The obvious has finally been confirmed as official. The case of the magically growing head has been solved. And the myth of Barry Bonds is finally rendered debunked.
As court documents are unsealed and the Government’s evidence in Bonds’ perjury trial is released, the “alleged” truth is finally being revealed. If the government’s information contained in the released excerpts from their documented evidence in their case against Bonds, including his apparent failure of at least four drug tests, are to be believed, Barry Bonds, the man masquerading as the MLB’s all-time home run “king,” is actually, as suspected, a chemically created, steroid-infused fraud.
It’s a truth that most baseball fans already suspected — tipped off as Bonds’ head grew at the same rapid rate as his astronomical home run totals — but seeing Bonds’ crimes against the game in the black and white of government-issued, court-submitted literature is especially satisfying to those who lacked the ignorant ability to either make excuses for this monstrosity of a player, or to simply look the other way as he smugly defecated on the accomplishments of legendary players that came before him.
Like George W. Bush to the world of politics, Barry Bonds, for years, has signified to the disciples of the church of baseball, the blatant, un-prosecuted, and unrepentant corruption of an institution beloved by the American people. The release of concrete documentation of Bonds’ alleged crimes is the first step in holding a massive figure of corruption accountable for his actions; an idea that strikes a chord far beyond the sports world, in a society where politicians, media stars, and athletes are perceived to live by a different set of rules and standards from those of the “common” masses.
Now the ball is in Commissioner Bud Selig’s court. With the evidence as “clear” as day, it is time for Selig, for once in his tenure, to take bold action for the sake of what is right for baseball. He must do nothing less than ban Barry Bonds from the game for life. In addition, he must place a big, fat asterisk next to Bonds’ statistics and records in every place his name appears — from the record books to the baseball encyclopedia itself — thereby washing his legacy from the annals of baseball history. Aside from becoming a disgraceful existence as the personification of the darkest era in games’ lineage, this precedent could set an example that no person, regardless of how many home runs they hit, is above the sanctity and legitimacy of the game. He must represent to the issue of steroids, what the Black Sox are to fixing games, and what Pete Rose is to gambling.
Many feel banning Bonds for life is excessive, especially without a court conviction, but one must consider past examples of baseball corruption, and compare those examples to the indiscretions of Bonds, to truly rendered a justified verdict of punishment.
Steve Howe and Ferguson Jenkins both received lifetime bans for using narcotics while active in the Major Leagues. While arbitrators ensured that both men were ultimately reinstated, this verdict was handed down from the commissioner’s office in response to a crime that essentially posed no threat to the legitimacy of the game itself. These men used illegal drugs, similar to Bonds, but their substances — especially in Howe’s case — diminished their careers; as opposed, obviously, to steroids which serve to achieve exactly the opposite.
In the same vein of violation, when considered from a standpoint of inconsequentiality relating to the legitimacy of competition, there is Pete Roses’ banishment. The sentence he received was for gambling on baseball games but the Dowd Report gave no evidence showing that Rose ever bet against the teams he played for or managed. In this instance, there was no trial, no conviction, and not even a criminal charge. But still, the commissioner at the time, Bart Giamatti, felt that any gambling, even if not connected to the fixing of baseball games, was a threat to the legitimacy of the game. Rose was banned for breaking baseball’s cardinal sin even though, once again, the evidence showed his action did not adversely affect his performance, that of his players, or the outcome of any games.
When the legitimacy of baseball was directly called into question — as it was in 1919 — the newly created commissioner’s office actually defied the “not guilty” verdict of the biased Chicago courts, as former commissioner Kenesaw Landis banned the nine infamous White Sox players, despite strong evidence that some of those men (specifically Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver) played the games on the level. The fact that evidence showed that these players were, at the very least, intimately connected with people involved in the fix was enough for a lifetime ban for the nine Sox players, regardless of their actual participation in throwing the games.
As Landis stated regarding his decision on this issue, “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”
A scarcely reported side note to this story, Landis actually permanently banned St. Louis Browns second basemen Joe Gedeon for placing bets on the Reds in the 1919 series, based on the “advice” of Charles Risberg, White Sox shortstop and “second in command” in the hierarchy of the fix among the ballplayers. If Bud Selig was similarly vigilant against steroids as “Mountain” Landis was against gambling, the problem could be cleaned up, to a great extent, very effectively, preventing future Bonds-like mockeries. As obvious as this seems from the early example set by the original commissioner, action on Selig’s part, given his past of indecisiveness and hesitation concerning the steroid issue, seems highly unlikely.
The counter arguments to banishment and asterisks have been made incessantly ever since Bonds perpetrated his 73 home run fiasco upon the public, the game, and the record books. Lots of players took steroids — the skeptics say — so does baseball put an asterisk next to everyone who is/was suspected? How is it fair to only single out Bonds when other players obviously took the same drugs? How can baseball differentiate between who was clean and who wasn’t without positive tests?
These skeptics believe that, if it is not possible to determine everyone who took steroids, than no one who has not tested positive for performance enhancing drugs should be penalized, regardless of what other evidence exists, and of baseball’s inability to test for the designer drugs like the cream and the clear, limiting the reliability of tests.
While this argument might have held a Dixie Cup’s worth of water concerning Bonds before the government’s evidence was released, that reservoir has run dry. Circumstantial evidence like head growth, skull structure changes, and increases in height, muscle growth, and offensive output after age 35, illustrated Bonds’ deception relatively clearly. But his government file — and four positive drug tests — gives far more evidence of peccancy in the church of baseball than has been present in many other cases with similar punishments as that which I have advocated, as illustrated in the previous examples given, as well as a number of other cases such as that of Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, and Jimmy O’Connell, to name a couple early instances.
In Bonds’ case it really doesn’t matter who else took steroids. The facts are that he, according to the information released by the U.S. government, put performance enhancing substances into his body. Those substances directly inflated his baseball statistics and altered the games in which he participated. Because of this, his statistics must be render void, his records erased, and his name forever smeared with disgrace. Nothing short of a lifetime ban is appropriate or acceptable.
There has never been a more damaging case of cheating in the history of Major League Baseball than that of Barry Bonds. The Black Sox hurt the game a great deal but the net effect of their transgressions was essentially one World Series and its repercussive results were the cleansing of the game from the corruption of gambling that was incredibly prevalent up to that point. While it was an abrasive way to thrust the problem into the proverbial spotlight, once this happened, positive movements occurred to rectify the situation, including most prominently the creation of the commissioner’s office and the aforementioned crackdown on gambling in general. In a real sense, the Landis’ decision on the Black Sox situation set the precedent for the judgment of Pete Rose and all other subsequent gambling cases succeeding the 1919 affair in the game’s history.
Pete Rose is a degenerate gambler and a liar, but there is a little evidence that any of his actions ever adversely affected the legitimacy of the game. He broke a major rule, his punishment followed the precedent set, and no exception was made for the fact that, unlike many of the ultimately ten players suspended in connection with the 1919 fix, Rose never lost a game in relation to gambling activities. If anything — from a slightly satirical perspective — he had more motivation than most managers to win, having money riding on his own victories. In reality he was most likely simply a gambling addict that took advantage of his extraordinary access to inside information on a particular sport.
Nevertheless, Rose — the all time Major League hits leader — is held to the same historical standards as everyone else. If Bowie Kuhn could hand Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays lifetime bans for signing autographs at a casino in Atlantic City, one should think even Bud “the cowardly lion” Selig could muster the courage to properly punish Bonds, backed by the overwhelming clout of the government’s cache’ of evidence.
Bonds and his Frankenstein physique, on the other hand, absolutely directly influenced and distorted the game of baseball in the most fundamental sense. He desecrated decades-old records set and held by the most legendary figures to ever handle a bat and glove, and directly altered the outcomes of numerous games with his blasphemous misdeeds, leaving a black mark on the legitimacy of the game itself that will not even begin rectificationton until Bud Selig either resigns, or channels some of the authoritative nature of his predecessors and undertakes some kind of action in this case.
Yes, other players have taken steroids. And if governmental evidence is released as proof concerning their actions, similar repercussions to that which I have purposed for Bonds, should be imposed upon them. But at present time, it is Barry Bonds whose court file is seemingly jam-packed with failed drug tests, steroid calendars, and damning testimony. He was the one responsible for morphing himself into a synthetic freak that obliterated sacred records, therefore he is the figure who must set the precedent for how baseball will deal with this “new” epidemic of cheating as future evidence is released. Lifetime banishment was enough to convince players to stop throwing games and consorting with gamblers. Perhaps it is precisely what is necessary to now prevent them from sticking needles in their butts and rubbing “flax seed oil” on their biceps.