it didn’t happen here?

Someone will catch the record breaking homerun ball, and they will sell it for megabucks to a collector who could care less about what Barry Bonds did or did not put in his body.

And in Dublin, California, a man named Greg Anderson sits in a minimum-security federal prison.

He was Barry Bonds’ personal trainer and friend; and he’s also a confessed steroid dealer.

He’s been sitting in that prison since November because he has refused to cooperate with the federal investigation. He would rather sit in jail than compromise his friendship with Bonds, so he sits in jail until he changes his mind.

When the moment comes and homerun 756 clears the fence, as Barry Bonds jogs around the bases I can’t help but wonder if he’ll think about Greg Anderson at all.

I also wonder if the television in Greg Anderson’s prison cell will be tuned in.


Tuesday night, August 7th, to thunderous applause, Barry Bonds hit home run number 756. Now we can start following Alex Rodriquez….