The verdict is in at Barry Bonds’s perjury trial in San Francisco, California: guilty! Bonds has been found guilty of obstruction of justice, which means (if the verdict stands) that Bonds is now a convicted felon. The jury was hung on three other counts, and in all likelihood Bonds will not serve any prison time, but the damage is already done to his reputation and to his legacy.
Since the verdict was announced I have heard all sorts of wild things on TV and on talk radio here in New York, basically along the lines of the “former home run king” and that Bonds has been humiliated in court. As far as I know, Barry Bonds still retains his Home Run Crown, having hit 762 in his career, surpassing Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and everyone else. Perhaps people do not like this, but the man still has his records and that is a fact.
For a long time people have been talking about asterisks in baseball. They talked about it when Roger Maris passed Babe Ruth’s single season home run mark (when Maris had beer as his “substance abuse” and that was legal). Anytime a cherished record is threatened, we hear all the naysayers talking about asterisks, but the truth is the numbers are what they are.
I have never seen a study that proves that steroid use makes you a better hitter, pitcher, or player for that matter. If Bonds didn’t have the natural talent, he would be up there with huge biceps taking hacks and missing the ball. His natural talent allowed for him to be a fine hitter; perhaps the steroids made him hit the ball farther, but wouldn’t a home run still be a home run whether it just clears the fence or lands in San Francisco Bay?
Either way Barry Bonds is now ruined. He is a convicted felon, and that probably destroys his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame. Guys like Bonds and Pete Rose and Mark McGwire may have done wrong things, but their statistics do not lie: their accomplishments will stand – with or without asterisks – and it is up to future generations to make the call.
Barry Bonds looked more than sad as he left that courtroom yesterday. He looked not like he has been portrayed in the media and in living rooms and bars across this land: he didn’t seem pompous but rather as a man defeated. I am sure the obstruction of justice verdict will be challenged by Bonds’s lawyers, but it does not matter anymore. In the court of public opinion, Bonds has lost more than all the statistics in the world: he has lost his legacy.
The prosecution did more than win in that courtroom; they took away the man’s heart. Bonds is destroyed now, and maybe he only has himself to blame, but no matter what there is a stain that is not just on Bonds but on everyone who looked the other way for too long. If Bonds is guilty, so is baseball and every fan who cheered as he rounded the bases.
Today, we do not say “the king is dead; long live the king,” because in truth the kingdom is no more. That is what this verdict does, and it is a sad day for all fans of the game of baseball.
Photo Credit: AP