By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Barry And The Babe: A Honest Look At The Home Run Chase
LANSING, Mi. — It’s time to set the record straight!!! The time has come for someone to write an objective article about the most controversial figure in sports, Barry Lamar Bonds. Bonds is one of the most hated figures to ever play professionals sports.
The topic of Barry Bonds is a confusing one. Bonds is arguably the greatest player of the last 30 years and one of the top 10 players to ever step onto a baseball diamond.
Besides all of his greatness on the field, Bonds has been smothered with one controversy after another. Some of this controversy is Bonds own fault, some is the fault of society. It’s time to examine who is the real Barry Bonds?
As of the time this article is being written, Bonds has 711 home runs. He stands three dingers behind the great Babe Ruth with the opportunity to catch Hank Aaron for the all-time lead in that department.
The homerun record is arguably the most celebrated individual accomplishment in all of sports. Instead of celebrating this possible feat, Bonds stands amidst an incredible amount of controversy, most of which comes from the naysayers who don’t want to see Bonds atop the all-time home run list for a variety of reasons.
Amongst those reasons are steroid implications, attitude problems and race. Putting all of these intangibles aside, the facts don’t lie and the facts tell the world that Bonds is comparable to Ruth and Aaron and dare I say, maybe even better than them?
Before you stop reading the article, lets look at statistics.
Every Ruth fan says that Bonds is nowhere near the same power hitter as Ruth. They argue how Ruth hit homeruns at a more frequent pace. Lets examine that fact. Prior to this season, statistics show that Babe Ruth hit a homerun at the incredible pace of one homerun per every 11.8 at-bats. That is incredible.
Bonds has hit one homerun per every 12.9 at-bats. The two of them are much closer than people think. To take the argument a step further, in 2001 when Bonds hit an incredible 73 homeruns and broke Mark McGwire’s single season record, he hit one homerun per every 6.52 at-bats. The 2001 season Bonds had may be the best single offensive season the game has ever seen.
THE GAME WAS DIFFERENT
Ruth fans will tell you with pride that when Ruth played, there was no expansion. There were only 16 teams in the league and Ruth hit his homeruns during the “Deadball Era”.
With only 16 teams in the league, pitching had to be much better. To make their argument stronger, they cite how expansion has watered down pitching, the ball is juiced and Bonds is allegedly juiced. Taking the argument at face value, it makes sense, the game was different.
A COUNTER ARGUEMENT
The Ruth supporters who are Bonds haters are right, the game was different. There were only 16 teams. Lets think about that for a minute. Who was missing from these teams? Well, how about Black And Hispanic players?
Ruth never had to face the likes of Satchel Paige or Bob Gibson and countless others who never were given the chance to play major league baseball because of society. We can only speculate on what Ruth would’ve done against great minority pitching. The bottom line is that there are two sides to the coin.
WHAT ABOUT STEROIDS?
Everyone accuses Bonds on using steroids but when we look at the facts, Bonds has never failed a steroid test. Furthermore, BALCO Founder Victor Conte stated publicly that he never gave steroids to Bonds. Why would Conte lie?
If the leader of the steroid era of baseball (Conte) never gave Bonds steroids and he has yet to fail a drug test, there is no proof that Bonds has ever injected illegal steroids. Based on these facts, the steroid argument is not a strong one.
AARON HOLDS THE RECORD, BUT RUTH HAS MORE PER AT-BAT
This is true. However, a study was done by Asher Chancey at baseball evolution.com and when he examined the facts, here they are: Aaron has 755 homeruns in 12,364 at-bats.
Were Bonds and Ruth to have the same amount of at-bats, Ruth would have 976 homeruns and Bonds would have 954. This means that Bonds would not only be the all-time leader in homeruns, but the second greatest homerun hitter of all-time and there is no way to detect how Bonds would have done in Ruth’s era nor Ruth in Bonds. All we have is speculation.
WHAT ABOUT RACE?
There is definitely an element of race involved in the Barry Bonds saga. Why has Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig gone on a mission to investigate steroids this season as opposed to past seasons? Is it because Bonds is on the verge of surpassing Babe Ruth for second on the homerun list?
It is obvious there has been a steroid problem with baseball for the past decade. Selig has turned a blind eye to the problem until now. Why was there no investigation last season when Bonds was on the disabled list for more than three quarters of the season? Many people will be offended at the accusation that Selig may be hunting Bonds based on race.
Lets consider another fact about Selig. When Mark McGwire was breaking Roger Maris’ single season homerun record, not only was there no mention of possible steroid use, there was an entourage of people from the Commissioners Office following around the McGwire caravan.
However, when Sammy Sosa broke the same record several weeks later, not one member from Major Baseball’s office even showed up to the game. Is this a coincidence? Probably not.
Lets face the facts, Bonds is a target and one of the reasons is because he is a black man about to break a historic record.
ISNT BARRY HIS OWN WORST ENEMY?
Well, maybe not his own worst enemy but he hasn’t helped himself. Make no mistake about it, Bonds has not been a friendly figure. Jeff Pearlman recently wrote the book: “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero”.
Pearlman was recently on The Tim McCarver Show and spoke of how when Bonds first came to the San Francisco Giants, Sports Illustrated wanted to do a front page story on the move. Bonds stood up reporters for 8 days after constantly promising to show up for interviews.
Sports Illustrated offered to send a limo to pick Bonds up but he declined and continually promised to be places and was a constant no-show. When a photographer asked Bonds why he didn’t show up, Bonds replied, “Deal with it.”
There is also an incident several years ago where baseball was discussing going on strike again. A reporter said to Bonds, how do you feel about going on strike when the average baseball player makes 2.3 million per year and many hard-working Americans make less than $30,000 per year?
Bonds responded, “It’s not my fault more people don’t play baseball.” These are some of the reasons many Americans hate Bonds.
Lets call a spade a spade. Bonds is not a friendly guy. He is a misunderstood figure who has set one record after another. Despite being hated by fans and media, Bonds has won seven MVP awards.
He is about to surpass Babe Ruth and possible Hank Aaron and take his rightful place as the all-time homerun leader. Lets hope that when Bonds passes these historic figures, baseball and society will put aside whatever prejudices and perceptions they have and enjoy the feats of one of the greatest baseball players to lace up a pair of spikes.
I hope someday someone will be able to sit down with Barry Bonds and get to the real Barry Lamar Bonds. I hope there is a nice person inside of Bonds. Even if there isn’t, we should appreciate the talent he has displayed and not make light of his accomplishments.
Love him or hate him, he may be the greatest player of all-time and we should all appreciate his talent.