Baseball Needs A Reality Check

By Fred Whitted
Updated: March 8, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — With another baseball season set to begin, the sport must finally acknowledge that Barry Bonds is the major league home run king, having broken Hank Aaron’s record.

The official baseball statistics say he’s accumulated 762 home runs. This is where that story should end. Once he retires the next active player will chase him until he catches and passes him.

America will not allow the facts to speak for themselves, nor will it look at all of the facts. Let’s look at some things that make baseball a farce. How long is a home run?

There is nothing real about hitting a home run because every field is a different size. A home run in Wrigley Field is an out in most other stadiums. So, what is really a home run?

What is the time factor in counting the number of home runs? Some years ago, then commissioner Ford Frick placed an asterisk after Roger Maris’ broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record.

Maris had nothing to do with the change but his accomplishment was tarnished by the commissioner’s delusional decision.

I have never been a Bonds fan. At the same time, I respected his place in history. He is one of the first Black players to follow his father into the major leagues without his father first playing in the Negro League.

No matter how unfriendly he may be to the press, he is still a great player. His treatment by baseball and its purists is unwarranted. Before baseball dumps on him, it should take a long hard look at itself.

Commissioner Selig’s reaction to the record-tying home run looked like that of Kennesaw Landis, the former commissioner who kept Blacks out of baseball for more than 20 years.

He should have been cheering rather than looking so disappointed. For what he gets paid, he should have been clapping like a seal.

While I have great issues with the drug problems in all sports, I also remember that baseball was the only sport that used its status to avoid testing. Even when the problem was obvious, it was in denial.

Because it tolerated drugs like it tolerated racism, and, other evils, I do not see a big deal here. For those who want to take issue with the drugs, they should also take issue with baseball changing the balls to increase home runs.

Should the home runs hit since the change be discarded?

Baseball is considered America’s game, and, it suffers America’s problems. The issue now is whether Bonds should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. There are those who feel his alleged drug use gave him an unfair advantage because he bulked up so much.

I give you Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Neither weighed 200 pounds, and, both hit more than 600 homers. Size has little to do with hitting home runs. It’s the ability to hit. Look at all of the top ten home run hitters and you find that most were not big guys.

What’s the big deal about the Hall of Fame? This is the same hallowed hall that denied entry to Buck O’Neal while he lived. O’Neal was a star in the Negro Leagues and one of the first Blacks in baseball management.

He was one of the greatest ambassadors of the game. He died waiting for a call to Cooperstown. Such events have tarnished the game of baseball and the Hall of Fame.

When one looks at the real history of American baseball, there is another glitch. There was much made of Hank Aaron’s record. Even though Bonds broke his record, Aaron was not America’s greatest home run hitter. That distinction belongs to Josh Gibson, who hit 830 home runs in the Negro League.

I only bring this up because it points to another major league glitch. For all of those players who never faced Gibson, Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, Buck O’Neal, should their records be discarded?

Two of the top four home run hitters began their careers in the Negro League, just as Jackie Robinson did. If Aaron, Mays and Robinson came from the Negro League, how many mediocre white players were there taking their space in the major leagues?

Too much of baseball is open to conjecture. When you go to a football or basketball game, you know the playing areas are the same. Thus, most of the results are measurable by the same standards.

Baseball, by its own hands is subjective, thus too much is made of insignificant things. While the drug issue is deplorable, they did little more than boost the confidence of players who could already hit.

Look the big guys hitting .250 and below. They are not hitting a lot of homeruns because they cannot hit in the first place.

If most baseball purists would admit it, most have a warped view of the game. They have too many sacred cows. They failed to change, then, criticized players for moving beyond the game.

A simple trip into the 21st century would fix most of this.