NEWS FLASH: Major League Baseball Sucks At Marketing

Barry Bonds is excellent at what he does. Being an especially selective hitter who frequently hits the ball far (or far enough anyway) when he does decide to swing is one of the things he does well. The other is engender hatred from fans, media, teammates, and even his league. In my opinion, he's earned it fair and square.

Aside from generally being considered a jerk, cheating on his wife, and allegedly physically and mentally abusing the woman he cheated with, his greatest sin - in the eyes of many fans, the media aristocracy that is baseball writers, and Bud Selig - is his tainting of the integrity of the game by taking steroids.

One problem. The guy has never failed a piss test. Well, for steroids anyway. But really, who isn't popping greenies? How do you think I hammer out my monthly post?

Summer of 1998 heroes - the guys who many credited with saving baseball after the crushing strike in 1994 - Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, are painted with the same brush even though they never tested positive for steroids. Of course the visual and circumstantial evidence is overwhelming in all of these cases. These guys performance and physical stature likely grew too much too fast to be anything natural. But when McGwire and Sosa staged their epic home run chase in '98 and Bonds began his level jumping in 1999, steroids were illegal in this country, but they were not against the rules of Major League Baseball.

I'm no doctor but I don't think steroids are good for people or good for the game. But I have a real hard time with his retroactive morality. If McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were taking steroids in the late 90s, it wasn't against the rules. While I'd like the athletes I follow to all believe in the purity of performance, baseball is hardly alone in this. There are performance enhancing drug scandals at the Olympics, in cycling, football, basketball - in short, in every sport. The difference is these other sports and governing bodies regulate the use and punish the cheaters. Baseball did not. So who's fault is it then?

Fast forward to today. Unless he homers tonight, Bonds is currently sitting at 741 home runs. That's 15 shy of breaking Hank Aaron's all-time record. And Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are dropping the ball.

If Hank Aaron wasn't the first baseball player I was really conscious of, he was damn close. I spent most of my childhood thinking wishing I was named after him (my middle name is Aaron - I wasn't . . . the guy I was named after was pretty cool in his own right but he didn't have Hank's stick). So I can understand why many - myself included - wish that it weren't Barry Bonds about to break what might be the most hallowed record in all of sports. Bud Selig and Hank Aaron himself certainly appear to fall into that category. For Aaron, fine. He's still works in the game but he doesn't work for the league. In my mind, he can do what he wants. But Selig is a different story. His non-committal statements about his intention to attend what could be a record-breaking game are flat-out unacceptable for a man charged with operating in the best interest of the game.

Of course, he's allowed to feel anyway he wants personally. And I even understand the fear of celebrating Bonds' feat only to learn later - with hard evidence - that he was juicing. That said, by not celebrating what Bonds is about to do, Selig and the MLB are essentially killing the legacy of the sport, not to mention turning their back on baseball royalty - son of a star, god son of a Hall of Famer, and soon to be the All-Time Home Run King. Wouldn't you think the league would want to have a better relationship with arguably its most visible star.

After Babe Ruth finished his career with 714 home runs, it took nearly 40 years for Aaron to pass him. Now, assuming Bonds' head doesn't explode before he hits No. 756, it will have taken another 30+ years. We are watching a once-a-generation event taking place and so many are letting their disdain for the athlete or the question of tainted performance distract them from the fact that they are watching something truly amazing.

So tonight, I'm officially changing my stance. Instead of hoping it doesn't happen or ignoring it while it does, I'll be closely following Barry's progress. You don't have to like the guy, but he can hit. And like me, you're getting older, and you may never see this again.

And hey, steroids aren't all bad. Without them, chances are Barry wouldn't have had the tits to pull this off:

1 comment:

sp said...

I wanna know why know one talks about Roger Clemons and steroids. Well other than that brief blip last year. I mean, look at the guy. For every argument I've heard about Bonds, same one can be made about Rocket. Look at how skinny he used to be. Look at how his head grew larger. Look at how he got better with age. Look at what a mean, cranky, selfish bastard he is. If you question one, you have to question the other.

Besides, like my son has said, you still have to hit the damn ball. Steroids doesn't help that.