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Making A Baseball Statement

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss)


(Preface: Please stop whining that I am not the incomparable Marc Fisher, or telling me how great he is. I know I'm not, and I know he is. Let's move on.)

My husband warned me that the following idea about Barry Bonds and baseball is a non-starter, because in this country people are innocent until proven guilty and besides, the game would get distorted if anybody actually listened to me.
My husband is a lawyer and a baseball-lover, so he has to say that. I'm not, and I don't (love baseball), so I feel free to wonder why everybody is blithely watching Barry Bonds break the sacred home run record set by the beloved Hank Aarons when everybody thinks he has done it by breaking the rules of baseball and violating our sense of fair play.
I'm told by baseball lovers that there is a widely held belief in the baseball world that Bonds could only have built himself up by using banned steroids (an action that many say is inexplicable because Bonds was always a great player).
The belief in his steroid use is so strong that it may have been why the baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, did not crack a smile when Bonds recently tied the record. And Selig hasn't attended the last few games where Bonds tried to break the record.
So I wondered why other players didn't take some action. Make a statement. The pitchers, say.
Why couldn't the pitchers decide to walk Bonds every time he came up? Or what if just one really superlative pitcher decided to make a singular statement that Bonds would not break the record on his watch.
Certainly other players have been/still are on steroids. (Bonds tied the record on a pitch by a player who had been suspended in the minor leagues for steroid use.) But the old "everyone's doing it" excuse didn't work for me in fourth grade, and it doesn't work here, either. Bonds is going in the record books, and while records aren't everything in baseball, they are a big part of the romance of the game.
There would, of course, be consequences: Such meddling with a game could well distort the outcome, and the whole league might be up in arms. And my friend Jim says the statement would be wasted on Bonds, who is not, apparently, possible to embarrass.
But, whether Bonds cares or not, this would teach some great lessons for young lovers of the game:
--It's wrong to break the rules of the game.
--Sometimes, you have to take action that might not be in your best interest to spotlight something that is wrong.
And if the moral lessons don't work, there's this one: Maybe you can break the rules sometimes and get away with it, but not always, and you never know when you are going to get caught. It's easier to be honest.

By Valerie Strauss |  August 7, 2007; 2:44 PM ET
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Comments

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Valerie--

Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? I realize the Post went full bore after the Duke lacrosse team, but they turned out to be innocent. Didn't you learn anything from that?

Has anyone proven that Bonds used steroids? So you would like to teach youth that if enough people are suspicious then it must be true?

Posted by: KK | August 7, 2007 3:05 PM

Whether he used steroids or not, he seems to have no interest in relating to fans or the press (who we rely on to ask the questions for us commoners who are barred from their immediate presence). Cal and Tony Gwynn were class acts, and embodied the team spirit and leadership that makes parents encourage in their children an interest in team sports. That, as much as the allegations of drug abuse, made this a sad day for me, because Hank Aaron was also that kind of player, and Bonds is by no measure a suitable stand-in for him.

However, if you've ever played team sports, you know you have to play by the rules and try your best even if...no, ESPECIALLY when those around you are not doing so. If Bonds is cheating, throwing a game (which might be a not-so-indirect consequence of walking him) is hardly a statement you want to make.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | August 7, 2007 3:30 PM

This was explained pretty well in the Human Behavior column.

Posted by: Stick | August 7, 2007 3:34 PM

Oh man, Internet 101 - do not admit weakness. You just open the floodgates with that preface.

As to the actual column - looking to professional sports as a beacon of morals is a losing proposition and just shows your lack of knowledge in the game. Anyone who actually follows baseball knows this is not a black/white issue, and that truthfully, everyone has blood on their hands in regard to steriods. Making Barry Bonds the poster child for all that is wrong is taking the easy way out.

Posted by: Shawn | August 7, 2007 3:43 PM

Dont you remember that he admited using steroids? he just said that he didnt know what they were. He has used them by his own admission. People have such short mamories.

Posted by: hillnat | August 7, 2007 3:46 PM

This is nothing short of brilliant. About time someone said the truth.

Posted by: Joe - Bethesda | August 7, 2007 4:37 PM

Valerie,

Your remarks are insightful and brilliant as always. The post should retire you from blogging and give you your own column.

Posted by: bethesda mom | August 7, 2007 4:38 PM

Valerie,

Your remarks are insightful and brilliant as always. The post should retire you from blogging and give you your own column.

Posted by: bethesda mom | August 7, 2007 4:38 PM

hillnet,

Barry Bonds has never tested positive for steroids, nor has he "admitted using steroids." What he admitted was using two substances given to him by a trainer that others have alleged -- according to leaked grand jury testimony -- were steroids. At the time he took them, even if they were steroids, steroids were not banned by baseball.

People do have short memories. This is well established and hardly a news flash. In your own case, though, you remember something that didn't happen.

Posted by: KK | August 7, 2007 4:55 PM

"My husband is a lawyer". Whoop-dee-doo. So is Roy Pearson.

Posted by: What else you got? | August 7, 2007 5:04 PM

KK:"alleged...were steroids"?? The Clear and the Cream *are* steroids. A person can be "alleged" to have done something, but chemicals *are* something.

Bonds was in BALCO's seized records as a customer.

And, correct, those BALCO steroids were not banned at the time, because their existence was not yet known. BALCO distributed illegal substances...but if MLB doesn't ban it, it's okay to use them? Good one.

Posted by: San Fran 25h8r | August 7, 2007 5:11 PM

When Bonds hits #756, it will be a very short-lived (in baseball years) record, regardless of whether or not it is a 'legitimate' achievement.

A-Rod is well on the way to eclipsing that mark within 7-8 years, at his "typical" level of production, 10 years at the outside if he loses something as he nears age 40. The man has a lot of downsides, but I don't think he's on anybody's list of probable steroid users.

Posted by: just sayin' | August 7, 2007 5:16 PM

If I were pitching I would throw a fastball right at his head. Bonds is a punk for wearing all that body armor and leaning way out over the plate. What a joke.

Posted by: Tyler Durden | August 7, 2007 5:20 PM

"If I were pitching I would throw a fastball right at his head."

One thing no one will ever accuse Bonds of is "being a gentleman" [a phrase you will frequently find in use for Hank Aaron, Cal Ripkin, etc.]. No pitcher should lower himself to Bonds's level just for the sake of making a statement.

Posted by: just sayin' | August 7, 2007 5:30 PM

Someone who doesn't follow baseball or like baseball is writing about baseball. The Post should hire Curt Schilling to do some political analysis or Lindsay Lohan to cover traffic.

Posted by: HP | August 7, 2007 5:32 PM

San Fran 25h8r

Are the drugs illegal to take or are they illegal to distribute? I think it's the latter, which is why BALCO was prosecuted and the users weren't.

Were steroids prohibited by MLB at the time Bonds was alleged to have taken them? No. What's his offense, exactly, aside from not being very libable?

As far as the allegation that Bonds took steroids, "Patrick Arnold, BALCO's chemist, alleges that Bonds and Sheffield were given "The Clear", though the athletes deny knowing about it and Arnold does not claim to have personally witnessed it." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_Area_Laboratory_Co-operative)

The fact is that no one has yet been able to establish that Bonds has taken steroids, and this rant of our blog hostess is off base or, at best, premature.

Posted by: KK | August 7, 2007 5:34 PM

One of the reasons that "The Cream" and "The Clear" are so controversial in the first place is because BALCO developed them so that they could not be detected as part of the MLB's screening program.

Bonds is tainted because he admitted (under oath) to using those substances in what was meant to be sealed grand jury testimony. He's tainted for the same reason Mark McGwire is tainted for using "Andro" (which, BTW, is a substance that the International Olympic Committee banned) and refusing to answer questions from a Congressional subcommittee under oath.

It matters little to what I think is a majority of fans (even if a slim majority) that what Bonds (or McGwire for that matter, or Jason Giambi - who initially offered some vague apology to fans and MLB but wouldn't say what for) is accused of using was or was not a specifically banned substance. There's the perception that he was cheating. That he's been widely reported to be a Grade-A jerk doesn't help his case at all. If we had been talking about someone reported to be much nicer and far less evasive about the supplements that he ingests as part of a training regimen, we might have been saying instead, "Ah, ya know, he was just trying to find/exploit something that gave him a legitimate competitive advantage over the other guys. It's the other guys' fault for not doing the same, why punish this guy for getting creative?"

Posted by: Columbia | August 7, 2007 5:40 PM

Pete's sake, folks, Fay Vincent, then commissioner of Baseball, said steroids were not allowed in baseball in 1991. Bonds was still in Pittsburgh and skinny then. Here is only one of many references to Vincent's memo:

http://gettingpaidtowatch.blogspot.com/2006/03/faye-vincent-banned-steroids-in-1991.html

Baseball is guilty of getting rid of Fay Vincent (who had backbone) for Bud Selig, and Selig is guilty of ignoring steroids. Bonds is almost certainly guilty of taking steroids, unless you think he thought flaxseed oil turned him into a monstrous, large headed machine. Guilty until proven innocent can include a wealth of circumstantial evidence. We have that, and what amounts to a confession. Get over yourselves.

Posted by: Kevin | August 7, 2007 6:43 PM

A more detailed rip on Selig, detailing much of the same, can be found at;

http://www.bloggernews.net/12805

Posted by: Anonymous | August 7, 2007 6:46 PM

Valerie:
Your first post "Weather Weary" was excellent. Stay with the weather!

Posted by: DC Resident | August 7, 2007 7:07 PM

"Or what if just one really superlative pitcher decided to make a singular statement that Bonds would not break the record on his watch."

Well, aside from the fact that Bonds isn't facing any really superlative pitchers in the near future, he would likely get, at most, 3 plate appearances against said pitcher before the team's manager goes to a reliever. That would stop Barry for approximately two hours, which while still a statement isn't much of one.

Posted by: dilbert719 | August 7, 2007 7:21 PM

Kevin,

"Guilty until proven innocent"? What legal principle are you applying to Bonds? The same one you applied to the Duke Lacrosse players?

Posted by: KK | August 7, 2007 7:31 PM

Well said KK.

Posted by: Passer by | August 7, 2007 8:24 PM

Valerie, you obviously are a good stand-by-your-man wife. He tells you what to write, and you write it. You are a good example of a weak, obedient wife. Maybe next week, you can write about something that you are personally able to contribute some substance to. Maybe a recipe or something.

Posted by: Good Girl | August 7, 2007 8:44 PM

KK

Maybe they werent banned by baseball but they were ILLEGAL. It was the clear and another which i have forgotten the name. He said "someone gave them to him and he didnt know what they were" Sounds like a kid talking to his parents after they find his stash.

Posted by: HILLNAT | August 8, 2007 8:26 AM

The millionaires of pro sports use advances in weight-training, nutrition, and medicine to surpass records set by ordinary mortals in the last century. Does rotator cuff surgery or knee surgery rate an asterisk in the record books? Bonds says he played by the rules, and changed as the rules changed. Barry might benefit from a congeniatity implant, but I have read the same thing about the Babe.

Posted by: Mike Licht | August 8, 2007 8:39 AM

HILLNAT--

It was illegal to distribute these drugs. It was not illegal to take them. BALCO was prosecuted for distributing them. Was anyone prosecuted for taking them?

Look, Valerie and all of you other Bond-haters, the Washington Post employs people who actually follow Bonds, baseball, BALCO, etc. One of the best in the country, Michael Wilbon, works for the Post and he wrote this yesterday before Valerie posted the gibberish above: "Bonds, except for Giants fans and some younger black baseball fans who see some level of persecution in criticism directed his way, gets little if any benefit of the doubt, even though the evidence against him is circumstantial."

A lot of you hate Bonds and are trying to justify it based on "circumstantial evidence." Hating Bonds, like hating Michael Vick or the Duke lacrosse players is somehow politically correct.

If you want to hate him, that's fine, but you probably ought to question your motives for doing so unless you're like Kevin above whose legal principle is "guilty until proven innocent." If that's your mindset, then you can hate everyone. Jeez, Valerie even hates people who complain about the weather.

Posted by: KK | August 8, 2007 9:43 AM

Eh -- it's Hank Aaron. Not Hank Aarons.

But otherwise fair questions coming from an unknowledgeable passive observer.

Posted by: Ryan | August 8, 2007 3:10 PM

Now I know where America's anger has gone... Not in the direction of, say, The White House, but in the direction of Barry Bonds...If Bonds has used steroids, he has hurt one person... Himself.. And time will tell..
If you ask me, there are more frightening folks in the news...

Posted by: Reuben | August 9, 2007 9:40 AM

They were banned by the league in 1991. Early enough for you? When a 30 year old mans head and feet grow three sizes thats more than circumstantial.

Posted by: hillnat | August 9, 2007 11:15 AM

HILLNAT, if you've ever been to this blog previously, you would know that KK thinks her opinion is the one and only correct opinion. You can't argue with her immature statements.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 9, 2007 9:06 PM

KK is probably Kalorama Kat, who apparently just can't refrain from being a credulous apologist for the bad behavior of anyone connected to sports in DC. In her world, everyone is innocent, and accusations are only made by the jealous, disappointment only expressed by the ignorant and naive. Etc.

Posted by: Mark | August 10, 2007 3:31 PM

What about Bond's huge head, giant muscle mass and completely different body shape compared to earlier photographs? Now he's 43 and is "pumped up" way more that when he was in his 20s. And his head has definitely swelled in size! It's obvious he's a cheater, and I agree with Valerie's suggestions.

Posted by: T | August 10, 2007 5:21 PM

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