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Barry Bonds Home Run King...Deal With It

Up until a year ago I was affiliated for over a decade with the Ohio Center for Broadcasting, located outside of Cleveland in a town named Valley View, Ohio. Before my beautiful bride of almost 24 years and I moved to New York, I held a myriad of positions there including, instructor, Assistant Director of Education, and Director of Education. I still miss the daily interaction with the students, who at times could be challenging, and at times could be the source of great joy. There is no greater high to me in the world than seeing that light turn on in some body's eyes that had been vacant just seconds before. Even though I was a full time reporter, the old hippie in me wanted to give something back to the community, and the industry{Yes I know that if you go to our sister site http://www.thesackattack.com/ and check out the picture on the Home page I look like your eighth grade Gym teacher, but I used to have hair down to my shoulders.} The reason I bring this up is a discussion I had with a class back in 1998, that has resonated in my mind over the last couple of days. It was the day after the end of the 1998 MLB regular season, the year that Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs. As I spoke to the class that day I told them how awe struck I was at the achievement, 70 Home Runs a feat we never really felt could be accomplished before that magical year! I spoke of how I had said on the Radio Sports Talk show I was doing in 1997, that we used to imagine a slugger like Albert Belle going to the Colorado Rockies. At the time Denver was a launching pad for baseballs and we theorized that if Belle went to the Rockies, playing in their stadium for 81 games he could possibly not only break Roger Maris' 1961 home run benchmark of 61, but possibly do the unthinkable, and strive towards 70. For McGwire to actually attain that number playing in ST. Louis of of all places {Busch Stadium was not particularly homer friendly} as well as Sammy Sosa challenging him all year long was incredible. I told my students most of whom ranged in age from late teens to early twenties that they would talk about this to their grand children some day.

We fast forward nine years to August of 2007. McGwire's record was broken three years later, by Barry Bonds who had 73 homers in 2001, a season that held none of the magic of the year three seasons prior. McGwire no longer a hero is a pariah, maybe even more so a non-person like in Stalin's Soviet Union where they would literally expunge your name from the official records and the history books. Baseball wishes they could do exactly that with the one time "Golden Boy", but there is no cause or justification. In his first year of eligibility to go into Cooperstown MLB's "Valhalla" he received less than 30% of the BBWA vote, falling far short of induction. So instead of proudly holding his plaque with Cal Ripken, and Tony Gwynn as he should have been doing he has turned into kind of a wraith like figure, existing in the shadows. Yes that is right I said Mark McGwire belongs in the Hall of Fame, and if I had a vote he would have received it. Because his non-testimony in Washington before Congress did not detract in my mind from what he accomplished not only that year but in his career. And you can deny it to me, but you can't deny it to your self that you enjoyed that year as much as I did. You got a lump in your throat when McGwire saluted the Maris family after eclipsing the late New York Yankees slugger's mark. You felt chills when McGwire crossed home plate after number 70, and picked up his son and embraced him. If you did not then you are not a baseball fan yet now you say you feel deceived, cheated some how. And like a broken hearted lover you want to see McGwire suffer, but exactly what did he do wrong? Mark McGwire acknowledged that season that he was using Creatine a "steroid percurssor" that basically allows you to recover quicker from physical wear and tear more easily than the body does naturally. Although banned now from MLB at the time it was acceptable according to the rules of the game, McGwire was not doing this covertly. The reason it came to light in the first place was a reporter saw it in McGwire's locker and asked him about it. Popularized by weight lifters and body builders, McGwire probably picked the stuff up in his local health food store. There was nothing black market about it, and nothing illegal either by the laws of the land or the laws of MLB. In fact McGwire stopped using it the following season even though it was still allowed by MLB.

The man who topped Big Mac's single season record Barry Bonds, broke another record earlier this week, that being Henry Aaron's career home run total of 755. Bonds currently sits at 757 as I am writing this. There has been all sorts of talks of asterisks, and the record being tainted over the last few days and that Bud Selig MLB Commissioner should make the title null and void. Get this through your skull; there will be no asterisk, and the record will stand you can bet your house on it. And even if the Grand Jury finds him guilty of tax evasion, perjury, or even if they have the "smoking gun" a vial with Barry Bonds bodily fluids testing positive for Steroids in 2001 {which does not exist} MLB would have no recourse. Do you know what the punishment for testing positive in steroids was in 2001? Counseling, that's it no suspension you had to talk with a professional! So even if MLB could prove Bonds was taking steroids there were no penalties in place to punish him and make the home runs "go away." Barry Bonds is not warm and fuzzy he comes off as arrogant and paranoid. I have never interviewed Bonds, although I interviewed McGwire many time before he retired. But being difficult, may make him a less likable character it does not strip him of the title.

I have not lifted weights since I was in my twenties, and I am certainly not into body building, again I reference my picture. Although not a "little midget man" like the TV Personality that Bonds castigated the other day, I am 5'10" and 150 pounds soaking wet. But I do not believe that weight lifters and body builders can command the salaries that Pro Baseball players do. I really don't think that even the most successful weight lifter makes close to $20 million a year do they? So if that's the case, and I am correct, then if all it took was muscles to hit home runs why aren't all these "Mr. Universe " types playing in the MLB? You know what, you could take enough steroids, and lift enough weights until you can pick a Mercedes up over your head, that does not mean you can hit a baseball. And it certainly does not mean you can hit home runs. Does it give you any advantage if you already have the ability, I am not a scientist, but I could see how an argument could be made that it does. But how much, I don't know can you honestly say you do? If Babe Ruth had taken steroids could he have hit 900 home runs, who knows? But you know that Ruth died very young a husk of his former self, would steroids have hastened that demise, again who knows. If steroids are an advantage, are they a greater or lesser advantage that because MLB players make the exorbitant money they do, they are in far better shape year round than their predecessors even 40 years ago. They don't sell insurance in the off season or sell cars, they can spend all 12 months of the year keeping their body in shape. How many more homers could Ted Williams have hit doing that, again we will never know.

To me the biggest travesty of this whole controversy we are seeing in Baseball right now is how MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is trying to come off as a victim in all this, where at best MLB allowed the "Steroid Era" to go on by turning a blind eye. And after two events for Selig to vindicate himself and the game, I am starting to wonder if the powers that be in MLB were not more complicit than we previously conjectured. The first incident was last season when Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, the first true "smoking gun." Selig right then had a chance to draw a line in the sand by making Palmeiro ineligible for the Hall of Fame, he did nothing. The second incident to me was much more ominous. It occured earlier this year when Yankees DH Jason Giambi had his now infamous interview with USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Giambi apologized for "taking that stuff" and said that Baseball owed the fans an apology for whatever has taken place over the last decade or so. I at the time embraced Giambi as a hero, for trying to clear the air, and it was a perfect opportunity for Selig to enter a new era for Baseball. Instead he circled the wagons, went into protect mode and called Giambi onto the carpet making him speak with "Steroid Czar" George Mitchell. Giambi also had to issue a public apology stating that he was not trying to implicate MLB in his previous statements. Anybody who read the interview knows that in no way shape or form was there even a hint of Giambi trying to do that. As Shakespeare said Mr. Commissioner, "Me thinks thou dost protest too much." And maybe the most chilling moment of all was when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was asked about the Interview, Steinbenner tersely said "He should have kept his mouth shut." Yes King George and Lucca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes.

Let's remember one thing; the "Steroid Era" would still be thriving in baseball except for a book, written by Jose Canseco. Because of that book and the public's reaction to it Congress held hearings, and threatened to get involved unless Baseball got it's house in order. That is the only reason that Fehr and Selig toughened the penalties. If you believe anything else you are truly living in a fairy tale. Barry Bonds is the product of an era, and we are all to blame. We the media, for not asking more questions, MLB for at best turning a blind eye, and you the fan for supporting the product. Even my own father who swore up and down that after the strike in 1981 he was through with baseball, still loves his Red Sox. And this season he is getting even more pleasure by teasing my mother about her Yankees. Selig's only recourse with Barry Bonds would be to make him ineligible for the Hall of Fame on the "Morality Issue" if he is ever convicted by the Grand Jury. But the record will always be there until somebody breaks it whether you or Bud Selig likes it or not.
© Copyright 2007 thesackattack.com

I am not going to be original this time, so all I am going to say that your blog rocks, sad that I don't have suck a writing skills

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