Player Hatin’ Heaven

By Eric Williams
Updated: May 9, 2006

PHILADELPHIAYou know, it’s one thing for Curt Schilling to come out and speak against Barry Bonds’ alleged steroid usage, but when Cory Lidle, a nondescript pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, makes an even more presumptuous statement concerning, not only Bonds’ purported steroid usage, but the all-time major league home run record Bonds is currently chasing, then I say this entire Bonds steroid fiasco has gone way too far.

It’s no secret that Schilling can be an overbearing jackass at times. Heck, I’ve been accused of the same myself. At least Schilling will be a possible Hall of Fame candidate when his playing career is over – although I thought he was out of line with his comments as well.

Speaking to the Philadelphia Daily News last week, Lidle said, “It’s sad. I’m not a player-hater. I like to see players get paid as much as they can. But without friggin’ cheating.”

“What he could have done without performance-enhancing drugs — which he hasn’t been proven guilty of [using], which I’m not buying — you can maybe take what he had done in his prime, before his head started growing at an enormous rate, and just make those projections. Say that, ‘This is what he could have done.’ Maybe it’s 550 home runs. I don’t know. It definitely wouldn’t have been anything close to 700.”

Now, before I go any further, let me say that I have never been a big Barry Bonds fan – and I must admit that I don’t know whether he took steroids or not – but I think it is totally unfair that Bonds is being made to be the scapegoat for a league-wide steroid problem that knowingly existed for the past two decades.

The problem I have with guys like Lidle – and many of my media brethren – is the fact that I don’t see anyone up in arms about Mark McGwire, or Sammy Sosa or dare I say, Rafael Palmeiro, who was caught using steroids last season.

I know Bonds isn’t the most likeable guy in the world, but my goodness, since when did this entire steroid debacle become a singularly focused Barry Bonds witch-hunt?

Since it became clear that he would pass the beloved Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, that’s when.

Now, the question of race arises in trying to figure out the reasoning behind pursuing Bonds’ alleged steroid usage and pending federal perjury charge. Personally, I believe that race has been a major factor in the pursuit of Bonds. That’s just the reality of the situation whether people choose to believe it or not.

Lidle, who is obviously in need of a hug, went even further with his anti-Bonds comments. “I don’t want to see him break records. If he breaks them, it will be a shame, because I think when all is said and done, the truth will come out,” he said.

“It hasn’t yet, but I think if he was in front of a jury, and there had to be a verdict, I think the verdict might be — with everything that I heard was in [Game of Shadows] — I think the verdict might be guilty.”

Lidle, who sports a career 72-65 record in nine big league seasons, then went on to discuss the negative impact of steroid usage on young baseball players across the U.S., pretty much blaming Bonds for everything but the pending apocalypse.

“The worst part of it all, the young guys — the guys in the minor leagues, and worse than that, high school, and college — they already know they don’t have a chance,” Lidle said.

“If someone can’t hit 15 home runs in college, how do they expect to take somebody’s job in the big leagues who’s hitting 50 home runs? They start feeling this pressure of doing that stuff, and it really is a problem. It’s selfish for those guys who did it… to know what the chain reaction was to keep doing it.”

Once again, I have to say that I have never been a huge Barry Bonds fan, and I can’t believe this is my second column in less than a month defending him, but I get paid to call it like I see it and right now, I say this entire debacle is farce that is reaching epic proportions.

I don’t see anyone ripping McGwire for his pitiful performance in front of Congress and Palmiero has been all but forgotten since he got caught with his fingers in the cookie jar last season.

The point is, Bonds is only one of a group of athletes who are suspected of using performance-enhancing steroids. If you have three children and they all commit the same offense, do two go unpunished while the third suffers the severest consequences you can think of?

No, they all get the same treatment. Unfortunately, MLB isn’t a doting parent and Bonds certainly isn’t anyone’s favorite child. Not Major League Baseball’s, not Curt Schilling’s and especially the player-hating Cory Lidle.

If commissioner Bud Selig and the other hypocritical officials who run major league baseball really want to make a statement, then they should immediately adopt the International Olympic Committee’s strict anti-doping standards and call it a day. Anything else is just a lot of hot air.