A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Shame On Aaron For Not Being Supportive Of Bonds
DETROIT – Hank Aaron is a coward. He’s taking a stance but not saying what it is. There’s no other way to look at it. Aaron, the home run king, is playing a neutral role in the biggest sports debate since whether hits king Pete Rose deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.
It’s clear Barry Bonds will supplant Aaron as the king of the long ball. Bonds is 18 home runs away from No. 756, one better than Aaron. Still, Aaron says he will notbe there when he drops to No. 2.
Why? Who knows. Or more like, we allknow. It comes down to accusations Bonds used steroids, even though the slugger hasn’t been found guilty.
What’s Aaron’s problem?
Well, he needs to take a stand — either denounce Bonds’ attempt because he’s been implicated in the steroids scandal, or embrace Bonds’ accomplishment and show up.
Playing middle of the road isn’t fair — to baseball, its fans or Bonds.
Instead, Aaron has chosen the easy way out — saying nothing.
“I’m not going to be around,” Aaron told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the possibility of attending a Giants-Braves game in Atlanta. “I’d probably fly to West Palm Beach to play golf.
“I don’t want to be around that sort of thing anymore. I just want to be at peace with myself. I don’t want to answer questions.”
Things have changed
How ironic for Aaron, who was the pillar of courage during his pursuit of one of the most important records in American sports.
As he approached Babe Ruth’s record of 714 homers, critics claimed Aaron played in more games than Ruth, in smaller parks and against watered-down pitching.And, don’t forget all the hate mail and racism Aaron was subjected to.
And, did he forget then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn didn’t attend the record-setting game in 1974?
If anyone knows what it’s like to pursue a record while others try to ignore or discredit you, it’s Aaron.
Now, Aaron, who didn’t return several calls made to him, is doing the same thing to Bonds.
But Aaron’s actions are bothersome not only to fans but Bonds’ colleagues.
“Being a player from today, you would want a player like Hank to be there and support Barry because we respect all the players before us, and we’re trying to leave the same example,” Gary Sheffield said. “Unfortunately, every time is different.
“For Barry to be doing what he’s doing and has done for all these years, I would love to see Hank there. But he has his own reasons and maybe they’re quality reasons. But from another player watching it, I would love to see him there supporting him because it means a lot to our community.”
Bonds has support
Even if Aaron wanted to denounce Bonds — who was implicated in the BALCO steroids investigation but never has tested positive — and give his reasons for a snub, you could respect him for his beliefs.
Aaron would be wrong.
“I’ve never seen a guy put in the work ethic that he has,” said Sheffield, who has traded barbs with Bonds over the steroids issue and his involvement, but respects the body of work. “And he does it every day. Nobody feels good every day. But even when he’s not feeling good, he gets through it, and you have to admire the man for that.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, Bonds’ manager in Pittsburgh, supports the slugger.
And he willcelebrate the record.
“I can’t speak for other people,” Leyland said. “I can only speak for myself. I’m embracing it.
“I’ve never seen anything where Bonds has done anything wrong. I keep hearing all these accusations, but I’ve never seen anything where Barry Bonds tested positive. I’ve never seen any proof of that.”
To Leyland’s credit, he isn’t saying he knows for sure Bonds didn’t do anything. Neither does Aaron.
“But I think it’s totally unfair that Barry Bonds has been a poster child for this mess,” Leyland said. “I’ll be one of the first guys to call him and congratulate him.
“I think it’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
It’s a shame Aaron apparently doesn’t feel the same way.